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Video: Smart bike light identifies danger hotspots

Flare system allows cyclists to report potholes and hazards – what will they think of next?

A University of Sussex student is developing a smart bike light that allows cyclists collectively to identify danger hotspots so that other riders can avoid hazards and local authorities can identify areas that require attention.

The Flare system, designed by Jake Thompson in his final year of a Product Design BSc degree, uses a three-mode, 300 lumen light that’s linked to an app via Bluetooth. When a rider encounters a pothole or poor road surface they press a button on the back of the light to ‘drop a flare’ – a GPS location – that is later uploaded to a map. 


As we reported last month, almost 400 cyclists in Great Britain have been killed or seriously injured since 2007 due to crashes caused by potholes, and the trend is worsening.

Similarly, when a rider feels at risk on the road – because of a close pass, for example – they hit another button, and they press a third button if they feel at risk or confused at a junction. 

Check out our Near Miss of the Day series to see just how scary and downright dangerous close passes can be.

This information will be sent to the app at the end of the ride with users able to edit, move or delete the flares they have dropped, and to attach comments or images to provide further illustration of the problems they have encountered.

See all of our front light reviews here. 


The most frequently highlighted locations will be displayed on the Flare app and website. The idea is that this allows cyclists to take less hazardous routes or ride with extra care in certain areas, and allows local authorities to concentrate their resources on parts of the road network that have provoked the largest response.

“The concept is fully developed along with a pre-production prototype that appears as the final Flare device would,” says Jake. 

The project still requires a lot more work, though. 


“What is still required is a Bluetooth connected device for pilot testing and app and web development for a working version of both,” says Jake. “What I have currently designed is how these will look and function and I have ratified the effectiveness of these elements with local authorities. 

“At this stage I am looking for partnership or investment to advance these elements to a level suitable for piloting. In terms of funding and support, I have received advice regarding the future of Flare from the founder of the Sussex Innovation Centre, Mike Herd, and offers from local authority representatives and organisations in the UK, California and Australia for pilot schemes.”

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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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flobble | 6 years ago

A Garmin 'on screen button' that logged pothole location would be an alternative way forward, and probably more useful.

Also, I've found FillThatHole to be less than useful - my local highways agency never reports on anything that's file through the app. I've found that is actually pretty good actually gets attention, even though I don't always agree with their assessment of what constitutes a hazard.

davel | 6 years ago

I've found reporting via an app or Website a PITA, when it means either stopping the ride, or memorising to report later. Not being able to report on the fly is the number one reason for me not reporting all of the potholes I come across. If there was a way of doing that via a simple click, I reckon it would up my reporting to close to 100%.

Early days, but on the face of it, I like this. Would have to see how it integrates with local authorities or FillThatHole...

Not sure about the other reports - again, the devil will be in the detail of what is done with the data, but seems a good enough idea.

BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago

well I'd be having words with any rider who mounts their light pointing over the horizontal as per the first pic.

Second, a button on the light to press whilst needing to be in full control of the bike to avoid the hole is a poor solution and increases danger/lack of control. Also say you miss hitting the button for some readon and start looking down, or because you had to keep your hands on the bars.

Button located on bars, maybe, still requires a network signal and other device plus App. personally never had issues reporting direct to ighways via their website.

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