Bike it or not

Being a cyclist on Britain's roads can be a dangerous business. How can it be made safer?

Sadly, it is hardly news that cyclists are in near-constant danger on our roads. In 2011 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 107 cyclists died on the UK's roads, with an additional 3,085 suffering serious injury and another 16.023 being slightly injured. In the vast majority of cases, the accident involved collision with a motor vehicle. One of the most common factors in such collisions is a failure by either the motorist or the cyclist accurately to appreciate what constitutes a safe distance between the cyclist and the car. Sometimes this can be a question of a frustrated or impatient motorist overtaking a cyclist when there isn't sufficient room to do so, but can also be a result of a cyclist electing to overtake (or sometimes undertake) a motorist having failed to judge the gap or anticipated the larger vehicle's movement accurately. Of course, one of the main ways of ensuring such a thing is to have cycle lanes sufficiently wide to accommodate cyclists while allowing motor traffic to flow freely and safely. However, as any cyclist will ruefully tell you, cycle lanes in the UK are often few and far between and, even where they do exist, are often seen as little better than supplementary road width by motorists. Factor in that most cycle lanes start and end with an alarming degree of arbitrariness and you have a less than satisfactory current situation. Wherever blame lies, one thing on which all parties can doubtless agree is that anything that can prevent such accidents can only be a good thing. The Challenge The challenge this month, then, is to devise a device that can help all parties to gauge a safe distance and can help to ensure the safety of cyclists. Clearly any such device would need to establish a clearly-defined area of safety for the cyclist whilst in no way impeding the progress of other road users. Perhaps the bicycle could be attached to some sort of transparent plastic screen that offers a physical barrier on the side where motorists are likely to want to pass? However, such a device would have the potential to damage other vehicles and would also have the highly undesirable effect of rendering the bicycle highly unstable. So what is the answer? Well, the device we have in mind uses a simple, but highly effective premise to delineate just how far apart cyclist and motorist need to be to ensure a happy, collision-free and above all safe journey for both. But, however ingenious we believe this device to be, there is nothing to say that your alternative won't be superior. The solution will appear online or in the August issue of Eureka. However, if you can come up with something better, please let us know. -Solution- Solution to the July Coffee Time Challenge The solution to the July 2013 Coffee Time Challenge of how to increase safety for cyclists comes in the form of Xfire's Bike Lane Safety Light, which is designed to address that problem by using lasers to project a virtual bike lane on the road around the bike. Powered by two AAA batteries, the device uses dual 5-milliwatt red lasers to project two lines onto the asphalt, extending back from either side of the bike. While those lines don't do anything to physically protect the cyclist, they do provide motorists with an attention-getting visual guide as to how much distance they should be keeping. The device also serves as a standard tail light, incorporating five 'extremely bright' red LEDs. The Bike Lane Safety Lights are visible under headlights and streetlights.