Going Green on Whidbey Island
May is a great month to start biking. I pulled my two wheeler out of the garage last weekend and hit the road. It had been months since I took it out for a spin. I had seen a lot of colorful characters passing my house like tropical birds all in a line, flying down the street. It looks like so much fun!
Determined to get started, I rode my bike early Saturday morning hoping to beat the traffic and the rain that was in the forecast. I managed to do both. The road by my house has a wide paved shoulder and I wear bright yellow and eye-sore green when I ride so even on a cloudy day, I show up at a considerable distance. It was a quiet ride. My leg muscles got used to the motion and my seat got used to the seat. After the first few minutes I relaxed into a gentle rhythm. There are a few hills between my house and my destination, the Greenbank Farm, but shifting down I took them in stride.
It started to drizzle as I rode but it didn’t bother me at all. When I arrived at the Farm I found a bench under cover and took a break with my water bottle and a snack bar. (Biking to loose weight works better if you don’t arrive at the pie shop during open hours.) Riding home there were a few more cars on the road but they were all courteous and gave me a wide berth. I was a little stiff when I dismounted at home, but felt good about my bicycle venture. I was so happy about my accomplishment I set out by bike again the next day and visited a friend. She’s a real cyclist and always encourages me to bike more. She made sure my wheels were in alignment and brakes were good. She pumped my tires up a bit before I set off for home again.
There is a new Transportation Planner at Island County. Brian Wood is obsessed with biking so he’s an excellent choice for the job. He co-founded the Whidbey Island Bike Club and won the Most Miles in May Award a few years ago when he commuted from Oak Harbor to Coupeville by bike every day in May. If you have questions about biking on Whidbey, for fun or as a commute, talk to Brian. If you want to bike with a group visit the bike club website to find out when and where to meet. https://whidbeybicycleclub.org/
Last weekend thousands of people across the country and on 6 continents around the globe joined in a campaign to break free from fossil fuels. Locally, protesters populated the train tracks connected to oil refineries near Anacortes. Roughly 1,000 people walked the six miles of road alongside the refineries carrying signs and singing songs. Some kayaked and some biked the distance. Some pitched tents and slept in sleeping bags on the tracks until they were awakened at 5am and asked to leave. The protests were peaceful and they accomplished their goal. They got media attention. They made their point. It is time to move away from fossil fuels.
Burning fossil fuels changes our climate. Here in the Northwest we’ve had the wettest winter on record and an unseasonably warm spring. Now deadly wildfires are raging across Western Canada. Whole towns are being evacuated. And it’s only mid-May. There have been summits and proclamations by world leaders. Inventors are making electric cars. Builders are building super-efficient homes. We have the technology to make a change, but do we have the individual will?
Some people are willing to walk for miles holding a sign or sleep on a train track to make a statement. What am I willing to do? Use a clothes line instead of the dryer? Ride a bike instead of drive? Grow some food in my yard? Small simple steps make a difference.
Puget Sound Energy offers free energy advisors at 1-800-562-1482. They offer rebates and discounts on all sorts of energy saving devises for your home or business that will save you money as well as cut your carbon footprint. From light bulbs and showerheads to appliances and insulation, they can make your life more comfortable and more affordable. Check them out at: https://pse.com/savingsandenergycenter/Rebates/Documents/3905_PSE_RebatesFlyer.pdf
If you haven’t ever tried an Island Transit bus you’re in for a treat. I’ve commuted by bus for years and enjoy the camaraderie of the regular riders. The drivers are friendly and helpful. And if you live too far from the bus stop, you can ride a bike to the bus and load it on the bike rack up front. There’s no fare for Island Transit buses (except the 411 Route that crosses Skagit Valley between Whidbey and Camano). I save hundreds of dollars each year commuting by bus. And statistics show that bus commuters burn more calories than those driving a car, because you usually have to walk a little ways to get to a bus stop. Get the schedule or try the online trip planner at: http://www.islandtransit.org/
Fortunately, we have a lot of local organic farmers who bring us fresh produce and high quality meat and dairy to the many farmers markets on Whidbey. We have the Thursday markets in Oak Harbor and Clinton, the Friday afternoon market in Langley, the Saturday markets in Coupeville and Bayview, the Sunday markets at the Greenbank Farm and the Tilth market on Thompson Road. We also have farm stands and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) where you buy all your produce at the start of the year and then just enjoy the harvest as it comes in throughout the season. For a complete list visit: http://www.slowfoodwhidbeyisland.org/csa/ Buying local food saves tons of carbon from transportation, provides local jobs and we get fresh food for our tables.
