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A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish. by Vannevar Bush       about       /       murals       /       Pgh-DC bike maps new

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bike + Laser = Personal Bike Lane Generator

9/24/12 233# 0m
From the "I'm still waiting for my jetpack" file: In 2009, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) awarded the prestigious Gold International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) to Alex Tee and Evan Grant for their design of a prototype called "LightLane", a portable optical bike lane generator.

The Feb. 2009 WIRED magazine ran a story about the LightLane:
Fed up with seeing friends getting clipped by cars, the designers at Altitude combined two things we love — bikes and lasers — to create an instant bike lane and make nighttime cycling a whole lot safer.

Their bike-mounted gadget, called LightLane, beams two bright red lines and the universal symbol for cyclist on the pavement, neatly delineating a bike lane to remind motorists to yield a little space.

This caught my inner bike-geek's attention and I developed a serious case of gadget lust. I don't do a lot of night road riding but I do a little bit of it, and I really try to stack the odds in my favor (as you can probably tell from this rear-view photo of one of my bikes from a few years ago).

I've been waiting to get one of these in the way that I've been waiting for my jetpack and my gyrocopter-car. Every now and then I'd consult the Google and see if the vision had become a product yet.

Turns out, it takes about 3.5 years to go from vaporware-concept with mockup photos into an actual physical product in a box in your hand delivered by the UPS truck. The light I got is from a Korean company.

My initial experience has been that it's a very solid-built light, not flimsy, and set up for a seat-post mount only. There are two switches, one for the LED tail lights (steady or blinky) and another for the laser bike lane; you can operate them simultaneously or independently. Just as a standalone seatpost rear light, it's a good rear light.

The raison d'etre, though, is the laser light lane and it's a major attraction. On a dark street it does a real good job of depicting a bike lane on either side of the bicycle (no international bike logo, like the initial prototype though)

According to the package, there are max power constraints for the lasers used in this kind of device (5mW ?) and in bright ambient light like a streetlight, the visibility of the laser is significantly reduced.

It's a good seatpost LED light. The projected laser light lane is major bling, it's very effective in a dark setting, and it increases your visible cross-section significantly as the bike moves. In that way, it's a bit like the glowkits on some bikes. OTOH, it does wash out under streetlights.

Verdict: Very good as a second light; the laser gets major geek-factor points for Freds (like me) who can't get enough rear visibility and who like to play "gadget show-and-tell". (link)

What I really want is a "Back To The Future" bike lane generator, which of course would require something like 1.21 gigawatts:

Still waiting on my jetpack. I saw a man flying one at the 1964 Worlds Fair, how can it be taking so long?

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