By Chris Rotolo |
RED BANK – He still remembers that night on Newman Springs Road.
The daylight had dissipated and the twilight had taken hold when Dean Ross, a local business owner, flicked on his blinker while approaching a turn at an intersection. As he proceeded he noticed, in his periphery, a dark-clothed bicyclist whipping through the crosswalk.
It was certainly a close call for the rider and Ross, but far from an isolated incident; Ross claims to have witnessed a multitude of near-collisions between motorists and bicyclists in his years around Red Bank.
“I was in Europe and the Netherlands and there are bike lanes ever ywhere, but here, in this community, it’s very dangerous,” said Ross, 66, a part owner of Bagel Oven at 72 Monmouth St. and Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen at 51 Broad St. “Motorists don’t even yield around here when you’re walking across the street, let alone riding a bike.”
From his near-tragedy Ross was inspired to found the Shine-A-Light program, a community outreach initiative in cooperation with the Monmouth Reform Temple and St. Anthony of Padua parish in Red Bank, in which Ross and a collection of volunteers provide battery-operated lights and reflectors to local bicyclists free of charge.
“For so many people in our community, this is their only means of transportation,” said Rabbi Marc Kline of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls. “At night, in bad light and sometimes poor weather, you can’t see people. It can be very dangerous. So we’re saving lives with this program and it has everything to do with Dean. He does it all.”
Kline joined Ross on Monday evening outside St. Anthony of Padua Church at 121 Bridge Ave. where the group of volunteers flagged down approaching bicyclists not only to provide them with proper lighting devices, but offer free, gently used helmets acquired from garage sales, flea markets and individual donations.
“I like this program, I like the people, it’s really good for our community,” said Red Bank resident Alberto Agiro, 55, who brought his 11-year old grandson to St. Anthony’s. “They like to help the people around here, because they know we need it. They know not everyone has the money to buy the lights. These are great people.”
Monday’s event marked the start of the fourth year of Ross’ Shine-A-Light program. The Lincroft resident has annually hosted three outings in the spring and summer and two more each fall.
According to Ross, he and his group of volunteers – which on Monday included Mitch Baum, Stephen Gaudette and George Lavigne – had served upward of 300 bicyclists with lights and reflectors and outfitted countless others with helmets in the program’s first three years of operation.
It’s a number Ross hopes will grow as word of the program spreads.
“Proper lighting, it’s incredibly important, especially in a biking community like this,” Ross said. “Many of our neighbors here are at risk each day they take their bikes out and eventually ride home from work.”
“This level of danger increases in the cold weather months when the clocks change for daylight saving time. We have the ability to make our community a little bit safer, so it’s our duty to do so.”
Ross will host future Shine-A-Light events at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 121 Bridge Ave., again on June 18 and July 9.
This article first appeared in the May 17-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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