Friday, November 25, 2011

Kickstarter Reflective Sticker = Success

This project, creating stickers for bicycle wheels, succeeded quickly

I find it interesting that this project was successfully funded through Kickstarter reasonably quickly. My observation is that Kickstarter bicycle projects that look for funding for bicycle lighting (which is what this is, more or less) that focus on "fun" are more likely to be funded that ones that focus on safety. This seems all about safety, although the video makes it look modestly fun (I guess) to have your wheels light up as complete circles with reflectors that run around the entire rim. The video is remarkably focused on the guy's technical process - perhaps that has an appeal to a certain Kickstarter audience? I have never seen so little video of the product in action.

It's possible that this was funded easily because of the low price point - compared to many Kickstarter projects you don't have to contribute too much to get the actual items when produced, if that's what you want (and apparently it is what people want).

The idea of having more visibility from the side for bicycles is harmless enough, but as usual with such Kickstarter projects, the video shows the bicycle with the product with no other lighting, front or rear, to emphasize the wonderfulness of this product. In reality, of course, this product does not replace good front and rear lighting for a bicycle. The Kickstarter come-on admits this, stating "Even though Fiks:Reflective Rim Stripes offer a huge increase in side visibility, you should always ride with front and rear lights at night" although it kind of suggests otherwise with the statement that "the special retroreflective material offers a [sic] increase in night visibility of bicycles from any angle."

An obvious question, not addressed, is whether the absence of a high level of side visibility for cyclists contributes to bike accidents - the answer would appear to be no. In urban areas, bike accidents fall into a number of categories - this bike safety page, How to Not Get Hit by Cars-important lessons in Bicycle Safety describes the most common. The right hook, which many cyclists do not much worry about, is the most common and side reflectors would address this not at all. In fact, of the ten listed, the only one where side reflectors might help would be the "left hook" where an oncoming car makes a left turn into a cyclist - and as someone who was involved in a major left hook bike-car accident years ago, the usual scenario involves a motorist waiting at a light for traffic to clear, the slower moving bike is screened from the motorist's view and he/she jackrabbits when the car traffic clear and hits the bike - having reflectors on the side would likely not help much for this.

One can also review statistical analysis done in reports such as this one from Colorado that is not necessarily easy to parse but which does suggest a little more utility for side reflectors (looking at the "broadside accident" category) than the Bike Safety page.

Of course one could simply make do with the simple side bike reflectors provided with many bikes.

Wheel, Tire, and Reflector
A more traditional side-facing wheel reflector - not sexy enough, apparently

Other than my questioning how much this contributes to real improvement for operating a bike at night, I tend to question this statement, "Since the profile of rims vary from model to model, there will be a few sizes available to accommodate most modern rims." Rims of course vary endlessly and I can't imagine how a small operation will make clear which version will fit a particular wheelset so that the stickers fit well to create a good looking round reflective circle with the stickers laying nicely flat. One good idea is to have a black reflective version for black rims - then if it doesn't match up quite right it won't be so noticable.

It's not mentioned, but of course this product can't be used on older style box type rims since the only flat side surface available is the braking surface - no stickers on the braking surface.

araya himiko rb-j1 rim
Nowhere to put rim stickers on this classic

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