Portland Bus Driver Says Let There Be Light…on Bikes

Usually when we talk about someone having a windshield perspective on this blog, we don’t mean it as a good thing. But today, courtesy of Streetsblog Network member Bike Portland, we bring you a windshield perspective that is actually quite helpful. TriMet bus operator Dan Christenson has written a guest column about how happy he is to see more bicyclists using lights at night — because it means he sees them so much better:

311205200_5adb8c6f59_m.jpgPhoto by Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland.

In the last 6 months I have seen a huge jump in the percentage of bicyclists who are using lights at night. No joke, starting about midway through last summer the number of glowing bikes has gone way up. That has prevented many of what I like to call “OH MY GOD!!” moments. I’ve asked around for other drivers to pay attention and they also confirm my observation, a few have even given me head counts….

[W]hat is super fantastic is the almost arms-race-like growth in the quality of the lights. I’m talking lighted vest, helmets, gloves, undergarments…(just kidding). Bars of lights, spinning lights, pulsing lights, double-pulsing lights, cylon-light-bouncing-back-and-forth lights, pulsing and moving lights. Hey, I thought I was high tech when I got a light that went on my helmet, but I am falling way behind on the light race. It’s stunning, dazzling and most of all it’s way safe.

There are times that I can see bikes further away then cars. I can look up in the dead of night and say “that, my friend, way way way up there is a bicyclist.”

Elsewhere around the network: Transit Miami looks at some bleak statistics on cycling safety in Florida; the Oregonian’s Hard Drive column reports on Platewire.com, a site where dangerous motorists get called out by license plate number; and Urban Review STL provides a wheelchair perspective, shall we say, on the obstacle presented by sidewalks without curb cuts.

  • A Cylon bike light!?

    By your command:


    I definitely appreciate a bus driver who cares about the well being of cyclists, and is a fan of science fiction.

  • John Deere

    Wow–cyclists can actually do something on behalf of their own safety? Who knew?
    This article is a refreshing break from the “cyclists are victims” and “cyclists can only be safe when someone else builds them separated facilities” boilerplate that usually appears on Streetsblog.

  • With the new advances in LED technology there is no excuse any longer for not having a good head and tail light on your bicycle. They last a long time on regular batteries and are getting pretty cheap to boot!

    I think these bicycle light advancements are WAY MORE IMPORTANT to bicyclist safety then any helmet.

  • Yes bike lights are super important for any night riding. I always use a rear red led light. The front light? I haven’t got that quite mastered yet 😉

    Things were gravy when I had my front wheel traction-generator light from Japan. Then, I made the awful mistake of parkign my bike overnight on the main street in San Francisco. The crimanimals took that light, my seat, and my seat POST. (22mm, hard to find)

    But thanks to Waterside bike works in Berkeley/Albany, I had my “happy ending.” Three free posts! No store had them for sale. (old made-in-Dayton huffy bike.)

  • Sam

    “I think these bicycle light advancements are WAY MORE IMPORTANT to bicyclist safety then any helmet.”

    The NHTSA just released a nationwide study of bicycle related fatalities. They favor a more balanced approach that includes both helmets and lights.
    All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride. A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash.

    Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. When cycling in the street, cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic.

    Bicyclists should increase their visibility to drivers by wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing during the day, dawn, and dusk. To be noticed when riding at night, use a front light and a red reflector or flashing rear light, and use retro-reflective tape or markings on equipment or clothing.

    They also talk about the responsibilities of drivers in keeping cyclists safe but it’s a shared responsibility.


  • I don’t wave to unlit cyclists.

    There are so many good reasons to have blinking lights on, the least of which is that they are a legal requirement.


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