Cities can only do so much to improve bicyclists’ safety — bike lanes and automatic traffic light sensors are great, but motorists are really the ones who have to pay attention for bike riders to be safe. An intrepid mechanical engineer has one solution: Make bike lights as obvious as car lights.
Kent Frankovich, a mechanical engineer trained at Stanford and the University of Texas, was riding home from school one day and wondered why his bike’s headlamp was mounted so far from the ground, where it could do little to light his way — not to mention help drivers notice him. Last October, he started tinkering with wheel-mounted lights, developing several prototypes before settling on a wheel-mounted string of LEDs. He and two partners dubbed it Revolights, and are raising funds through Kickstarter to further product development.As the bike wheels spin, the LEDs form an arc of light. The front lights illuminate the bike’s path, while red rear lights ensure any passing cars will take notice. Because the lights trace the wheels’ outline, drivers can more easily discern the size and location of the bike, which can be difficult to do with today’s bright blinking LED handlebar- or helmet-mounted lights.
Revolights works by clipping a double aluminum alloy ring mounted with LED lights inside any bike wheel, just below the brake calipers. Six clips attach the rings to the spokes, and the battery system would connect to the wheel hub. As of now, the Revolights are powered by lithium ion polymer batteries, but the team is planning a version powered by wheel rotation.
Like other bike tech, the lights are prompted to turn on by a small magnet installed on the bike’s fork, which interacts with the electronics in the rim. Algorithms calculate the wheel speed, and thus when the lights should blink on. In the video below, the lights appear to be blinking continuously, but that’s an effect of the camera — human eyes would see it as forward-moving solid arc of light. Watch the video below to see it in action.
Frankovich and his partners Adam Pettler and Jim Houk plan to use Kickstarter funds to produce 5th- and 6th-generation prototypes and start a tester program before finalizing their design. If they have enough funds left over, they’ll produce the first batch of Revolights, according to their Kickstarter page. Head over there to find much more information and how to get involved.
[via Fast Company]