A Virgil company’s generous plan to outfit the bikes of migrant farm workers with safety lights has turned into a community event.
Dubbed Lights for Bikes, the project has seen more than 250 bikes equipped with front and rear lights following the hit-and-run death of a migrant worker who was struck by a truck while walking along a rural road at night.
The project, at Phil’s Valu-Mart for the past two Thursdays, was organized by Richard Mell, Ian Mell and Diane Shaw, co-owners of Grape Escape Wine Tours, with the help of family members and volunteers.
“All three of us are just really, really proud this seems to be going so well and there’s a lot of support from the community,” Mell told The Lake Report. “Everybody thinks it’s a positive thing … It’s starting to take off bigger than we expected initially.”
And Mell hasn’t stopped there. Because there were a lot of farm workers who didn’t have their bikes with them at a time of the event, Mell said his team plans to visit various farms this week to install more lights.
Mell said the company spent about $2,000 on 500 lights for 250 bikes.
Coun. Norm Arsenault, who is also a member of the town’s safety committee, was on hand helping to install lights. He said bike safety is an issue he’ll be bringing up at the next committee meeting.
The committee has previously developed a bike map and an app, and it also organizes an annual Bike Safety Rodeo in collaboration with the Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group.
Ruper Rhoden, a farm worker who had lights installed on his bike, said he now feels safer riding at night.
“Without lights, I didn’t feel safe,” he said. “Now, it’s much better.”
Some members from the Silks Raiders baseball team, who play in Virgil, came out to show their support to the community — and to Grape Escape, which sponsors the team, said team’s captain Trevor Legault.
“We play baseball around the corner so we’re pretty closely tied to the Virgil area,”
Several NOTL residents also stopped by to have lights installed on their bikes.
Grape Escape tour guide Graham Chaytor said the event was organized to promote bike safety to everybody.
“And making sure these folks (farm workers) at the end of their season can go home to their families and not end up at the hospitals or worse,” Chaytor said. “Because we’ve all encountered them on the road and they’re hard to see. And anything to make them a little bit easier to spot is the right thing to do.”
Mell and the folks at Grape Escape will be back at Phil’s Valu-Mart this Thursday, Sept. 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to install more lights.