In our increasingly urbanized world, it perhaps makes sense that the number of children riding bikes has been decreasing in recent years. According to data gathered by Statista, the number of cyclists between the ages of six and seventeen has been declining over the past decade. Blame it on urban sprawl, perhaps; the quiet rural and suburban streets upon which many of us learned to ride without training wheels, that quintessential coming-of-age milestone, are an increasing symbol of a bygone era.
However, Statista has some interesting data on cycling when it comes to adults. In the three years between 2015 and 2017, the number of cyclists in America increased from forty-three million to forty-seven and a half million. Perhaps it’s because cycling is an increasingly preferable mode of transportation in densely-populated areas; perhaps it’s because many of us are seeking out greener, eco-friendly alternatives to cars. Or perhaps it’s because for many city dwellers, owning a vehicle just doesn’t make sense, and parking, auto-related expenses, and constant traffic congestion are simply more trouble than the benefits of owning a vehicle are worth.
Whatever the reason, statistics show that North America is moving towards a more cycling-friendly society. But as any city-dwelling cyclist will tell you, this hip form of transportation is not without its dangers. Start-ups and innovators have sought to improve cycling safety with everything from the invisible helmet to hybrid bike lights and cameras.
One of the latest breakthroughs has come from London in the form of the Laserlight. Using projections, this unique outside-the-box device increases a cyclist’s footprint on the road and works to decrease the blind spots of motorists.
The Laserlight was created by Emily Brooke, a British innovator who, according to her TedX Talk at the University of Brighton, found inspiration for the device while biking from her neighbourhood to the seafront. She suddenly realized that a white van was about to pull out of its own slow-moving lane and into her bike lane. Brooke knew that she was completely unseen by the driver. “I wished that I’d had a presence travelling just in front of me,” she says. “A virtual me, if you like, travelling in front of me to warn cars that I was approaching. That was my moment of serendipitous innovation, and I dreamed up the Laserlight.”
Brooke goes on to cite being caught in the blind spot as the leading cause of cyclist fatalities. She quickly set to work imagining a means of combatting this dangerous reality, founding a company called Blaze and launching the Laserlight. As distribution expanded to the U.S., trademark issues required a name change. Today the company is known as Beryl, but its vision and commitment to safer, greener cities remains the same.
The Laserlight is a patented, tested piece of technology (tested by the Transport Research Lab, no less; it’s also used on all London Santander bikes) built from premium, aircraft-grade aluminum that has been anodized and sandblasted for a durable finish. Inside this sturdy casing, forward projection technology combines a white light and laser to beam a bright image of a bike onto the street in front of cyclists.
The Laserlight is battery-operated and runs in different modes; when both laser and LED light are programmed to run in steady mode, the battery has a lifespan of two hours. In flashing mode, this lifespan increases to eighteen hours, and when the device is used simply as a low-intensity flashlight, it can operate for thirty-two hours. (The flashing and low-power settings operate at one hundred lumens; high power operates at three hundred lumens.)
According to an independently-funded study by the Transport Research Lab, the Laserlight works. This small, innovative device has been proven to reduce blind spots by up to ninety-seven percent, while increasing rider visibility to vehicles by as much as thirty-two percent.
Not content to operate as a successful one-trick pony, Beryl has been ever-expanding; the company offers a range of lights and accessories, each of which seeks to make the cycling experience safer, easier, and a little more elegant. Not to be missed is Beryl’s latest innovation, available for pre-order on Kickstarter: the Laserlight Core. Cased in Carbon Grey Polymer, the Core is a lightweight solution for urban commuters, improving on its original model with an increased battery life (up to forty-one hours), enhanced brightness (up to four hundred lumens in white LED) and additional modes (the Core features four in total: Day Flash, Pulse, 100% Solid, and 50% Solid).
Launching next month, the Laserlight Core promises to be a useful tool for all-season cyclists as the days become shorter and the daylight scarce. Check out the product — and the Super Early Bird price — here.