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Think Bicycles’ Light the Night program aims to educate riders

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | NOVEMBER 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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Area residents are increasingly running, walking, and biking on the many miles of paved area trails and streets that snake through Johnson County.

With that, comes an increase in bicycle citations tied to evening riders. Rather than having to fork over nearly $100 in fines for not having front and rear bicycle lights, one local program allows bikers to purchase and install the lights and bring a stamped citation to the police station to have the fine waived.

A local coalition implemented the Light the Night Program in May. Since then, 31 tickets were issued, 28 of which were waived through the program. That saved each individual $93.75.

In addition to sparing bikers from the fine, many local officials stressed the success of the educational component so far.

Audrey Wiedemeier, a volunteer at Think Bicycles, said the program is being used primarily as a community educator.

“[The program] gives police officers the opportunity to educate riders about wearing lights at night and possibly other rights and responsibilities as a bicyclist,” she said.

Think Bicycles, a coalition of bicycle-friendly businesses and community organizations throughout Johnson County that encourages safe bicycling practices and healthy lifestyles, introduced the program, which is cosponsored by the Iowa City police.

Area businesses that participate in the program include World of Bikes, Scheels, 30th Century Bikes, Broken Spoke, Sugar Bottom Bikes, and Geoff’s Bike and Ski. Reflectors and lights can be purchased and installed at any of the above businesses and the Iowa City Bike Library, 408 E. College St.

Wiedemeier said University of Iowa police are also participants in the coalition, but they have yet to issue a citation.

Michael Chamberlain, owner of the Broken Spoke and a contributor to Think Bicycles, said that the program is a great community asset that allows for further local cycling integration.

“It’s essentially a very non-penalizing approach to not having your bike equipped with lights according to the law,” he said. “It’s all about increasing the visibility of cyclists at night for everyone.”

Johnson County assistant transportation planner Kristopher Ackerson said the coalition has had a two-pronged beneficial approach to the county and echoed Wiedemeier’s views of the program being a vital educational asset.

“It’s helped coordinate education through the Light the Night initiative, and it has also helped consolidate input about the improvements to bicycle networks [streets, trails, bike lanes] so that the biking community can speak with one voice,” Ackerson said. “The problem in the past is that we would get conflicting input from cyclists, and this group has helped bring all of this into one hub.”

North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm and North Liberty City Councilor Coleen Chipman said the area trail systems are an important quality-of-life contributor and believe Iowa City and greater Johnson County’s commitment to an extensive system and high level of use can be attributed to the high local levels of education and understanding of what it means to be healthy.

“It’s really gratifying when you go out at night and see the use [of the trails],” Chipman said. When we start connecting the trails between the cities and the county, I think that there is no doubt that it will get even more popular.”


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