With Governor Brown’s recent veto of the three foot passing bill, there’s a new product popping up specifically for cyclists looking to preserve a bit of personal space. The bike safety light from XFIRE allows riders to create their own bike lane (as they ride) by projecting red laser beams onto the ground on either side.

Last month The Guardian took the XFIRE bike safety light for a test ride in the following video:

In their article on the new product, The Guardian’s bike blog questioned whether the DIY bike lane actually increases rider safety or merely offers a false sense of security. After all, if the projected bike lane isn’t clearly visible to passing vehicles it sort of defeats the entire point of the device.

Although the idea of a self-made bike lane is admirable, the reality seems to be that there’s a significant gap between concept and execution. According to the senior technical officer at the National Cycling Charity, the only person the bike lane is clearly visible to is the actual cyclist. He’s quoted as saying:

“The road will reflect only a small fraction of the light that falls on it. And it’ll reflect in all directions – but more back to source than other directions – so only a tiny fraction goes towards the driver.

Then there’s the question of whether the driver is looking at the road surface anyway. Research on driver eye fixation confirms the obvious, that they give most of their attention to potential threats and signals, such as oncoming traffic, crossing traffic, traffic lights and road signs, most of which is offside or high above the road, and only some of which is to the left or down on its surface. So their eyes are mostly up and rightwards. The cyclist’s challenge is to grab the driver’s attention in the few glances he gives to the nearside.

Can the driver even see the nearside road surface? Not very near he can’t. My bonnet blocks my view of that part of the road for some distance ahead.

I think this is a mostly harmless gimmick. I’d rather have the extra light directed somewhere more obviously useful instead.”

Despite criticism surrounding its efficacy, advocates of the technology contend that it has the potential to save lives. And, given what we know about the dramatic effect even minor separations between cars and cyclists can have on a rider’s safety, it might not be too far-fetched to think the bike safety light could still have a positive effect. Even if criticisms about it being difficult to see are completely valid, the only real harm to the rider would be treating the fictitiously created bike lane as if it’s an actual barrier protecting them from traffic.

Regardless of the visual signs a cyclist offers surrounding vehicles, the best thing they can do to protect themselves is ride defensively and never assume a car is aware of where they are. The bike safety light is just one more tool (albeit an arguably gimmicky one) that allows cyclists to encourage vehicles to keep a safe distance and share the road.

What is a laser bike lane?

Laser bike lanes have gained popularity in recent years as a solution for improving the safety of cyclists on the road. However, while they may seem like a good idea in theory, there are several serious drawbacks to this technology that need to be considered.

Lack of Universal Acceptance: One of the main issues with laser bike lanes is that they are not universally accepted as a safe and effective solution for riders. This is because they only provide an illusion of safety, rather than actual physical protection for the cyclist. In addition, many drivers are not familiar with the concept of laser bike lanes and may not take them seriously, putting cyclists at risk.

Poor Visibility in Poor Weather: Another drawback of laser bike lanes is their poor visibility in poor weather conditions, such as rain or snow. This makes them a less reliable option for riders, who may still be at risk of accidents even when using these lanes.

Lack of Physical Protection: Laser bike lanes do not provide physical protection for cyclists, which is a key factor in preventing personal injury in the event of an accident. Unlike traditional bike lanes, which are physically separated from the road and provide a barrier between cyclists and drivers, laser bike lanes offer no such protection.

Inconvenient to Install: Installing laser bike lanes can also be a hassle and can be difficult to implement in urban areas where space is limited. This means that they are not always a practical solution for improving the safety of cyclists in all environments. Likewise, personal laser bike lanes that are installed on individual bicycles can be unreliable and may require frequent recalibration.

Interesting facts about the first laser bike lanes

  1. The first laser bike lane, consisting of two rows of green lasers projected onto the ground, was installed in the Netherlands in 2012 to increase visibility for cyclists.
  2. This 2-meter-wide lane stretches up to 50 meters and is visible up to 50 meters away, ensuring that cyclists are easily seen by motorists in all weather conditions.
  3. The laser bike lane is powered by solar energy and can last up to 10 hours on a single charge, making it an environmentally-friendly solution for cyclist safety.
  4. Installed in over 50 cities worldwide, the laser bike lane has been estimated to reduce the number of bike-related accidents by 40% and save up to €1 million in accident-related costs per year.
  5. The laser bike lane is estimated to also reduce the number of bike-related fatalities by up to 20%, making it a promising solution for improving the safety of cyclists on the road.
  6. Pedestrians can also benefit from increased visibility in intersections and crosswalks, making the streets safer for all users.
  7. The laser bike lane is just one example of how technology is being used to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalk and street.
Author Photo

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.