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LED by LITE aims to brighten up night-time cycling

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October 26, 2011

LED by LITE is a bicycle illumination system that cyclists control from a wireless handleb...

LED by LITE is a bicycle illumination system that cyclists control from a wireless handlebar-mounted unit

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The arrival of high-intensity LEDs has certainly made a huge difference to the brightness of bicycle headlights. Some people, however, are now looking at using the bulbs not just as a means of lighting the cyclist's way, but of making their bicycles more visible to motorists. A couple of examples include the Aura and Revolights systems, both of which incorporate LEDs into a bike's wheel rims. Another system, that looks like it might be considerably less involved yet still effective, is called LED by LITE.

Developed by Utah father and son team Rick and Brandon Smith, LED by LITE consists of four strips of silicone-encased LED bulbs. Two of those strips (containing white bulbs) mount on the bicycle's front forks, while the other two (with red bulbs) go on the seat stays. All four strips are waterproof, can be removed and reinstalled by the cyclist in a matter of seconds, and receive their power from a rechargeable 12-volt lithium-ion battery pack.

The LEDs are bright enough to both light the road ahead of the rider, and to make the bicycle stand out to motorists.

LED by LITE is a bicycle illumination system that cyclists control from a wireless handleb...

What makes the system particularly interesting, however, is its Dashboard. Mounted on the handlebars, this wireless unit features left- and right-turn buttons - press the left-turn button, and the left front and rear light strips will flash on and off, press the right, and ... you get the idea. It also allows users to switch the running lights between continuous and modulated (flashing) modes.

Rick and Brandon are currently in the process of raising funds from prospective customers, to commercially produce LED by LITE. A system with a total of 36 bulbs is planned to retail for US$175, although a pledge of $125 will get you one once they're ready to go. Versions with 24 and 48 bulbs are also available.

The product can be seen in action in the video below.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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19 Comments

It would be nice if the people in the presentation video used the turn indicator while turning....!

other than that it is wonderful but a bit on the expensive side

chinna
27th October, 2011 @ 03:53 am PDT

Hyper-illumination and Narcissism

These are too bright and their well-meant but dangerous signal-function creates a kind of safety gulf between people who have it and people who do not. My view is that everything a cyclist does to significantly increase their illumination above the minimum legal requirement both 1 - Makes other cyclists - and pedestrians - less visible in comparison, and 2- Gets motor vehicle operators used to this level of illumination to the point where they don't look for less lit up - but still legal - cyclists, who may LEGALLY signal only using their arms. In sum, wearing this makes others less safe.

I wish we could stop being narcissistic about safety.This cult of high lux is a disease and a distraction from really solutions for safety.

Todd Edelman
27th October, 2011 @ 04:58 am PDT

Also, at a distance which might be too close to react, or in fog etc., it will not be clear what the blinking will mean.

On automobiles, trucks, etc. we would normally see two sets of lights, and often with each set (on either side) with contrasting colours like amber and red. So the blinking light is contrasted by the steady one at the other end and perhaps by the light immediately adjacent. In addition with other running lights, e.g. on tall vehicles like trucks and buses, one can easily see what direction the vehicle is signalling at a distance which enables one to react, or of course if it is braking (typically both sets of the red parts of lights becoming more intense or additional red lights turning on).

Even on a motorcycle there are generally two amber lights on either side of a centre running light/brake light. Again, contrast and expected juxtapositioning make things clear.

These lights may even be illegal in some countries.

Todd Edelman
27th October, 2011 @ 07:01 am PDT

Motorists are having to process a great many bright lights and they differentiate between non-moving and moving lights to determine which need to be monitored. A bicycle with a bright light that is moving slowly is not going to be readily noticed.

The pedal and spoke reflectors which move are much more noticeable to a motorist than any bright light that lacks motion. Battery powered LED lights in the pedals or ones that pulse and appear to give a sense of motion, like the ones used on highway patrol cars and roadway hazards are going to be much more effective.

