When it comes to riding in the city, you'd be forgiven for thinking that cyclists don a cloak of invisibility before entering a busy traffic stream. According to the latest figures from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 618 cyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during 2010 and a further 52,000 suffered non-fatal injuries. While this loss of life only represents two percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities, it's still troublingly high. After reading about some well-publicized urban bike/truck battles where the commercial vehicle emerged a good deal better off than the rider, designer Tory Orzeck started to think of ways to give cyclists more presence on the road. The result of his labors is a handlebar-mounted, dual-tone, LED-packing smart bike horn called ORP.
Although the faithful bicycle bell is fine for alerting pedestrians, it's of little use in city traffic. Riders wanting to make sure that cocooned car and truck drivers sit up and take notice could opt for the deafening Hornster bike or install a blinding Fenix light – Orzeck's ORP smorn (smart horn), however, offers a less extreme option while still giving bicyclists the power to make themselves heard and seen.
The project began with the creation of a powerful two-tone bike horn that sounded either a not-too-alarming 76-dB "hello" or blasted out a 96-dB "watch out" through its piezo speaker at the press of a built-in actuator – a light up or down movement for the former and a more forceful push for the latter. During testing, Orzeck and the rest of the development team (Ivan Epling, Cory Pearman, Vince O'Malley, Jason Wells, Tim Ploeger, and Dan Sweet) discovered that driving the horn sound required little from the unit's Li-ion battery, so decided to add some LED lights to the front as well.
The two small always-on/blink LEDs pump out 87 lumens with a 120-degree cone, but the ORP team plans to ramp up the output to 92 lumens in fast strobe mode when a rider presses the appropriately-named "Wail Tail" at the rear of the device to activate either horn sound.
Currently at pre-production prototype stage, the design features a power on/off button to the top that's also used to cycle through the LED modes (slow strobe, fast strobe and constant). The battery is charged via USB, and in-house tests have given six hours of constant use with the lights in always-on mode, or 12 hours with the slow strobe mode selected (though actual real-life battery life will vary depending on usage). An LED status indicator will flash green for good and red for dead as different light modes are selected.
The team's operational engineering mule (shown above) is bulked out by a hand-soldered PCB, ugly screws and a roomy outer shell, and as such is a tad larger than the unit shown in this article's lead image. A correctly-proportioned ORP has been produced with dimensions of 60 x 70 x 38 mm (2.36 x 2.75 x 1.5 inches), though it's currently devoid of internal components. The finished product's high impact polycarbonate frame and boards will be encased in a weatherproof silicone skin, with an integrated handlebar grip and clip that stretches to fit bar diameters of 26 - 33 mm.
The ORP project has just hit the Kickstarter crowd-funding portal, with early bird backers able to secure an ORP in black for US$40 (expected retail price is $49.95). Once these limited units have been snapped up, an additional $5 will need to be stumped up, but backers will be able to choose from a number of color options. A special "glow in the dark ORP" named GLORP is also offered for a pledge of $55.
The campaign is set to run until February, with a conservative estimate of September 2013 penciled in for delivery to Kickstarter backers.
The ORP team's campaign video follows.