With attention to these 3 areas of our lives, energy, transportation and food, we can make huge changes in the years to come. Why wait? We can make the changes now.
May is Bike Month. I like walking and riding the bus on my commute to work. However, I’m not so sure I want to share the road with motor vehicles, or more accurately, if they want to share the road with me. Just the thought of donning spandex terrifies me. I prefer a designated bike path with a smooth, level surface, traveling at a relaxing pace, getting some exercise and communing with nature.
I wouldn’t call myself a cyclist but a couple of years ago I took a week-long biking vacation. I made a trip to visit family and to ride the Great Allegheny Passage (150 miles) which connects to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, (184 miles) of designated bike trail between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. I picked up my bike at a rental company that caters to cyclists coming for a multi-day tour. They supplied the bike, helmet, panniers, repair kit, extra tube, and lights.
It was gorgeous, meandering through parks, alongside rivers, over trestles, through tunnels, by historic sites, into small towns where I stopped for food and lodging. There are campsites along the way, too. I went in autumn when the leaves were turning and saw flocks of wild turkeys, deer, even a groundhog! I loved it!
The following February, I took advantage of some nice weather on a long weekend to ride the Lochside Trail and the Galloping Goose on Vancouver Island. My friend and I put our bikes on the ferry at Tsawwassen and sailed to Swartz Bay early in the morning. We rode the Lochside Trail for 20 miles from the ferry terminal, by a marina, between pastures, alongside a soccer match until we arrived on the outskirts of Victoria and connected with the Galloping Goose Trail. We steered west and headed for Sooke, about 30 miles away. We had a picnic lunch by a lake and continued to Sooke through parks and around the bay in time to check into a nice hotel on the water and soak in the hot tub before dinner.
The next day we rode the rest of the Galloping Goose up into the woods alongside the Sooke River. What a great way to see the countryside.
We got an early start for our return trip back to Swartz Bay and had a picnic in Sidney’s waterfront park. As we boarded the ferry we saw Orca whales crossing the bay! Perfecto!
Last fall while visiting family, I borrowed a bike and rode the 34 mile Virginia Creeper Trail out of Damascus, Virginia. We started in the middle and rode each direction both ways for a 2 day, 68 mile trip. It’s a steady climb eastward to Whitetop Mountain by the Laurel River. We had lunch on a big rock by the water and stopped at the old Railroad Station, now a gift shop, at the end. We visited with the store keeper-historian before turning around and heading all downhill, lickity split back to Damascus. That night while having dinner at a Mexican Restaurant we had a nice visit with thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail which goes right through town. The next day we rode west through the woods and by rolling hills and pastures to historic Abingdon. We got ice cream and walked by the Martha Washington hotel and the Barter Theatre where, during the depression, you could pay your admission fee with produce.
Traveling by bike is just my speed. I cover 30-50 miles a day on an almost flat grade. This summer I’m planning to bike across Idaho on Rails to Trails bike paths alongside lakes, through tunnels and over trestles. I’ll be looking for moose!
This time of year I’m compiling lots of financial information in order to file my taxes. As I go through my files, accounts, receipts and statements, I wonder how long I have to hold on to this stuff?
The IRS recommends keeping your tax returns and supporting documents for at least 3 years. (I read that if you filed a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction you should keep your records for 7 years.) I found my file drawer had records from about 10 years ago to the present. I feel the need to do some spring cleaning.
So what’s the best way to get rid of this sensitive financial information? I’m not comfortable boxing up documents with account numbers, social security numbers, and all my personal information and dumping it into the paper bin at the recycle center. And it’s illegal to burn your garbage in Island County. So I visited Gene Clark the Island County Recycling and Hazardous Waste Coordinator.
He took me on a short walk from his office at the Coupeville Solid Waste Complex to a small building that houses a massive shredder that’s available for public use. He showed me how it works, how to set up the bag at the end, told me what I shouldn’t put in the shredder and what to do when I’m finished. It’s simple and you can shred a good sized bag of paper (20 to 30 pounds) for $1.50. They’re open daily between 9:30-5:00 just 2 miles south of Coupeville on Highway 20.
