Tag Archive: bike safety

More on the “LightLane” Concept

Many of you have probably read about the “LightLane” concept dreamed up by the fertile minds at Altitude, Inc. of Somerville, Massachusetts. The concept has been covered on a wide variety of cycling and design blogs, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information included.


As a professional librarian, the quest for more information is near and dear to my heart, so I sent the designers, Evan Gant and Alex Tee, an email. Here’s what Evan had to say about the concept:

Thank you for showing interest in our LightLane concept. We are extremely excited about the response it has been receiving, which has spurred us to continue down the development path. The origin of the idea was purely conceptual, as Alex and I had entered a design competition to promote commuting by bicycle (editor’s note: the design competition was Bicycle Design’s excellent “Commuter Bike for the Masses” contest). Having witnessed several friends be hit by cars while in traffic, we felt the intimidation of sharing the road was one of the bigger barriers to commuting by bicycle.

However, we also noticed that our personal comfort on roads with bicycle lanes was much improved so we set out to understand what the differences were between these two situations. Clearly one of the biggest benefits of bicycle lanes is that there is an established common boundary that both drivers and riders respect and must stay within. However, this requires a great deal of resources and planning to implement, so we decided to focus on the fact that the bicycle lane establishes a safety buffer outside of the bicycle’s footprint.

After experimenting with physical ways of increasing the perceived size of the bicycle, we quickly realized all of these would compromise the rider’s safety by increasing the probability of accidental clipping. It was at this point that we decided to project a visual boundary onto the adjacent pavement using a laser. Although it doesn’t establish a clear and predictable path for a rider to follow, it does encourage a driver to provide the rider with a wider berth by capturing their attention in a different way.

Currently we are building a beta prototype where we will be experimenting with different laser colors and orientations. Once the optimal laser configuration has been established and validated, we will quickly develop a fully functional unit where we will focus our efforts on several aspects of usability including theft prevention, cleanability and corrosion resistance. Concurrently we will be looking for manufacturing and distribution partners.

It’s been truly remarkable to see the excitement that this concept has generated, especially considering it was just a fun quirky idea to begin with. What’s been equally interesting in my opinion is to see how the product has pushed the debate of who owns the roads. This well established debate has been a common point of discussion within my own family, and clearly the LightLane, nor any product, will solve it. Instead we hope that it connects with people in a new and fun way.

Thanks, Evan, for responding — there have been lots of great comments on the various sites that covered this concept, including different laser colors (green lasers for more daytime visibility) and even aiming the lasers into following motorists’ eyes (not such a good idea). Let’s hope this concept reaches a prototype soon, as the idea behind it is full of possibility!

Commuter Self-Defense…For Real This Time

A few weeks ago, I posted a humorous YouTube video as a “self-defense” tutorial for bicycle commuters.

Mere days later, a close friend of mine (coworker and occasional commuting partner) was “bike jacked” on the streets of Tampa. Details are a little hazy — my friend lost his bike and was forced to run for his life, and in the mad scramble to survive, many of the subtle details were lost. Basically, two assailants saw him coming, hiding behind a van parked on the street until he passed them. One assailant jumped out and tried to tackle him off his bike. My friend wobbled and recovered, but by then the second assailant arrived, pulling the victim off his bike and punching him in the face and neck. My friend remembered that initially he was fighting to get his bike back…or at least keeping it between him and the thugs. When he heard voices approaching (More assailants? Curious onlookers? Good Samaritans? Who knows?), he decided to cut his losses and run away. He figured that losing a $75.00 bike was better than getting beat up (or worse).

My friend managed to get away, and he was picked up by the Tampa City Police a few blocks away. The bike-jacking occured in a not-particularly-bad neighborhood and it happened just after nightfall…well before incidents like this generally take place.

All of this brings me back to the topic at hand — with night coming early now that Daylight Saving Time is over, how can we defend ourselves against scofflaws? I mean, we already have to deal with dangerous motorists, road debris, obstructions and myriad other safety concerns.

On other sites, when this topic comes up, folks often respond, “oh, just carry a gun!” This isn’t an ideal solution for many of us, though. While concealed carry permits are definitely a valid self-defense option, some folks don’t want a firearm with them and others fear an escalation if things come to a head. Fellow bicycle commuter and gun-rights advocate Xavier (Nurse With a Gun) has written extensively on this subject. For me, this isn’t an option — although I am a firearm owner and CCW permit holder, I work in a government building where firearms are strictly forbidden…what am I supposed to do, stash my pistol in the bushes outside until I get out of work? I don’t think so…

So, the question is: what are some of the other options do bike commuters have to defend themselves? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Obviously, there are some common-sense approaches to minimize risks, like choosing commuting routes carefully, being hyper-aware of the world around you, avoiding incidents altogether and being prepared to sprint like hell when the chips are down. Your concerns, defense techniques and any other tidbits will be greatly appreciated.

