"Oh, so that's where you're going," I mutter sarcastically when drivers don't signal. There's no excuse. Signaling from a bike, however, requires letting go of the handlebars. Making a braking arm motion adds vulnerability to the already intimidating experience of sharing the road with speeding vehicles. And who can even see those signals at night?
Enter the Lumos Helmet, a smart wireless bike helmet with lights that indicate when the rider is turning left, right or braking.
Resembling a normal bike helmet, the device contains more than 60 LEDs. White lights on the front blink steadily while red lights in a triangular caution shape flash on the back. A built-in accelerometer detects when the rider is slowing down and automatically displays red brake lights on either side of the back triangle.
The cyclist controls left and right turn signals on the helmet wirelessly using a straightforward remote that mounts on the handlebar. The water-resistant helmet turns on with a single button, and is rechargeable through a USB cable, according to the company's description.
"I love cycling because of the freedom it gives me to get around quickly and easily, but I often feel invisible at night even with my bike lights on," Lumos Helmet co-founder and CEO Eu-Wen Ding explained in a Vimeo video. The Boston-based engineer first pitched the helmet idea during a hackathon, and then pursued his design full-time with fellow engineer Jeff Chen, who is now the company's CTO.
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Their Kickstarter campaign successfully raised more than $800,000 in August 2015, buoyed in part by an endorsement by Bill Nye. The product passed safety tests a year later, and the company began shipping its first helmets to customers last fall. This month they won the Design Museum's award for best transport design of the year. The team was just presenting the helmet at the London Bike Show.
When I first started riding a bike - at an embarrassingly late stage - signaling was so terrifying that for a while I had some of the fastest hand motions you've ever seen. Then right back to the death grip on the handlebars. Maybe with these smart helmets on the road, bike riding at night won't have to be such a dangerous white-knuckle endeavor.