Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way of raising money for projects of all kinds. But this strikes us as being one which every cyclist in Scotland should support. It’s probably the first new safety device which will make riding in traffic in particular a lot less risky. It’s called ‘VeloCityLight’ and it’s a bright rear LED light which displays your speed, acts as a brake light and gives clear information to approaching drivers.
According to Euan Mackenzie, an Edinburgh-based entrepreneur and long-time cyclist who came up with the idea, the idea behind the VeloCityLight is to make cycling safer. “It is a powerful rear LED light that displays your speed to drivers,” he explains, “and makes you bright, distinct and visible on the road.”
But the obvious question is why display the speed? “It can be hard to judge how fast a cyclist is going,” he says. “We think that showing an approaching motorist your speed will make them think, and help them make better decisions. Maybe you’re doing 15mph in a 30mph zone and they’ll think twice about how fast they’re approaching. Maybe you’re at the limit in a 20mph zone and they realise they shouldn’t try to overtake you. Or maybe you’re downhill at high speed on a country road, and they realise they’re going to have to allow more time to pass you. Or maybe you just like showing off your speed to other cyclists!”
The important thing about this device is that it can be read at a distance. When the team took it out on the roads, the display was clearly readable on the lowest brightness setting at about 45 metres. That’s about double the typical stopping distance of a car driving at 30mph. At normal closing speeds a driver will have many seconds to read it.
Drivers see the VeloCityLight and can associate the displayed speed with their own rate of travel. It’s a prod, a mental prompt to re-evaluate their own rate of travel and their subsequent actions. It’s effect on drivers is fundamentally different from any other red light, A red light is just another red light. A colour remains an element in sensory memory, it’s fleeting and passing. A number is a meaningful symbol that has to be processed, registered and stored in semantic memory. This is what makes the VeloCityLight something special – and as many of the Caledonian Mercury team are cyclists, it makes sense for us to support it.