Numbering at upwards of 1 billion, there are now twice as many bikes in the world as there are cars. But just because there are more bicycles on the road these days doesn’t mean they’re always a safe form of transportation. In fact, cyclists are vulnerable for many reasons, including subpar infrastructure, dangerous motorists, and simple lack of visibility. Although cyclists may not always have control over driver behavior or non-bike-friendly roads, they can improve how well they’re seen by using a bike light. And the newest forms of illumination are smarter than ever before, able to capture events around you on video or even adjust based on real-time road conditions.
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, more than 37,000 U.S. residents die in road crashes every year. Even worse, two cyclists die each day, according to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Their data shows that in 2015 alone, 818 cyclists died in accidents. The increasing number of accidents can be at least partially attributed to the fact that there are more bikes out there on the road today, but the acceptance of this form of transportation isn’t necessarily widespread among motorists. Unfortunately, cyclists are often seen as a nuisance on busy streets, and many drivers don’t seem to possess the patience to share the road safely.
The American Automobile Association, or AAA, has found that aggressive driving is a factor in 66% of fatal traffic accidents, or two out of three deadly crashes. Unfortunately, cyclists are all too familiar with the hazard posed by aggressive and angry drivers.
When drivers take it upon themselves to scare bicyclists or engage in unsafe driving behaviors around them, filing a police report may prove ineffective; after all, it’s the cyclist’s word against the driver’s. But some bike light manufacturers are granting more power to the cyclists in the form of video cameras housed inside powerful bike lights. Not only will these lights allow both motorist and cyclist to see more clearly, but they’ll also capture movement in front and behind the bike. The Cycliq Fly6 and Fly12 come equipped with wide-angle HD cameras that capture anywhere from six to 10 hours of footage.
Because there’s so little area on a bike for extra devices, Cycliq co-founder Kingsley Fiegert — who got the idea after being hit with slingshot ammunition while on a bike ride with his son — decided to combine lights and cameras and get in on the action. The cameras aren’t perfect (the more affordable versions aren’t really able to capture license plates), but a lot of cyclists want in. These camera lights can act as an insurance policy if they are injured or even killed while partaking in their favorite activity.
See Sense has also created a cutting-edge bike light — but instead of capturing images on camera, their invention contains artificial intelligence technology that can sense changes in the terrain and other conditions. It can therefore adjust its brightness for maximum visibility in real time. Whether you’re passing through an intersection or traveling down a remote road, you’ll be able to be seen. Their See Sense ACE cycling lights can reach 125 to 150 lumens, plus the newest release features automatic turn-off after parking, theft alerts, waterproofing, low battery alerts, and the option for manual adjustment. The company already met its Kickstarter fundraising goal, but cyclists can still get 35% off the retail price by backing the campaign.
That said, bike lamps are not without their own potential hazards when used incorrectly. One incident in the U.K. rendered a motorist momentarily blind when a cyclist using a high-intensity lamp in an incorrect position approached him on the road. The driver had a dashboard camera, which recorded the incident in its entirety. Evidently, the light was also flashing at the time of the event. Although bicycle lights have come a long way, they can enact harm when they are improperly positioned or if the light being used isn’t approved for bicycle use.
Ultimately though, having a bicycle light is vital for those who use their bikes on a regular basis, particularly on busy roads and for commuting. And although motorists’ attitudes have a long way to go, at least these emerging technologies can provide some level of protection for cyclists in the interim.