Illuminating commuters, lowering safety risks
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 01:01
Today the sun will set at about 5 p.m. For many students, their schedules will not end by then. Time spent at places like Valley Library, Dixon Recreation Center or the classroom requires students to commute home after sunset.
Travels through low-light areas at night on bicycles or on foot imply an increased risk of vehicle-related accidents. In coordination with the City of Corvallis and the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oregon State University will launch a campaign on Thursday titled “Be Bright, Be Seen” to illuminate pedestrians and bicyclists.
“It seems apparent that, with more and more students, faculty and staff, that we have increasing numbers of commuters who either bike to the university or walk or jog,” said Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing. “In the winter months and in the spring, it is difficult for folks to be seen, particularly if they are wearing dark clothing.”
On Thursday, “Be Bright, Be Seen” volunteers will hand out illuminated devices including clip-ons, protectors and umbrellas with lights in them — free of charge. In a release last week, items included headlights, reflective bands, reflective keys, white reflectors, bike helmets and lighted strobes as materials for staying safe at night. According to Clark, more incidents occur in low light, and increased visibility safety hasn’t caught up with the increasing traffic during low-light hours.
“I’ve seen a lot of people who are crossing roads and are riding alongside roads who are sharing their crossings,” Clark said. “It became apparent to me that there are a lot of places around campus that are rather dark and [there are] a lot of people that aren’t wearing very visible clothing.”
“Be Bright, Be Seen” isn’t the first effort from the university to support bicycle and pedestrian training. In the fall, the university offered bicycle safety sessions for people to learn how to operate a bicycle safely.
According to a report by the Oregon Department of Transportation, motor vehicle crashes involving bicycles numbered 962 in 2011. In the same year, 849 involved pedestrians. The report also enumerated “failure to yield right-of-way” and “disregarded traffic signals” as two of the three most common pedestrian and bicyclist errors. The most common drivers included “failure to yield right-of way,” “driving too fast for conditions” and “inattention” in a list of the most common driver errors.
In October 2012, The Oregonian mentioned another report by ODOT noting an increase in pedestrian deaths, about 23 percent, from the same timespan in 2011.
Clark notes this campaign as a measure taken to provide safety in a city with many low-light areas. Oregon law requires a light on the front of bikes during dark hours.
“I was involved with something similar in the Portland area, but Corvallis has a propensity of low-lit crossings,” Clark said. “With increased employment and student enrollment, we can expect increased rates of conflict between drivers, bikers, walkers and joggers.”
Clark made a local appeal for sponsors willing to support the campaign, and ended with the Gazette-Times, the City of Corvallis and the OSU Bookstore.
“If we run out, we plan to work with our partners to see if we can purchase more materials at a cost that covers only the expense,” Clark said. “We don’t want this campaign to be for profit, and next week will be totally free.”
The “Be Bright, Be Seen” giveaway will take place in the Memorial Union Quad from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The campaign currently hosts a competition where students can take photos of themselves with visibility gear. People will vote on the Oregon State Facebook page and the winner will receive a $150 gift card to the Beaver Store. More information can be found online at poweredbyorange.com/be-bright.
Jack Lammers, news editor