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Anything that helps bike riders be more visible to cars is a good thing.
Having been both a bike commuter and a recreational cyclist for years, I’m well acquainted with the dangers of riding at night. You can don a fluorescent jersey, wear umpteen reflective accents, and outfit your bike with the most powerful lights known to man, and you’ll still get drivers swerving into your space. If only I had a protective bubble around myself and my ride.
Michelin is working on one part of that problem. While it doesn’t offer any level of physical protection, the Michelin Bikesphere headlight does encapsulate your bike in a ring of light.
During the day, the tool acts as a normal headlight (just like on cars, running lights during the day has been proven to improve visibility and thus reduce risk of accident for cyclists). At night, the light switches gears and projects a red ring around the rider. When it detects a vehicle is approaching, that light intensifies, doubling up to two rings encircling the bike.
The device is part of the tire company’s crowdfunded Trendy Drivers initiative, which aims to change driver habits and reduce accidents. (And be “cool” at the same time, we assume.) Michelin will give 6,000 Euros to the best user-submitted Trendy Drivers ideas; Bikesphere is the first project greenlit by the initiative.
The Bikesphere light isn’t the first of its kind. In fact, it’s quite similar to Blaze’s Laserlight, which debuted last year. The Laserlight uses laser technology to project an icon of a bicyclist 20 feet ahead of a rider. Like Michelin’s approach, this is designed to help both drivers and pedestrians realize that a bike rider is approaching. The Laserlight costs £125 (roughly $159).
It’s currently unclear how much the Bikesphere will cost, or when (if ever) it will go on sale. However, there is one thing I hope the Bikesphere would consider adjusting before it ships. If you’re going to project an outline around a cyclist, why not extend its perimeter to three feet (to go along with the “three-foot rule” implemented in many states)? Highlighting your existence and the legally determined appropriate passing distance at night? Now that’s an idea I can get behind.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.