Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Kickstarter Wheel of Fortune - Bicycle Turn Signals (Again)

There are very few new ideas - that is one lesson one quickly learns perusing Kickstarter. But some folks are able to package an idea in a way that is far more attractive, that much is clear.

Several years ago I had a blog post about a Kickstarter for bicycle turn signals built into gloves.

Failed Kickstarter proposal from September 2011

The fellow had a pretty ambitious goal ($50,000) and his product, as displayed in Kickstarter, looked in need of further development work. His proposal failed - he only got about 20 percent of his goal pledged.

I myself don't really get the logic for electric light driven bicycle turn signals, whether on your gloves or otherwise. I discussed aspects of why I think this in the earlier blog post but mostly I don't think they will contribute much to making urban cycling more safe. Such gloves would give information to vehicle drivers coming up from behind that the cyclist is turning - but this isn't a scenario where most accidents happen between cyclists and motor vehicles. Check out the top ten ways to get hit at BicycleSafe.com - none of them would be helped by rear-facing turn signals for the bicycle. (OK, arguably a signal could be used for #9 where you change lanes to get around parked vehicles etc and are hit from the rear by a car - but these signals wouldn't obviate their critical advice, which is Never, ever move left without looking behind you first. Is the motorist going to be more likely to give you room because you have an electric thing on your hand?

I read in the WashCycle blog about this new Kickstarter to fund essentially the same idea

This guy has a lower target dollar figure and it looks like he might make it (as of mid-January). So apparently 100s of people (who peruse Kickstarter and have extra money) think this is something they want to own - because this Kickstarter is very up front that the whole idea is to sell funders the device. Even though Kickstarter maintains that Kickstarter is not a store.

As far as how this connects with cycling history, it was big part of early cycling history in the 1890s that folks submitted patent applications for very similar "inventions" - over and over. See some on Flickr.

Patent 573920 (part a)
Many different versions of "no flat" tires were patented during the 1890s with springs in the tires - all of which failed

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