The push to make bike ways more visible at night

Posted at 8:30 PM, Jan 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-01 20:36:41-05

It may become a lot easier to see bicyclist on the road at night.

A proposed law would require the state to install solar-powered lights on any new bike pathways or lanes. The idea is to light a distinct border between the road and the bike lane.

A Delray Beach company, Lux Solar, produces the lights. It has worked with The Florida Department of Transportation to install the lights for other projects on roads in northern Florida.

It installed about 50 lights along a bike path on A1A in Boca Raton this fall as a test.

The overhead lights on the stretch of road south of Spanish River turn off during turtle nesting season, making the roadway very dark. These solar-powered lighted embedded in the asphalt clearly light up the bike path, while not disturbing turtle hatchlings.

Most deadly bicycle crashes occur after 4 p.m.

The company's president says his goal is to save lives.

"As an engineer, the ultimate reward for me is to know I made a difference in our society," explains Wael Majdalawi.

A Delray Beach bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group, SAFE, has rallied behind the idea.

It reached out to State Senator Maria Sachs to help write this proposed law.

"You could take a great idea and a concept, but if its sitting on the shelf not being installed, not being used, it's not serving any purpose to anybody," explains Patrick Halliday from SAFE, who is also president of the Delray Beach Bicycle Club.

He admits this technology won't prevent every bicycle crash, but he says it can make a big difference and could save lives.

Opponents say the added cost of installing these lights is too high. Halliday says it costs between $75 and $100 per light. Majdalawi says that is cheaper than overhead lights which use electricity from the grid.

Some wonder if requiring new bicycle paths to have these lights will discourage the state from building new pathways because it will have to pay more money for this feature.

Next week, commissioners in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach are expected to consider throwing they're support behind the bill.

Senate Bill 904 would require any bicycle way built after July 1, 2016 within a 1-mile radius of an urban area to have a solar-powered, in-road lighting system.

Majdalawi says his company's lights take about ten minutes to install and works right away. They last about ten years with no maintenance. They need about three hours of sunlight, or eight hours of clouds to shine for 18 hours. They come equipped with sensors which tell the light to turn on or off during the night and day.

The legislative session begins January 12 in Florida.