The Brainy Bike Lights® Story:
Why We Need a Brainier Bike Light
There are about 4000,000,000 cyclists in the world and increasing urbanisation means that cycling is getting riskier. Figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that in the UK alone 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured each year and around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas. Their research has also shown that cycling accidents that happen at night are more likely to be fatal. Overlay that data with research conducted amongst 5000 adults by the Child Accident Prevention Trust in 2011 which discovered that 55% of them travelled to and from work on ‘autopilot’, with 25% unable to recall details of their commute, including whether or not they had stopped at red traffic lights, and it seems clear that cyclists could do with some extra standout on the road.
Our challenge at Brainy Bike Lights® was to identify a scientifically inspired approach to creating greater awareness of cyclists amongst drivers in busy, light-cluttered urban environments. Whilst the simple idea of opting for brighter and bigger lights has tempted other manufacturers, research has begun to show that in fact these can dazzle and confuse the drivers of motorised vehicles. New understanding about the brain and ways of influencing behaviour subconsciously encouraged us to think that there had to be a brainier way of increasing awareness, standout and reaction times in drivers. So we put together a team in the city of Oxford that not only included cutting edge lighting engineers and product designers, but also a behavioural scientist who understood how the brain is wired and how to nudge and steer people’s awareness and behaviour subconsciously.
One of the key contextual issues we must bear in mind is that we are living in a period of mass urbanisation. It is predicted that up to 6,000,000,000 people will live in cities by 2050 and this means the number of cyclists is going to keep on growing and urban streets will just get busier and busier. Sadly this also makes it statistically likely that more cyclists will be injured or killed as tired and frustrated drivers tackle the increasingly congested streets.
Let’s look at a few facts:
- The latest UK figures show an 8% increase in cyclists killed or seriously injured in 2012.
- Key dawn and dusk travel times are particularly dangerous as it’s then that our urban roads are full of light clutter with thousands of red and white lights competing for our attention.
- Cars or taxis are the most common vehicles involved in collisions with cyclists – usually hitting them from behind. 25% of cyclist fatalities are caused in this way.
- Commuters often drive on autopilot. Research conducted by the Child Accident Prevention Trust amongst 5000 adults in 20111 discovered that an alarming 55% of them travelled to work in autopilot mode and 25% were unable to recall details of their commute, including whether or not they had stopped at red traffic lights.
- A study from Direct Line Car Insurance2 proved that it’s safer to be a jaywalker than a cyclist. Using revolutionary eye tracking technology to monitor actual driver behaviour, the study found that drivers failed to notice 22% of cyclists on the road, despite them being in clear view of their vehicle.
- 22% of cyclists are not seen by motorists compared to just 4% of jaywalkers (rising to 30% on London streets) and younger drivers miss 31%
- 15% of motorcyclists are invisible to drivers
- The issue is most prominent in London where 30% of cyclists are rendered ‘invisible’.
At Brainy Bike Lights® we thought we’d do something to try to improve cyclist safety on our urban streets. We decided that increasing awareness of cyclists amongst drivers of motorised vehicles would have a good chance of preventing accidents and saving lives.
1 Autopilot Britain, commissioned by the Child Accident Prevention Trust and carried out by OnePoll in 2011
2 Bunnyfoot, psychologists & human-computer interface experts, conducted research on behalf of Direct Line Car Insurance amongst a representative sample of 100 UK drivers in various locations including London, Sheffield and Oxford in August 2012