A SMART cycle light that targets drivers’ brains has been developed in a bid to save dozens of lives a year.
Veteran Scots cyclist Euan Mackenzie has developed a prototype back light that measures a cyclist’s speed and displays the result to drivers.
If a bike starts to slow, the display becomes three times brighter than a normal bike light – giving motorists a unmistakable warning to take care.
Mr Mackenzie, a software engineer from Edinburgh, has had four near-misses himself on Scotland’s roads this year alone.
The number of accidents involving Scots cyclists increased by 9% in 2012 to 901, nine of whom died.
Mr Mackenzie’s invention – dubbed the VeloCityLight – is set to cost about £50 and is the size of an iPhone.
He says the light is effective because it works on a driver’s semantic memory – the memory of meaning.
Motorists will have to mentally process the speed information from the display, making it more likely they will pay attention than if they saw a simple red light.
Mr Mackenzie said that the idea had come to him while he was driving as he had no idea how fast cyclists were travelling and when they were stopping.
After pitching his idea to a group of friends, the group got to work building a prototype and are now launching their idea via Kickstarters.
The group, who have already had a great response from other cyclists, and even motorists are hoping to raise £40,000, so they can start production of the lights.
He said: “I’ve been cycling for 30 odd years. Drivers have no concept of the speed cyclists are travelling at.
“When they are overtaking drivers just want to accelerate, they just assume that they are going to get in front of the bike – but often they have to break or are side swiped. I have had four occasions this year alone where people have side swiped me.”
He added: “As a group we thought ‘ lets put this back on us.’ Basically, lights don’t do a lot of good.
“We realised that by giving drivers numbers they have to process it in a different part of their brain.
“Red lights are essentially in the sensory part of your brain that is forgotten quite quickly, but with a number you have to process it. Hopefully it will help driver differentiate between other drivers and bikes.”
He said early road tests of the light and received a positive response from drivers and cyclists alike.
“We have got such a brilliant reception. We’re really chuffed. We want it to save lives. We are taking responsibility for our own safety.”
He added: “We are launching it with Kickstart and we need to reach £40,000 to get it started. It’s all or nothing though. If we don’t reach out target then we don’t get any money. We have already applied for patents on several parts of the light, because we want to keep it a Scottish project.”
In September, Alistair Speed was killed after a collision with a car on the A91 in Fife, while Douglas Brown from Edinburgh died after being hit by a lorry near Winchburgh, West Lothian.
Mr Brown was a member of Edinburgh Triathletes who lost two members in just two weeks. Andrew McMenigall was killed just weeks before Mr Brown while taking part in a fundraising cycle from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. Just hours into the ride he too was hit by a lorry.
A spokesman for the AA said: “Our view is that if bikes are well lit and if the people are wearing high visibility clothing then this should help to prevent accidents. This light might be useful for speed bikes who are travelling at up to 40 miles an hour, but I don’t think this will really be for the average cyclist. “