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Laser bike light scoops £10,000 UK student business prize (+ video)

Emily Brooke and team behind Blaze will use cash to research drivers' blind spots

A University of Brighton graduate who invented a bicycle light that projects a laser image of a bicycle onto the road ahead has won a £10,000 prize in a student business competition – and says she and her team will use the money to research drivers’ blind spots with the aim of improving her product.

We featured Emily Brooke’s Blaze light here on in November last year, when she and three colleagues involved in the project were looking for £25,000 in Kickstarter funding. By the time the appeal closed just before Christmas, they had secured £55,000 from 782 backers.

Emily decided to develop the light after coming across research that found that 79 per cent of cyclist fatalities in the UK happen when a motorist turns across the path of a rider they have not seen.

The idea is that by projecting the bicycle symbol onto the road ahead, the visibility of the rider is heightened, and also helps mitigate the potential for blind spots. 

At the time, she said: "In my final year at Brighton I gave myself the theme of urban cycling. It was a question of cycling around Brighton and thinking about what would help. That chap over there can’t see me, but if I was four yards ahead he could see me, so I’ll project a presence four yards ahead. I was working on it all through my final year."

Here's a video of the light in action that accompanied the Kickstarter campaign.

Yesterday, at the British Library in London’s St Pancras, she presented the idea to a panel of judges, and in front of a 250-strong audience including government ministers and successful entrpreneurs in the Varsity Pitch Grand Final.

She was up against six other finalists at the event, which is organised by the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), and emerged triumphant.

Afterwards, Emily said: “Winning the NACUE Varsity Pitch - and against such fierce competition - is an incredible feeling. We are thrilled, as this means that we can fund research into driver perception, including retina tracking and reaction times.

“Winning has made all of this a reality, and will give us some hard data to help us take our Blaze Laserlight – and cycling safety – forward.”

Hushpreet Dhaliwal, chief executive of NACUE, commented: “Getting to the final of Varsity Pitch is itself a fantastic achievement. We had more applications than ever this year and all of the pitches came brimming with innovative and unique ideas. To speak in front of hundreds of people and to show the passion and drive that the finalists have is simply exceptional.

“To become the best student business in the country, and winner of the £10,000, they have demonstrated a creative and vibrant nature we find in all the UK’s young entrepreneurs. Their business idea and overall attitude is truly inspirational and I am sure that the money will go a long way towards making Blaze a success.”

“The judges were particularly impressed with Blaze revolutionary approach to cycle safety, the proven support for their idea and their clear plans to make their business successful.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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monty dog | 10 years ago

I struggle to understand who this is aimed at? Doesn't prevent the most common form of accident, the left-hook or side-swipe. The only way you could catch the driver's attention would need to be a eye-level, but can probably see a few technical and legal issues with that one.

PhilRuss | 10 years ago

[[[ Interesting. But how can that bus---sorry, busdriver---be turning left across the path of a cyclist? Aren't they supposed to look in the rear-view mirror before turning? If this green laser thingy sells well, how long will it be before drivers swing the steering-wheel every which way, having failed to spot the cyclist who DOESN'T have the Green Doo-Dah? " was the Bloody Cyclist's own fault---she didn't have no Green flashy whatsit"

dunnoh | 10 years ago

As good an idea as people who judge these competitions think this is, I don't. Strip away all the gloss and you have a laser pointer. I use a light as it helps me see the road. When its flashing cars can see me hundreds of yards away. They are not expecting a laser pointer shaped like a bike. Most near misses I have are cars that overtake me and then turn left. Therefore they have seen me and don't really care. In addition this light is shown in dark wet conditions, I wonder what its value is in dusky dry conditions?

chokofingrz | 10 years ago

Not strictly a fair comparison but the XFire Bike Lane rear LED sells for £30 while the Blaze (not yet released) can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter for £60. I'm not sure which design I prefer - my instinct says that the majority of dangerous cars come from behind me or from the side, so the projected bike lane seems better. Green does seem more visible than red though.

sm | 10 years ago

Great idea. Could this be adapted so that in future all cars and bikes are built with sensors to that a car detects a cyclist on the inside of it and bleeps? Not too dissimilar to the parking feature most cars now have where they detect the kerb. Kerb. Such a strange word.

caaad10 | 10 years ago

Hmmmme... Already having a great front light I'm not sure I really get it in it's current form, in fact I'd much rather any potential collider be looking up (at me!), rather than being distracted by a nice green laser light moving around on the floor!.... however, projecting a cycle lane as mentioned by nbrus above, or a nice bright line along side the bike could be interesting.

Aldaron | 10 years ago

Let's hope that the misleading "cyclist go" icon is replaced with something more appropriate. Other cyclists will certainly end up misinterpreting this with tragic results. This is worse (and potentially makes the user as liable as) shouting "clear" at intersections, or beckoning cars when you've stopped. Never ever direct traffic.

nbrus | 10 years ago

Nice idea ... I would suggest not building the device into a light, but make it a separate safety aid so cyclists are free to choose their own light. Also, ditch the small projected bicycle image and instead project a bicycle lane out in front so drivers know not to cut across it (put bicycle image in the lane if you like). Also, how well does this work in daylight?

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