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  1. #1
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    Bicycle blinkers???

    Hi all, im a engineering student from sydney australia. for our engineering design class we are currently in the process of designing bicycle blinkers. i just wanted to get some feedback on peoples general opinions on this idea.

    the blinkers themselves with be very similar to modern motorcycle blinkers although smaller. they will be attached to the seat pole and will be slightly smaller than the width of the average seat. there will be push on-push off buttons on the handle bars. the whole system will run off a 9v battery (or a few AA batteries, not sure yet). these will either be rechargable or use a generator while you pedal. we were also thinking of attaching a horn (similar to a car horn only much smaller) as bells arent very loud. also headlights and tail lights.

    i just wanted to know how much people would pay for just a blinker system (not including the horn and headlight), also whether it would be useful at all and any suggestions you might have. this would greatly help us in our report and design.

    thank you, marc ragowski.

  2. #2
    DoB
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    There's no point in having the on/off button on the bars. Just put it on the device and avoid having wiring that has to be routed and clipped to the bike frame. Most riders will turn on the blinkers when starting off and leave them on for the duration of the ride.

    If necessary, stopping for 5 seconds to turn on the light would be less of a hassle than dealing with a remote switch.

  3. #3
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I wouldn't pay a penny for this.
    For blinkers to be usefull they need to be visible in the daylight and have a substantial distance spread apart from center of vehicle.
    Also there are already commercial versions available, search online. Not many cyclist buy them.
    Better would be lights that attach to wrists that illuminate/flash only when cyclist use arms to signal to enhance arm signal visibility at night.
    But I understand this is an exercise in design, not a real product plan, so in that case go for it.
    Al

  4. #4
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    Ask in the commuter forum. Lots of guys there design their own lights because they aren't satisfied with what is commercially available.
    The United States of America is the only democratic nation in the world to deny citizens living in the nation's capital representation in the national legislature. District residents have no vote in either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. www.dcvote.org

  5. #5
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Are these blinkers for visibility (conspicuity) or for turn signal indication?

  6. #6
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    If you want to be scientific find out what will alert motorists, who are not paying attention to you, to your presence. If you could do that I would think US$100 would be easy to do.

    Otherwise the difference between a $1 blinky and a $20 binky is the quality of the housing.

    If you want gee wiz, consider building a system around the new high wattage LEDs. I for one am very impressed with Maglite 3W LED flashlights. I paid $25 for my flashlight, I would consider buying a red one if it existed. BTW, a red maglite would blow away the competion as $25 for a water tight tail light (probably no blinking) in an aluminium case is a good deal.

    Also note blinking tail lights are illegal in some countries.

    The other possibility is going light weight and build you system around a few tiny surface mount LEDs and watch batteries.
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  7. #7
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Part of any good design effort is to develop a concept of operations that captures how the user would operate the device. This is arguably the most important part of the design process.

    For you project, you need to consider several ConOps items:

    1. How will this item be activated? A cyclist navigating a city street doesn't need to have to take his hands off the bars to find a switch. I believe a user would prefer some sort of switch mechanism at each hand. Something integrated into the brake levers perhaps?

    2. How are the blinkers turned off after the turn? You don't want it blinking for an hour because the cyclist forgot to turn it off. Are you going to have some feedback to the cyclist so he knows the unit is blinking? Or, perhaps an automatic shutoff so the turn signal blinks for something like 5 seconds then shuts off would be good.

    A couple other comments:

    1. Forget about generators for this product. Sidewall generators are very much out of fashion and very few cyclists would install one for this device. Hub generators are better, but are a large investment. So, you will almost certainly need to power your device on batteries. Keep the number and size to a minimum. Cyclists are anal about weight. You blinkers, even if they use high power LEDs should have long battery life since they are used only intermittantly. Use this to your product's advantage.

    2. Having to run a wire from the handlebars to the seat post is a bad thing. Cyclists spend extra money for wireless cyclecomputers to avoid a short run of wire from the bars to the front fork. Running awire along the top tube is going to be a hard sell. Maybe you can get creative about an activation switch on the saddle? I don't have a solution for you here, but know that this is a problem for many cyclists.

