The clock change is a very important time for cyclists. It signals the start of summer, longer days and for many of us, lots more riding” - Philip McAleese, CEO and Co-Founder, See.Sense’
However, the clock change surprisingly brings a rise in collisions for cyclists, with higher numbers recorded in the summer months than in Autumn or Winter. In fact, nearly 80% of cyclist collisions happen in daylight hours - most incidents occur between 8am-9am & 3pm-6pm - and Summertime riding has the most collisions across the year. It’s a fact that might seem counterintuitive to many but there’s unfortunately a wide body of evidence that details when and how collisions involving cyclists happen...and that’s not accounting for near misses or unreported collisions. So, we at See.Sense always put a lot of emphasis around the Summer clock change, encouraging as many people as possible to equip their bikes with effective daylight-visible lights to help make sure they’re seen and not missed. But this year is a little different for all of us. The impact of Covid-19 has affected all of our daily lives quite significantly. As things stand, the official guidance in the UK encourages cycling, as long as riders follow guidance around social distancing and hygiene. We support this position because cycling offers so many benefits that are relevant right now; it’s proven to help rejuvenate the immune system; it preserves muscle mass and strength with age, and it boosts riders’ mental health. All pretty valuable benefits, we’d say.
So we’re all for cycling, we just need to take a couple of extra steps to keep ourselves safe at a time when how we cycle will be governed by social distancing guidelines, for the meantime at least. But let’s keep cycling. And let’s be seen while we do it.
The See.Sense Story
If you don’t know See.Sense, we make bicycle lights that are different to anything else you may have used, or possibly even heard of. Our lights are designed differently because of our experiences of cycling. We discovered that bike lights could be much more effective in making cyclists seen by drivers - what was on the market simply didn’t make the most of the technology available.
So, pretty quickly, See.Sense was formed to create lights that would make cyclists more visible at any time of the day, in any environment, with the ultimate goal of making cycling better for riders and those around them. The key to our approach was to increase visibility of the cyclist through technological advantages to drive better performance than cyclists, like me, were commonly used to. This is why See.Sense lights include advanced sensor technology and AI responsiveness, to look out for you as a rider in a whole new way. But why is this so important?
1. Run daytime light
Being seen is always better than being missed. You’ve already heard that the majority of cyclist collisions take place during daytime hours over the summer months but fitting daytime running lights (DRLs) is proven to make you more visible, reducing the number of collisions across all cyclists.
Effective daytime running lights are one of a number of steps you can take in making yourself more visible and therefore safer on the road. That’s why DRLs for new cars were written into law in 2011 in Europe - a decision that was made because it would reduce casualties on the road by around 6%. The simple act of equipping your bike with lights that are daylight visible can greatly improve your experience of cycling.
Being visible will make you more confident
Cycling is safe and enjoyable - it’s a great way to stay fit and healthy, to travel efficiently and to ease the burden of carbon emissions on the environment - but with 42% of people owning a bike and only 2% of trips being made by bike, the proportion of bike owners and proportion of people cycling just don’t match up.
Research from The National Travel Survey highlights the biggest barrier to increasing cycling participation in the UK as around road safety concerns. So we knew that joining the dots between technology that could make riders feel safer on the roads would help build confidence, and give value back to cyclists through a superior and more effective bike light. Building on the benefits offered by DRLs, and creating a product range to make our smart lights available to everyday as well as hobbyist and pro-level cyclists would help us work towards this goal...and maybe knock down a barrier or two. We’ve had plenty of feedback from riders who feel that their See.Sense light gives them just a bit more space on the road, which is exactly what we’re looking for.
2. Use technology to make yourself seen
But what makes our approach so different? Our technology is built to stimulate physiological reactions from other road users and make See.Sense cyclists more noticeable. Our lives are much faster and more hectic than our bodies were designed for, so in a hectic world, we’ve engineered our lights to close up the gap between the limit of our physiological capabilities and the speed of the world around us.
John Sullivan, a Royal Airforce pilot with over 4000 flight hours and a pretty serious cyclist wrote an interesting piece on this topic (you can read it here), suggesting how some of the techniques of flying fast jets can be used to increase your safety on the road. As John says, the human eye was not designed for driving. To see something in detail, you need to look directly at it, otherwise we’re relying on peripheral vision to make decisions on what we see. Peripheral vision works - we all use it everyday - but what many people don’t realise is that even a 20 degree deviation from your sightline will reduce your visual acuity to around 10% compared to your direct line of sight. In practical terms, smaller things like bikes and cyclists are much harder to see if they’re just out of direct sightline. So anything we can do to improve peripheral vision to identify cyclists can only be a good thing.
Turning disadvantage into opportunity
John also pointed to the inability of the human eye to process the full detail from a moving scene...it’s not possible to see everything in real time. If you’re at a junction and moving your head right and left looking for oncoming traffic, your eye won’t catch everything. We’ve probably all experienced ‘near misses’ while moving off at one point or another...I know I have...but understanding these events as being influenced by our physiology meant we at See.Sense could take these learnings and use technology to help overcome the limitations of our eyes. For example, developing a reactive flash pattern triggered at junctions and by proximity to vehicles, meant a See.Sense light could stimulate a driver to look out for the cyclist in direct line of sight, rather than being in the more dangerous peripheral vision.
3. Remember that brighter is better
But we didn’t stop there. We researched how the human eye processed colour and developed LEDs that would be as visible as possible, based on those findings. See.Sense lights are now engineered to produce light waves that will stimulate light-sensing cells inside the human eye known as ‘cones’. Cones come in three variants; red, green and blue because of their respective sensitivity to the wavelengths of light that are associated with those colours. We looked at how the human eye responded to the wavelengths and the colours and chose LEDs for See.Sense lights based on that information. We selected a red LED that was more vibrant - it was ‘redder’ than most red car lights, whilst the white front light was chosen to be more distinctive than most car lights, helping us get as much advantage as possible from the cone light-sensing cells. Our lights are therefore both brilliant (i.e. bright at all times) and smart (i.e. reactive to the environment and events around the rider). We’d encourage you to give them a go with our daylight visibility special offer!
4. Working together makes us all better
Being the first to market can be challenging. Consumers are used to the status quo and change can be difficult. At See.Sense we know the value in really demonstrating the benefits of a disruptive product to build understanding around the importance of effective visibility. We are privileged to have a very motivated and engaged community of See.Sense riders who believe in our product and join us on the journey. This strengthens our belief in the power of community and the value in the capability of technology to bring about real and lasting change. This ethos means we’re always listening to what our riders want. With a full range of smart bike lights and a very exciting world’s first bike tracker coming towards the Summer, See.Sense continues to break boundaries, and that’s all down to our community, and we want to give thanks for that.
Which is why we’re so pleased to partner with Cyclescheme; we both just want as many people riding, as often as possible. Read our other guest blog, where we discuss the 7 reasons that cyclists often get missed by other road users.