Riding in the dark – as clocks go back UK's annual free lights & fines season begins
Our round-up of some of the initiatives to ensure that cyclists are seen on the roads this winter
With the clocks going back last Sunday, this week has seen cyclists having to cope with dusk falling an hour earlier and in what’s become an annual ritual, the earlier arrival of the hours of darkness has been accompanied by giveaways of lights and high-visibility gear, as well as police crackdowns on cyclists riding without lights.
Police were out on the streets of Oxford for their annual operation targeting those not displaying lights. Some 162 fixed penalty notices – described by police as on a par with previous years – were issued in the space of three hours on Wednesday evening, according to the BBC.
Those caught can avoid paying the £30 fine by purchasing a set of lights and taking the receipt to the police station within seven days – although last year there was some controversy over that with reports that some were then going back to the shop where they had bought the lights to claim a refund.
A similar tactic is being employed by police in Bournemouth, with riders able to avoid a fine if they can prove they bought a set of lights within seven days.
PC Rob Hammond told the Bournemouth Echo: “The clocks go back at the end of October and this makes it darker in the evening.
“Many cyclists are unaware of the danger they present by not making themselves visible. Now is the time to make yourself as safe as you can be.”
He added: “Cyclists can change how they look to motorists relatively simply and cheaply – after all, how much is your life worth?”
Young cyclists in Hindley Green, Wigan, are being treated to some rather snazzy Knog lights in an initiative devised by Wigan Council, the Hindley Green Residents Association and PACT - Partners And Communities Together.
Funding has been provided for 100 sets of lights, with PCSOs fitting them for free to the bikes of youngsters seen cycling without them.
"Many young cyclists who ride without lights simply don’t realise just how vulnerable they are, especially at this time of year when it goes dark so early," Inspector Anne Scott of Hindley Neighbourhood Policing Unit told the Leigh Journal.
Councillor Bob Brierley added: "The Brighter Borough budget enables ward members to fund grass roots initiatives which directly benefit local residents - and how better to invest it than in the safety of our young people."
In Edinburgh, local cycling charity the Bike Station teamed up with Lothian Buses to distribute 500 hi-viz vests in a series of events at The Meadows, close to Edinburgh University, where free bike maintenance were also on offer, reports STV.
Ian Craig, Managing Director of Lothian Buses, which provides cyclist awareness training to all of its drivers, said: “We are proud to be supporting this initiative from the Bike Station. As part of our Safety and Awareness programme, Lothian Buses is committed to enhancing our relationship with cyclists in and around Edinburgh.
“We hope these hi-viz jackets help to keep cyclists safe on the roads this winter."
The events will continue to be held at The Meadows each Wednesday evening between 4pm and 7pm until 23 November.
Writing on the Bike Station blog, manager Mark Sydenham said: “The aim is to give cyclists the basic equipment they need if they are cycling without. With increasing numbers of cyclists on Edinburgh's streets, and with winter now upon us, it's more important than ever for cyclists to be aware of the basics to make sure they are visible and legal, to keep themselves safe.
“And as well as lights and reflectors, it's vital to keep your bike in good condition to make winter cycling easier and to make your bike last longer.”
As we reported last Friday, Blackburn planned to distribute free sets of lights to cyclists in the City of London on Monday evening this week – as it turned out, the initiative was a huge success, with 500 sets given away in just 20 minutes.