Safety Bike 2

Ms. High Viz in traffic, commanding the lane

The Sorry, Didn’t See You Mate article from London Cyclist raises a lot of interesting points and we’ve seen some of them before in cyclist visibility studies; as well as that YouTube video with the basketball gorilla. It also reminds me about a safety focus, or lack thereof in the industry. Related too is a product like the ICEDot, that’s seeking community funding. Because, I guess, the product is a nonstarter with helmet manufactures.

We are the result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Our eyes, and the way that our brain processes the images that they receive, are very well suited to creeping up on unsuspecting antelopes and spotting threats such as sabre-toothed tigers.

These threats are largely gone and they’ve been replaced by vehicles traveling towards us at high speeds. This, we’ve not yet adapted to deal with.

The London Cyclist article convincingly makes the point that drivers don’t see us for evolutionary reasons. Humans aren’t built to go that fast and see that much; especially a slim object like a cyclist on the side of the road. The ICEDot phones home when the sensors detect a hard impact. I’ve been in an unusual number of crashes this year and one left me immobile for a time on the ground. Colleagues like Patrick Brady, Cruftbox are hurt too, a teammate broke his neck, and Wiggo just got hit by a van.


ICEDot Sensors phone home

Sure, cycling injury statistics are low in comparison to driving. I’m not arguing numbers, but anecdotally do get asked about safety. Why I’d ride downtown or in traffic.

Considering this further, I’ve asked why commuter bikes don’t ship with running lights connected to dynamo hubs, a proximity detector to alert a cyclist to a car closing in, or other safety features like a phone home? There are reflectors in the box when a bike ships and I never see them on a bike outside of a bike shop. Lawyer tabs too that get filed off.

There’s either no market or a reluctance to admit there’s danger riding in traffic, as so many more cyclists are doing. Would mass-marketing a product like the ICEdot alleviate concerns of a worried potential cyclist? Don’t know, but it’s worth asking and discussing. It’s time for a next-generation safety bike. This bike would focus on the daily commute, like how the last one replaced one big wheel and a little wheel with the double-triangle design we all ride today.

safe on sundays

Riding safe on a safety bike with few cars around

Note: I don’t want to set off a helmet debate here, that’s a personal choice, and ICEDot devices are also placed elsewhere on the body or bike.


I have the emergency link app on my iphone, and also their keyring cards and wallet cards. It’s all free. Same idea, pin number, free phone call, ability to store medical and personal information. You don’t need to pay $10 for this.

Ah good tip and I hadn’t heard of that. Just checking, does it do any sensing?

“why don’t commuter bikes ship with running lights & dynos?” they do, they cost $600 plus and they’re called Breezers.  they also weigh 36# or more.  so there….money and weight are the reasons why not.  the “build it and they will come” argument is demonstrably unsupported by consumer buying habits.  the govt could regulate it necessary “for commuter bikes” as you say, but then there would have to be innumerable loopholes for “non-commuter” bikes such that it would be useless regulation….if it would even be possible to get it legislated.

you can’t make a bicycle safer like Volvo can make an automobile safer.  an automobile is effectively a crash capsule with crumple zones, airbags, roll cages, etc that can shield occupants from direct impact and reduce peak kinetic energy experienced.  in contrast, a bicycle is a device situated between the legs of the user; since the user cannot be completely encapsulated the next best thing would be to protect the most vulnerable portion of the rider from direct impacts and peak kinetic energy. also power is limited to the rider (or in the case of e-bikes, assisted by a small motor), so additional weight invariably has an actual reduction in performance as well as negative consumer associations.

the ICEDot can only increase safety by diminishing the time before emergency responders can arrive (i.e., it improves “survivability”); it cannot reduce the frequency nor severity of injuries.  “safety” defined within those parameters must logically come from

1) modifying user behaviour (i.e. “don’t do stupid shit”) through education and/or regulation,

2) improve the reliability/ease of use for equipment (though it might reduce the consumer experience or increase costs). mandatory equipment inspections arguably would improve this factor

3) improve environmental infrastructure (“get dangerous shit away from riders”) via road improvements, urban planning, or possibly reducing places where bicycle use is legally permitted,

4) modify the behaviours of non-cyclists who significantly contribute to bicycle injuries (“stop drivers from doing stupid shit”) through education and/or regulation,


5) protective equipment worn by the rider that directly shields from impact and/or limits peak kinetic energy transferred to the rider as a whole or at least the most vulnerable areas. 

all of these methods involve some degree of complexity and obviously controversy.

