New bicycle light aims to set night riders aglow

     Cyclists, how many times have you had a near collision with a motorist because they didn’t see you?

     Sure, you were wearing your helmet light and fitted your bike with a rear flashing red light and pedal reflectors, but you still got the scare of your life when you saw that one-ton vessel headed straight for you.

     Well, there’s a new Santa Cruz-based company that hopes to help you be seen better by drivers.

     BikeGlow Inc. has developed a bicycle light that wraps around the entire frame, including the handlebars, making it glow like a bike-shaped jelly fish after the sun goes down.

     The BikeGlow Safety Light was created by long-time Santa Cruz residents Chris Cobb, 38, a sales manager for a local developer research company; Ken Nowak, 40, a Caltrans structural engineer; and Evrett Kramer, 39, a small business owner.

     The three avid cyclists developed the 10-foot long tube-style light after hearing about vehicle versus bike traffic collisions on Mission Street .

     “The little headlight and tail light are not enough to show drivers there is a vehicle on the road,” said Cobb. “We had used these wire lights to create displays and thought if we could hook them up to a battery-operated driver and attach them to the bikes, we’d have something. We worked with some suppliers, branded the product, BikeGlow, and voila.”

     The BikeGlow Safety Light comes in eight colors — red, white, purple, pink, blue, aqua, green and yellow — and is powered by two AA batteries. Its life expectancy is five years.

     But being seen may be just half the battle in preventing traffic collisions between cars and bikes, as the Santa Cruz Police Department reminds pedal-pushers that they must follow the rules of the road, too.

     “We have seen serious bicycle collisions both during the day and at night,” said Capt. Steve Clark, noting that the city saw 696 total traffic collisions in 2008; 58 involved bicycles. “Our last three fatal collisions were all during daylight hours.

     “We would encourage bicyclists to never assume they are seen by the driver of a motor vehicle, regardless of the kind of lighting system they are using, or the time of day,” he continued. “We would also encourage them to follow all rules of the road including stopping at stop signs and red lights, riding on the proper side of the road and remaining to the right-most portion of the roadway.”

     That said, Clark supports cyclists attempts at being better visible on the road.

     “We would be supportive of anything that increases the safety and is still legally appropriate,” he said, citing California vehicle code section 21201(d), which outlines lighting and other equipment requirements (www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21201.htm) for cyclists.

     BikeGlow’s closest competitor is the Down Low Glow, Cobb said, as he noted two major differences between the two products.

     First, the other brand is low to the ground, rather that eye level — something the cyclists he’s spoken to said they preferred lights that are at eye level.

     Difference No. 2 is price. BikeGlow will run you $25, while its competitor sells for $115. Online purchasers can save $5 on Cobb’s bike light by using the coupon code, “sclocal,” he added.

     BikeGlow launched in December online at www.bikeglow.com.

     It's inventors invite the local cycling community to come out to the Lighthouse at Steamer Lane Tuesday at 6 p.m. to get a free light installed. 

     

     BikeGlow will hit local stores, including Another Bike Shop, The Bike Trip, and Family Cycling Center , next month.

     Street Smarts is written by Ramona Turner and appears Mondays. Read the daily blog online at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/streetsmarts. If you have a transportation question or idea, contact her at streetsmarts@santacruzsentinel.com. Be sure to include a name, city of residence and daytime telephone number.

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