Eleven-year-old Joshua Jimenez was riding his bike with his brother and cousin in Bakersfield, Calif., a few weeks ago when a car struck him as he attempted to cross an intersection. That night, he joined the hundreds of U.S. bicyclists who die in nighttime crashes with motor vehicles each year.
But what if Jimenez was able to alert the driver to his presence before the vehicle reached him? A laser attached to his handlebars projecting an image of a green bicycle onto the pavement 20 feet ahead of his position might have provided the increased visibility to save his life.
That’s what the Blaze laser bike light aims to do: increase bicyclist safety by eliminating a driver’s blind spot. Designed by London-based entrepreneur Emily Brooke, the light raised more than $91,000 from Kickstarter—more than two times its original goal—and started shipping out to backers earlier this month.
Brooke was inspired to take on the project after learning that blind spots are a common cause of fatal nighttime cycling accidents.
“The position of a driver’s cabin in a heavy goods vehicle can result in huge blind spots,” she told The Telegraph. “This is why more than 50 percent of fatal incidents involve a cyclist not being seen.”
The bike light, which retails for $200, can run the green laser and a standard LED white light simultaneously and can be toggled between a constant and a flashing mode, giving it about a two-week battery life for a one-hour round-trip commute. Bicyclists can adjust its brightness level as well as the projected length of the green laser image to between 16 and 20 feet.
Other emerging products, such as Pure Fix Cycles’ glow-in-the-dark bike frame and Helios' smart handlebars equipped with front- and rear-facing lights, aim to keep nighttime bicyclists well within the view of drivers.
A few weeks into its launch, the laser light has hit speed bumps. Some users have experienced a handful of defects, such as brackets that don’t properly affix the light to the handlebar.
Brooke has been quick to address these flaws by designing an entirely new bracket, one sporting reengineered screws and bolts as well as better-fitting parts, to stop the light from wobbling.
A few days ago, she told her Kickstarter backers that her manufacturers in Asia will be finishing the redesign and shipping out the new brackets today.
“Amongst all the love, I can’t help focusing on the imperfections and we’re working hard to fix these,” she said.
Hopefully that will be in time to save the life of the next Joshua Jimenez.