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Commuter, Concept 12 583

Recently, a couple of readers emailed me to mention the LightLane concept by Alex Tee and Evan Gant. The concept has been posted recently on various design and tech blogs including Core77, DVICE, and Yanko Design to name a few. I always appreciate reader tips, but actually, I had already seen this one. The LightLane concept was one of the 65 entries in the commuter bike competition on this blog. As a whole, we as a jury liked the concept, but felt like it didn’t exactly fit the brief. Also, I had seen a very similar concept, though not as complete, on Dirt Rag and Cyclelicious not all that long ago. Anyway, despite the fact that this entry didn’t make it to the finalists, I think it is a good idea that is worth passing along, so I will join the other sites on the web in doing so.

If you haven’t already read it, here is the designers’ explanation of the idea behind the LightLane:

A close brush with a distracted driver is enough to intimidate the most avid bikers from riding at night. The problem isn’t just about visibility, as safety lights are effective at capturing the attention of a driver. However, these lights are typically constrained to the bike frame, which highlights only a fraction of the bike’s envelope.

Bike lanes have proven to be an effective method of protecting cyclists on congested roads. One key is that the lane establishes a well-defined boundary beyond the envelope of the bicycle, providing a greater margin of safety between the car and the cyclist. Yet, only a small fraction of streets have dedicated bike lanes, and with an installation cost of $5,000 to $50,000 per mile, we shouldn’t expect to find them everywhere anytime soon.

Instead of adapting cycling to established bike lanes, the bike lane should adapt to the cyclists. This is the idea behind the LightLane. Our system projects a crisply defined virtual bike lane onto pavement, using a laser, providing the driver with a familiar boundary to avoid. With a wider margin of safety, bikers will regain their confidence to ride at night, making the bike a more viable commuting alternative.

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  1. Anonymous January 19, 2009 at 9:38 pm -  Reply

    Technically imaginative, but potentially very harmful. This “virtual bike lane” would imply that there is a full car lane to the left (or right) of the cyclist. A car trying to maneuver with a good understanding of bike lanes could create a very dangerous situation with traffic either oncoming or in the same direction. Also it would look completely incomprehensible with riders 2 abreast or one rider passing another.

  2. B. Nicholson January 20, 2009 at 3:12 am -  Reply

    This idea requires testing and refinement. Various projections might give drivers optical illusions or misinform drivers about the bicycle identification or relative speed of the rider. A bicycle speed projection onto the pavement, along with a triangle, could be useful where a too fast moving dashed line might not. A color change for higher speeds could color code bike riders, motorcycle riders, and rocketmen.
    A guided laser based upon accurate GPS data could paint all the roads for everybody, add some satellite sensor data and ice patches could be marked for all to see.
    We could get rid of streetlights altogether, ditto all those millions of gallons of paint slopped onto roadways every year, too. Lasers would be cheaper. All the signs, too, we could laser that information onto the roads for drivers to read, too, based upon GPS coordinates. Imagine no more roadsigns, no more stop signs, no more traffic signs, everything on a little screen in front of you.
    Of course a road display of laser illumination could be just one of many cheaper alternatives, too. The state would have to control it all with electronic license tags, saving many tons of metal carried around on the back and often fronts of millions of cars making them heavier and less efficient.
    What do we have all those computers for if not for keeping up with such stuff? License tags on cars are as smart as putting all the information about a package’s destination on the package and then losing the package (e.g. the US postal service). (I invented ‘click and ship’ although my name was ‘the virtual post office’.)

  3. B. Nicholson January 20, 2009 at 3:14 am -  Reply

    Sorry, sometimes I just get carried away. Chain thinking, I call it.

  4. Will January 20, 2009 at 10:08 am -  Reply

    I’d be more interested in a system that illuminates the back of the bike and cyclist in red, but without projecting that light forward which would confuse oncoming drivers. This way drivers approaching from the rear would see the whole cyclist.

  5. Yokota Fritz January 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm -  Reply

    I knew I had seen something like that before; thanks for linking to my brief post that I forgot about! 🙂

  6. E.DeGolier January 23, 2009 at 2:47 am -  Reply

    While I never got around to finishing a concept this was an idea I sketched up as well. For all the no-cyclists I know the main barrier to cycling (in London) is the perception of danger from cars passing closely. I like the use of lasers to crisply define the lane and I really doubt it would encourage car drivers to behave any more dangerously than they do now. They have centre line markers on many roads and have to use their judgment on narrower roads repeatedly even without bikes. I’d be more concerned that even the laser light would get washed away in headlights, making it ineffective. The other problem is that non-cyclists are probably the least likely to get out at night. So it may not be addressing the right crowd.
    I do like the idea of encouraging drivers to keep a larger gap. I think it is a more feasible solution than cocooning the rider like the winning entry does. Can you imagine trying to park that thing in a crowded downtown area, or dragging it up to your 2nd floor flat to avoid the inevitable vandalism bicycles see?

  7. Mark January 31, 2009 at 5:24 am -  Reply

    mm wouldn’t the projected light disappear under much brighter head lights?

  8. Scott in Seattle February 3, 2009 at 1:03 am -  Reply

    I get the same desired effect with the two-tube version of the Down Low Glow from I’ve directed the half-silvered neon tubes to give me a three- or four-foot pool of light on the street on either side of the bike. Cars now give me a wider berth than they formerly did, as if they’re afraid to drive through the light. (I ride a Brompton. Because of the fold, I can’t put the neon tubes on the bottom of the main tube, so I put one on each side.)

  9. Darcy 200th February 12, 2009 at 4:29 pm -  Reply

    From a transportation planner perspective:
    The concept of motor-vehicle operator obstacle/signage visibility is lacking. All ground paint used on roads is visible at very low angles (i.e. from far away) in low light situations. The lasers wouldn’t be visible until the driver is right next to, and if travelling at sufficient speed, ontop of the cyclist.
    You would be better off, as some comments suggest, to have a flourescent ‘halo’ or ground effect around your bike, as opposed to lasers.

  10. Anonymous August 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm -  Reply

    I don't know where you all live, but here in France it would not be useful.
    Virtual or real bike lanes, car drivers won't pay attention to bikes.

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