With three-quarters of fatal and serious injury bike accidents taking place in urban areas, many city cyclists are on the look out for new ways to improve their chances.
The basic diamond design of bike frames may have barely changed in 120 years, but the development of cheap LED technology has seen the evolution of cycle lights leap forwards of late.
Elsewhere, developers are looking to smoothly integrate GPS technology into bikes or completely rethink accepted safety standards like bells and helmets Give Us Life.
1. Revolights from Emeryville, California
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Revolights illuminate as the wheels spin, creating bright arcs of light – video
Revolights are a system of white and red LEDs mounted on the bike’s front and rear wheels which light up as the wheels spin. Sensors calculate how fast the wheels are spinning and turn the LEDs on and off to create arcs of light – white at the front and red at the back – which are visible from all angles.
The inventor of the lights, Kent Frankovich, says he didn’t set out to create the arcs. “The original idea was actually to try to make a more efficient headlight by getting the light as close to the ground as possible,“ he says. “It wasn’t until I had made the first prototype out of my apartment that I realised the huge added side visibility the motion of the lights created, which if you ride a bike you know is a big deal. Based on that I quickly made a red version for the rear wheel, and Revolights was born.“
2. See.sense intelligent bike light from Northern Ireland
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The see.sense ‘intelligent’ bike light – video
The See.sense “intelligent“ bike light uses sensor technology from smartphones to assess the rider’s environment and responds by making them more visible when they need it most.
When the sensors detect that the cyclist is at a road junction or roundabout, or passing through a dark underpass, it tells the light to flash faster and brighter.
Founder Philip McAleese started cycling to keep fit as he commuted to his electronic and software engineering job in Singapore – but after he was hospitalised in a bike crash he started looking for ways to make his journey safer.
Since 2011, all new European cars and vans have to be fitted with daylight running lights – but bikes don’t. So McAleese set about finding a way of making a cycle light that was powerful enough to be seen during the day – but that did not require a bulky battery pack to contain all that power.
“My epiphany came when I was cycling along looking at the smart phone on my handlebars,“ he says. “I realised that the smart sensor technology it contained could be used to give a light situational awareness. In essence, the light could be bright when it needed to be and conserve energy at other times. When we realised that we had the potential for a game changing leap in cycle lighting, my wife and I took the risk of giving up our successful corporate careers to move to my home town, Newtownards in Northern Ireland, to pursue a dream.“
See.sense lights were funded through Kickstarter, with the first finished products set for delivery this week.
3. Mission Lumen from San Francisco
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Mission Bicycle’s Lumen model uses retro-reflective coating – video
The Lumen – handmade by Mission Bicycle of San Francisco – is the world’s first commercially available bike with a “retro-reflective“ coating – with the frame and rims painted with hundreds of thousands of microscopic transparent spheres.
The bike looks grey during the day – but when light hits the spheres at night it bounces straight back to the source, in a retro-reflective “cat’s eye” effect.
4. Loud bicycle horn from Boston
There are a few bike horns on the market at the moment but, unlike some noisier rivals, the Loud Bicycle Horn is deliberately set at 112 decibels – mimicking a typical car horn. The two-tone sound closely matches the pitch of a car horn too.
Inventor Jonathan Lansey, a research engineer, says drivers react to car horns immediately – without locating where the sound has come from first.
“There are some bike horns that are louder than car horns,“ he adds. “But we found that the sound of a ‘proper’ car horn is just right to get a driver’s attention without damaging your ears. There has been a lot of research showing that car horns are one of the best sounds to deter accidents.“
The Loud horn is another successful Kickstarter project. The horn is in production and the company is currently taking orders for a second batch.
5. Hövding airbag from Sweden
Hövding‘s video sets out its criticisms on the safety of traditional bike helmets
The Hövding – stocked in UK shops for the first time this month, a couple of years after its launch – is an airbag collar which inflates in under a tenth of a second when it detects the abnormal movement associated with a crash.
The company cites crash tests by Swedish insurance company Folksam, which compared the Hövding to traditional cycle helmets and found it performed far better in reducing the chances of serious head injury or fatal injury.
The airbag weighs in at 65g, compared with around 250g for a conventional helmet – but the £299 price-tag makes it an expensive option. Fashion-conscious riders can buy from a range of extra outer shells in different designs for £49 each – and, of course, it doesn’t mess up your hair.