Now I’m making a list of all kinds of papers I don’t want anyone else to see. I could shred those old journals from when I was a teenager, or that terrible novel I wrote in college, or all those files I’ve converted from paper files to digital. If you need to use a shredder call 360-679‐ 7386 or 360-240‐5592 to schedule an orientation appointment. Tell Gene I sent you.
If you like clamming on Whidbey, you’ll be happy to know that the Freeland County Park is open to shellfish harvesting from March 1 to May 15, 2016! After being closed to shellfish harvest due to poor water quality for nine years, it opened last spring for a six week season. Last fall the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife took an inventory and found there are ample shellfish left. So they decided to extend the season from six weeks to ten weeks this year.
Freeland will close for the summer because the wind changes direction blowing from the north and pushes sea grasses up on the beach. This thick carpet of seaweed, or “wrack”, collects pollutants that wash off the shore. Things like pet waste, car oil, and leaking septic systems all contribute. Because the harbor is narrow and six miles long the water doesn’t flush very well, so water quality declines in summer. In winter the wind comes from the south and blows the wrack off the beach so shellfish harvest is good in the spring.
Get your bucket and shovel ready but before you go, make sure those shellfish will be safe to eat.
Call Before You Dig!
You can call the Safe Shellfish Hotline number 1-800-562-5632, or you can visit their website. Just type Washington Shellfish Safety into your search engine to find a clickable map on the State Department of Health website. Zoom in on Whidbey and you’ll see your favorite beaches. Colors indicate whether they are open or closed to harvesting. Most of Whidbey has Green shorelines. Green is for go!
If the shoreline is red, it’s a no go. Those beaches are closed and you can find out why by clicking on the beach. Many are too close to waste water treatment plants, storm water outfall pipes or marinas where water quality can be poor.
Yellow beaches are “Conditionally Approved” which means they’re open unless something happens nearby like a spill at the waste water treatment plant. Then the yellow will turn red. Sometimes the yellow means the beach is open for a harvest season but will close the rest of the year.
Brown beaches, as you may have guessed, are closed due to pollution. And grey are areas that are not being monitored.
There are also lines and cross hatching on the map that indicates Biotoxins like Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. PSP occurs naturally, but it can be fatal. Other biotoxins can cause serious ailments.
On hot summer days, Vibrio, sometimes found in oysters, can make you sick. Digging during the cool morning hours and keeping the oysters on ice can help avoid illness. Also, cook oysters well before you eat them to make sure.
The map is updated daily so you’ll get the latest information before you go dig for your dinner. And the Department of Health webpage is linked to the Department of Fish and Wildlife web page so you can visit both to make sure you’re planning to harvest shellfish during the harvest season. You can also find them on Facebook at WAshellfishsafety. And when you get to the beach, please heed any signs that might be posted there. The hotline number, clickable map, webpages and signs are all there for your benefit.
Years ago I was hired by Island County Solid Waste to deliver waste reduction programs for K-12 classrooms. I loved my work and enthusiastically set out to educate the masses. I taught about worm bins and composting, recycling and hazardous waste. Though many of the lessons on why and how we should reduce waste were the same, I had to consider my location before answering questions on what and where.
Residents of South Whidbey have access to the Island County Recycle Park at Bayview and Island Recycling in Freeland which is a privately owned operation. Those near Coupeville have easy access to the recycling mecca at the Island County Solid Waste Complex which provides recycling, hazardous waste and yard waste options. Oak Harbor city residents have curbside recycling in the blue bins, or they can take it to the Island County Recycle Park on Oak Harbor Road. And those with access to the Navy Base have even more options. There are glass receptacles at Office Max, Safeway, the Oak Harbor Marina and the Boys and Girls Club in Coupeville, as well as the County and Freeland Recycle Parks. In short, your recycling options depend on where you live.
We live on an island. Most of us get our drinking water from underground. To protect our drinking water we truck all our trash off the island. Most of it goes to the Roosevelt Landfill over 300 miles away. So we try to minimize those loads of garbage by encouraging recycling, composting and sorting out hazardous waste. However, recycling here has been complicated by the different jurisdictions and what each one will take.
Recently, all of Whidbey Island’s solid waste managers got together and standardized recycling collection in order to make it less confusing for Island residents.
