December 12, 2011 2:53 PM   Subscribe

How do you make a bicycle more visible to drivers at night? Create a new wheel-based lighting system: Vimeo / Youtube. Kickstarter campaign is finished and funded, (details of the design at that page) and the company is hoping to have them on sale by March 2012. Via. More. Demo videos.

The design is reminiscent of UK-based Cyglo, which was the subject of a previous post.
posted by zarq (44 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
nothing to add except that is massively cool, and I can't believe it hadn't been done yet.
posted by ninjew at 2:58 PM on December 12, 2011

Get 'em under $100, let a winter go by so other people can find the bugs instead of me, and I'll buy 'em.
posted by gurple at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Needs more Pac-Man.
posted by logicpunk at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beware of moths driving 18 wheelers.
posted by benzenedream at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow, those are actually pretty damn cool and I'll be making a purchase as soon as they have them up for sale. It still blows my mind that people ride their bikes at night without any lights. What blows my mind even more are the people who are wearing helmets, but still don't have lights on their bike. The whole point is to not get hit in the first place, a helmet isn't going to help much if someone plows you over because they didn't see you. And then you have no recourse against the driver if you didn't have lights on your bike.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:07 PM on December 12, 2011

Should go well with my blade-runner umbrella.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:08 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Light cycles, you're doing it right.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

They don't seem to project much light forward, actually. Or anyway from the videos its hard to tell whether they beat a handlebar-mounted light.
posted by kenko at 3:23 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder how heavy they are. They seem pretty cool.
I bought my bike-commuting wife Monkeyletric lights which are way cool, highly visible, but weigh too much for my tastes.
I'd use there, but for maybe $100-150.
posted by cccorlew at 3:24 PM on December 12, 2011

The World Famous, I wondered the same thing (the time I was hit, it was from directly behind). There are pictures on the website from the front and back.
posted by Runes at 3:26 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

a helmet isn't going to help much if someone plows you over because they didn't see you.

Uhhh...yes it will.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:26 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

They don't seem to project much light forward, actually. Or anyway from the videos its hard to tell whether they beat a handlebar-mounted light.

In one of the links, it shows you the back and front of the bike (scroll down). Much more light than a traditional handlebar mounted light.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:27 PM on December 12, 2011

They don't seem to project much light forward, actually. Or anyway from the videos its hard to tell whether they beat a handlebar-mounted light.

A really good forward facing light is essential for night riding, and I don't think that these can replace that. The big factor there is cost, a proper light that you can see by to ride can run in the upper hundreds. A blinking rear light is also essential, and again, will still be essential.

These ARE really cool looking though.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:27 PM on December 12, 2011

I'm wondering how much that particular "light cycle" effect is dependent on speed. In other words, if I'm barreling down a bikepath in top gear, will the visible pattern of light change? Or does the LED controller adjust for speed/RPMs?
posted by LMGM at 3:29 PM on December 12, 2011

These will be excellent as "be-seen" lights; not so much as "help the rider see" lights.

That's ok: they are different roles, and being seen is a vast improvement over neither.
posted by everichon at 3:30 PM on December 12, 2011

Uhhh...yes it will.

I'm not advocating against helmets. I was saying that not having lights on your bike is the most unsafe thing you can do at night. Having lights on your bike and not wearing a helmet is safer than wearing a helmet and not having lights on your bike. The whole point is to not get hit in the first place. A helmet only protects your head. If a car runs you over, there are many other bones in your body that can break other than your skull.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:31 PM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

This looks like a great idea, even if they won't completely replace traditional bike headlights.

Better yet, according to the FAQ they're planning a version that will run off magnetic induction rather than batteries (like the Reelight system). Not only will that reduce environmental impact, but it's a one-time process: install it, then just forget about it. No need to recharge batteries or remember to turn things on/off. One less fiddly thing to worry about.

P.S. A lot of the questions here are addressed in the FAQ.
posted by Quietgal at 3:33 PM on December 12, 2011

Also came in here for the Monkeylectric reference, this just seems like it's been done by them already, just not exactly the same project. I agree with Stagger Lee - I have the old M133s and they definitely solve the "Sighting" problem, but I still would ride with a blinker and forward headlight for "Lighting".

LMGM - when I ride with the Monkeylectrics at low speed it really looks like just a bar of LEDs. I can't say what they're doing here but it looks like they've got an additional component for speed detection that my M133s don't have - "A small magnet is secured to the fork to provide speed and orientation information to the rings. "
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 3:34 PM on December 12, 2011

quietgal, thanks. I was about to link to say that. :)
posted by zarq at 3:34 PM on December 12, 2011

These will be excellent as "be-seen" lights; not so much as "help the rider see" lights.

