Campaign lights the way to bike safety

Operation firefly
As Chris Chorebanian of Glendale, fills out a questionaire, Nathalie Winiarski of Walk Bike Glendale puts a free rear light on his bicycle as part of Operation Firefly in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the assistance of the Glendale Police Department on Wednesday, August 20, 2014. Glendale police officers stopped bicyclists riding without lights, but instead of giving them citations, let Winiarski talk with them about safe cycling at night and attached free front and rear lights.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Chris Chorebanian was pulled over on his bicycle by a Glendale police officer Wednesday evening for riding without a front light.

But instead of getting a ticket, he was pleasantly surprised when he was handed a free light for his ride.

The giveaway is known as Operation Firefly, an educational campaign by the organization Walk Bike Glendale aimed at getting the word out about the importance of being visible when riding bikes after dark.

“It happens very frequently, unfortunately, that cyclists ride around the evening without proper lights and just visibility in general,” said Nathalie Winiarski, a volunteer with the bike awareness group. “In general, also wearing some light-colored clothing helps.”


Aside from safety issues, California state law requires front lights and rear reflectors on bicycles when riding at night.

Winiarski did a ride-along in a police patrol car and, along with Officer Tino Saloomen, was on the lookout for cyclists riding without lights.

When one was spotted and pulled over, they both got out of the car. Saloomen first told riders they weren’t in any trouble and then Winiarski would step in with a complimentary front light, reflector and a small stack of informational pamphlets.

“It’s a great thing cycling has increased everywhere around. However, bike safety has to be brought to the forefront,” Winiarski said.


From kids to adults, bicyclists were stopped around Glendale Wednesday night, including Chorebanian, who was pulled over at the intersection of Maryland and California avenues.

His bike had a rear reflector, but was missing a front light. Chorebanian said he was at first upset to be stopped for riding a bicycle and being environmentally friendly, but had a different approach after getting his free light.

“When you want to drive a car, you have to go through the licensing so you learn the rules, but you don’t really learn biking rules, you just buy a bike and just go,” he said. “[Operation Firefly] informs bikers about the laws of the road. It’s a good way to inform people.”

Eagle Rock resident Ramiro Bocanegra was stopped at Central and Doran avenues for not having lights installed on his BMX freestyle bike. He said he’d never really thought about having the add-ons, but he’ll make use of them now.

“It didn’t cross my mind to put on a reflector, but I’m OK with it, especially at night, I don’t mind using it,” he said.

Wednesday night was the second time Walk Bike Glendale conducted an Operation Firefly, which was made possible by a donation from retired ABC7 reporter and local resident Gene Gleeson, Winiarski said. She added there would be more ride-alongs to come with Glendale police.

Officer Abe Chung also participated in the most recent operation and was glad to be a part of it, but said if it was any other night, he would likely be issuing fix-it tickets.

“If it was really dark and the street lights weren’t working too well, I would say you’re going to have to walk your bike and here’s your ticket, too,” he said.