Young UK product designer, Emily Brooke, came up with the BLAZE bike light – a front-mounted light with bright-white LEDs that also projects a flashing laser image of a bicycle in green onto the road four to six metres ahead of the cyclist – to alert road users of the cyclist’s presence and increase their footprint.
As those who have swapped their cars or public transport for bikes to combat urban congestion will already know, this green, fitness-enhancing and otherwise ideal form of transport comes with its own set of challenges. Fortunately, as Brooke realised, it has also opened up new ground for designers.
While a student at the University of Brighton, Brooke caught the cycling bug and dedicated her final year to researching some of these challenges. She discovered that 79 per cent of cycling accidents in the United Kingdom occur when the cyclist is travelling in a straight line and a vehicle turns into them or their path – rather chilling news for those who have taken cycling safety courses.
The problem is one of both visibility and size; it’s all too easy for cyclists to be in the blind spot for drivers of large vehicles, and their relatively small footprint on the road doesn’t help. Because they travel close to the curb, cyclists are also often overlooked by drivers pulling out of side streets and, because they’re quiet, by pedestrians stepping off into the road.
The solution – developed by Brooke as her final-year project, in consultation with her local council and bus company, as well as road safety experts and driving psychologists – is the BLAZE bike light.
Made of machined aluminium with a silver nickel control panel, the light was designed to be as sleek and compact as possible – the current prototype is just 110 millimetres long and weighs less than 200 grams. It’s mounted on an equally small bracket attached to a bike’s handlebars and, once detached, a magnetic sensor ensures it can only be activated on the dim setting (for use as a torch) to save power. Using 1500mAh rechargeable lithium cells, the current prototype lasts for six hours with both the white LEDs and green laser activated, or 12 if they are set to flash.
Brooke received so much positive feedback on the BLAZE that she started her own company, committed to developing the product for manufacture, and supported by the UK program Entrepreneur First, which supports recent graduates with high-growth start-ups. In late November, she launched a Kickstarter fund for BLAZE that has, at the time of writing, more than doubled her initial goal of £25,000.
A film demonstrating the BLAZE in use can be viewed on Kickstarter.