How New Tech Could Help Keep Cyclists Safe

Gadget lets cars see bikes

Key Takeaways

  • A new gadget is intended to communicate between cars and bikes to prevent accidents. 
  • Bicycle accidents are a growing problem with 47,000 cyclists injured in 2019. 
  • The Lumos bike helmet has built-in flashers, lights, and turn signals.
A parent cycling with a child on a bike lane in the city.

Ippei Naoi / Getty Images

Biking soon could get safer thanks to new high-tech gadgets. 

A startup called Spoke is working on a device that would let cars talk to bicycles to avoid accidents. The tech, which features Qualcomm's C-V2X, is a standard that many car companies are working to adopt. It’s part of a growing wave of bike safety innovations as more Americans take to two wheels. 

"C-V2X technology enables vehicles to communicate with each other, infrastructure, pedestrians, and their surroundings," Jarrett Wendt, the CEO of Spoke, said in a press release. "This technology, especially if delivered to bicyclists directly—some of the most vulnerable users on the road—will enhance road safety for riders dramatically."

Safety Is a Growing Problem

The Spoke gadget is intended to provide direct communication between road users, vehicles, and roadside infrastructure. This capability is designed to work with other Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensors, such as cameras, radar, and Light Detection and Radar (LIDAR). The company said the gadget should be released next year. 

Bicycle accidents are a growing problem. In 2019, there were approximately 75,000 pedestrians and 47,000 bicyclists injured and 6,205 pedestrians and 843 bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the US, according to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Pedestrians comprised about 17% of crash deaths, and bicyclists made up an additional 2%. The number of preventable deaths from bicycle transportation incidents increased 6% in 2019 and has increased 37% over a 10-year span, from 793 in 2010 to 1,089 in 2019.

New Cycling Tech

Emerging technologies will allow bicyclists to operate more safely on busy roads, Will Henry, founder of cycling website Bike Smarts, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

Petr Minarik, head of the website Cyclists Hub, uses a cycling gadget called the Garmin Varia RTL515 radar. It’s a device that monitors traffic behind you. Once a vehicle (or other cyclist) approaches you, you get notified via bike computer or mobile phone, and you also see how quickly it's approaching. 

"It was the best investment to my safety on roads right after my bike helmet," he told Lifewire in an email interview. "Furthermore, it has an LED that can flash or be turned on, so it also increases your safety. When I ride with it, I feel much safer, and drivers also overtake me with greater space."

Manufacturers will come out with improved versions of Garmin Varia Radar or similar devices that monitor 360 degrees of space around the rider, Minarik predicted. "Sometimes (in descents), it is also difficult to determine whether or not the cars in front of you are slowing down, so radar that will notify you about slowing vehicles could also work."

Someone biking in the city with traffic and pedestrians present.

AlexLinch / Getty Images

Perry Knight, an editor at bicycling website Wheelie Great, told Lifewire in an email interview that his favorite piece of bike safety equipment is the Lumos helmet, with built-in flashers, lights, and turn signals. "It's easy to understand why this is an important piece of tech with bikers," he added. 

But not everyone thinks technology is necessary for improved bike safety. Civility is the real solution to many bike accidents, George Gill, the president of bike rental company RentaBikeNow, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"As an avid cyclist, I ride a lot," he said. "Both at home in the Chicago area and when I travel.  The difference is how I’m treated as a cyclist in traffic can be night and day."

In Chicago, "we are often greeted with honks and the occasional close-call," he added.  "Compare this to my rides through the Kentucky countryside when I go to visit our son at college," Gill said.

"The kindness displayed is very noticeable. In fact, sometimes it’s a bit too much when you’re climbing a big hill and the car behind you won’t cross the double yellow line to pass."

Correction - October 25, 2021: Updated to correctly attribute Qualcomm's C-V2X in paragraph 2 and to clarify comment attribution from Jarrett Wendt in paragraph 3.

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