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Over the last decade the number of cyclists has increased by over 50% on Britain’s roads; especially in London. Yet, our towns and cities, many of which were not designed for cars, let alone mixed use roads, were struggling to help protect environmentally friendly cyclists. That being said, as cycling has increased, the number of fatal accidents is on the decline as more and more organisations, companies, and individuals consider ways to improve safety. As the ubiquitous bike light of choice, LED light bulbs are also at the forefront of this revolution.

 

How LED Lights are Improving Cyclist Visibility

How LEDs make cyclists safer

 

Time was when cyclists were almost invisible at night. Dark or normal clothing, maybe a temperamental incandescent light bulb attached to the front of the bike. Cyclists, however, were one of the first groups to truly see the benefit of the LED when in the 90s, bike lights began to improve with front and rear LED lights. LEDs and connected lighting in general have produced some interesting additions to the reservoir of safety tech of late, here’s a few of them:

Brighter Headlights

One of the main problems for cyclists is being seen. New, brighter LEDs are allowing cyclists to be more visible than ever before. Now it is possible to have front facing lights with over 500 lumens of power and tail lights with over 300 lumens. In addition to bike lights, many cyclists now also wear helmet lamps to further increase the amount of light they project.

LED Integrated Clothing

The High-vis jacket has replaced glow in the dark strips on most cyclists, but now, due to the small size of some LED lights, it is possible to take this idea to the next level. Instead of reflecting light like a cat’s eye, some companies are creating clothing which creates light too. These do not require large batteries or random wiring, and are lightweight and flexible with a single light on the shoulder or elsewhere on the chest area in order to again, increase light coverage on the cyclist and reduce the chance of not being seen by a motorist.

The Light Projector

A recent Kickstarter project from Blaze Bikes’ Emily Brooke in London raised enough money to go forward with a product which produces a green light projection of a bicycle symbol 15 foot ahead of the cyclist, making it easier for people and traffic to see that a cyclist is coming.

Lane Definition Lights

Not necessarily an LED this one, but XFire BikeLane have created a tail light project which produces either constant beam or flashing laser lights at the rear of the bike. Rather than pointing backwards, thes angle down to the road either side of the bike to delineate the safe ‘lane’ zone for the cyclist letting those nearby know what distance to keep.

Additionally, there have also been discussions in communities as to while LED Panels are great for illuminating areas often traveled by bicyclists, it is not certainly known that their placement may cause a distraction to other riders, as well as pedestrians and road-vehicle operators who may get distracted by a random, bright light moving near them.

 

     
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Safety is Not Just on the Bicycle

Van Gogh sparkling LED path

Van Gogh sparkling LED path

LED brick trackway

LED brick trackway

 

So far we have covered LED’s contributions to cycle safety by looking at the bikes and on the person if you view them as a single entity. However, LEDs have a greater effect on that. First off, and a little controversially in some places, these bulbs are replacing existing, yellow traditional bulbs as a form of street lighting. Some experts do believe that these whiter lights do make it easier for drivers to see moving objects be they pedestrians, animals, or cyclists.

In addition to this, Transport Scotland via Bear Scotland needed to select a solar-powered solution to cycle path illumination which could be a fantastic idea. The idea was to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety without using lighting which could distract drivers. Slightly reminiscent of the van Gogh sparkling path, the solution was to pick a LED brick technology which creates off-grid, waterproof, illumination in a manner of cat’s eyes, but without the bumps, giving an illuminated trackway to help guide cyclists in the dark. How neat is that!

 

     
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Comprehensive Approaches Required

Copenhagen Cycle Paths

LED light bulbs are a single element of improving overall cyclist safety on Britain’s roads and on the roads of other nations across the world. Each country has its own ideas and solutions, many of them good and viable, but few have created comprehensive plans for cyclist safety. In short, taking ideas from around the world could do this, and bring safer, more enjoyable to riding paths to individuals around the globe.

Another element which is lacking is infrastructure plans designed to fully integrate cyclist routes with both public transport and general vehicular routes. Currently, many cities like Bristol have a frustrating mishmash of cycle lanes, cycle paths and open roads, often on the same road. Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen provide the benchmark for international standards on cyclist protection. This includes a full range of improvements including awareness lessons for both drivers and cyclists; especially for HGV drivers. Sensible and fully laid out and realised cycle routes avoiding main roads wherever possible, and retrofitting side-guards and mirrors on HGVs to improve visibility. This can be achieved in most towns and cities with simple installations of energy efficient LED strip lights that can help not only guide bicycle riders down the path they are traveling on, but also help illuminate the area to other pedestrians and drivers without causing a major distraction.

Continuing to make our planet more self-sufficient, it is only a matter of time that LEDs become more common place in our daily lives as a staple of technology. As we know, LED lights are being used more in more across the world in trade applications, homes, businesses and, hopefully more popularly, on bike trails as well as not only the energy savings are evident but so are the numerous safety advantages as well.

 

     
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