"Lighten up Columbia" raises awareness for bicycle safety

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COLUMBIA - One local organization took to the streets Wednesday night to promote bicycle safety.

GetAbout Columbia conducted bicycle light checkpoints for multiple hours Wednesday night on the corner of Cherry and Ninth Street in an effort to encourage the use of bicycle lights. It worked with Columbia Parks and Recreation for the event.

Light sets, including front lights and rear taillights, were installed on bicycles for free. Fliers summarizing Missouri laws and city traffic ordinances for safe cycling were distributed, as well.

GetAbout Columbia and Parks and Rec. staff also handed out the safety tools Monday. The effort is part of "Lighten Up Columbia," a bicycle safety awareness campaign.

According to 2012 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 48 percent of bicycle fatalities happened between 4:00 p.m. and midnight.

Missouri State Highway Patrol data shows 495 Missouri bicyclists were injured in 2015. 

"A lot of people think that bicycle light in the front is to illuminate the area in front of you," Columbia Parks and Recreation's Janet Godon said. "Well that’s important, it’s more important to allow motor vehicle drivers to see you coming through intersection, turning right or left, so we just want cyclists to be safe."

GetAbout Columbia said bikers should use a red taillight and high visibility clothing, in addition to the lights. 

Jack Scott, who bikes to and from class at MU, said biking at night is risky.

"The scariest part is being on the road and someone taking a turn and not seeing you so, you have to move out of the way so you don't get hit," he said.

Scott also said he'd nearly been hit by a car while biking at night about five times.

Cyclists riding on Columbia streets when the sun is down and without adequate lighting are subject to a $49 fine.