Hopping on a bicycle saddle and peddling through the heart of the city is not for the faint of heart. Besides being safeguarded by minimal protection amidst aggressive traffic, their slower pace and low visibility often subject bikers to unfathomable road rage and projectiles hurled from angry motorists.
I've been grazed by enough tossed cups, bottle caps, and side-view mirrors to know that biker visibility is paramount to a more peaceful and safe coexistence between cyclists and motorists.
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Helping bridge this gap is BLAZE, a device invented by Emily Brooke, a final-year Product Design student at the University of Brighton. Her device alerts drivers to the presence of a bikers by projecting a laser image onto the road in front of the bicycle.
"Eighty percent of cycle accidents occur when bicycles travel straight ahead and a vehicle maneuvers into them," said Emily Brooke, in a university news release. "The most common contributory factor is 'failed to look properly' on the part of a vehicle driver. The evidence shows the bike simply is not seen on city streets."
To make bikers more visible, the handlebar-mounted device projects a bright green, diamond-shaped shared lane symbol on the pavement, several feet in front of the cyclist. The symbol, even visible in daylight, can be made to flash on and off.
The idea is that motorists will notice the green image on the road and take precaution, even if they don't see the cyclist in their blind spot.
When designing BLAZE, Brooke consulted with road safety experts, Brighton & Hove City Council, the Brighton & Hove Bus Company and driving psychologists. Her resulting invention has won her a tuition-waved course at Babson College in Massachusetts, where she will continue to develop the product. She is also being considered for an Enterprise Award, for innovation.
"With BLAZE, you see the bike before the cyclist and I believe this could really make a difference in the key scenarios threatening cyclists' lives on the roads," she said.