Intersections—one of the deadliest places for motorcyclists. The 1981 Hurt report showed that the most likely place for multi-vehicle motorcycle collisions was in intersections, and 30 years on, things are still much the same. And the most common thing for the (usually at-fault) motorist to say? Some variation of “I didn’t see him!” or “He came out of nowhere!” or maybe, “Look at those scuffs on my hood! I just had it detailed!”
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation tells us to wear bright-colored, reflective riding gear and to have our lights (and even high beams) on during the day. But you and I both know that people still don’t see you. What to do?
Apparently bicyclists have the same problem. “Eighty per cent of cycle accidents occur when bicycles travel straight ahead and a vehicle maneuvers into them,” said University of Brighton, England design student Emily Brooke. So she came up with the BLAZE, a bicycle-mounted device that uses a laser to project an image of a bicycle onto the pavement a few feet in front of the rider. It’s reportedly visible in daylight, and can be set to modulate for even greater visibility. Using it on a motorcycle would seem to be a no-brainer.
Or is it? Motorcycle safety expert David Hough (author of Proficient Motorcycling) says “it’s doomed to failure because of human limitations such as inattentional blindness. The biker wishing to avoid getting crunched by larger vehicles must be proactive in getting out of the way. If that’s not your habit, then it will be dumb luck when the drivers who don’t “see” you, don’t run you over.”
Agreed—there will never be a substitute for active, rather than passive riding. Our ability to anticipate traffic problems is what really keeps us alive—helmet and leathers are always Plan B. But that’s not the only bone Hough has to pick with the BLAZE:
“In terms of technology, I wonder about the wisdom of projecting a powerful laser beam into the traffic stream. And, since I’m on a roll dissing the bike-mounted laser projector, let’s imagine the result of a number of other people adding laser projectors to their vehicles if the laws allowed. Car guys would love it, and manufacturers would respond. Back in the days when bikes had their headlights on, and few cars had daytime running lights (DRLs), bikes had a small conspicuity advantage. As more and more cars got DRLs, a bike with a headlight on gets lost in the sea of lights. Imagine a scene where cars, trucks, bikes, etc. are projecting appropriate laser symbols on the road in addition to DRLs. Would the additional visual images make it easier to comprehend what’s happening, or more difficult?”
Interesting—living in an urban jungle, it’s easy to envision any means of annoyance being quickly adopted by the vast armies of troglodytes that ply my city’s streets. And then it would be just a matter of time before a law outlawing laser projectors.
Interesting idea, but perhaps better for bicycles in bike lanes, not motorcycles in street traffic.