Did you check the company website which was linked in the FPP? Scroll down and it shows you what the rider sees.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:35 PM on December 12, 2011

I donated to the kickstarter campaign and am eagerly waiting for my light to arrive. They're much like the original monkeylight, but one big selling point for me: the battery pack mounts to the hub, instead of being mounted off-center on the board itself. This makes the wheel more stable at speed.
posted by mullingitover at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoops, I was talking about the Mini Monkeylight. I thought $200 was a bit steep for the revolights, as nice as they seem.
posted by mullingitover at 3:44 PM on December 12, 2011

I didn't have any trouble finding the As to my Qs when I looked at the website, just sayin.' The LEDs point outward, so the forward facing ones are providing some good forward illumination. That said, I'd want to supplement them with a headlamp so I can look around a bit.

Also: I'm leery of cyclists who want to have lights as bright as cars. If they're going to (spend hundreds {!!!} and) do that they should have a way to dim them on the bike paths. I don't like being blinded. On the car roads, fine.

Finally: There are (many) cheaper solutions to the side-visibility problem, but this system is really cool. I really like the induction-powering idea and I hope that comes through.
posted by zomg at 3:46 PM on December 12, 2011

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:49 PM on December 12, 2011

For those who can afford it, I guess the upper-end version of this would be a complete street-legal lightcycle.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2011

From the FAQ:
Can you stop the blinking lights when the bike is stopped?

There has been a lot of feedback regarding the stationary illumination pattern and we are currently looking into other options, including solid arc illumination. The production version will not blink as seen in our YouTube video. We’ll be sure to provide an update when we have reached a final decision.
That's good news, because as cool as these lights look, I'd hate to be near 2 big arcs of non-stop blinking at an intersection.
posted by maudlin at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2011

MaryDellamorte: t still blows my mind that people ride their bikes at night without any lights.

It wasn't until this summer that I truly grasped the importance of lights and ****reflective**** clothing at night, whether you're walking or biking. I was biking home on a path after dark (with lights and lid), and it was scary.

At night, everyone is a fucking ninja unless they're directly under a streetlight. Your white T-shirt might as well be black for all the good it does.
posted by Decimask at 3:54 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, reflective clothing is really important. I just picked up a screaming safety yellow hoodie with lots of reflective stripes from a construction clothing shop downtown a couple of weeks ago. It's going to be my top layer no matter what else I wear throughout this winter.
posted by maudlin at 3:56 PM on December 12, 2011

This is an overly complex solution to a simple problem. The guy said his headlight was too far from the ground and didn't illuminate the road enough. So mount a headlight on the front fork, near the hub.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:10 PM on December 12, 2011

These look pretty nifty for helping your bike be seen, but I'm not sure they're what I'd want for seeing the path ahead of me. In the video, it looks like they do a good job of lighting up the ground right in front of you, but not as good at illuminating the ground far enough in front of you that you have time to react while going quickly.
posted by JiBB at 4:24 PM on December 12, 2011

This would actually be super-handy for me. I'm riding a 2009 Ute, and it's actually quite difficult to get a good back light - most are designed to mount to a seat post, but on my bike that's about 3 feet away from the edge of my bike, and often blocked by something I'm carrying. The gap on the back tube is small enough that I can't put many lights on the rear-most portion, and big enough that the ones which do fit can't tighten enough, so the light ends up pointing down.

Right now I've just got a light taped to the back of my deck, which works fine. But this would be quite a bit better. And hey, my wheels are 700c! I will totally buy this. Or at least ask for it for my birthday.

The only problem I see: 4 hours is not very long. Like, it's long for a single ride (sort of), but especially at this time of year, when I can go to and from school in the dark, that will last me a week or two, depending on where I'm living. They say the batteries can be charged via usb, but I couldn't see easily whether than can be removed without taking the tire off. If so, i guess it's not a huge deal. Bike lights are still the one place where I prefer removable batteries; I can just keep a pair of charged batteries in my panniers in case of forgetfulness.

And we'll see what happens regarding snow and salt.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:50 PM on December 12, 2011

Yeah, because we need another cool-lookit-that driver distraction to take their attention away from what they're doing and what's going on in the road. Sounds real damn safe to me.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:20 PM on December 12, 2011

Yeah, because how dare bicyclists try increase their safety by being more visible at night time. Won't someone think of the people in the cars encased in a protective steel cage with their seat belts and ABS brakes and airbags!
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:56 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was saying that not having lights on your bike is the most unsafe thing you can do at night.

This is a pretty ridiculous statement. It depends on so many things, and lights really have nothing to do with wearing a helmet or not. Furthermore, tehre are plenty of stupid things people do on a bike. Riding where? A well-lit bike path? On a highway? On a two-way street? On the sidewalk? On a bike path? The wrong way down a one way street? Drunk? High? Doubling someone? Loose pants?

Lights are critical in the dark in normal riding conditions, yes, but really one needs to gauge their safety. People get hit by cars while highly visible - no amount of light is going to save you if the driver wasn't even looking in that direction. In that case, I'd rather have a helmet!
posted by jimmythefish at 6:44 PM on December 12, 2011

Cripes. This idea, again.

