Design graduate Michael Chen is getting a lot of PR attention at the moment for his Reactiv cycling jacket.
The Times said his invention could "change the face of British roads and heal relations between cyclists and drivers. It could save countless lives."
The jacket won first place in the 2008 James Dyson Foundation design prize for young designers. Other products on the shortlist included a modular, eco-friendly PC and a water-cooled vest for runners.
A single-handed bicycle brake lever was ‘highly commended’ in the awards, and a bicycle lock also made the shortlist of 13 inventions.
Did the James Dyson Foundation judges use Google to search on previous iterations of brake light and indicator jackets?
A quick patent search will reveal many products which indicate turn directions for cyclists – including jackets and vests.
In the 1960s, there were many attempts at creating wearable indicator products for cyclists. In 1999, Simon Goude of London created the Indicator Glove, the most commercially successful of all the indicator products to date. This is no longer in production. It incorporated LEDs in the back of the glove, which were turned on with a thumb switch.
BikeBiz.com carried many stories on Goude’s invention – and his other Indicator products, distributed at the time by Moore Large. His original product also won awards, including two ISPO Dupont awards and SOLTEX Innovations Awards in successive years. In March 2002, the company won the New Product Award at the Cycle Leisure Show at the NEC.
Michael Chen’s Reactiv design – still in the prototype stage – uses an accelerometer that senses movement to change the colour of the LEDs in the back from green for accelerating to red for braking. It has amber LEDs in the arms which are activated by a tilt switch behind the elbow. These light up when the arm is lifed, indicating the cyclist is about to turn.
An existing product – the SafeTurn LED – is available to buy on the internet and made a brief appearance on the UK market two years ago. It’s a wrist-mounted amber LED lamp which uses a tilt switch to recognise when a signal is required.
Earlier this year LED stylist Leah Buechley produced an indicator jacket with flashing LED arrows on the back.
The other cycling products in the James Dyson Foundation awards were the Single Handed Bike Brake Lever (SHBBL) by the students at the University of Guelph in Canada
Their inspiration was Lauren, a nine-year old girl who was unable to safely operate a bike because she couldn’t access the left-hand brake lever due to a birth defect on her left hand.
SHBBL incorporates both brake levers onto one handlebar.
LOC+ by Adrian Weidmann of Zurich’s University of the Arts is a bike lock which incorporates front and rear lighting for the bicycle.