I’ve been a bit spoiled over the last years, calling European cities like Budapest, Lund, Malmö and Amsterdam as home. All of these cities have amazing bike lanes, segregated from oncoming vehicular traffic, making cycling the preferred option. While I’m happy that my home city of Seattle is following suit in some parts of the city, with well-marked and segregated bike lanes becoming increasingly common. Still on many (most) other streets in Seattle, bike commuters compete with cars and buses for the same road space. Unfortunately, basic physics would suggest that if a collision were to occur, the cyclist most likely would lose; and one of the biggest dangers for cyclists is their lack of visibility to drivers. Of course, Seattle is just one of many cities where cycling is becoming increasingly popular, requiring a quick upgrade of the cycling infrastructure. But what to do in the meantime?
In London, design student Emily Brooke pointed out in City Metric that “79% of UK cycle accidents occur when the cyclist is going straight ahead and a vehicle manoeuvres into them. The most common of these we all know: a bicycle caught in a driver’s blind spot. The driver then loses sight of the cyclist and turns across its path. The second is a vehicle pulling out of a side junction and into the path of an oncoming cyclist.” Brooke, an active London cyclist, used this as motivation to explore how to improve city cycling.
Several entrepreneurial cyclists have taken the creation of bike lanes into their own hands (or onto their bikes, as it were). The Korean company, Slancio, uses laser lights to create bike lanes – purchasable for US$20. Brooke’s UK startup, Blaze Laserlight, visually ‘paints’ giant green bicycles in front of cyclists, informing motorists of an oncoming cyclist. While not a substitute for bike lanes, these examples offers innovative methods to improve visibility, while allowing cyclists to claim a bit of their own space on the road.