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All The News That's Fit To Burn : 2006 Summer Newsletter

Why Lights On Bikes and Scooters Are Cool
And Other Bike Tidbits

Please take a moment to answer the following short quiz.

Q: Why should I light my bike at night in Black Rock City?

  1. So I can see others;
  2. So others can see me;
  3. To avoid injuries;
  4. Because if I use Christmas lights or el-wire I'll be creating more art;
  5. Because the Bureau of Land Management wants to see lights on bikes;
  6. Because lights on bikes are cool and part of the Burning Man ethos;
  7. All of the above

It should be pretty obvious that the correct answer is 7) All of the above. Nevertheless, every year there are plenty of lightless bikes roving the dark playa and creating safety hazards for everyone in our city. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has repeatedly asked the Project to get the word out to participants that lights are a good idea. Every year we put this information in the Survival Guide and on our website. But many participants are just not listening to our advice. It may be that they feel that the playa is a large and porous space; their trusty bike's sufficiently maneuverable. It doesn't occur to them that hundreds — in fact, thousands — of other participants have also made this same assumption. To go lightless on the nighttime playa or even down a darkened street is to be semi-blind and, sometimes, wholly invisible. And to be lightless in a dust storm or a moonless night — well, that's like paddling a coracle amid the shipping lanes. Sooner or later, you will collide with a t-stake, a pedestrian, another unlit cyclist, or with some mighty steamer of an art car. If truth be told, lightlessness in Black Rock City is akin to witlessness.

If this problem is not corrected then the BLM will require bikes to have lights as part of our stipulations. This would have the force of law, which means BLM Rangers could issue citations for failure to have a lit bike at night. Let's have lit bikes because it is the right thing to do, and not because the BLM is making us do it!

Speaking of BLM regulations, motorized scooters and 'go-peds' technically fit the definition of a motorized vehicle. Therefore, they are required by law to have front and taillights. The BLM Rangers have not enforced this yet, but they plan to do so in 2006. Be safe and avoid a ticket! They will, however, be flexible about what constitutes adequate lighting. Think function over form — a headlamp or flashlight, nearly any kind of light, on the front with a red blinky light or el-wire on your Camelbak will suffice. Many cyclists don't bother with these niceities because they've brought a junker bike that's unequipped with lights or reflectors, but when the solution to the problem is so simple and immediate, there's really no excuse for risking your safety or endangering others.

As long as we're on the subject of bike and scooter accessories, don't forget to bring a combination lock (bike theft happens), spare parts, tools, inner tubes and a bike pump. Incidentally, all of these things make great gifts if you don't end up using them yourself. And get your bike tuned up before you reach the playa.

So what happens if you bring all of these parts and your bike breaks, but you don't know how to fix it? Or, what happens if you already gave away the exact part that you now need? Then come down to the Bike Guild where the Bike Gods will teach you how to fix your bike. How's that for radical self-reliance? Located behind Playa Info, the Bike Guild is always looking for experienced bike mechanics to become part of the Bike God Pantheon. Plus, they have free beer to entice potential bike mechanics. Interested? Check out the WhatWhereWhen for more information, or email bikes (at) burningman (dot) com.

Okay, so you got your bike tuned up before you hit the playa, you brought a lock, tubes, parts and tools. You're done, right? Wrong! The most important thing now is to make sure that your bike leaves the playa with you. After cigarette butts, bikes are the most common form of MOOP in Black Rock City. Don't leave your bike for others to deal with. Take it home, wash off the alkali dust, oil it and keep it for next year.

~Ray Allen