Our brains interpret symbols very rapidly, within one thousandth of a second of seeing something our brains have made a decision about what it is and how to respond – Professor Charles Spence, Experimental Psychology Lab, University of Oxford.
Rating: 4/5 stars
For: Very bright lights, significantly increasing visibility of cyclists on the roads.
Against: Poor visibility for the cyclist.
Recommendation: Using the Brainy Bike Lights will potentially save your life but continue to use your existing lights to see where you’re going.
Bright Outlook for Cycle Commuters
Commuting by Bicycle in the UK has increased by +17% over the past decade. This means there are 762,000 cyclists who cycle to work each day, resulting in almost 400 million journeys to and from work each year, on a bike.
London has seen the highest growth in cycle commuter numbers at more than double, over the past ten years. Despite this growth, cycle commuters only make up 3% of the 25 million daily commuters across the UK, which means we aren’t always to the fore of a drivers thoughts.
According to RoSPA, there are around 19,000 road cycling accidents in the UK, with over 3,200 cyclists killed or seriously injured.
The UK isn’t blessed with the brightest of mornings and evenings, and anyone that has regularly cycled on UK roads in rush hour, knows that motorists aren’t generally the most aware when it comes to cyclists whilst on their own commutes. It is with this background that the developers of a new bike light present their unique design.
Brainy Bike Lights for Safer Urban Cycling
Brainy Bike Lights are brand new (launched April 2014) front and rear lights for bikes which have been developed to help make urban cycling safer.
The lights have been developed by Crawford Hollingworth, a behavioural change consultant. As a cyclist, Hollingworth recognised that many road cycling accidents in the UK were caused by cyclists being hit from behind by cars and taxis.
The arguments on who’s fault it is, are as varied as the number of accidents – was the driver aware of the cyclist, did the driver look left, right and over their shoulder before turning, were they driving too fast, was the cyclist in the right lane, was the cyclist wearing high-visibility clothing, were they using lights of sufficient brightness, and many more.
It is on the point of lights that we now turn. UK Law states that it is illegal to cycle on public roads after dark without lights and reflectors. As a cyclist, just reflect [sorry] on that last point, does your shiny expensive bike have reflectors?
As a rule, I class ‘after dark’ as when the street lights come on, but it’s not uncommon for me to use my lights when the weather starts to close in. I simply want to be seen.
The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations govern the guidance on which lights are required but like many laws, it is the intent that rules. The main points are that lights (and reflectors) are required on a pedal cycle only between sunset and sunrise. However, they are not required when the bicycle is stationary or being pushed along the roadside. Unsurprisingly, when lights are required, they must be clean and in good working order.
The Highway Code offers some additional information. Section 59 refers to Clothing and lists the following advice, you should wear;
- a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened
- appropriate clothes for cycling. Avoid clothes which may get tangled in the chain, or in a wheel or may obscure your lights
- light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light
reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.
Section 60 gives advice on cycling at night.
- At night your cycle must have white front and red rear lights lit
- It must also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85)
- White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.
Hands-up now, who honestly knew all of that applied to cyclists?
Making Road Cycling Safer
See and Be Seen
See and be seen is an old saying that I use when cycling on the roads. I clearly want to see where I’m going but I also want to be seen by other road users.
Crawford Hollingworth designed the Brainy Bike Lights with this in mind. The design is certainly different. It’s an acquired taste and we’re divided 50:50 in the office between those that like it and those that don’t. The design is based on the widely recognised symbol of a cyclist on a bike. However, how the lights look are secondary to their primary purpose, that being one of safety, so I suppose it doesn’t actually matter what we think of the design – er, actually it does though. The point isn’t what we consciously think of the design rerospectively, it’s what our brain thinks of the design. Confused yet?
So how did Hollingworth put his behavioural change skills to use? He realised that the brain works at very high speed and could send signals to our consciousness with sufficient speed for us to react or act upon the information, perhaps before we realised. In fact, that’s the core point, we acted upon the situation much quicker than we do now, thus preventing accidents.
By using the International cycling symbol, the brain very quickly detects and interprets that the light is associated with a cyclist and as such, should we need to, we could respond to any danger very quickly. Combine this with LED edge lighting technology, which can be seen from all angles up to a distance of 20 meters in daylight or darkness, and you have lights that are genuinely unique.
We’ve tested this and the lights have good visibility at this range, to the light. However, they aren’t the brightest light we’ve tested with regard to visibility for the cyclist. In fact, as a light to see where you’re going, they’re pretty poor – probably just a few meters (if that). Some of my road cycling is done on roads that aren’t lit with street lighting, as such, I rely on my bike lights. The Brainy Bike Lights are good enough to light my way.
But this raises an important point, which is safer, visibility for the cyclist or visibility of the cyclist? Hollingworth would no doubt argue that it is better for car drivers to see the cyclist before it’s too late and an accident occurs. We see these lights being very good at helping to prevent accidents.
The Brainy Bike Lights will save lives. They omit an intense light that is easily seen by other road users but ‘see and be seen’ isn’t a label that can be applied as they offer very little light for the cyclist to see where they’re going.
As a serious cyclist, I was a little self-conscious when I first started using them but then, what price do I put on my life, or that of my children for that matter. I remember when I first started wearing a helmet, I was a little self-conscious of that too at first, and now I wear one every time.
So, safety first and thank you Mister Hollingworth.
Buy Brainy Bike LightsA pair of Brainy Bike Lights cost £25 on Amazon and are available direct from the manufacturer.
The lights come in a smart presentation box and as such would make a lovely gift. Each of the front and rear lights come with fittings to attach the light to the bike and a portable carry-case to put the lights in when not in use.
The lights we tested also came with two AA batteries but it’s not clear if these are included. The lights come with instructions on how to fit them to a bike and how to change the batteries.
There are five program modes including static mode, flashing mode, intense static mode, intense flashing mode and an off mode.
Brainy Bike Lights Specifications
The following specifications were taken from tests carried out by Bikes.org.uk and are therefore not official, but they are accurate.
- Weight: 117g with batteries
- Width: 7cm
- Height: 7cm
- Depth: 2.5cm
- Included: two fitting straps, instructions
- Power: 2 x AA batteries in each light