Traditional bike lights are like flashlights; they shine away from the user.
They also can temporarily blind oncoming bicyclists and inadvertently draw cars closer to them. Alex Mulvaney, who graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder this past spring with a degree in aerospace engineering, thought there must be a way to increase visibility of bike commuters while saving others’ eyeballs.
“I had the idea originally when I was biking home,” Mulvaney said.
Every day, a fellow bike commuter would pass him on the bike path, nearly blinding him with the bright bike light on his handlebars. He even saw someone swerve in front of him on the path once after being blinded by the light.
So the ShineOn Dual Beam lighting system was born. The bike light illuminates the rider and doesn’t blind other bicyclists. It is available to pre-order on a Kickstarter campaign and should be ready to buy in six months.
Mulvaney, together with Katherine Vega, an incoming senior at CU Boulder studying engineering physics, came up with the light. The two avid bike commuters designed the first iterations of the light in 2018 and had friends and strangers test it out, Vega said.
The final product is a light with two LEDs, one facing forward and one facing backward. The second light illuminates the rider, and the rear of the case is designed to direct the light from the shoulders down so it won’t shine in the rider’s eyes.
They’ve had others use the light on the road and found it greatly improves visibility.
“If you take a tiny bit of light and put it on your body, that will make you 250 times more illuminated just by using light intelligently,” Mulvaney said.
People also see the ShineOn Dual Beam 10 times sooner than other bike lights, Vega said.
“Psychologically, humans recognize another human body better than any other object,” she said.
Some studies have shown that drivers can experience a “moth effect,” meaning they are drawn to lights and may inadvertently swerve toward them. By illuminating the human on the bike, Vega and Mulvaney hope drivers will be less likely to veer in the direction of cyclists.
“Safety is just the number one risk of bike commuters,” Mulvaney said. “You’re 100-something pounds of meat compared to 1,000-something pounds of metal.”
The light also could be a mood enhancer. The first iteration of the light used colored LED bulbs, as that’s all the entrepreneurs had at the time. Those who tested it said they loved the colors and felt it put them in a better mood after work, Vega said.
The multicolored light also affects night vision differently than white light because it’s less harsh, she said.
The two students won funding to create their company, which has four employees, and the light from the 2018 and 2019 New Venture Challenges, which are pitch competitions at the university, and Get Seed Funding, a micro-funding opportunity at CU Boulder. They also worked out of Catalyze CU, the school’s summer accelerator, and received support from friends and family, Vega said.
Vega and Mulvaney plan to sell the light online, and they are looking at selling in local retailers as well. Each piece of the product is manufactured in Colorado, with the plastic case manufactured in Longmont, the electronics assembly done in Aurora and the final assembly with the light done in Boulder, Mulvaney said.
Vega said they also plan to design a back bike light, which would create 360 degrees of visibility. That product could launch next summer, she said.
Mulvaney said the project is personal for him and Vega.
“We both bike basically every day of our lives,” he said. “It’s just really important to who we are, to rethink transportation.”
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