Light up biking vest shows impatient drivers how fast you are going

nighttime_bike_speed_vest

[Mykle Hansen] is an avid cyclist, and safety is a big concern for him. He says that bicyclists often receive a lot of honks and grief from passing motorists because they perceive them as moving far slower than they really are. According to [Mykle], this misjudgment can result in “right hook” collisions, which kill several bicyclists each year. To increase his nighttime visibility and to give drivers a better idea of how fast he’s traveling, he constructed a bicycling vest that displays his current speed in large 7-inch tall numbers.

He uses an off-the-shelf speedometer to get his current speed, feeding that data to an Arduino tucked inside his vest. The Arduino then lights the appropriate EL wire digits to relay his speed to motorists behind him.

It seems to work pretty well if the video below is any indication, and there’s no denying that it will catch a driver’s attention at night. If you’re thinking of making one for yourself, check out his Make:Projects page for a complete look at how it was put together.

Comments

  1. James says:

    Front would be far better located IMO, most near impacts I have are from people who pull out in front of me while I’m shifting, despite lights and reflective gear. It’s the old SMIDSY – or “didn’t think you were coming that fast”.

  2. t11r says:

    nice idea. Though I it would be more logical to make two 7 segment ‘displays’ from EL wire. But the nixie-look also counts for something :)

  3. roboman2444 says:

    This is pretty old… i saw it on make at least over a year ago.

  4. rbtroj says:

    Where I live this wouldn’t be legal on the road. Too much potential for distraction. Definitely a clever idea though.

    • shaeffer says:

      The strobe lights used by many cyclists are a lot more distracting.

      • Haku says:

        Cycling is my main form of transport, sometimes I borrow a car for the longer journeys & transporting things I can’t carry on the bike, and have to agree on the blinking lights thing.

        Damn distracting wether you’re cycling or driving.

        I once almost ran some idiot over because they had a flashing front light on an unlit road and there was no real way to tell it was a cyclist or how far they were away, I thought it was a roadworks hazard light in the distance.

        My main bike has a back light with 17 LEDs in to provide a wide angle (but not dazzling) light, the front has a 3 inch square light with 300 3mm LEDs, I can high-beam cars and they know it.
        It’s really cool when cycling along unlit roads & cycle tracks as I can see everything, but completely dimmable so I don’t dazzle other road/path users.

  5. NoX says:

    I’m with t11r, a 7-segment would have been easier, maybe using “EL Tape” instead of wire…

  6. hawkeyeaz1 says:

    Apparently he is a bit optimistic on his speed, since the display can go up to 69 (mph?)

  7. dustin says:

    I got “right hooked” by a truck once, probably for this very reason. Fortunately for me the side of their truck fared worse that I did. I like this idea!

  8. jwstolk says:

    Wonderful idea!
    As a recumbent cyclist, I regularly get cars driving beside me, so they can measure my speed. This way they could just keep driving if they wanted to know my speed.
    Since a recumbent bicycle has a reclined seat, the implementation will need some tweaking, maybe I’ll simply replace the rear light with 2 big red 7-segment LED digits.

  9. Chris says:

    I’m digging the “Nixie Tube” feel of the numerals.

  10. FiveTau says:

    I dont think that it is a 7 as roboman2444 stated it think it is a 3, but no onementioned that the second digit is only odd (1,3,5,7,9). Is it because of the input of the speedometer, amount of outputs available or just running out of EL wire?

  11. Ragnar says:

    Just a request to my fellow bikers: I also drive a car and if you have any option to set your back-light not to flash I’d appreciate that very much. You are very well visible as long you have any light. Flashing distracts and even makes it hard to determine your position against darkness, one moment you seem to be here, the other you are 50cm to the left or right. Flashing lights should be reserved and limited to very special duties, and as already said, you are visible enough, as soon as you got any light switched on.

    • medix says:

      Sure. But only if you can GUARANTEE that I won’t be run down by a driver who’s not paying attention. I’ve already been taken out once this year by a driver not paying attention and that was WITH lights on the bike in the daytime.

      What matters is that you know the bike is there so that you can adjust your speed accordingly. Bikes are extremely difficult to spot on the street in the dark (yes, I drive as well) and it is in fact illegal (here anyway) to ride at night without lights.

    • Garbz says:

      I both agree and disagree with you here.

