By Isiah REYES
Walk Bike Glendale and the Glendale Police Dept. are teaming up for Operation Firefly, a bike light distribution program intended to make sure people riding bikes are riding safely at night.
When riding a bike at night in California, a white front light and reflectors are required by law. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, which is a membership-based advocacy organization that works to improve the bicycling environment in Los Angeles County, developed the Operation Firefly program to make sure bicyclists who are riding bikes without lights receive front and rear lights.
Under Operation Firefly, groups of volunteers meet throughout Los Angeles where nighttime bicycle ridership is expected to be high so they can hand out free bicycle lights. Katie Kurutz, the 2014 chair of Walk Bike Glendale, said Operation Firefly was developed primarily to promote the safety of the cyclist.
“The way Firefly is usually implemented is to occupy a city intersection known for high bicycle traffic then approach cyclists without lights, give them some literature and a set of lights for their own use, and take down some basic information,” Kurutz said.
There are typically 50 to 100 allocated lights set for each street distribution, depending on expected bicyclist volume. The volunteers continue to hand out lights until they run out of lights or until a two-hour time limit has been reached.
Steering committee member Nathalie Winiarski initiated a street corner giveaway in winter of last year after receiving a donation from a local resident. About 10 volunteers occupied the intersection for two hours and they ended up giving out 40 lights to bicyclists. Winiarski has since initiated a partnership with the Glendale Police Dept. to reach more cyclists in Glendale with the message of nighttime safety and to continue to give out the lights afforded by the donation.
The partnership with the GPD is in the form of a ride along. Glendale police officers stop bicyclists riding without lights and attach free front and rear lights. The first ride along for Walk Bike Glendale was Rye Baerg, who was the chair of Bike Walk Glendale last year.
“It was a ton of fun and we stopped about 14 to 16 bicyclists to give them lights,” Baerg said about the first ride along. “The goal of the program is to educate cyclists by giving them safety information related to the rules of the road for riding bicycles at night.”
Operation Firefly was launched in November 2013 and has distributed light sets to more than 1,000 people. Roughly 114 volunteers helped with Operation Firefly distributions countywide for a total of 385 volunteer hours.
“We have a vibrant downtown area, which is growing, and a wide ranging demographic of residents including a growing number of young adults moving into the city,” Kurutz said. “Walking and biking in a city like ours is important because as you increase the number of people in a dense area having alternate transportation options helps ease congestion and reduce air pollution.”
Baerg said Walk Bike Glendale was instrumental in starting the Pedestrian Safety Task Force and working with the city to get it to apply for the Pedestrian Safety Master Plan. For its efforts, Glendale was awarded $500,000 to develop a citywide pedestrian plan to identify how to make Glendale safer for pedestrians. City staff wrote the grant and city council members supported the creation of the Pedestrian Safety Task Force.
“We’re hoping the master plan will outline needed pedestrian safety improvements throughout the city and also develop a series of programs for educating residents,” Baerg said.
Glendale was also awarded $1,642,000 for additional Safe Routes to School improvements across the city. This grant will be used to make pedestrian improvements around schools to help make it safer for children to walk and bicycle to school.
“We hope to continue to work jointly with the city to support the implementation of these plans by raising awareness and increasing engagement around the vision,” Kurutz said.