    3. Your lights need to present an unambiguous indicator. A pair of lights the width of the saddle cannot be distinguished as a turn signal by a motorist, let alone determine which direction is signalled. You need to get creative about how the turn is signalled (multiple animated lights?) or spread the lights apart (a style faux pas).

    4. You need to research how much light you need to generate to be seen at a safe distance in sunlight. This will drive your light source selection (LED, halogen, etc) and your battery size.

    5. What about signalling toward the front? A left turn requires turning in front of oncoming traffic. This may be more important for safety than signalling to the rear.

  8. #8
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    Part of any good design effort is to develop a concept of operations that captures how the user would operate the device. This is arguably the most important part of the design process.

    For you project, you need to consider several ConOps items:

    1. How will this item be activated? A cyclist navigating a city street doesn't need to have to take his hands off the bars to find a switch. I believe a user would prefer some sort of switch mechanism at each hand. Something integrated into the brake levers perhaps?

    2. How are the blinkers turned off after the turn? You don't want it blinking for an hour because the cyclist forgot to turn it off. Are you going to have some feedback to the cyclist so he knows the unit is blinking? Or, perhaps an automatic shutoff so the turn signal blinks for something like 5 seconds then shuts off would be good.

    A couple other comments:

    1. Forget about generators for this product. Sidewall generators are very much out of fashion and very few cyclists would install one for this device. Hub generators are better, but are a large investment. So, you will almost certainly need to power your device on batteries. Keep the number and size to a minimum. Cyclists are anal about weight. You blinkers, even if they use high power LEDs should have long battery life since they are used only intermittantly. Use this to your product's advantage.

    2. Having to run a wire from the handlebars to the seat post is a bad thing. Cyclists spend extra money for wireless cyclecomputers to avoid a short run of wire from the bars to the front fork. Running awire along the top tube is going to be a hard sell. Maybe you can get creative about an activation switch on the saddle? I don't have a solution for you here, but know that this is a problem for many cyclists.

    3. Your lights need to present an unambiguous indicator. A pair of lights the width of the saddle cannot be distinguished as a turn signal by a motorist, let alone determine which direction is signalled. You need to get creative about how the turn is signalled (multiple animated lights?) or spread the lights apart (a style faux pas).

    4. You need to research how much light you need to generate to be seen at a safe distance in sunlight. This will drive your light source selection (LED, halogen, etc) and your battery size.

    5. What about signalling toward the front? A left turn requires turning in front of oncoming traffic. This may be more important for safety than signalling to the rear.
    +1

    In particular, I've thought about #3. Maybe an animated LED left/right arrow symbol?

    The other idea I've had is having a turn signal system that mounts on the cyclist's lower back and is attached with a waist belt.

    Another obvious location is on the back of a luggage rack.

    But that wire from the handlebars all the way to the rear could be the peskiest problem.

    But I go wireless when I can, but if everything else was solid with this system, I might compromise and put up with the wire if that was it's only negative.

    Finally, perhaps the biggest problem with bike turn signals is they might dissuade cyclists from using a shoulder check look back prior to merging or turning. That would not be good.

  9. #9
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    If they are going to be attached to the seat post (imo) it would be a good idea to have a solid red light in between them, otherwise they are going to be too close together to be able to be distinguished from each other.
    As to have animations and the lights in the shape of arrows...animations are just going to confuse other road users who aren't used to them, unpredictability creates danger. As to shapes, the lights are going to have to be pretty large to not just be a dot of light.

    Keep in mind the fact that there is, in most cases already brakes and some sort of gear change mechanism already on the handlebars so space there is an issue. Many people also have a, headlight, reflector, computer and bell there as well.

    Road bikes in particular have more than one hand position, where would the switch be?

    Unless there is a nationwide advertising campaign to inform all road users of this and massive subsidies for people to buy these lights, I believe this is unfeasible. The required way for a bicycle to signal direction is with hand signals and this is what motorists recognise.

    Sure, it’s only an assignment, somehow I think your lecturer isn’t a cyclist. I wouldn’t pay anything for it because I know no one would take notice.

    PS - you should really define what you mean by 'blinkers' too. Say indicators if you mean indicators and flashing lights, if you mean flashing lights.

