As long as bikes and cars share the same roads there’s inevitably going to be conflict. As much as we’d love to see protected bike lanes become more ubiquitous, the reality is many of our roads have been designed specifically with cars in mind and cyclists are often lucky to be considered an afterthought. So, given that the coexistence of cars and bikes will continue to be a contentious issue for years to come, it’s encouraging to see new pieces of technology paving the way for increased bike safety within the less than ideal framework we currently have in place.
In London, the city is testing radars and thermal equipment that detect the presence and number of cyclists along a specific route and coordinate the traffic lights accordingly. The new technology is being trialled along Cable Street in East London, and the city intends to conduct three more trials before deciding whether to roll out the technology across larger portions of London. The goal of the technology is to make traffic lights more responsive to cyclists and reduce congestion at intersections during busy commuting hours.
Also in London, a new device called the Blaze Laserlight has been developed to hopefully reduce the number of accidents resulting from a driver not noticing a cyclist in their blindspot. Blaze was designed by Emily Brooke as her final year university project. The device functions similarly to the standard front-facing bike light that all cyclists are required to have, but in addition to the typical white light it also projects the image of a bicycle onto the road in front of the cyclist. By using a green-laser to display a bike on the roadway, the Blaze alerts drivers to the bike’s presence even when they may not be able to see the actual cyclist.
So far the Blaze Laserlight has raised over £1.5 million and has been in production for a year. You can order direct from the website, and a video demonstration of the product can be seen below.
On the automotive front, new technology is also being developed to make drivers more conscious of nearby cyclists. The Bike Sense program, designed by Jaguar Land Rover (in partnership with students from Portland State University) uses sensors to alert drivers to potential accidents such as “dooring” or a “right hook.” For vehicles equipped with Bike Sense, a passenger who is about to open their door will be alerted with a vibrating door handle and a warning light if the car senses a cyclist approaching. Similarly, a driver about to make a right turn in front of a cyclist will be notified of the bikes presence by a vibration in their seat as well as a bike bell played through the car’s right speaker.
Bike Sense is currently being prototyped and there is no timeline for when it will be available in cars. However, given the rapid advances in automotive technology, it’s encouraging to think this could be a standard feature sometime in the coming years.