Stripes in Lower Bidwell Park

New reflective paint can make night riding safer

Anybody who has bicycled through Lower Bidwell Park at night knows how dark it can be. Bike lights don’t throw a strong beam, and when a bike path or the road reaches a curve, it’s easy to miss the turn and ride off the pavement and, potentially, into trouble.

There’s a way to eliminate this risk, however. In San Jose, the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services has embarked on an ambitious program to stripe its park trails and paths with a special-formula reflective paint that shows the way for hikers and bikers in the dark.

Various state and federal laws discourage the use of lights in riparian corridors because of the effect on the migration of nocturnal animals. That’s as it should be, but as mentioned it poses a problem for bicyclists.

San Jose officials have worked with vendors to develop a thermoplastic paint that contains lots of very small and polished reflective glass beads. The application of a narrow stripe of this reflective paint down the center of Lower Park bike paths and roads would help bicyclists find their way in the dark. This would be especially valuable for wintertime bike commuters who ride in the early-morning dark.

Riding through Lower Park at night can be a magical experience, especially when the moon is full, but when there’s no moon the ride can be dangerous. We now know it doesn’t have to be that way.