TRAVERSE CITY — Long nights and snowy roads aren't a cyclist's best friends to begin with. Add an unlit bike to the mix and it could result in tragedy.
For people whose only mode of transportation is a bicycle, the hours of darkness can now be a little less scary.
Free taillights are available from the Cherry Capital Cycling Club.
"Light up the Night" was borne from tragedy after one homeless Traverse City woman was hit by a driver who then fled the scene. Members of the club's Safety and Education team didn't know the victim personally, but took her accident to heart.
"When you're on a bike, you're small, your physical presence isn't as large as another vehicle," said Fred Schaafsma, chairperson of the safety team. "Being brightly lit is certainly an advantage.
"We see someone who doesn't have a light, we offer to put one on," he said.
The lights are available and will be installed for free at McLain Cycle and Fitness, 750 E. Eighth, during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Club members also are taking to the road, installing lights on bikes at the Goodwill Inn, the library and wherever else bikers congregate, Schaafsma said.
"Every year we have people who are homeless who die or are injured on the streets," said Cecil McNally, executive director of Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan. "It's great that a group of bicyclists have found a way to identify with our residents through cycling."
The club initially had 100 lights, which have five LED bulbs in each one and use AAA batteries, Schaafsma said. He estimates they've already given away half of those. Donations to purchase more lights and batteries are welcome; call Schaafsma at 223-9446, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.cherrycapitalcyclingclub.org for more information.
The club raises money through two major bike rides each year, Schaafsma said — the Ride Around Torch in the summer and the Leelanau Harvest Tour in the fall. He said the club gave $15,500 to TART Trails in 2010.