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Cycling advocates help light the path

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In response to an increase in traffic collisions involving pedestrians and bike riders, concerned cyclists are working to ensure as many bike riders as possible have bike lights.

Bike Lane Uprising, a Chicago-based safety advocacy group, recently named Indianapolis one of several cities to receive a grant to supply and distribute 200 bike lights.

Jarron Burdine, a cyclist and volunteer with Bike Indianapolis, a nonprofit organization advocating for safer streets, said the distribution should begin in early 2022. Volunteers will distribute the lights at bike shops and community events, and organization leaders plan to keep some lights in stock to hand out to cyclists as needed.

The grant comes after a particularly deadly year for Hoosiers on the road.

From 2019 to 2020, fatal collisions in Indianapolis rose 31% compared to an 8% increase nationwide. According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, over 180 collisions have involved pedestrians, and over 50 involed people on bikes.

RELATED: Indianapolis infrastructure impacts pedestrian safety

One way to reduce the number of collisions, Burdine said, is to make sure cyclists make themselves visible.

“I hate that I’ve had to do it, but I’ve spent a lot of money on lights for my bike and a jacket that’s made from reflective material,” Burdine said. “I have reflective material on my backpack that sits in my basket, too. Although, a large part of these crashes are distracted drivers, so being visible won’t help if they aren’t paying attention.”

Local leaders agree distracted driving and speeding play a large role in the recent uptick in collisions. Indianapolis City-County Councilor Crista Carlino and state Rep. Mitch Gore said drivers became accustomed to fewer cars on the road during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and ignored road laws and safety measures as traffic began to pick back up.

“We all have a part to play in this,” Carlino said at a vigil for road victims in November. “We need folks to slow down. Our streets are built to be the racing capitol of the world, and that’s a dangerous sport to play. We’ve got pedestrians and cyclists to protect.”

For several years, the city has worked to improve street lighting to protect those on the roads.

In 2016, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Operation Night Light, a project replacing nearly 27,000 streetlights in Indianapolis with more efficient LED lights. Hogsett said the project, which ended a 35-year moratorium on new streetlights, was a priority to improve safety. As of July, 97% of the planned installments have been completed.

“We are excited to celebrate this important milestone in the history of Operation Night Light,” Hogsett said at a press conference at the time. “There are few other city programs that offer so many benefits at once: this program enhances the safety of our neighborhoods, improves the efficiency of taxpayer dollars and reduces the greenhouse gases emitted into our environment. It’s truly a win-win-win for Indianapolis.”

Lane Wolf, a volunteer at Bike Indianapolis, said infrastructure changes, such as narrowing lanes, increasing the number of streetlights in the city and raised crosswalks, need to occur alongside drivers taking more precautions.

“Motorists, people on bikes and pedestrians all benefit from safer roads,” Wolf said. “… We want to create a safe space for all people, not just cars.”

For more information on Bike Lane Uprising, visit bikelaneuprising.com.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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