This year, London’s bike share is getting a lot brighter. Soon, all Santander Cycles will be outfitted with laser lights to make cyclists more visible to drivers at night.
Blaze Laserlights project an image of a bike almost 20 feet in front of the cyclist, so that drivers and pedestrians can see that there’s a bike approaching and avoid turning in front of them. The lights, which turn on at night, are designed to encourage drivers to give cyclists more room on the road and to make them more visible in blind spots. An ongoing trial involving 250 Santander Cycles found that three-quarters of people who rode those bikes said the lights made them feel more confident on the road.
Image Credit: Blaze
The partnership between Transport for London, Blaze, and Santander—part of London’s plan to reduce injuries and deaths in road crashes by 50 percent by 2020—begins this year, and will be gradually rolled out to all 11,500 bikes in the system. The bank is paying for most of the lights, which retail for around $175 each.
Studies have found that a lack of safety is one of the main obstacles deterring people from cycling. People perceive riding a bike through the city as unsafe (often for good reason) and so they don’t bike at all. Adding visible safety improvements like better lights might help attract more cautious riders to London’s bike share, making them feel more comfortable grabbing a bike after dark.
And more cyclists on the road, in general, tends to make everyone safer. A 2011 study from California found that cities with higher cycling rates have lower risks of fatal crashes for all road users, including drivers and pedestrians [PDF]. If the Blaze initiative proves successful at making Santander Cycles safer and more popular in London, perhaps other bike share cities will take note.