A lot of Whidbey’s residents came from somewhere else where they had a different sort of recycling system. We often hear people complain, “Why don’t you take glass in my curbside container?” or “Why don’t you take clamshells?” or “Why don’t you recycle plastic bags?” or “Why do I have to take the lids off?” Partly it’s because we live in a rural community. We don’t have the density here that they have in, say, Seattle, so we can’t offer as many options. Recycling is a business and that business needs to make economic sense. So without the quantity they have in cities, we have to focus on the quality of what we recycle.
We take only stuff that we know will get recycled, stuff the recycling industry wants. We try to avoid questionable stuff that may get tossed in the garbage or get shipped to China where it might be processed in a way that could harm the environment or human health. Our solid waste managers maintain a certain level of integrity, which is a good thing. But it means we need to do our part, too. We need to take a little time to clean and sort our trash properly before recycling it. We need to make sure our recyclables aren’t contaminated.
We can reduce waste even more by being smart shoppers. If we don’t bring our own shopping bags and choose to buy products in containers that aren’t recyclable, we can’t blame the added waste on the recycling businesses. If we’re aware of what is recyclable on Whidbey, we can chose to buy products in paper, cardboard, metal or glass containers or plastic jugs, tubs and bottles. It’s not hard. In addition, if we tell the store manager that we won’t buy things in unrecyclable packaging, they may think twice about carrying spinach in clam shells, or soup in tetra pack cartons. Consumers have a lot of pull.
To find out what’s recyclable on Whidbey, and find answers to all your solid waste questions, call 360-679-7386 or visit: http://www.islandcounty.net/PublicWorks/Solidwaste/
Test yourself and then look for the answers in this article.
Where can you recycle glass on Whidbey Island?
Which of these things could be recycled for free; a printer, laptop or an E-reader?
Where could you recycle oil or safely dispose of hazardous waste for free?
If you’ve taken the Waste Wise training, no doubt you could answer all of these questions. Do you open packages carefully so you can reuse the wrapping paper? Do you choose products that have reusable or recyclable containers? Do you pick-up litter when you go for a walk? If so, you’re a perfect candidate for the Waste Wise training coming up later this spring.
The training is mostly online with a meeting once a week for 4 weeks and it’s free. Waste Wise graduates are asked to give back by volunteering for the program. You could help out in the office, lead school programs, assist at clean-up efforts like the Coupeville Clean-up or the Tire Recycling Day. You could also help people reduce waste at big events like the Whidbey Island Marathon, the Whidbey Garden Workshop, or the Sound Waters Conference.
The 22nd annual Sound Waters Conference was last weekend. Janet Hall, the Waste Wise Coordinator, works with conference planners each year to choose lunch containers and utensils that can be composted or recycled and not end up in the trash. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own reusable cups. Waste Wise volunteers help set up recycle and composting stations. They monitor these stations during lunch and breaks. At the end of the day they measure what they’ve collected. With 640 people attending this year they had just 8 pounds of garbage. After big events like this, Janet takes the garbage and recycling to the Coupeville Solid Waste Complex, and the compostables to a commercial composting facility in Stanwood. Whidbey Island doesn’t have commercial composting to protect our sole source aquifer.
If your take-out container says “compostable” on it, you can’t compost it on Whidbey unless you throw it in your own compost pile or worm bin. If you take the training you’ll find out how to build a hot compost pile and make great mulch for your garden or flower beds. Much of your food waste can be composted in a rodent proof worm bin and added to your garden as a soil supplement.
Waste Wise volunteers get a lot of questions like, “Why don’t you take glass?” Glass is heavy and it breaks. It makes recycling much easier if we separate the glass from other recyclables. On Whidbey you can take glass to the Navy recycling center, Safeway, Office Max, the Oak Harbor Marina, or any of the County Recycle Parks at Bayview, Freeland, Coupeville, or on North Oak Harbor Road in Oak Harbor.
The hub for recycling on Whidbey is the Island County Solid Waste Complex just south of Coupeville. It’s open daily from 9:30 to 5:00. The recycle center there takes paper, cardboard, plastic tubs and bottles, tin, aluminum, glass, clothes and they have a small thrift shop.
Hazardous waste items like the ones listed at the top of the article can be taken there, too. And if you have a load of official noxious weeds like Canada thistle or Scot’s Broom, you can dump it at the same site for free.
Electronics, TVs, E-readers or computers, can be recycled for free at the County facilities in Oak Harbor, Coupeville or Freeland. If you have printers, fax machines or other electronics that you want to dispose of safely, take them to BaRC at the Coupeville Solid Waste Complex and they will take them for a small fee which benefits the local animal shelter.
