New app aims to increase bike safety

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Elliott Miller
Greg Shumway makes sure to lock his bike on BYU campus. (Elliott Miller)

The divide between cyclists and vehicles continues to exist, and accidents often happen between the two.

A new safety system and accompanying app aimed to prevent these incidents are set for release in August 2015. The developer, B-Link Technologies, has created a headlight and taillight system that strives to prevent and reduce the overall number of bicycle-related accidents. When synced with a smartphone via Bluetooth, the cyclist’s destination can be entered into the app and the headlights, and taillights will signal at the corresponding intersections.

The app also includes an accident reaction system. If a cyclist is involved in an accident, the sensors contained in the head and taillights will trigger the app to send out an alert message to a predesignated contact. This can be helpful, as the cyclist can often be disoriented after a serious tumble and may not be cognizant enough to make a call. But if the accident is not too severe, the cyclist can turn off the alarm countdown and resume regular activity.

As companies such as B-Link Technologies continue to develop apps and products to improve bicycle safety, the question remains: how much can technology really do to change what happens on the road?

“I think (the app) can make a difference, but a lot of times bikers don’t tell you which way they’re going, and I think that can be the cause of a lot of different accidents,” said Ryan Oaks, a junior from Parker, Colorado.

Oaks owns a car but prefers riding his fixed-gear bicycle around town to save money on gas.

“Cars aren’t always paying attention to (the cyclists), but if the cars see flashing lights indicating that the bikers are turning, that would help right there,” Oaks said.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, 777 cyclists were struck by vehicles in 2013. Out of those 777 accidents, 688 of the cyclists were injured, and six were killed. Motorists making a turn failed to see the cyclist in 57 percent of the reported accidents.

Oaks was involved in an accident with a vehicle last year. According to Oaks, the oncoming car did not see him going straight through the intersection and turned left, running right into him. “I think the app would decrease accidents in a very limited circumstance, but I wasn’t turning, so my headlights wouldn’t have been signaling,” Oaks said.

Others feel that the app will not make a difference.

BYU grad student Adam Burnett drives to campus every day but does not think the app will work.

“The app has some cool integrated features, but it doesn’t address the real issue of bikers just not knowing the laws,” Burnett said. “Either they follow the laws of pedestrians and they ride on the sidewalk, or they follow the laws of cars, but often bikers interchange the two.”

The app and safety system developed by B-Link Technologies are certainly designed to promote driver awareness and decrease accidents on the road, but the aspect of human error still remains.

“Other people being aware of where you are would be nice,” Oaks said. “But what it really comes down to is the bikers actually using the app; otherwise, it won’t make a difference.”

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