A Better Bicycle
Bikes are already pretty near perfect. They allow us to cover ground with less caloric output than any other conveyance. But there's always room for improvement. While many cities--especially bicycle-friendly communities--are seeing large increases in the number of people cycling to work, nationally bikers make up less than 1 percent of all commuters. Safety concerns hold many people back; others are deterred by hills or distance. A host of start-ups are rushing to the rescue; the fixes below are a small sampling of the bright ideas out there to make biking easier and safer.
A: Finding your way via the GPS on your cycle computer or phone can be dangerous--you don't have to be in a car to be a distracted driver. The HAMMERHEAD syncs to the smartphone in your pocket and guides you via three rows of bright LED lights that you can follow with your peripheral vision. It also conveys information on distance, speed, hills, and road hazards, and even doubles as a headlight.
B: The ILLUMINATED HELMET by Torch increases riders' visibility by elevating LED lights (clear in front, red in back) higher than the usual attachments on handlebars and seatposts. Lenses disperse the light, giving the rider a 360-degree view. Torch raised the funds to launch this product via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
C: Emily Brooke invented the BLAZE laser , which projects a flashing green image of a bike on the pavement about 15 feet in front of a cyclist. Many nighttime accidents, she says, are caused by drivers turning into cyclists' paths or failing to see them approaching intersections or driveways. The Blaze eliminates these blind spots by heralding the cyclist's approach.
D: Many potential bike commuters aren't keen on sweating up hills in spandex on the way to work. Enter the COPENHAGEN WHEEL. As you ride and brake, it stores up energy that you can later call on to climb hills, or when you simply get tired. Its motor, three-speed gear, batteries, and torque sensor fit wirelessly into the hub, and you can control it via your smartphone. When you reach your destination, cool and composed, the wheel will even lock itself.
E: Cycling safety shouldn't be up to riders alone. Cities need to build infrastructure that keeps bicyclists and cars apart. The Netherlands is a leader in this area; the amazing Hovenring in Eindhoven is an elevated bicycle roundabout that hangs by cables from a 230-foot central tower.
Illustration by Brown Bird Design