  10. #10
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    FWIW I think there is a market for some rear visibility lights that can attach to a rear rack/panniers. No one I know that has a rear rack with a bag has anything halfway decent as the bag covers the standard area where most blinkies attach.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member R-Wells's Avatar
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    I dont know if I would run out and buy it,
    But I really like the idea of a full lighting system, turn signals and brake lights, for a bike.
    I am talking for commuting type riding.
    _______________________________________________________________
    I lost my virginity 30 years ago, but I think it is growing back.

  12. #12
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I was a bit to negative in my first comments. If the problems can be solved I think signal flashers could be a good supplement (but not replace) arm signals. There are times when one must put both hands on the bars before/during a turn and the signal would provide a suplement/fill for those times.

    The main issue is what others have also commented on is separating the lights from (illumnated) center significantly enough (or using other method such as animated lights) so L/R can be distinguished from a distance.

    Also switching on/off needs to be simple and accessible such that the time and method to do it does not interfere with time/motion otherwise used for hand signalling and/or looking back.

    My comments about 'supplement' to arm signals are under the assumption that even with an excellent design, the flashers would still be less noticable to other drivers than arm signals in varying conditions. Arm signals are relatively big and higher than the 2' diameter area around the seatpost in which I image such a flasher system would occupy. Arms also stand out better in daylight relative to standard lights.

    Other similar concepts/products:
    http://www.global-merchants.com/home/bike.htm
    http://www.nexusresearchgroup.com/te..._indicator.htm
    http://www.safeturn.com/the_product.html
    http://www.k3pgp.org/turnbrake.htm

    Al

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    I didn't realize you meant a turn signal. I doubt you would be able to sell them in the adult market for any price. I think you need to show they would be usefull first, remember bicycles do not have formal multilane highways as do cars. Maybe you should start with what rules of the road you want and then work backwards to the equipment needed for them.

    You might also consider embedding electroluminecent cords in a jacket and having one or the other side of the jacket light up.

    If you really wanted a sellable product you might be able to sell them in the childrens market along with a stick shift style shifter and other such stuff.

    My original comment high wattage (probably 3W) LEDs are all that might work in the day.
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  14. #14
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcragowski
    Hi all, im a engineering student from sydney australia. for our engineering design class we are currently in the process of designing bicycle blinkers. i just wanted to get some feedback on peoples general opinions on this idea.

    the blinkers themselves with be very similar to modern motorcycle blinkers although smaller. they will be attached to the seat pole and will be slightly smaller than the width of the average seat. there will be push on-push off buttons on the handle bars. the whole system will run off a 9v battery (or a few AA batteries, not sure yet). these will either be rechargable or use a generator while you pedal. we were also thinking of attaching a horn (similar to a car horn only much smaller) as bells arent very loud. also headlights and tail lights.

    i just wanted to know how much people would pay for just a blinker system (not including the horn and headlight), also whether it would be useful at all and any suggestions you might have. this would greatly help us in our report and design.

    thank you, marc ragowski.
    There are five or six of these on the market now. The first thing to do might be look around on the computer at the others. None of them sell well. It's lousy idea from the start. They are too close together to be usefull from a distance. I have a friend who has one that beeps as the lights flash. It's useless in traffic. in the day it's invisible and in the night it's weak and close together. I've seen three or four different ones in person and would never buy one. A red blinking light on the back is better. Blinking red means caution and slow down.

    Buy one first and see how it is in the day light. Then you have some idea what kind of power you need.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  15. #15
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    2manybikes: Post #28

  16. #16
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    I would LOVE turn signals for my trike. I think just about all the trikers, especially those who do any touring would absolutely love this idea. Also, if you can make brake lights that go on when the disc brake receives friction. It would be very cool.

    You need to consider how you intend to attach this to the bike, though. Too many cool things are made specifically to attach to things that are only part of a diamond-frame bike. So we recumbent riders have to use a lot of creative means and zip ties to make any of it work. I'd say make each turn signal light separate with ways to attach them to the bike at various angles and tube sizes so that they are independent of the configuration of the bike. It will give everybody more options on where to place them for maximum visibility, no matter what kind of bike.
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  17. #17
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    2manybikes: Post #28

    Thanks .
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  18. #18
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    blinkers

    Hi Marc,

    Did you finish your bicycle blinkers last year. Do you have any for sale? I may be interested in a set if you do.

    I had a set on a bike 30 years ago that worked brilliantly.