Byron, you mention “lawyer tabs” and “safety bikes” (as opposed to “high-wheelers” or “ordinary bicycles” as they were called at the time of their popularity) which would fall into the category of equipment improvements.  you neglected to mention all the CPSC-type regulations/testing that cycling equipment manufacturers are subject to. the logical extrapolation of the transition from “ordinary” to “safety” bike would be to move to a recumbent, since the primary gains were a lower center of gravity and less of a tendency to cause a user to impact the ground with the most vulnerable portion of the body.

No sensor, Byron.  So obviously you need to be found as it won’t alert.  Probably not enough for riding alone in unpopulated areas, but for commuting the emergency link works great.  You can make it the wallpaper on the phone so it is immediately apparent if you are found. The responsders call the toll free # and can get your medical info, contact info, and even access to legal documents you upload like DNRs.  If your phone is damaged and won’t go on, you get free mini-cards to put on keyrings and shoelaces as well as wallet cards. If you
are unconscious, but found, it can save your life.

I’m a big fan of daytime running lights, but the rest of this stuff seems a little dubious to me, with the exception of the recommendation in other comments to consider a recumbent.  I’ve never gotten comfortable on one, but the flip-physics seem to suggest that a recumbent would indeed be safer.  Anyone who rides without headphones has already got a pretty good proximity sensor in their own ears, and the emergency beacon is less a safety device and more of a emergency response device.  It’s only useful when you’ve already been not-safe.

One safety device that I use is huge fat tires (Big Apples); the people I know who have been injured on bikes were all done on by potholes, and the fat tires handle potholes with more grace than skinny tires.

I notice also statistics showing that the bicycles used in the Netherlands are far safer than the ones we use, and perhaps we should figure out what they’re doing differently :-).  I’m a huge fan of stealing proven solutions; once we’ve done that, if we still think we need more safety, we can look for additional innovations.

I have some sympathy for the don’t-make-cycling-seem-more-dangerous-than-it-is crowd.  This focus on the rare violent accident distracts from the far more common death and disability from diseases avoided by cycling, which cause an order of magnitude more harm.  I.e., like the headwear-that-shall-not-be-named, there are much larger issues (public health) than mere bicycle crash safety.

@david I totally get the don’t need any special equipment evangelism and the recent BBC report from Berlin noted that too the correlation sedentary lifestyles and laws hindering athletic activities.

At the height of the urban biking and commuting, a theme from me was Plain Clothes Cycling. At the same time, with sales in the US perennially flat, I’m wondering if a focus on safety features would create new, interested customers and when I say running lights, I mean on high-end bikes. The instead of golfing, I’m riding my bike demographic, which as uncomfortable as that make so many, is what moves this market.

I understand many folks resent safety anything.
But it would be nice if it were easy to upgrade when buying a new bike. An interesting comparison might be autos of the 50’s and 60’s. Safety glass was a late innovation. padded dashboards too. Seal Belts were met with anger and annoyance. The third brake light considered an unnecessary added cost.
I am no fan of the hideous ridiculous reflectors added all over bikes in the 70’s, and the ridiculous NO BRAKE! WARNING decal on fixed gear bikes.
But choosing to be “safer” should not be difficult.

I’m not sure how you get lights on high-end bikes, if you mean the low-spoked carbon-fiber whippets sold at the LBS down the street.  If someone is that intensely interested in the last drop of speed, why would they add the weight/drag of running lights?  And in my book, “running lights” are hub-powered, and I *know* they don’t want to dedicate 5 precious watts of their own power to that.  I would expect the effective cycling crowd to be all over DRLs, but I haven’t noticed much yet.

I may be in a different market than yours; Somerville/Cambridge (Cambridge is adjacent) are darn dense and the roads are cruddy (unfriendly to thin tires and low spoke counts).  They’re slowly dialing up the infrastructure, with mixed results (some nice and separated, some crap and separated, some door lanes, some seemingly random collections of streets that are nonetheless quiet).  Parking and traffic are also pretty nasty for drivers, so cars are not nearly as pleasant as portrayed in car commercials.  The commuter-bike-share seems to be going up.  There is some generalized anxiety about cars (our bad drivers are famous) but as I said, pothole-induced crashes are surprisingly common.  In my town in particular there is huge “upside potential” (tech-talk for “we’re idiots for not getting this right”) in a flat neighborhood with calm streets adjacent to a parking-constrained town center; we need to figure out what lacks, that people drive as much as they do.  So from here, DRLs and fat tires on commuter bikes look like a decent bet.

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