      Flashing lights are to get attention. There’s no mistaking in the middle of the night if a flashing light is getting closer that you’re approaching a cyclist.

      But the agree part is the inability to properly triangulate their position. Bicycles in my humble opinion should have a single flashing light, a fixed light, and the rider should always wear high-vis vests.

      This provides the optimum balance of alerting the driver to a cyclist from afar, yet allowing the driver to properly see your location.

      • jaqen says:

        as both driver and cyclist, i found that the flashing lights that work best, are those that go 1 sen on ½ sec off. This way you have enough “on”-time to get a feel for the position of the bike, and the short dimming still catches attention.

        the worst are those with 5+ LEDs that blink one led at a time, sure it looks fancy, but the visible distance is much shorter if there is never more than one led turned on at a time

  12. The speed seems off… saying it’s faster than it really is. Did you program your tire size correctly??

  13. Ben H. says:

    I dunno If I would want to advertise my speed. I actually caused a driver to get a ticket once, it would suck to be cited myself.

    There was a time when I biked the same route every day, and got passed by the same jerk at the same place in a 25MPH zone. One day I wanted to see how fast I could push before he’d give up on passing me. He still passed me and then got pulled over by a cop that was around the next corner.

    • zrzzz says:

      The guy was a “jerk” because he wanted to pass you? And then you sped up when he tried to pass? Who’s the jerk here?

      • andar_b says:

        I’ve nearly been run over or blown into a muddy field, riding at more than 25 through a school zone, AS children were arriving at school, with drivers blowing past me at no less than 50… again, in a school zone. It’s not passing if they just ignore you and blow by.

        Passing requires a turn signal and pulling into another lane.

  14. kelvin says:

    bicyclists often receive a lot of honks and grief from passing motorists because they perceive them as moving far slower than they really are

    … so where are your lights?

    the bike in the demo, has no lights on, and no fittings for lights…

  15. djneo says:

    First off i love this project.

    Second i’m dutch and everybody owns a bike. and here nobody wears a helmet or special gear. we put giant metal locks on the bikes, most of them generate there own electricity to burn and 6volt bulb.

    everybody rides a bike, and its mostly to get somewhere.
    i used to ride my bike to school and back which is a total of 15KM
    and using a local public transport which is a small ferry

    this is a great link to how its here; http://www.ski-epic.com/amsterdam_bicycles/

    Anyway thats off topic, but an great introduction to the point i wanted to make, which is that this is absolutly useless here in europe (The Netherlands).

  16. Mark A says:

    It’s good to be seen, though drivers who say they can’t see cyclists should not be driving.
    One problem, the above photo of you doing 35 miles per hour, looks like it’s in a 30 MPH zone.
    So if you pass a police man saying I’m doing 35MPH in a 30MPH zone will stop you.

  17. zrzzz says:

    Why are cyclists so passive-aggressive about cars passing them? If I walked slowly in front of a bike, they would pass me without hesitation, jingling their little bell and yelling “on your left!” Yet cyclists refuse to yield when a car wants to do the same. Instead, they ride in the middle of the road forcing drivers to swerve into oncoming traffic.

    • andar_b says:

      Technically, bicycles are vehicles and are required to ride in traffic, as opposed to pedestrians who must use the sidewalk, so the analogy falls flat. If there’s a no-passing zone, and a bike gets several cars lined up behind it, the rider must pull over the same as any slow vehicle.

      Many people use the sidewalk for biking anyway, but it’s technically wrong.

      • Matt Bennett says:

        A slow vehicle pulling over to allow faster traffic to pass (while it may be a good idea) is not required by law in all localities/states. I believe it is the law in California, but not where I live (Texas), or where I used to live (Maryland). Of course, this varies if you’re on a multi-lane road, but specifically, I’m referring to the instance where there is a single lane in each direction and it is a no-passing zone. In Maryland, I was specifically told not to pull over to allow faster traffic to pass (by a police officer), as that was considered “driving on the shoulder.”

      • HomelyPoet says:

        @andar_b The only bicycle laws where I live are:
        1. Children Must wear a helmet.
        and:
        2. Bicyclists over 16 CANNOT ride on the sidewalk.

        1; is usually enforced
        2; not really enforced, few of the bobbys I talked to seemed even aware of the second law.