Path-illumination and collision-avoidance are the primary goals of any night-riding plan. A properly deployed light is one which is mounted at such a height that it makes it clearly visible and identifiable to most motorists as a moving vehicle, and one which also illuminates any obstacles on the rider's path. One thing which far too many cyclists fail to grasp is just how incredibly useless most of their lighting strategies really are at doing either of these things.

The best way to increase a cyclist's safety at night starts with a bright white light, throwing a forward-facing beam. One which is bright enough to illuminate the pathway on which the bike is being ridden, and at the speed at which it is traveling. A light which does this also intrinsically and dramatically increases the rider's visibility to the most motorists.

Yet these goals are almost never achieved by any of the cyclists whom I observe riding the city streets at night. And as this is typical in this market, once again, these lights also do neither of these tasks especially well.

The idea is inherently flawed. Because they are a wheel-mounted solution, they are too low for good visibility, (mounting is below the plane of car windows), and they aren't useable for route-lighting. They don't throw enough f light to make your imminent presence in the upcoming space in advance to ANY drivers crossing their paths at right angles. That feeble dim glow hovering in front of the front wheel will do precisely NOTHING to forewarn car drivers that a bicycle will be crossing there in the next 6 nanoseconds. You will be invisible to any drivers crossing your path

Given the advances in bicycle lighting design, and their falling costs over the last few years, this system strikes me as bulky, inefficient and expensive, at best. As a tiny step toward ameliorating bicyclist's overall visibility problem, its a bit of progress, but nowhere as useful as the $220 price tag should insist to thoughtful riders. As a subsidiary add-on, they are perhapsa bit worthwhile, but making them a first choice over existing, less expensive, systems is a mistake.

For those willing to invest the $220, there are far better choices, at 1/2 the price.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:01 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Being seen at night on a bike requires a multi-faceted approach. I wear one of these, which cost $15. I use one white Cateye light forward, nonblinking, and one white blinking Topeak light forward. On my seat post, and on my left pannier I use blinking red LEDs. I'm told that I can be seen, but mostly people in cars thank me for wearing the reflective vest.

I wouldn't even consider these "cool" things because they do not focus attention on the thing that I want a driver to notice - me. I'm the highest, most vulnerable element of my commuting operation, and so I should be the most visible.

The reflective vest I wear is the one element I would be most reluctant to be without. It's so damn visible under light that my buddies can't take a picture of me when we're out riding at night - the flash blinds the camera.

Being safe on a bike is not about cool, leave that for the folks in their cars. I love my vest because it makes me so damn obvious.
posted by kneecapped at 7:37 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

OK sorry for the devil's advocate approach, but...

I have one of these, in yellow, on when I commute - almost always. It's part of a system that also includes front and rear Planet Bike flashing lights, a helmet, reflectors on my panniers, etc. I think I'm covered for all lighting conditions. I also have good brakes, good tires, and ride defensively. It takes everything to be safe and pro-active. Stating that X is the BEST solution is just kinda odd to me. Lights are critical and I cringe when I see someone riding in the dark without one, but so is a helmet. So are brakes. So are good tires. So is a ton of things.

I saw these things on a few weeks ago and wrote them off as something I'd never buy due to a combination of price, vulnerability and novelty. Pretty neat idea though.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:46 PM on December 12, 2011

I have the forerunner to the jacket that jimmythefish linked to in neon yellow and it's damn visible. No mistaking me for an empty piece of the road, which is the point.

Cool lights, but not a silver bullet for road safety.
posted by arcticseal at 7:52 PM on December 12, 2011

Reflection is always a part of any well-considered visibility plan. Sadly though, reflection is a passive system, which necessarily relies on the the perfect functioning of the equipment and thoughty processing of complete strangers to be effective.

That drunk idiot without his lights on, approaching you at the intersection? A reflection strategy produces zero energy output in this case. Any personal safety system which puts its control in the hands of random other dipsticks is a non-starter.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:59 PM on December 12, 2011

You know those cars that drive around town with their accessory lights on, the ones that are brighter than the headlights themselves? Bright enough that you can't see past the car to the traffic behind?
This seems like the bike-world equivalent of that.

I am all for bicyclists being visible (living in a college town, I am well familiar with the unilluminated, black-clad rider exiting a side street with nary a care) but I've already got people with multiple strobing handlebar LEDs pointed every which way blinding on my way home.
I'm not sure I need full-wheel versions of the same.
posted by madajb at 10:09 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here is a Utah company trying something similar.
posted by Kale Slayer at 1:47 AM on December 13, 2011

They look a bit annoying to me. and difficult to mount and remove (to avoid theft). I'd prefer to stick with the usual cheap plastic handlebar / seatpost mounted lights.
posted by mary8nne at 2:25 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

What we need is something like a Daft Punk helmet, but with better visibility for the wearer. Get those lights up high where they can be noticed.
posted by orme at 5:54 AM on December 13, 2011

charlie don't surf writes "This is an overly complex solution to a simple problem. "

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Seriously though, this is plain cool; I'd be nice if they marketed it that way at least a little. Also I wonder how hard it would be to adapt this to cars.
posted by Mitheral at 7:19 PM on December 13, 2011

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