The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday June 2nd

Chapel Hill asks bicyclists to brighten their ride

Bicyclists who parked their bikes in Chapel Hill Thursday probably found that their bike was tagged with a brightly colored flyer when they returned. 

The tags were used to raise awareness for new bike legislation and bike visibility. They are part of Lighten Up, Chapel Hill — a visibility campaign to promote the importance of being visible to drivers when biking at night and to educate bikers on recent North Carolina legislation that requires bicyclists traveling in dark conditions to have a white light on the front of the bike and a red reflector or flashing light on the back.

Len Cone, head of the program and community outreach coordinator for the town's Planning and Sustainability Department, said the tags were used to bring attention to the new laws.

“We’ve had dozens and dozens of people say ‘I did not know there are new laws,’” Cone said. “When we talk to people about it, they say it makes sense."

Cone said bringing awareness to the issue through the campaign could ultimately affect accident statistics.

“With this new North Carolina legislation that has come out, we just think it is very important to get that information out to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians," she said.

The tags also provide bicyclists with a 10 percent coupon code to buy a bike light from any bike shop in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Sophomore Jack Agref purchased a bike in the spring to sustainably commute to and from work, school and home. Agref said he takes the necessary precautions to protect himself from vehicles.

“When I’m biking on the road I definitely feel a lot safer when I have my reflectors on the back,” he said.

The tag also includes safety information for pedestrians, including how they should wear reflective clothing and carry a light at night.

The campaign is part of a larger regional effort to promote bike safety that includes GoTriangle, UNC Commuter Alternative Program, Go Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Bicycle Alliance Chapel Hill and the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition.

According to Watch for Me NC, around 960 bicyclists are hit by vehicles in North Carolina each year.   

Several Chapel Hill pedestrians and bicyclists have been hit in recent years, including two bicyclists who were killed in a hit-and-run accident in September 2013

To make the streets more safe, the Chapel Hill Town Council adopted a bike plan on June 9.

“We’re designated as a national bicycle friendly community, but there’s always ways to improve,” Cone said.

Agref said biking on campus around pedestrians is a challenge, and sometimes drivers do not know how to respond to bicyclists. 

“I don’t think people in cars realize that a bike when it’s on the road is the same as a car and has the same rights to the road," he said.

Chapel Hill Police Sgt. Celisa Lehew said pedestrian and bicyclist safety is something everyone should be concerned about.

 “We have to be aware and be educated about safety both on the bike and while walking," Lehew said. "I think it is a shared responsibility for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Cone said if the campaign prevents even one accident, their efforts will be worth it.

“I think every little step we take makes a huge difference even if it’s only to one person today, they can by word of mouth spread the information,” she said.

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