Bike lights are a misstep in the right direction

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Cartoon by Liz Coffee.

Cartoon by Liz Coffee.

Come Jan. 1 some cyclists who break the law by not having a bike light will be given a free pass. A partnership between Chico Velo Foundation, a nonprofit organization, and the Chico Police Department may be giving violators a free bike light in addition to the $100 to $150 fix-it ticket.

While we commend the Chico Velo Foundation for promoting bike safety across town, people who break the law shouldn’t be rewarded. This initiative is a step toward improving the bike safety situation but it might be in the wrong direction and it is certainly too small.

The foundation will supply law enforcement officers with bike lights to give to lawbreakers at their discretion. The program is partially aimed at aiding low-income cyclists if they are pulled over by an officer that chooses to participate in the program.

We support the idea of an independent group taking practical steps to solve an issue but the concern with this plan is it puts authorities in a position where they are supporting reckless behavior.

It would be great to see organizations like Velo promoting preventive measures, independently distributing lights to riders via their own means. Law enforcement is slim enough without having to be distracted by an increased focus on pulling over unlit cyclists.

Chico needs reforms that affect the community as a whole instead of targeting a minority. While the new campaign was born from recent cyclists’ deaths, it is not a substantial preventive measure in protecting cyclists.

The community has long suggested changes like more street lights, wider roads and education efforts.  Private organizations and the city should focus on what the community wants.

Bike safety is a big issue in Chico and will likely always be. Cyclists are partially to blame, notorious for blowing past stop signs and lights, ignoring bike safety laws.

Bicyclists need to be better educated about bike safety and aware of the laws of the road like the motorists they share the road with.

Velo’s new initiative does not help a serious problem. It is a slap on the wrist when cyclists need to take responsibility for their own safety when they choose to ride, even if this means harsh penalties when they break the law.

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