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Bicyclists need right lights for night rides

Fire officials have long urged residents to change their smoke detectors’ batteries when daylight saving time ends.

Clark County is adding a new twist: reminding bicyclists who ride after dark to comply with state law for bike lights.

“I figured it was timely to mention this to people because of the time change,” said Gary Albrecht, a county transportation planner who coordinates the Clark Communities Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Residents should have turned their clocks back one hour, effective at 2 a.m. Sunday. The change means it will be dark in the late afternoon as days continue to get shorter until the Dec. 21 solstice.

State law, RCW 46.61.780, requires bicyclists riding after dark to have a front lamp emitting a white light visible from at least 500 feet and a red rear reflector visible from at least 600 feet.

“The combination of the reflector-bike light is typically sold, so that works for the law,” Albrecht said.

Too many bicyclists are unaware of state requirements or ignore them, he said.

“More often than not, I see people not complying with the law, and I don’t know why,” Albrecht he said. “Young kids, adults.”

Since 2016, Clark County has used a “Lights On” campaign to remind bicyclists of the need to be safe and legal after dark. Albrecht said the campaign is part of the 2010 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

The campaign is grounded in hard facts about bike crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 783 fatalities in unicycle, bicycle and tricycle crashes involving motor vehicles in 2017.

Slightly more fatalities occurred in daylight crashes, 48 percent, than nighttime crashes, 47 percent, with the remaining occurring at dawn or dusk. Bicyclist deaths occurred most often between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., regardless of the time of year.

Fatalities in urban areas exceeded those in rural areas by a 3-1 ratio. Deaths were eight times higher for males than females, and alcohol was a factor in 37 percent of all fatal bike crashes.

Bicyclists, besides having legally required lights, should wear brightly colored clothing, Albrecht said.

“Ride on the right side of the road, not the left side,” he said. “Follow the laws. Cross at appropriate crossings.”

CVTV produced a short video, just under 3 minutes, about bike lights that includes footage of Albrecht riding his bike and interviews with Washington State Patrol spokesman Will Finn and Clark County Councilor Julie Olson.

The video, posted on YouTube, can be watched at


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