Lights like the ones shown in the article are going to give the average cyclist a false sense of security when they are only marginally more visible in the overall scene to a motorist - even if the motorist is not drinking a soda or eating junk fast food or texting or talking without a earplug but with the phone held to the side of their face (which becomes their blind side).

Calson
27th October, 2011 @ 09:36 am PDT

Todd Edelman, I wonder if you ride bikes? Bicycle safety is a key issue to bring non car commuting to the main stream. Space for and visibility of bikes on roads create a nerve racking commute on bikes. When bikes and cars collide, it is not a fender bender.

I would suggest you get off your narcissistic trip and make room for people and vehicles that are not exactly like yours.

Rob Green
27th October, 2011 @ 10:05 am PDT

Todd and Carlson, I can't understand your logic. Have you ever come upon a bicyclist at night that has no lights? Even if they have all the reflectors on their bike (which many do not), they can be difficult to see. Having lights will help drivers see them sooner, and I think the brighter, the better. I imagine in an urban setting, at night, with heavy traffic, it may not prove as much of a benefit, but anywhere else, they would make the biker much safer. In fog, a motorist wouldn't even see a biker until they were right on top of him, so seeing a strange flashing light in advance, and being confused about what it is, would make the driver more cautions, which makes the cyclist safer. As far as being too bright, I completely disagree. Why do you think some motorcyclists ride with their high beams on during the day? Because they'd rather irritate another motorist, than not be seen by them!

Vanson
27th October, 2011 @ 12:11 pm PDT

@Rob, those lights are, at the very least, confusing. I know very well what happens when a car hits a cyclist, as I was hit by one running a red light (in the past 25 years of riding in cities, thanks) and had a friend who was killed. Everything you say is right but this solution is a false one.

@Calson, the use of pedals as a location for reflectors is a good one and this is why they are required by law in most places. If the illumination is active (with batteries or other electronics) instead of passive (reflectors, possibly including those reflective trouser thingeys) it becomes more complicated and has the same "gulf of lux" effect as the super-bright subject of the article. There are literally hundreds of millions of bicycles out there, and getting even close to everyone using passive pedal illumination has so far proven impossible. So I don't think it makes sense to start a new standard for what is required, and - as I hope I have made clear - I don't think people should be allowed to be much brighter than the normal, legally-illuminated cyclist.

Todd Edelman
27th October, 2011 @ 01:15 pm PDT

They could reduce the cost of the lights by eliminating the wireless aspect of it. I don't understand this fascination with wireless nowadays. It just means more batteries and higher power consumption.

Vanson has it right. If Todd Edelman had his way, all cyclists would ditch the flashing LED lights that have become ubiquitous after Vistalite introduced them a couple of decades ago.

As for Calson's statement that spoke reflectors are good, all safety experts say they're essentially worthless. They only reflect to the side. If a car's headlights are shining on them, chances are that car is just about to T-bone you. In fact, despite what Todd Edelman propounds with not a whit of evidence or research backing it, every safety expert says bike reflectors are worse than the bare minimum you should have on the bike and certainly not the maximum as Todd wants. Reflectors are what the CPSC demands from manufacturers, but everyone who rides at night should have an actual lighting system.

Gadgeteer
27th October, 2011 @ 04:15 pm PDT

As this is a great discussion, it appears, at least in the U.S., that many of you have overlooked municipal requirements that dictate what lights are on your bike, and their frequency if blinking, and the general DOT requirement of using hand signals for operation of non-motorized vehicles on public roads. For example, here in Orlando, FL, its required the rear light be red and operate at up to 2 hertz if I recall correctly (not exceeding). Neither the front or rear lights have lumen restrictions either here that I'm aware of. With that in mind, most legit lights available have standard and pulse capacity for the rear light, and the front lights are offered in different lumen varieties, often with multiple stages of lighting capacity. This concept is brilliant really, it just needs to add the technological leap of a switch to adjust the lumens on the front to different levels, and similar for the rear to adjust solid, blinking, and frequency, to meet the demands of the broad municipal laws in this nation. So very close, but needs a little more "big" thinking to make it work. It wouldn't hurt the developers to consult a lawyer considering they could be held liable if selling a safety device that does not meet local laws. Or they could choose instead to add a disclaimer "not legal in almost every state in the U.S.", which could very well hurt sales. I implore otherwise.

