Affordable LED bicycle light sets
July 24, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

I am looking to start a program within my community to distribute front and rear bicycle lights, hopefully free of charge, to anyone in need. Can anyone suggest a vendor or retailer that could/would offer wholesale prices on a single order to a person, organization, or entity that would distribute the lights, again, hopefully free of charge, but in the worst case scenario, at cost?

I live in a rural Alaskan community with approximately 1500 seasonal workers. Most people are able to walk to work, but many choose to ride their bicycles. As the season progresses, and our days get drastically shorter, the police have decided to start heavily enforcing bike laws they interpret equally harshly. I would like to start a program akin to the Bike Light Campaign in Missoula, or the similar programs I have read about by Bike Fort Collins, and in Tacoma Washington.
The city councilman in charge of the safety committee is on board, but I need to prove that it is an affordable alternative, not just the safer alternative.
If anyone knows of a particularly affordable brand of light (LED so they last a few years) or a charitable organization, community minded manufacturer, generally cool vendor, or the like, any assistance would be amazing. It's incredible how difficult it is to get people to help you to do the right thing, but me-fites haven't let me down yet!

Thanks for your time.
posted by maleru to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about getting them for free, but if you want to try to get them at wholesale, I order most of my stuff from these distributors:

Merry Sales

You have to have an account with them to place an order, and to do that you have to prove that you're a legitimate shop. But if you give them a call and explain your situation, maybe they'll work something out? Or maybe you can find a shop that will cut you a deal.

As for rear lights, they're all LED these days.

Inexpensive options are the Cateye Omni 3 (about $10) and the Seattle Sports Blazer (a lot like the Knog Frog, about $8). Those are retail prices I'm quoting. Figure roughly to pay half that wholesale.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The University of Vermont has some surrounding orgs put on this event each year. It's for helmets (also a great cause!) but the bike shops who help out also offer pretty solid discounts on bike lights and so forth. It might be worth contacting Local Motion, which is the Vermont-based organizer of the event, to see how they go about doing this. Their contact info is in that link...
posted by papayaninja at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2014

You might contact Planet Bike, they do a lot of good things for the biking community, and might be willing to do an in-kind donation or make them available for very cheap.
posted by rockindata at 1:43 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

DealExtreme has cheap Chinese bike lights, shipped free. I've generally had good results with their stuff. This set looks promising.
posted by zjacreman at 1:54 PM on July 24, 2014

Contact the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, they have multiple "light up the night" events every year where they give away free lights.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:56 PM on July 24, 2014

If you look at the DealExtreme cost of $4 per pair, even if you managed to successfully distribute 500 pairs, that cost is $2,000. I'd suspect distribution numbers would be more like 250 pairs, so $1,000. Is rescue in your town done by the local PD or the staties? Because if it's local, avoiding even 1 or 2 ambulance/police/fire rescues should make it cost-effective for the council to fund.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 PM on July 24, 2014

Keep in mind that many cheap bike lights are treated as disposable. Once the batteries wear out, they're hard to find, they cost more than zero to replace, and it's cheaper just to get another free light.

If you do end up giving out bike lights with uncommon batteries, consider also making those batteries available at future giveaways as a cheaper-to-you alternative to lights. Or perhaps encourage local vendors to sell those batteries.

My personal solution is to use a generator light, but that wouldn't scale on a giveaway budget. I'm not sure what the solution is, but the battery issue is worth keeping in mind.
posted by aniola at 2:41 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, you may be able to team up with your local/regional hospital. I know hospitals sometimes have the budget for bike helmet giveaways, and this would be a similar type of program.
posted by aniola at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2014

Could you partner with the Alaska Bike and Pedestrian Alliance?
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 3:57 PM on July 24, 2014

If you do go the cheap Chinese bike lights route as zjacreman suggested, I'd suggest taking a look on Ebay. I'm unsure whether they are the Chinese manufacturers themselves or low-margin middle-man businesses, but there are a number of China/Hong Kong based Ebay sellers, who are competing solely on lowest price.

I recently bought this set on Ebay, which is somewhat similar to the set zjacreman linked to. The price includes shipping, as well as the watch cell batteries. (I should note that they do ship from China, so if you're looking to distribute immediately, the multi-week shipping might be a non-starter.)
posted by comradechu at 7:31 PM on July 24, 2014

For the front, I am a fan of these mounts:

You can snap any flashlight of the right size into them, many of which run on 3x AAA, and most people probably have flashlights in Alaska, right?
posted by alexei at 8:00 PM on July 24, 2014

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