If you reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, which is mostly free, you’ll save a lot on your garbage bills. Find out more by taking the Waste Wise Training. For details call 360-678-7974 or visit: http://ext100.wsu.edu/island/nrs/waste-wise/
Whidbey Island is 55 miles long and varies 1.5 to 12 miles wide. The ins and outs of harbors and bays extend that shoreline. All along those shores litter collects both from land and sea. Styrofoam, plastics, nets and ropes. Anyone who has taken a walk on the beach has seen it. But there is one man who heads out there to collect this trash and get it off our beautiful beaches and away from our wonderful waters. He’s my hero!
Stinger Anderson, runs the Community Beach Clean-up effort sponsored by the WSU Extension program. He posts a calendar online and sends out email updates to invite volunteers to work with him. The high tides of winter have brought in an abundance of beach litter. On a recent clean-up day at Keystone beach, volunteers Jennifer and Karen picked up 5 bags of litter and found 3 tires, 160 pounds of garbage! On another Saturday morning Stinger had one volunteer. In two hours they filled his county pick-up truck.
You may have heard about the Pacific Gyre, a raft of pelagic plastic and garbage floating in the north Pacific. It is also known as the Pacific Garbage Patch or the Pacific trash vortex. It is one of five major oceanic gyres. This one covers most of the northern Pacific Ocean, approximately 20 million square kilometers and is considered the largest ecosystem on earth. Ocean currents steer the floating trash into a concentrated collection of plastic debris.
It’s estimated that 80% of the garbage comes from land-based sources and 20% from ships. One of the main sources is improper waste disposal including fishing nets and plastics of every shape, size and color. This type of garbage does not biodegrade so does not go “away”. Plastic degrades into smaller and smaller pieces down to tiny molecules small enough to be digested by aquatic organisms that live near the surface. As it enters the food chain, it leaches potentially toxic chemicals like PCBs, DDT and PAHs. In some places the concentration of plastics is seven times higher than the concentration of zooplankton.
In recent years the Pacific Garbage Patch has received global attention. Clean-up efforts were proposed include floating barges to collect and process the garbage. Documentaries have been made, art projects emerged, conferences held, a fleet of 30 ships spent over a month studying the Gyre. Now it’s our turn.
If you want to be part of the solution, if your New Year’s resolution included volunteering for the greater good, if you love the beaches of Whidbey Island, here’s your chance. Contact Stinger Anderson and join his crew on the next beach clean-up of 2016.
Bags, gloves and other equipment are provided. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather and sturdy footwear for walking through sand, cobble and driftwood. If you’re not known for your agility, talk to Stinger about how you can safely participate. Let Stinger know a few days ahead so he can prepare and let you know if there are any schedule changes due to weather conditions. A one day volunteer park access pass will be available for those who don’t have a Washington State Parks Discover Pass. Only adults, 18 or over may participate.
And here’s a special secret… Stinger is very creative and has made some incredible artwork using plastic debris. Ask him about it when you call to volunteer!
Office: (360) 240-5558
Cell: (360) 941-3171
The greenery and lights of the holidays are lovely with garlands on the railings, snowmen on Main Street, and lights all over the park. Decorations on the trees are my favorite. I love walking through the neighborhood in the evening passing all the glowing windows twinkling with lights. It’s such a special season.
But after you’ve had the feast and eaten all the leftovers, opened the presents and taken out the trash, family and friends have returned from where they came, what do you do with the tree? It’s drying out and starting to drop needles. It’s losing its Christmas magic and becoming a fire hazard.
First, remove the decorations, the lights and the tinsel. If it’s not flocked here are your options.
Take it to any one of these Island County Recycle Parks for free disposal;
3151 N. Oak Harbor Road, Oak Harbor, open Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday 9:30-5:00
20018 Hwy 20, Coupeville (3 miles south of town), open daily 9:30-5:00
5790 S. Kramer Road, Langley (across the highway from the American Legion Hall and the Goose) open Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday 9:30-5:00.
Or take it to Mailliard’s Landing for free disposal at 3068 N. Oak Harbor Road, Oak Harbor, open Monday-Saturday, 8:00-4:00.
