Create your own bike lane, for real

Written by adam


This past winter, we (meaning I) wrote about LightLane, a concept design for a lighting system that paints a virtual path around your bike at night to encourage cars to keep a safe distance. The idea caught the internet’s imagination, so much so that it’s soon going to be a real product:

The video is kind of cool, and I tend to think something like this actually could work. If I were a driver, I’d take the hint. More info at the LightLane web site.

Now maybe someone will get to work on that bike-based street chalker…

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  1. michael

    I began training again about three weeks ago and the fear of being run over never goes away. This is a great idea!!!
    Adam, I sent these folks a note, but do you know how effective this product is in daylight? I ride with a Xenon strobe in front and a flashing halogen in back during day and night rides – among a few other lights at night…this is a fantastic product!

  2. Roger

    Good, but several design flaws. Most state law requires drivers to give three feet of space while passing. Is this laser calibrated to that? Also, when leaning over (as in a turn), the outer beam moves way out from the rider. Cars shouldn’t attempt a pass in a curve, but I can just see a panicked driver swinging wide to avoid “the beam” only to end up in an accident.
    What was up with going through the red light at the end?

  3. michael

    Performing some rough calculations – and these depend on the height of the light and its laser angle – the increase on the outside is about 4″ wider…not a big deal. This also corresponds to 4″ less on the inside.
    I used a light height of 30″, total laser width of 42″ – or 21″ per side – and imposed a 15 degree lean – which most recreational cyclists will not exceed.
    It would be great if the laser re-calculated for the degree of lean, and, also had some ability to tune out some poor bike control. I see the laser’s sporadic motion – a direction connection to poor bike control – as a bigger problem for traffic. These are nit picks…I would buy one in a heart beat.

  4. Tony Adams

    The rider waited until the car traffic that had the green light passed through the intersection and then proceeded through the red light, just as he should have. Applying all traffic laws to bikes is unfair and unnecessary. Bikes can generally stop quickly, are not moving very fast and pose far less danger than cars and trucks. There is no good reason to force a biker to sit and wait at an intersection if the vehicles that have the right of way have already passed through.
    I urge everyone to always ride safe and always yield the right of way when it is not yours, but never just stand around like a dope simply because of the color of a light.

  5. michael

    However, in some states, New York for example, riders must obey the same traffic rules as cars. Further, it is illegal to ride side by side.
    The same applies to Arizona…I was issued a ticket for speeding in 1980…on Speedway Bvld no less.
    If you follow traffic laws you will find that you are more or less safer than not.

  6. Roger

    Are you trolling “here?”
    It’s never okay to pass through a red light, especially at night. Wait until an electric car driver forgets their lights when coming out of Whole Foods – they’ll be pulling lithium ion out of your teeth at hospital.

  7. Tony Adams

    Well I don’t know where you are riding at night, but here in Chicago the streets are so well illuminated that traffic is clearly visible at night, even if that traffic has failed to turn on their lights. And yes, sound is important for safety, but one can’t rely on it. There is often such a general din here that one must always look and look and look again.
    We have a moral imperative to disobey stupid laws. Just ask Ghandi.

  8. michael

    If you follow traffic laws you are following a diction that is recognizable, expected.
    I hold a USFC Cat 3 bycycle racing license and a NASA racing license – fast cars on a track. In either case there is an expected repsonse from the person passing and the person being passed. When either veer from those expectations the likelihood of injury is high…and in either case death is always possible…I’ve seen it in both.
    This is a light hearted suggestion, lets have Ghandi ride a bike…

  9. BG

    It would be nice to see how this system works in normal traffic; unfortunately, in the video the traffic is disrupted by the camera car, so we really don’t get to see how the passing cars interact with the cyclist. No offense, but, duh — why not shoot the video from a bike?

  10. Russ

    I see cyclists violating traffic laws all the time: Blasting through stop signs, riding against traffic, blowing off traffic signals… I think it’s just the way people learn to ride bicycles here. And the fact that cops don’t seem to bother ticketing these violations.
    And when I’ve politely pointed out these infractions to riders, I’ve generally been met with much-less-than-polite suggestions as to what I should do with myself.
    I find it dangerous because drivers of motor vehicles don’t know what to expect from cyclists. When cycling, I’ve had drivers do utterly bizarre things (stop in the middle of the street when they have the right of way, for instance) and put me at risk.
    I think the only solution is for states to require licensing for cyclists the way they do for motor vehicle drivers — complete with written testing, and police enforcement.

  11. michael

    A license for general riding might remove some of the initiative…but if a lot more of us are the road I agree.
    A couple of local – high quality – bike shops issue a hand-out list of driving ehtics so folks venturing out have some knowledge about what is expected from them, and also, what they may encounter on the road.

  12. bike planner

    Bikes are required to follow all rules of the road, same as motorized vehicles, regardless of how “stupid” the road user thinks it is and how it doesn’t apply to them. The rules are there to create an environment where users can reasonably predict what other users are going to do and keep people safe.

  13. Anonymous

    Man, you haven’t read any bike safety manuals.
    I’m not surprised, when I was a kid they were giving out in school.
    A bike is considered a vehicle and as such must obey the same laws that other ones do.
    If you believe running stops lights are fine don’t drive in Louisville, KY…I don’t want to be the one to hit you when you pull that stupid stunt in front of me.

  14. Anonymous

    I am not sure, but it looks as if it may be a one-way street so going through the light would be permissible after stopping.

  15. RA

    You don’t belong on the roads.

  16. Tony Adams

    Why do you consider a bike rider who is always careful to yield the right of way to other road users such a threat? Your attitude will discourage people from biking and saving the planet. Why are you so unwilling to share the road? Guilt? Do you imagine that we won’t see or hear you coming? If a vehicle has a green light I will most definitely not be crossing through the red in that vehicle’s path. Otherwise, what is the problem?

  17. matt

    glancing at the video it looks like they’re turning left from a one-way street to a one-way street. which is legal in a lot of places. (and the car filming followed them)
    and back to the original topic – i want lasers on my bike.

  18. Badweatherrr

    What about the fact that at night the lights only change for a large heavy object and you can sit at that red light till the next car comes up. This makes me way more likely to just disregard the red lights entirely.
    Additionally, with walkers on the bike path because many communities mis-use bike path funds by not clearly posing that this is a bike path for bicyclists not walkers, laws against riding on the sidewalk, motorists screaming for you to get on the sidewalk and buzzing you because they think it’s ok to threaten you with a vehicle I don’t have much incentive to go along with the whole we’ve got rules for the road thing.
    I’ve been riding my bicycle as serious transportation for 35 years. There are few people in this town of 250,000 that haven’t seen me over the years riding everywhere. I’ve ridden across Iowa (not ragbrai) and I’ve been clocked at 50 mph on a flat. I nearly die once every six months because of a motorist on a cell phone or just mesmerized by the smell of their cushy car they feel soooo safe in they forget their not the only being in the universe on their way to the happy clown candy center.
    I don’t feel terribly inspired to be the perfect angel when you’ve got slack jawed yokels throwing things at you so I carry a large heavy object for those occasions.
    Truthfully I believe the most effective bike safety method is EJAPES.
    One of the best methods I’ve found to date is: You know that annoying kid thing where you’re driving up the hill and the kid on the bike weaves out into the road a little? Or weaving back and forth because it’s easier to go up the hill that way? I was watching cars behind the kid give him an extra wide berth. I started using the method myself soon after. Now, using my rear view mirror to determine just how close they’re going to buzz me, I calculatedly weave in front of them just enough to scare them into slowing down and giving me more room. I know I know, It’s juvenile. That’s why I call it the Extra Juvenile Accident Protection and Education System. (only half kidding)
    EJAPES works for two reasons:
    One: It’s scary and you don’t soon forget that maybe these bicyclists aren’t completely in control and you should give them about enough room so you don’t run over their heads if they just fall straight over in the road from a heart attack or something. (most people are completely unaware of the 3 foot law most states have enacted)
    Two: The sudden side view of the bicycle as it weaves out into the lane catches the eye and makes you momentarily highly visible to motorists mostly I believe because of the motion but also because of the extra visibility. EJAPES or bike weaving is very clearly something that stimulates the fight or flight response in humans and the associated Adrenal cortex stimulation which leads to heightened awareness which in turn of course leads to them noticing you and perhaps even shouting and on very rare occasions even throwing things.
    People don’t soon forget nearly hitting a person. The next time they go by a bicycle they give it more room than usual I promise. Even though I do it either pretending to go around a deep hole in the road, or just acting like I’m not quite in control of the bike, I had a woman driving up behind (waaayyy too close) and I did that weave, she freaked out cussed me out after nearly hitting me. She really was going to hit me because she really didn’t see me until I weaved. Since she cussed, I flipped (her off) and the guy behind her saw it all and pulled up along side and was cussing me for flipping the nice old lady off. I said; You want to get out of that SUV your driving and go a few rounds? I ride hundreds of miles a week and I have no problem at all pounding your head into next month in the first round. My doctor told me the other day that at 48 I’m in better shape than 99% of the 25 year olds he sees. I don’t know what these lard ass mofo’s in their SUV’s think they’re going to do once they exit their vehicles other than smother me in blubber.
    A little bit angry
    Rock Island, IL

  19. Adam Stein

    Seriously! Along with whipped cream and water beds, lasers are one of the most reliable sources of awesome in the known universe. We should all be concentrating more on the laser aspect of this story.
    (Note: whipped cream, lasers, and water beds should not necessarily be used in conjunction.)

  20. richard

    let’s have no rules at all except “biggest always wins!” — which is kind of like now.
    the less we follow the rules the more chaos there is. some rules are not useful so let’s get them changed.
    meanwhile, bicyclists always lose to a car, regardless of the age, gender or intelligence of the driver.
    breaking the rules doesn’t change them it only adds to the confusion and rule-breaking.
    it’s time for cyclists to act grownup.

  21. Anonymous

    Frist of all, cool product. If I dared or had to ride LA streets at night a lot I would definitely get one.
    I’m all for following the rules of the road when it makes sense. But when I or any cyclist violates those rules, especially versus a car, we will always lose, so really all the cyclist does is put him/herself at risk. So why get all up in arms about it? I’m sure all the people criticizing Tony’s post never speed, always come to a complete stop at every stop sign, check their rear view mirrors every 5 seconds, didn’t drink until they were 21, never cheat at Yahtzee, etc.

  22. Rachel

    Oh my god! I have to try those cool lights. That is so funny! I’ve worked my butt off for years trying to get better bike lanes. And now with the budget cuts in CA – we’re really up the creek. So let’s just create our own dang lane. I’ve got to see how this works.
    As far as the “rule” discussion. I can’t tell, but I saw a flash of green. Could it be there was a turn signal light?
    Anyway – I’m a super stickler for bike traffic laws. Problem is most other folks don’t know what the heck they are. I get road rage, screaming hecklers, trucks flooring by on my left as I try to make a left turn. It’s scary out there. But I think it’s important to really do it right – a sort of traffic class on the road.
    One of the only times I blow off the law is when I’m at a red that’s only triggered by an automobile. I know most of them in town and I just wait for a clear spot and then go. It’s just beneath me to get off my bike to press that damn pedestrian button.

  23. Anonymous

    This is a cool idea as an early warning device, but…and i mean but, it cannot replace actual bike lanes. Bike lanes are placed so that bikers will know where they are allowed, no swerving and such, and also for motorists to know the extent of their lane. With this device, bikers will be able to create their own lane, even occupying the projected lane of incoming traffic, and may result in a lot of accidents.

  24. michael

    I love the concept, the laser is very cool and can only enhance safety.
    Regarding riding in the city at night…yes traffic lights do delay due to light traffic. Plan a trip that inlcudes as many right hand turns as possible. Your trip may actual take less time…UPS does this.
    If you want to improve your cycling form buy a set of rollers. Riding on rollers is like practicing musical rudiments; and everyone from novice to professional should use them often. If you think your form is good, get on a set of rollers and be prepared to be shocked. When you can hold a decent line on rollers you will find your on-road stability improved. And when on the road, try to focus riding on the white line by looking a little ahead. This will also perfect your form, AND, there is less friction on the white line…you can go faster. Very slippery in the rain though.
    In addition, keep your back and arms relaxed, your head up at all times and use your core tohelp pump up hills, not your back. Your back as a group of muscles is the largest group of muscles and will steal lots of O2 and nutrients from your legs and lungs…so keep a very relaxed upper body under all circumstances. Try to maintain a cadence of 95 – 100 rpm. This is a very efficient cadence.

  25. michael

    I know we are a little off topic, but I can put together some very good guidlines for helping folks get much more out of cycling – from diet to training and safety. I can gear these suggestions to the novice or enthusiast.
    Training for racing bicycles is much different and very specific to individual physiology and goals.
    I’ll need your help and approval…

  26. Adam Stein

    Suggestions are always welcome.

  27. michael

    Here or in another thread?

  28. Adam Stein

    Here is good. I don’t know when the next bicycle post will be…

  29. Rachel

    Just a quick note on the value of bicycle traffic lanes and the California Traffic law. Yes – I totally agree that it’s important not to get a false sense of security just because you have your little glowing green “lane.” You still want to stay inside the bike lane UNLESS:
    1.) It’s not really a bike lane, just a white stripe denoting edge of road. Typically a bike lane stripe is 6″ and an edge of road stripe is 3″.
    2.) There is debris or other slower bicyclists in the lane. Then you can go around them.
    3.) There’s a lot of very active traffic parked next to the lane – say – the post office at noon, and people might open their door into you.
    Basically the law holds that any time you feel it would not be safe to ride in the marked bicycle lane – don’t do it. I’ll add the obvious: look ahead and do your best not to quickly swerve.

  30. Valerie Palmer Ontario Canada

    I was raised in the U.K.. At school we were taught how to ride a bike and learn the rules of the road like any other person on the road. A certificate would be issued for passing the exam. U.K. is extremely populated and has narrow streets. Europe is the same. What I learnt was to hand signal when turning and respect drivers of any other transport. We never, ever rode on the sidewalk or in another direction from the flow of traffic. I think it a good idea to instil these ideas in every child, then perhaps it would be a safe world for bike riders of all ages

  31. Ed

    To Badwetherrr (#19):
    I hear you, and empathize. I’ve been a competitive cyclist and triathlete and come close to Game Over because of cars, trucks, schoolbuses… And for that reason:
    I ride with the idea that nobody can see me. Assume that everybody’s on their cell phone and angry, and they have a gun in the glove compartment. (Legal in Florida!) My acronym would be ALA (Always Look Around).
    Trying to see the situation from the angry driver’s perspective, if you on your bike start weaving in front of me, causing me to brake suddenly, I’m going to yell something they didn’t teach me in Sunday school. Then I’ll yell at you. If you yell back at me I may try to scare you by getting even closer. Maybe try to squeeze you onto the sidewalk or into that parked car up ahead. If somebody’s in the car with me I’ll defend my ego, or do something to get a laugh from my carmates. And next time I see a cyclist I’ll see your face and remember our encounter and maybe try to show that guy that roads were made for cars.
    Fitness doesn’t enter into the equation when that guy and his conveyance weigh 4000 pounds more than me and mine. Call it cowardice, but I’ve concluded that a fight with someone in a car is one I’m gonna lose.

  32. Brian

    Yes, but in other states rules allow Bikes to treat Stop signs as yields and stop lights as stop signs. It is very practical in that it encourages bikes to follow the spirit of the devices without being totally beholden to rule sets that don’t apply to the risk cycles pose. Push your local jurisdictions for just such reg changes.

  33. Aaron A.

    “A bike is considered a vehicle and as such must obey the same laws that other ones do.”
    As other posts have hinted, bike laws vary, sometimes significantly, from one state or city to another. Around here (Anchorage, AK), cyclists have a choice:
    1) Ride on sidewalks or sidepaths, with all the rights and responsibilities of a pedestrian (ride facing traffic, cross at crosswalks, wait for WALK signs), or
    2) Ride in the bike lane or (if there is no bike lane or if it’s unsafe to ride there) in the right half of the furthest-right car lane. This option affords all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle (ride with traffic, signal turns and stops, use headlights and tail-lights when it’s dark out).
    It doesn’t matter which you choose, but you have to choose one and stick with it; you aren’t allowed to capriciously switch between the two to suit your immediate needs.
    In either case, it’s safest for bicyclists to yield, even when you know the other guy is wrong. I’ve read some bike blogs that suggest you should assert yourself and defend your space, but the physics of a bike-vs-car collision do not suggest a happy outcome for the cyclist. With that in mind, this laser doohickey is a nice idea, and could evolve into something more useful, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one of those when I already have reflective jerseys and a strobe light.
    — A.

  34. michael

    Be predictable to traffic, wear brightly colored clothing and yield the right of way to cars and trucks – all they want to do is get by you.
    The problem with being ‘right’ when encountering a 4,000 lb vehicle is that you won’t get to enjoy that status if you are hit.

  35. rich

    A bit of advice I actually read just this morning:
    Always come to a full stop at Stop signs.
    Failure to obey this simple law makes it
    easier to disregard others.
    I think it also applies to waiting until a red
    light turns green.
    Once you start choosing which laws to obey,
    you’re on the slippery slope that leads to such
    idiocy as “Critical Mass”, where confrontations
    between law-abiding drivers and “entitled”,
    holier-tahn-thou cyclists have become violent,
    and show great potential for escalation.

  36. Marcia

    File me among the “dopes” who waits for the LEGAL opportunity to progress through a traffic light. By law I am a moving vehicle, and I have all the rights AND responsibilities which apply to all moving vehicles.