Cheap and Easy Helmet Lights for the Kids

Bikes are a great way to get around and get exercise at the same time, and are widely popular with human children due to the fact that they’re generally not allowed to drive. However, riding on or next to the road can be dangerous, particularly at night, when even adults on bikes are hard to see. It’s far worse for the youngest children, who can be incredibly small and difficult to spot. [Patrick]’s children enjoy riding, but it can get a little sketchy at night, so he developed a solution.

The project relies on cheap, commonly available LED strip lights. Rather than any fancy addressable strips, these are just simple strings of LEDs with current limiting resistors already fitted in a convenient, adhesive backed format. This makes the job as easy as peeling off the backing tape, sticking the strips to the helmet, and providing a power source. In clsasic entry-level hack style, everything’s running off a single 9V battery. Is it as versatile as a rechargable lithium pack with integrated controller? No, but it’s a swift way to get a project off the ground.

The trick here isn’t so much the hardware side of things – there’s nothing fancy about a battery and some LEDs. The key here is that [Patrick] identified that his children are small and difficult to see, thus it made sense to fit helmet lights rather then more typical bike lights to make them more visible to surrounding traffic.

For something at the other end of the spectrum, check out this amazingly professional LED bike light.

30 thoughts on “Cheap and Easy Helmet Lights for the Kids

  1. Sticking objects to helmets can severely impact their effectiveness. There something to be said for preventing the need for them in the first place, but helmets are designed to function in a very specific manner.

  2. Nice idea, but I’m a little concerned about the battery if there is an impact. He’s probably put it in the best place possible, but it’s still a big lump that could be a problem in an impact – remember what happened to Michael Schumacher with the camera that was mounted on the side of his helmet? Overall though, I’m sure the risk of being hit without lights is greater than the possibility of an injury from the battery, but maybe there’s a less intrusive option?

  3. Starting to argue about combined risks involving opposing factors as visibility and the risk of injury from a battery is a mine field. Add to that, children and all people loose any sense of proportion. I have a daughter myself and we had this argument: The risk of death or debilitating consequences in a bike accident for a child from they are 4 to they are 18, 14 years, is 0.4%. Wearing a helmet reduces that to 0.2%. Compared to simply crossing the street on foot, where the risk 5 times higher. So if we are going to argue anything, then let’s argue if bike helmets should be mandatory for pedestrians. Night time right turn accidents are always acclaimed to missing lights on the bike, so lights are more important than either helmets and batteries.

    1. Is that 0.4% conditional probability of “risk of injury *if* you ride a bike”? Because otherwise you are comparing apples to oranges, of course walking is much more common so more accidents occur to pedestrians.

      1. I took the national numbers for severe accidents involving children riding bikes and compared that to the average risk for that age group (4-18), deducted for bike accidents.

    2. Taking your stats at face value, yes it drops the mortality rate by half. Because those 0.2% of injuries where skulls split open on the pavement. For $35 you can keep your kid from being permanently disabled when they wipe out on a turn, why not spend the trivial amount.

      I’m sure looking both ways before you cross the street, or only crossing at the crosswalk / zebra drops those pedestrian mortality rates by at least half too, but you don’t go around arguing for blind jaywalking.

      1. Actually no, bicycle helmets are a big part of many accidents so it’s easy to argue that they cause more accidents than they prevent injuries. There is one sure way to prevent getting killed on a bike and that is to avoid cars, that is best done by making sure kids and grownups on foot and on bikes always have priority in the infrastructure you build.

        If you are an athlete there is a case to be made for helmets, but for kids on the road there really is no real reason to force helmet on them. We have helmet laws for kids here and there are not fewer head injuries resulting from bicycle accidents now than before (taking into account populations, and relative injury rates etc. etc.)

  4. But “smart”phones trump them all. The latest stats point at the distractions not the people on foot or 2 wheels.

    Just get 5 watts of LED headlight and a watt or more of red LED tail light. No blinking coin cell stuff.

  5. Alright, I’ll be the one to ask. Why the hell are his small children riding their bikes at night? Rather than coming up with some bizarre way of making them more visible (just put the lights on the bike??), how about you not put them in such a position in the first place.