        As to street riding, any WHEELED vehicle is REQUIRED to use the WHOLE Lane (Law), and NOT allowed to pass ANY vehicle in the same lane (also law,I.E; Auto passing Motor-bike, OR Motor-bikes passing each other, although two Motor-bikes MAY ride the same lane)

    • Jason says:

      We cyclists don’t like to ride in the middle of the street and keep cars from passing. We do it when there isn’t room for cars to pass without putting the rider at risk (think: slamming into an opening car door at 25mph)

      • Haku says:

        As well as avoiding car doors opening, the roads here in the UK are crumbing badly and aren’t being repaired quick enough, dangerous pot holes all over the place from the past 2 winters, in the 30+ years I’ve been cycling I’ve never known the roads to be so bad.
        Some stretches I have to cycle in the middle of the lane because sticking to the side means dealing with 5 inch deep drain covers and pot holes that can potentially throw you off balance putting you onto the pavement or worse into the path of a car.

  18. barry99705 says:

    Now they just need to figure out how to keep people from pulling out in front of you. Taco’d my front tire that way once. Saw it coming and ejected just in time. Cleared the ladies hood, though I think I’d prefer the hood, at least that would give more than the pavement on the other side.

    • HomelyPoet says:

      @barry99705 I was IN the Cross-walk (8 feet wide), which came after the stop-sign (4 feet after), and the woman did’nt stop ’til after she hit me.

      Not even an apology, either, continued after I got up, she did.

      Then three more women tried to hit me before I got to my destination.
      (Really Ladies, that is not what men mean by Hitting
      on us)

  19. echodelta says:

    Puttem on cars and trucks. That will reduce speeding. The ones that slow down because they can’t judge distances on the other side of their car are IMPARIED and should park it. When they can’t pass and I

  20. echodelta says:

    damm touch pad) am in the other lane, that is definitely IMPAIRED.

  21. Microguy says:

    I like the project overall. And I love the EL wire, but never found a really good use for it, this seems to be one.

    BUT! I have my doubts about how well you will be able to see it. This video is from another biker.

    I’m guessing, as soon as car headlamps shine the spot on it, you won’t see a dang thing. EL wire is really cool, but not that bright.

    Maybe by the time you get next to them, and can see the numbers, it may pacify you a little bit.

    But truthfully? I suspect that car drivers simply don’t want to share the road with anybody. Me? They scare the crap out of me and I give them as wide a birth as possible.

    The last thing I need is some pedestrian or bike rider falling in the path of my car and getting killt!

    • edonovan says:

      I treat all cyclists as road hazards and avoid them as such. Most of the roads here have bike lanes, though, so it’s a bit easier to nudge over a bit more to give them plenty of space.

      As far as the speedometer goes, I don’t see how it would help. It doesn’t matter how fast you are going, the important thing is how fast you are going relative to the vehicle that is passing you.

      I don’t generally honk at anyone as it’s annoying and rude, but I can’t blame anyone for notifying a cyclist that they are not well enough illuminated or are dangerously impeding the flow of traffic.

  22. Interesting hack, similar to Nixie tubes.

    Best colour IMHO is green, its right in the middle of peak sensitivity.

  23. Whatnot says:

    Silly americans and their bike helmets. although in the US I hear such incredible aggressive remarks from car drivers toward cyclist that it makes sense in the US, I’d advice a gun and a helmet when cycling, not for natural accidents though.
    Oh and a glowing sign “I’m packing heat” might be a better safety feature (that’s my impression at least).

  24. hackaday? says:

    This is a nice hack!
    Shame that any bicycle safety related hacks turn Hackaday into Whingeaway.

  25. Noryb says:

    Nice hack. Need some way to make cyclists follow the law that says there must be 3 feet between a car and the motorcycle (in Mississippi). suicidal pedal pumpers still ride out in my road that I pay dearly for instead of staying 3 feet from my 3000lb death machine. You’d think they actually WANT to get killed. When i ride, i stay as f-in far from anything capable of killing me as the terrain allows.

    • cornelius785 says:

      I’ve only seen/heard some stories of suicidal pedal pumpers (maybe it’s different in big cities), but I’ve heard and experienced much more for bat s*** insane suicidal runners and crossing pedestrians. I am ALWAYS perplexed on when I seem runner in the road with a side walk near by and pedestrians just jump out into the middle of traffic (oh hey, the light just turned green, time to cross the 4 lanes!).