    Phone me with a price on 02 49845639, payment bank deposit, postage to 2319 (Port Stephens).

    Regards,
    Brent.

  19. #19
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brentnsarah View Post
    Hi Marc,

    Did you finish your bicycle blinkers last year. Do you have any for sale? I may be interested in a set if you do.

    I had a set on a bike 30 years ago that worked brilliantly.

    Phone me with a price on 02 49845639, payment bank deposit, postage to 2319 (Port Stephens).

    Regards,
    Brent.
    Search for them with your computer, there are a few kinds on the market. They are not new.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  20. #20
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    I wouldn't buy it. It's weight that serves no useful purpose.

  21. #21
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    I have a bicycle "directional" blinker on this bike:


    It has a control on the handlebars, The brake light has a sensor on the rear brake cable, but it no longer works since I got a ride in a friends van, and he bungee-corded the bike around the seatpost and pulled the fine ~28 gauge wire too hard.

    The left blinker is good, but using the right blinker is almost suicide, since cars are expecting the bike to zip out of the way in time.

    The seat post mount is bad. I leaned the bike against a cafe-table in front of a restaurant, and the fixture snapped off. I now have the light tie-wired to the frame-rails of the seat.

    The wire-harness is too short for my recumbent.

    The brake light was wired to work even when the switch is off, but now that the wire is severed, the batteries last much longer (?!!).

    This directional blinker is made by Avenir. Also, it beeps when the light is flashing.

    It uses two AA batteries. Nine volts is way to high for LED's, the LED's will fry. Go with the AAA's.

    I suggest leaving the headlight out, it uses too much current (let the cyclist choose his own).

    The wire harness has to be stronger and longer. #28 gauge wire is too fragile. And it should be long enough for a recumbent or a tandem. (or a recumbent tandem).
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11629987@N02/sets/72157639939606343/

  22. #22
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Now, a system that I built myself:

    (Note: I photographed the bike with a Christmas Tree in the background for comparison.)



    This is my Lowrider. I put all the toggle switches on the fairing, which is a Suzuki GS fairing from 1982.
    It has a 12 volt, 7 amp/hour battery. It has two headlights, three red tailights,and two amber marker lights (on the fairing). The blinkers are white on the rear and amber on the front. The front blinkers are mounted to a flat , six inch by 24 inch board, on the bottom of the fairing. (aircraft plywood).
    The blinkers have toggle switches on the fairing, left for left and right for right, but I can have them both on, which gives me four-way flashers. There is a 12 volt thermal flasher in series with the circuits (which makes that traditional "ker-blink-ker-blink-ker-blink" sound.
    Have you ever opened a thermal flasher canister? It has a bimetallic strip inside, wrapped with a tiny bit of asbestos, and a fine nichrome heater wire wrapped around it.

    Have you noticed the price of toggle switches going up? They were $1.89 last year, $3.69 six months ago, and $5.29 now. Everything electrical is going up with the price of copper.
    Last edited by hotbike; 03-30-08 at 11:15 AM. Reason: Note
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11629987@N02/sets/72157639939606343/

  23. #23
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crhilton View Post
    I wouldn't buy it. It's weight that serves no useful purpose.
    I totally agree. Bicycle need red flashing lights, the universal sign for "slow down and use caution".

    An orange turn signal might make you look like a motorcycle from a distance and a driver may think you are keeping up with the traffic and plow into you. Fortunatly the ones on the market are weak and too close to the center of the bike to do any good.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  24. #24
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    Turn signals for bicycles is a solution looking for a problem. It is the effect of the windshield way of looking at things. While they are universal on motor vehicles, it was not always that way.

    The early horseless carriages simply signaled intent with arm signals. The operators were quite visible from all angles in most of them.

    As motor cars evolved, and began to protect their operators from the elements, (and electrical systems became more reliable) turn indicators were a natural step to improve communication in traffic.

    The operators of bicycles remain rather conspicuous to other vehicles even today. Should a cyclist wish to indicate his plans to others, signaling with his arms is simple, natural, effective, inexpensive and reliable.

    With that said, your bicycle turn signal system improves the current methods in what way?
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

  25. #25
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    Finally, perhaps the biggest problem with bike turn signals is they might dissuade cyclists from using a shoulder check look back prior to merging or turning.
    -1
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

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