ISLA VISTA, Calif. - With the return of UC Santa Barbara students, in every direction you can find bike riders on the streets of Isla Vista, and with the start of school comes a safety concern.
The population in the area has jumped by more than an estimated 15,000 with students moving into dorms, apartments and houses.
Most use a bike as their method of transportation to get to and from nearby UCSB and live their week without a car.
Now, with the early sundown, bike lights are necessary and mandatory.
1,000 bike lights were on tables Thursday night to hand out to bike riders in the Isla Vista and UC Santa Barbara community in a special station set up on Pardall Road.
The effort was funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety and coordinated by the California Highway Patrol, UCSB Police, Santa Barbara Sheriff, Cottage Hospital, IV Community Services and UCSB Community Service Organization.
Other safety gear including reflectors and new helmets were also available.
Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said, "we are trying to promote safety here. We want people to wear helmets and have free lights so you can be seen at night time. Right now it is starting to get dark a little earlier. We are letting them know they need to be visible at night time. They are required to have a front-facing white light and a rear-facing red light, so we are helping with that. Also, we are offering free helmets too."
Helen Zng, a UCSB student, was thrilled with the freebie. "It's amazing. I always wanted a helmet and a light and today I got them. Thank you so much."
Isla Vista is already known as one of the more populated areas of its size in the western states and with so many people choosing two wheels over four, bike safety is a top priority.
"It's actually the chosen method to get around Isla Vista," said Gutierrez. There are so many kids and so many people we are trying to give out about a thousand lights right now that can help the cause and keep them safe."
Some students passing by just took the lights from the table to use on their bikes later.
Others who were already riding got a free installation.
Mackenzie Groty said, "we have to go ride at night and stuff and it is going to be much easier."
Riding a fresh set of wheels, Amy Ramirez said, "it is a new bike. I still need to get other things for it, but lights are great."
One student got lights for her bike as a backup.
"I've heard people will just 'yeet' them off your bike and now I have extras," said Rachel Espizito.