Bicycling.com The Newest Safety Feature on NYC's Citi Bikes: Freakin’ Lasers! by MOLLY HURFORD
Bike share organization Citi Bike is trying something new to increase road safety for its New York City riders—introducing Blaze Laserlights to 250 bikes in its fleet, to make riders more visible to traffic and pedestrians.
The 300-lumen LED Laserlights improve visibility by broadcasting the image of a bicycle six meters (roughly 20 feet) in front of a rider, artificially extending their road footprint.
“By incorporating Blaze’s lights into the bike, we aim to keep New Yorkers on foot, behind the wheel, and riding a Citi Bike safer, and to improve the rider experience overall so that people of all backgrounds are inspired to try New York City’s popular bike share program,” said Jay Walder, president & CEO of Motivate, the company operating the Citi Bike program, in a press release.
Citi Bike has seen nearly 37 million trips completed since its inception in 2013, with few serious injuries and no deaths—but with more riders joining the bike share, they see further safety measures as a necessary step. (Learn everything you need to be a safer rider with the Bicycling Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills.)
“As Citi Bike ridership soars even during the dark winter months, it is important that we look for new innovative ways to keep pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers safe,” said Council Member Ben Kallos in a press release. “By testing out the Blaze Laserlights, the city is showing its commitment to safety in our streets.”
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NYC isn't the only city to try this approach; Santander Cycles bike share in London has already utilized the Blaze Laserlight. In an independent survey, Santander found London bus drivers said the laser made it easier to notice and react to bikes while driving, and 75 percent of the cyclists in London felt more confident while riding with the lasers.
"Inspiration for the Laserlight came when cycling down a busy city center street,” says Emily Brooke, co-founder and CEO of Blaze. "I realized that the driver of the lorry [bus] in front of me couldn't see me, and that if the lorry was to suddenly turn left, I would be squished."
"We can confidently say that by using the Blaze Laserlight, you are more visible to other road users in pitch black than you are in broad daylight, making it an essential part of your urban cycling kit,” Brooke says.
Additionally, the Laserlight’s creator believes its presence on bikes will encourage more women to use the bike share system. "The initiative aims to grow ridership among women, who studies have shown are more likely to ride in safer traffic environments with features like protected bike lanes and one-way streets,” Brooke says. "Results in London indicated that this outcome is likely.”
Motivate will be surveying Citi Bike users to determine whether the Laserlight beta test is a success, and worth extending to the full bike share fleet. It will also be monitoring reactions on social media and other channels.
"Assuming the feedback is positive, they'll be keen to fit out all of the bikes, subject to getting funding from a commercial sponsor,” Brooke adds.
Regardless of the safety aspect, Council Member Helen Rosenthal said it best when she remarked, “This looks really cool."
Watch a video of Citi Bikes with Laserlights in action here: