Monday, May 9, 2011

Dear Austin Bicyclists: It's Time to Git Lit!

Just want to let y'all know about a cool project happening this month-- aka Bike Month Austin. APD got a grant that allowed them to procure 600 sets of bike lights. So, if you're biking after dark without a LEGALLY REQUIRED front light or a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED back light (currently you can legally get by with just a reflector in back) and you get pulled over, instead of ticketing your ass, APD is going to INSTALL LIGHTS on your bike.

Yep, that's right. Free lights. But since it's more relaxing to install your own, rather than deal with getting pulled over, lots of bike shops in Austin are offering a 10% discount on lights and Clown Dog Bike Shop, is offering 25% off.

I'm begging y'all-- if you're a night time biker, please get yer ass some lights. I get so fucking furious at the hotshots zipping around out there (I'm talking to you Fixie Dude) who think it's so badass to dress in all black, fail to illuminate your ride, run red lights, and simultaneously bitch about all the shitty Austin drivers. And I'm also talking to you, oh law-abiding cyclist, who rightfully gets pissed off when some jackass driver doesn't allow you to legally take the lane. (Note to drivers: cyclists are legally entitled to take up a full lane. It is not okay to pass them in the same lane in which they are riding.)

Austin is hardly a cyclist haven and though more bike lanes are springing up, we've got a long way to go before this city is truly bike friendly. In the meanwhile, there are far too many ghost bikes out there marking the sad spots where cyclists have lost their lives to vehicles. Most recently a 24 year old was victim to a hit-and-run on South Lamar-- he died on Easter Sunday.

A couple of years ago, my friend Eileen, who is an avid rider and who does community outreach for Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, put my ass on a bike and rode with me through rush hour traffic. Though you're far more likely to find me riding my Pee Wee Herman style cruiser on the trails at Mueller, this street ride was a major eye-opener. I witnessed drivers swinging open car doors without checking first to see if anyone was riding up behind. I got yelled at by some loudmouth who wanted me to get off the road-- because she clearly didn't know I had the legal right of way. But I also had a lot of fun. (If you want to read more about that, here's a link to an Austinist column about that ride.)

My personal thoughts about cyclists? I'll keep this brief: When I come up on an ulit cyclist at night, it freaks me out. Often I don't see these riders until it's nearly too late. Selfishly speaking, if I hit a cyclist with my car, even if it's not "my fault," I'm gonna have to live with that shitty feeling for the rest of my life. And the flip side of that is that even if a cyclist does have the right of way, if s/he gets hit, guess who's going to be on the losing end of the equation? And so, I'm beseeching everyone-- drivers and cyclists alike-- to please keep a better eye out for one another.

And I encourage you all to take a class with Eileen, even if you have been biking for years. She is super awesome and knows the bike lanes and laws like no other.

For more info on Bike Month Austin, check out their FB page. For more info on Eileen's classes, check out the Mellow Johnny calendar. And for more info on the city's Get Bright lights project, check out their FB page.

After May 31st, APD is going to hand out citations to cyclists w/o lights. Don't be one of them. Oh, and one more thing-- if you're a well-lit cyclist looking for a way to let other cyclists know about the law without putting those riders on the defense, you can pick up handy little cards from Bike Month Austin to hand out when you pull up next to the no-lighters at stops. The cards have info about the 10% discount.

And in conclusion, here is a very... uh... entertaining rap about the importance of bike lights:

1 comment:

indigo warrior said...

Hey Spike - next can we talk about walking in Austin? Terrifying. Unless you are the driver about to take out a herd of jaywalkers on a badly lit stretch somewhere on South Congress ... because you can't freaking see them.