Troubling Ad Campaign From the Delaware DOT

Mike from The Bicycle Spokesman brought this to our attention yesterday: a new safety campaign from the Delaware Department of Transportation:


Mike writes:

“…I was alarmed to see that the State of Delaware (the home of Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden) which should try to ensure a safe environment for all citizens despite their selected mode of travel, issued a press release explaining how to kill a cyclist. It tells drivers how fast they need to drive in order to achieve a kill. Thanks Delaware.

In the above picture from the Delaware Neighborhood Speeding Campaign, the bicyclist is shown without a helmet despite the fact that Delaware enacted a helmet law for children under 16 in 1995. Clearly there is a rogue element in the Delaware Department of Transportation that is out to get bicyclists.”

Read the rest of his article by clicking here.

What do you think about this ad? Poor choice of image and text, or effective in its bluntness?

Green Tuesday: the grass is greener

This week’s Green Tuesday post is really a simple reflection on urban design…

When I first started cycling for recreation, I felt my urban utopia would be a place with miles of smooth-as-glass roadway for my cycling pleasure – the ultimate and never-ending century ride if you will. In Phoenix, I certainly have miles of roadway, but it is cracked, overcrowded, and leads to nowhere except the next Starbuck’s. Having a comfortable surface to ride a bike on is nice, but too often I feel I get spoiled when I have smooth and safe roadways – that is certainly not the overall reality of American urban infrastructure.

The cycling community is faced with a paradox – we want safe thoroughfares, but so long as we have to share them with cars, safety will be minimal. However, the cycling community does not exert enough influence (read: $$$) to have cycling/pedestrian-specific infrastructure built into our cities. It seems any time you hear a city touting some new cycling infrastructure, it is a few miles of narrow pathway through a park or affluent area of town – nothing that is ultimately useful for utilitarian purposes. Sure it stands to offer moments of happiness and recreation to the American family, but that happiness is gone as soon as one gets back into their automobile and sits through hellish traffic.

American cities are not designed to support infrastructure apart from automobiles. We spread our cities out farther and farther because our stores and homes need more and more room. Phoenix is currently considering a proposal to develop state park lands in order to build ANOTHER freeway to help alleviate traffic problems. That makes me sick.

We keep trying to put layer after layer of band-aids/duct tape over our gaping wounds of urban infrastructure, when we could solve the problem by enduring a brief moment of pain and ripping all the old junk off and stitching the wound! We need to revive our urban environments that already exist and push for more centralized and sustainable communities. And that is why I love Richard Register and the Ecocity Builders.

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to reshaping cities, towns and villages for long term health of human and natural systems. Our goals include returning healthy biodiversity to the heart of our cities, agriculture to gardens and the streets, and convenience and pleasure to walking, bicycling and transit. We visualize a future in which waterways in neighborhood environments and prosperous downtown centers are opened for curious children, fish, frogs and dragonflies. We work to build thriving neighborhood centers while reversing sprawl development, to build whole cities based on human needs and “access by proximity? rather than cities built in the current pattern of automobile driven excess, wasteful consumption and the destruction of the biosphere. [text and photos from]

And there are other people that think the time is right to rip off the band-aid. From Alex Steffen’s essay “My other car is a bright green city:”

Generally, we think of cars as things which are quickly replaced in our society, and buildings as things which rarely change. But that will not be the case over the next few decades. Because of population growth, the on-going development churn in cities (buildings remodeled or replaced, etc.), infrastructure projects and changing tastes, we’ll be rebuilding half our built environment between now and 2030. Done right, that new construction could enable a complete overhaul of the American city.

While I don’t know the exact method of accomplishing a task like this, I trust that the more people are aware of the possibilities, the better off we are.

Besides, now that I think about it, I would much rather ride my bike to work on a decently maintained dirt (or even grass) pathway through a naturally landscaped pathway, enjoying all the fruits of nature, instead of sharing 3 lanes of traffic with speeding SUVs whose drivers are sipping a grande double mocha frappacino latte while talking on their cell phone and looking for a Target.

Safe riding to everyone – it can be a nasty place out there. But does it have to be?…

[Author’s note: one of my favorite blogs covered the very same essay this morning and has a very interesting list of thoughts/reactions – check it out on the No Impact Man blog]

Dang, I hate it when that happens

I hate it when I use my nether-regions to adjust my bicycle seat…just plain dislike the very essence of my saddle shifting out of it’s highly physically-resistant placement by nothing else except my bike-short-chamois and 180 pounds of Jeff.

I did it twice today.

So in what, to me at least, is a very natural progression of logical thought, I wondered to myself:

Have clipless pedals ever acted as a theft deterrent? Has someone ever tried to steal a bike and been so rushed to pedal away – whether because the bike owner was chasing the thief, or the thief was just plain scared – and had their feet slip off the clipless pedals, resulting in the agonizing pain of groin meets top-tube?

I am sure someone out there has a story, or knows someone who has a story…