Thinking Tech

Student invention may make road safer for bicyclists

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A clever warning device has the potential to prevent a majority of bicycle-related collisions.

With New York city's push to expand the number of dedicated bike lanes, commuting is now... less safer?

As counterintuitive as it sounds, the prospect of such a scenario was raised this last week by a short viral video titled "Three Way Street," that provides viewers with a bird's eye view of the day-to-day near hazards of an intersection in New York City. The video was created by Ron Gabriel as part of his master's thesis project at the School of Visual Arts.

Check out the video:

As you can see from the video, bicyclists are particularly vulnerable since a fair number of them frequently attempt to navigate streets and intersections by cutting across moving traffic and weaving through swarms of pedestrians. To make commuting safer for both cyclists and drivers, a British student at the University of Brighton has come up with a device that alerts drivers of the presence of a rapidly approaching bicycle by projecting a bright green laser image of a bike on to the road ahead.

Invented by Emily Brooke, BLAZE is a fine example of addressing a widespread problem using cheap and simple technology. It's battery powered and can be easily attached to the handlebars of a bicycle. The laser-generated bicycle logo can be seen several feet ahead in the evenings and during the daytime. It can also be kept on or set on flashing mode.

The warning system has the potential to prevent a majority of bicycle-related collisions since eighty percent of cycle accidents occur when bicycles travel straight ahead and a vehicle maneuvers into them. It's particularly useful in instances where the rider is moving alongside a vehicle but so happens to be in the driver's blind spot.

“The most common contributory factor is ‘failed to look properly’ on the part of a vehicle driver, says Brooke. “Even when lit up like a Christmas tree, a bicycle in a bus’s blind spot is still invisible."

Brooke collaborated with road safety experts, Brighton City officials, a local bus company and driving psychologists to develop her idea. After finishing her research, she concluded that "the evidence shows the bike simply is not seen on city streets."

It remains to be seen if Brooke's invention will ever make it to market, but at least her school is doing their part to make it happen. They've arranged for the young inventor to enroll in a course at Babson College in Massachusetts where she can further develop the device.

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure