Push comes to shove for bike gadgets

Push-bikes aren’t exactly high-tech – well, not at my price point, anyway – but a crop of new gadgets could soon bring cycling to the cutting edge for all of us, improving safety to boot.
And where cycling is concerned, safety is massive. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents every year in the UK, including 110 who are killed and not far shy of 3,000 who are seriously injured. And RoSPA points out that these are victims of accidents that are reported to the police. It says many cyclist casualties go unreported, even when the cyclist is inured badly enough to be taken to hospital. The figures also exclude ‘off-road’ cycling accidents, so it seems safe to say the number of injured cyclists each year could be much higher.

Head start

So road safety campaigners will surely welcome the latest technological development from Volvo. The Swedish car manufacturer, in collaboration with POC Sports and Ericsson, has come up with an ingenious ‘smart’ helmet, which warns of an imminent collision. The prototype was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and uses cloud-based smart phone technology to allow the bicycle and the car to communicate.

Head in the clouds

Basically, the helmet is connected to a smartphone app that broadcasts its whereabouts via the cloud. Volvo drivers receive the signal using a system built into their ‘connected’ car. Both the cyclist and the driver are warned of any potential collision, so an accident can hopefully be avoided. The cyclist is alerted by a light mounted on the helmet, along with a warning vibration.

Heads up!

Drivers are warned via the car’s head-up display. The system can also take control of a car to apply the brakes if it gets too close to a cyclist.
Klas Bendick, a spokesman for Volvo, says 50% of all cyclists killed on the roads collided with a car: “By exploring cloud-based safety systems, we are getting ever closer to eliminating the remaining blind spots between cars and cyclists, which will mean we avoid collisions altogether.” There’s still work to be done, though. The helmet only links up to Volvo drivers who have an in-built safety system. Both the car and the cyclist also need a constant internet connection. But if the technology can help to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on the roads, who would complain?

Head turner

The CES event also showcased prototype ‘smart’ pedals, which generate energy as you cycle and alert your smart phone if someone tries to steal your bike. Plus, they track the bicycle if it goes missing. When you consider that more than 100,000 bikes are stolen in the UK every year, the potential for smart pedals should not be underestimated. The pedals, developed by French firm Connected Cycle, also capture data about your journey. In other words, they’re an impressive piece of kit – and they can only be removed with the owner’s unique code. Connected Cycle is doing the rounds to raise enough money to fund production of the pedals for general sale.

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