I love high-visibility products. When it comes to riding the roads, especially at night, being visible to drivers means safety and life. Now there may be an entirely new genre of night-time visibility: a tail light that creates a laser-lined bike lane immediately behind you.
Created by Slancio of South Korea (a small operation founded in 2010), this inexpensive tail light beams out two lasers that create bright parallel red lines roughly 5 to 6 feet apart. Length-wise, the laser lines extend for about two bike lengths (roughly 10 to 12 feet). In addition to the laser lines, the light also features a standard red LED array, with multiple setting options.
As the video below shows, the bike lane-effect is clearly apparent, especially when multiple riders travel together. (That guy doing wheelies is a bonus.)
I'm intrigued by several aspects of this product and technology:
The safety effect could be significant. Numerous studies have shown that drivers noticeably respond to road line markings; driving slower on a wide road, for example, if the lane lines are drawn closer together. The visual cue of a virtual bike lane seems likely to increase the avoidance distance between vehicles and cyclists.
It's inexpensive. The Slancio model has a suggested retail price of around $50.
It requires minimal battery power. Slancio uses an integrated rechargeable lithium battery.
It's just the beginning. Any time new technology appears, I always ask myself, "Wow. This is great, but it's really just a very primitive version of...?" You can easily imagine more advanced versions of this technology, such as enhanced brightness and visibility, greater length, and an increased ability to create other patterns (a curving line that appears in response to a cyclist turn, cued by accelerometers, for example).
Don't look for this exact product in your bike shop anytime soon, unfortunately. A version was initially released in the U.S. in early 2011, but it appears to have disappeared (lost visibility?) since then. There may be patent issues, or some other legal hurdles.
But I would certainly expect (and hope) that this sort of technology—either from Slancio or any of the myriad cycling gear companies—will increasingly appear in the years ahead. Indeed, here's a basic version of the concept you can buy for only $20.