Light ’em for safety

Photo By Larry Dalton

Bike Safe Sacramento rallied local support for “Holiday Lights” on December 30, an event held at Sacramento Loaves and Fishes where about 120 homeless and low-income cyclists received inspections, repairs and equipment for their bikes, including head and tail lights—free of charge.

The Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen volunteered mechanical manpower, Bicycle Chef Bicycles supplied parts at cost and the Methodist Hospital of Sacramento kicked in $5,200 from their “injury-prevention fund” for free gear.

“Homeless people, it’s hard to get enough money to afford a headlight and a tail light, you know,” said Earl Drennen, a.k.a. Spooky, who lives under a bridge near Discovery Park. “When you’re homeless and you’ve got money, you sure ain’t gonna spend it on a headlight and a tail light. I mean, it’s used for food or clothing or shelter.”

Spooky’s new lights add safety and style to his metallic blue Schwinn cruiser, “customized” with red fenders, a radio and a two-stroke engine—a bike he built from spare parts and calls his “old lady.”

The city said there were 2,532 bicycle-car collisions in Sacramento from 1995 to 2005, of which 129 cyclists received severe injuries and 24 cyclists died. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the nation spends $8 billion annually on bicycle-related injuries and deaths.

Laura Rubalcaba, founder of the fledgling Bike Safe Sacramento (with only two other members, her son and a friend), hopes to save lives and community money through prevention. The Caltrans bridge engineer commutes from Carmichael to downtown Sacramento via bike and light rail. She started asking fellow cyclists on RT to reveal “the good, the bad and the ugly” of urban cycling in Sacramento. Homeless riders complained of receiving tickets from police for not having lights, required for night riding, which they cannot afford. So Rubalcaba hit up a good deal at Circuit City and bought a bunch of lights. She installs them for free as she rides RT to work.

With about $2,000 left and a ready and willing volunteer base, Rubalcaba plans to keep collaborating with the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen and Loaves and Fishes to hold more events like Holiday Lights.