Using the same technology that makes wristwatch faces light up in the dark, researchers at the University of Florida have created a bicycle with electro-luminescent panels on the frame and tyre rims.
The devices make the average bike visible from up to 600 feel away, reducing the risk of a collision for cyclists and motorists, said Christopher Niezrecki, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who, along with two undergraduate students, created the system.
‘Drivers need to detect that there is something in the road, posing a hazard, ‘ he said. ‘Second, they need to recognise that what they have detected is a bicycle.’
One factor contributing to fatal nighttime bicycle accidents is riders’ low visibility to motorists.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated that riding after dark is roughly four times riskier than riding during the day. US Department of Transportation studies have proven that the risk of being hit by a motorist at night is eight times lower when wearing a safety reflector.
Powered by a nine-volt battery, which rests below the seat, the panels on the glowing bike last for years, according to Niezrecki. The battery can last for up to four hours when the lights are used continuously, longer when blinking.
Unlike reflectors or conventional lights, the electro-luminescent lighting is not subject to dimming or fading when blocked from an external light source.
In addition, the panels may be switched off when not needed, such as during daylight hours, to extend battery life.
The prototype cost roughly $1,500 to build. However, Niezrecki said, production models could be sell for as little as $70, and bikes could be retrofitted with the illuminated panels for about the same price.