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      Columbia police givaway free bike lights instead of issuing tickets

      Columbia police stopped dozens of people on Monday night, not for drunk driving or speeding, but because they didn't have lights on their bicycles.

      However, instead of getting a ticket for violating a city ordinance, police gave them free lights for their bikes, thanks to some generous donations.

      The original plan was to have Columbia police pull over bicyclists riding at night without lights during several nights this week.

      However, the bike right, use a light program was cut short when police ran out of free lights on the first night. Columbia police officers partnered with the PedNet Coalition to distribute about 50 free bicycle lights instead of handing out tickets. A city ordinance requires lights on the front and back of a bicycle at night. The lights do more than just help cyclists see where they are going.

      Safety, of course, is the main concern," PedNet Coalition spokeswoman Janet Godon said. "A lot of people think that you need a light so that you can illuminate where you are going, so you can see where you are going. Of course, that TMs important. It TMs more important for motor vehicle drivers to see you coming down the road at night, and to be able to see from behind with your red light or red reflector.

      The Mayor TMs Council on Physical Fitness and the Columbia Bike Club provided the free bicycle lights. Columbia police also took another approach to improve bicycle safety. Last Wednesday, officers conducted a special traffic detail in downtown Columbia. They gave tickets to 17 cyclists for riding on the sidewalk and four cyclists for running stop signs. One cyclist got a ticket for failure to yield at an intersection.

      We TMve been partnering up with the PedNet Coalition and the GetAbout Columbia program for almost a year and a half now," Columbia Police Detective Jeff Westbrook said. "Education is important, not only for cyclists, but motorists. I think it TMs a great partnership. We TMre looking forward to future endeavors.

      Westbrook said Columbia police plan to give away more bicycle lights at no charge as soon as they get more donations.

      Last month, Columbia TMs GetAbout Columbia program also gave away about 150 free bicycle lights.