    1. WOW umm dark / rain shouldn’t be a reason not to do something. No reason at all a toddler can’t cyc;e in the dark. Ours cycles back from nursery, in the winter its dark on so he needs lights to see where he is going. I need a headlamp to run and keep up. Having lights makes the riding even more exciting. I like this idea and might well add it to his spair helmet for winter rides.

    2. Hi Dan – Great question. & overall I agree with you. We typically don’t go out at night, but sometimes if we are coming back from the park up the street, it starts to get darker on the way home. It can get dark here sometimes even around 5:30 depending on the year. They are under 4, so I’m always literally just 3 feet away, but the research I read said that a lot of accidents happen during twilight hours. While the probability of a car jumping the curb & hitting them ( and me ) is too low to worry about, but I like the idea of knowing that a car at least knows they are around. I hope it encourages them to be safer drivers in my neighborhood.

      Hope that helps! -Patrick

  6. Aside from featuring project that connects battery to LED strips (and that’s all) on Hackaday, the problem with this thing is safety. Glue on that strips is usually crap, I almost always have to introduce some additional way to fix strips to metal, wood or plastic, be it the zip ties, screws or additional good quality adhesive. That being said there is good chance strip will come loose (humid day ride is enough for that to happen) and fall into child’s field of view or even worse in the eye while driving bicycle. Battery fixture is even worse, electrical tape, that will surely fall off at one point. And battery is positioned in a way that it can affect head’s movement if child falls off the bicycle and hit the floor with the battery first.
    First statement in video description is that LED helmets are too expensive. OK, so injured child is cheaper option??? And making unsafe DIY helmet is also a better option??? Dude, buy that helmet designed by professionals, it’s your child’s head, save the tinkering with LED strips for home decoration projects or some other project not related to health.

  7. i built a “rotating” beacon based on an ATtiny85 and 4 leds that flash in sequence, and fitted it to my son helmet
    batteries are still good after several months operation
    all secured with zip ties.
    and i didnt get an article on hackaday :D

  8. from my experience as a cyclist, nothing beats lights and reflectors on the bike itself. My Rims have reflective tape (thanks to disc brakes) there is a cluster of bright red led’s on the back and white led’s on the front (none of which blink). I dont feel it necessary to affect how a helmet works in order to be visible at night, especially since the one thing that will always increase your safety is defensive riding.

    It is more important to have ones head on a swivel and practice things such as obeying stop signs than it is to have an illuminated helmet as having any lights on a bike is based on asuming that drivers are actually looking where they are going.

    1. Blinking is better, because your peripheral vision is more sensitive to changing light (it’s a survival thing – important to notice that large predator pouncing in from the side). So, if your front and rear LED lights have a blink mode…use it.

      1. blinking is also distracting to drivers, a solid moving light activates the peripheral vision considering that the light is still changing (in relative position). It is a finer point of the argument so either way i would put it up to the discretion of the rider, I was just speaking from personal experience that having a driver focus on you as a rider can lead to a greater probability of an incident occurring (a vehicle out of control will typically go where the driver is looking).

        That being said one should check local traffic laws as this argument may be a moot point depending on where you are riding.

      2. Blinking messes with depth perception, which isn’t helpful if you want to prevent an accident. This seems to be most severe in dark conditions with little ambient light. Not having the road in front of you lit half of the time is obviously detrimental too.

        There are good reasons why blinking bicycle lights are prohibited in some countries.

      3. Problem 2 with blinking is that a driver will have trouble telling the position of the blinking object. Blinking and a lit LED helps but can also be distracting. reflectors alone are not sufficient. I also ride (long distances) and prefer a good light system.

        Please don’t recommend fireman’s reflective tape. That’s a nasty glaring refection which I think is dangerous

      4. Agreed! Always use blinking lights. I have three LEDs on my bicycle, one fixed in front and back and one blinking pointing downwards/backwards lighting up the whole bicycle.

  9. A simple lighting setup on the bike is much more effective as a safety measure than any helmet will ever be, with or without lights. 2 active lights, a reflector on the back and wheel reflectors is all you should need, additions are just confusing and add nothing.

    Another thing of course is bike infrastructure and how accustomed cars are to bikers.

    Oww and a PROPER bike.. I have ridden a few non-dutch/ bikes and I do not understand why so much “leasure”/”Sport” bikes from other countries are designed to be wonky death traps. Those things are as if the designers took a picture of a bike a 5 year old drew and produced that.

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