  26. foogoid says:

    Impressive how any bike-related topic quickly descends into car-vs-bike feuds and helmet law discussions.
    Makes me glad to be a road user in Europe, where this seems unheard of.

    To the project:
    I like the idea and implementation. I particularly like the numerals, and prefer them over 7 segment displays. By limiting himself to odd numbers up to 69 he needs 12 elements this way, instead of 14. Seems like he doesn’t use the leading Zero anyways, so only 11 are used.
    I didn’t know there was a way to switch EL wire (he uses Triacs for this), so only one supply is needed. Thus, adding extra elements wouldn’t increase parts count that much.
    Maybe covering the entire display with some mesh would hide the unlit wires, while still allowing the light to shine through? Black would look best, but something in the color of the wire would probably obscure them better.

    With regards to accidents, it clearly is not the end-all solution, but then it doesn’t try to be.
    I can see it’s merits, and if it is only to increase attention and visibility.
    Showing your speed should increase awareness that bicycle speed should not be underestimated. If you think that advertising your speed can get you a ticket, maybe you shouldn’t exceed the limit in the first place, even on a bike?

    The biggest shortcoming here is the limited scope of this project. It only helps avoid a specific type of accident, where a car driver right hooks you after passing you (and actually seeing you while passing).
    It has little effect on someone cutting in front of you in a left turn from ahead, or in a right turn after having passed you/you having come up to the car from behind.
    This is because judging a bike’s speed from the front is difficult at night, if all you see is a single light. Several lights or reflectors, a distance apart would be better. Visible clothing helps a lot too. (I notice that a lot of winter/autumn clothes, especially rain clothes for men, only seem to come in dark blue/gray or black. If it’s dark and/or raining, wouldn’t you want exactly the opposite as a pedestrian/biker? The same clothes for women are often sold in light greys or white!)

    Now I will also indulge into some opinionating on helmet laws and such:
    Personally, I wear neither a helmet nor an orange vest while cycling and would feel silly doing so (note that is not the main reason for not wearing a helmet).
    This is a decision I choose to make in my situation, and I’m glad the law allows this. I live in urban Netherlands, where bike paths are abundant and motorists are generally aware of cyclists, who have almost “holy cow” status. Also, since virtually everyone uses a bike at least some of the time, there is no bike-vs-car argument. Most people use both anyways. As such, risk is low. Also, in my situation, commuting, going to the shops, a helmet is an inconvenience that you have to carry around.
    If I were to embark on a cross-country trip, where I would have to cycle on the road, in places where bikes aren’t expected, I sure as hell would don a helmet and yellow jacket.

    Lastly, to the link posted by djneo: The author of that page tries to argument against helmet laws for minors by making the ad-absurdum point that since not even small kids on shoddy bicycle back seats wear helmets in the Netherlands this must either mean they are unnecessary or Dutch parents do not value the safety of their kids (and obviously it couldn’t be the latter).
    To this I have to say, sadly, it is the latter. As a German, I am astounded by how many kids I see here in cars without boosters, or even seat belts, 4 in a row, or on their mothers lap, sharing the seat belt or moving around the car. This is is, in comparison, extremely rare in Germany.
    I don’t see how any responsible parent can not put a helmet on his kid’s head. Firstly, children have increased risk of head injury over adolescents and adults, and secondly are not capable of making the decision themselves. If it is you making the decision for them, always choose for the helmet. And make sure it is well fastened.

    I wore a helmet throughout elementary school. The display of a classmate’s cracked helmet after an encounter with a curb and the thought that this may well have been his forehead did saw to that.
    As mentioned before, I don’t wear a helmet now, and I wasn’t wearing one when I got right-hooked little over a year ago. (In daylight, on a bike path going straight, car drove into me to turn into a side street which crosses the bike path. No amount of visibility gear will help, if someone just doesn’t look over his shoulder and slows down before crossing a bike path.)
    Broke my femur right through the trochanter, one of the thickest bones in the body, only scratches otherwise and nothing on the head. On one hand, I could say “if i broke THAT and not my head, clearly a helmet doesn’t help”, on the other “what if I had fallen on my head, or if i had landed closer to the curb?”. Despite the injury, I think I was lucky. Even if I have right of way, I now go slower and check everything twice wherever I might encounter cars. Inconvenient, but less so than an injury (and since there’s little to no compensation here, certainly nothing compared with the US, it’s just not worth it…)

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