Jonathan Speegle
27th October, 2011 @ 05:25 pm PDT

I am astounded by the pessimism that each new bicycle item draws. The forks and seat stays are an excellent place for lighting on a bicycle. I have an mechanical engineering backround, 50 years cycling experience, 35 years driving without a personal injury accident, and 10 years selling automotive and commercial vehicle lighting products. My experience is here in Western New York from Buffalo to Binghamton with plenty of snow and fog. These lights complement the standard pedal reflectors and lights required by law. Here in NY state that is a white headlight visible for 100 ft and a rear tail light visible for 500 ft. Wheel reflectors give some visiblity from the side. Consider that hand signals are not visible at night. Every vehicle should have brake, turn, and marker lights front and rear along with side markers. High beams are annoying because of the angle allows light directly into the oncoming driver's eyes; candle power is not the main issue. I suggest some amber lens tape across the top of the motorcycle high beam lens. Lighting the whole cyclist is ideal. Even when I spot a cyclist using legal lighting, which is 10% of riders, the closing speed does not always give enough time to recognize the shape as a cyclist, gauge the speed of the bike, check the rear view mirror, and pass safely. I saw a pair of motorcycles lit with illuminated body work in NYC and it was very effective. I build my bicycles for the 21st century not the 19th. I make colorful front and rear fairings, and LED lighting. If you can't see me you are drunk, stoned, or unconscious.

Grant-53
27th October, 2011 @ 05:34 pm PDT

My quite affordable, reliable and bright bike lights, modern leds of course, can be seen from hundreds of meters away, and they cost about $45 from my bike shop. Everyone should have them on their bikes, there is no good argument not to. But do we have to dress up like christmas trees and fit disco lights all over our bikes? Is this sensible? Do we have to keep dumbing down the skill and responsibility required to drive a car by pandering to the marginally capable?

Paul Anderson
27th October, 2011 @ 05:49 pm PDT

Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding: I am absolutely for minimum legal requirements, and here in Germany - and many other countries - this means front white/rear red lights and reflectors, spoke reflectors or reflectorized sidewalls, and pedal reflectors.

Reflectors are only supplementary, but my experience as a professional driver tells me that they do help.

Todd Edelman
27th October, 2011 @ 11:05 pm PDT

I'm in love and saving up for these as of right now- Every time I've heard a driver describe colliding with a bike they say" That bike just came out of nowhere" . That would be pretty hard to say if the bike looked like the Vegas strip. Plus, It's fun - If people can put ground effects on their cars, why not?

Can't wait to get these - I love my Down Low Glow, but it doesn't handle Oregon rain very well :P

Andrea Tharp
28th October, 2011 @ 05:25 am PDT

When I ride at night I want to be lit up like a Christmas tree. Anything you can do to be safe. I love this product and hope it makes it to market. I will buy it if it does. Todd can just use his reflectors and hope.for.the best.

John Juge
29th October, 2011 @ 09:09 am PDT

John Juge: I am for using lights.

Todd Edelman
30th October, 2011 @ 01:31 am PDT

GREAT STUFF!

Stanley Owens
30th October, 2011 @ 12:04 pm PDT

A very enlightening conversation by all! My input is, safety is a moving target. For basic analogy, look at helmets, and think how common they were two generations ago. These lights are the way of the future. The difficult period will be from now until the standard safety bar is raised. Let's use voices to raise the safety bar. In the mean time, great lights, great job, good luck!

Rob Green
31st October, 2011 @ 09:42 am PDT

I'd like to see a comparison to the Bikeglow frame light. I agree hyper-lighting can be less than ideal.

Chris Cobb
8th November, 2011 @ 02:15 pm PST

a little too expensive, given the availability of hi intensity 12 volt led strips available from Chinese retailers.

Tom Phoghat Sobieski
31st August, 2012 @ 06:37 pm PDT
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