Or if you live in the City of Oak Harbor and get regular garbage pick-up you can get a prepaid yard waste bag and attach it to your tree for pick-up at the curb. This service is available Jan. 2-7 and Feb. 2-6 only. Bags are available for $3.50 from Safeway, the Market Place Grocery or City Hall. Call 360-279-4764 for more information.
Or, if you don’t live in Oak Harbor, and get curb side garbage pick-up, Island Disposal-Waste Connections will pick-up your tree IF it is cut into 3 foot lengths. They will charge $3.77 for each 3 foot length. For details call 360-321-1331 or 360-678-5701.
Or, if you live in Coupeville, you can call Boy Scout Troop 4058. For a donation they will pick-up your tree between December 27 and January 3. Call 360-632-1750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements.
One more idea is to start a backyard wildlife brush pile. Lots of small critters use brush piles for shelter. A dead Christmas tree can provide the support with other branches from winter storms stacked on top. To find out more about building a brush pile and how that benefits wildlife Click here
Could we burn our Christmas tree? If you cut it into small pieces first.
In Island County fires smaller than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet high don’t require a written permit under the following conditions;
Burning is allowed during daylight hours
Water (a charged garden hose or 10 gallons in buckets) and a shovel or rake must be present.
Someone 16 or older, capable of putting the fire out, must be in attendance at all times.
Only one pile may be burned at a time unless otherwise permitted.
It must not be during an air stagnation period.
All fires must be contained within a firebreak (bare ground) which must enclose the pile.
The fire must be 50 feet from any structure, standing timber or power lines.
The landowner must give permission.
The lights of the holidays helped brighten up the darkest days of the year. Now that the dark days are behind us we’ll enjoy seeing the light return. Happy New Year!
It’s December, the darkest time of year for us in the Northern Hemisphere. On December 21, the shortest day of 2015, the sun will rise at 7:55am and set at 4:20pm, a total of 8 hours and 20 minutes of daylight. In addition there’s a 60% chance of rain. How well are your windshield wipers working?
This time of year I head for work in the dark and come home in the dark. The first part of my commute is a walk along the road. I live in a rural area where there aren’t any streetlights. I carry a flashlight, not so much to see where I’m going, as to signal approaching traffic that there’s a pedestrian walking on the shoulder. People driving to work are sipping coffee, eating breakfast, brushing their hair or teeth, putting on make-up, listening to tunes, catching up on emails, texting and if the windshield is frosty, sight may be limited. My dark coat makes me invisible to drivers, so I walk on the left shoulder, facing traffic, and use my flashlight to alert drivers to pass with caution.
Some Island Transit bus stops have a signpost with a flashing light on the top. Mine isn’t one of those. When I see the bus coming I flag it down with my flashlight. The driver thanks me. As my bus makes its way along picking up other commuters or school kids, many are wearing bright green or orange reflector vests. These vest are great year round. Wearing one could save their life.
Walking from the bus back home after work puts me at greater risk. Statistics show that most fatal accidents occur during the evening rush hour between 6:00 and 9:00pm. Thirty three percent of these collisions involve alcohol. That percentage keeps rising as the night wears on and more than doubles after midnight. It’s something to keep in mind whether you’re walking, jogging, biking, taking the dog out or driving at night.
The League of American Bicyclists ranked Washington State the most Bike Friendly State in America for eight years running. The State has allotted billions of dollars for improving infrastructure, education and encouragement, programs and policies, legislation and enforcement, evaluating and planning. The Washington Department of Transportation requires a white front light visible for 500 feet and a red reflector and/or a red light on the back (RCW 46.61.780). Currently there’s no requirement for a helmet but it’s also a very good idea. The Oak Harbor Fire Department has a free helmet program for kids.
A few years ago a cyclist in Oak Harbor was hit crossing an intersection in the dark though he had both the required front and back lights. A car hit the cyclist on the side. A reflector vest might have prevented this unfortunate accident.
Biking, jogging and walking provide good health benefits. However, biking, jogging or walking along the roadside without lights or reflective gear could be extremely harmful to your health.
I took a quick look online and found some great gifts for your favorite dog walker or roadside commuter. You can get a flashlight or headlamp for under $10. You could buy bike lights or a reflective vest for less than $20. Put a vest on the dog, too. Santa has a red flashing light on his rig. Ho, Ho, Ho! And for car commuters, new windshield wiper blades make excellent stocking stuffers! Have a happy and healthy New Year.