Could “brainy lights” help reduce cycling casualties?
A new bike symbol light could “make a major contribution to cyclist road safety”, according to research by University of Oxford.
The “Brainy Bike Lights” comprise a pair of front (white) and rear (red) lights which are clearly visible from all angles at up to 20 metres distance in daylight or darkness. They are designed to speed up driver reaction times “because the brain detects and interprets the bike symbols more quickly – enabling quicker and more accurate identification of cyclists by drivers”.
The lights have been developed over the past three years by Crawford Hollingworth, who is described as a “behavioural expert and cyclist”, and have been the subject of original research by the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Oxford.
Mr Hollingworth says that that most urban cycling accidents are caused by cars or taxis hitting cyclists from behind. To combat this he has invented a very different type of bike light using the international symbol of a cyclist on a bike.
Professor Charles Spence, University of Oxford, said: “This bike symbol light could make a major contribution to cyclist road safety. Our brains interpret symbols very rapidly; within .001 of a second of seeing something our brains have made a decision about what it is and how to respond."
Crawford Hollingworth, who is co-founder of behavioural change research consultancy The Behavioural Architects, said: “Cognitive functions of tired drivers are strained - especially in rush hour when many drive on autopilot.
“Using insights from behavioural and cognitive psychology about how the brain works, I found the quickest way to increase driver awareness and recognition of a cyclist was to use a bike symbol with a person on it.
“It is easy to identify the red or white bike symbol as belonging to a cyclist, tapping into what is called ‘system one thinking’ which is fast and intuitive.
“The light will give drivers some vital extra milliseconds in which to brake, or take evasive action, or stop significantly more quickly.
“The bike symbol is also a short cut to all things bike related in drivers' minds, subconsciously priming them that there is an unprotected and vulnerable human being on the road."