2013-01-03

Co.Exist

Behold The Safest Bike On The Road

Knowing he can’t do anything about making drivers more safe around bikes, cycling safety advocate Josh Zisson decided to focus on making the bikes themselves safer. Check out his invention--sturdily built and brightly reflective.

Biking is great for your health. Unless you get hit by a car. And unfortunately, there are lots of cars and biking remains less than completely safe. There were 630 fatalities and 51,000 injuries due to collisions between bikes and motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2009 and many large cities--Los Angeles and New York, to name two--are still struggling to create bike-friendly streets.

Until that happens, however, we can make biking marginally safer by making safer bikes. That challenge inspired Josh Zisson, a lawyer and cycling safety advocate, to build what he calls “the safest bike on the road.”

A year in the making, it is “sort of a European-style ‘city bike,’” says Zisson. “The upright posture is comfortable, and it’s great for navigating through traffic.” It has enclosed drum brakes that work in any weather, and an internally geared rear hub instead of a derailleur, which allows the rider to switch gears at a dead stop. It’s also got puncture resistant tires, a chain guard, and fenders.

But Zisson says that the bike’s visibility is what sets it apart. Not only does the bike have an LED headlight and “daytime running lights,” powered by a dynamo hub in the front wheel, it also has a special rear light that gets brighter when the bike slows down--a brake light, in essence. And for good measure, almost the entire bike is covered in a unique coating. Any light that hits the bike gets reflected right back at its source.

Zisson enlisted a variety of companies and craftsmen to help. The handmade frame came from Ted Wojcik Custom Bicycles in New Hampshire, the saddle came from Selle Anatomica, and Portland Design Works provided the basket and handlebar grips. Most of the remaining parts came from Hub Bicycle in Cambridge, who also assembled the bike. The custom head badge came from a jewelry maker in Philadelphia.

It weighs around 30 pounds, which is heftier than most bikes, but Zisson says it’s worth it. “For instance, the benefits of the internally geared hub more than compensate for the added weight compared to a derailleur.”

Zisson has been so interested in the reflective coating, in fact, that he’s taken a job with the company that makes it, Halo Coatings, to help them find new markets. What might those markets be? Well, bikeshare companies, maybe. “I was recently contacted by someone at Alta Bicycle Share [which operates in Washington, D.C. and Boston], and they’re interested in getting Halo’s coating on all of their bikes,” Zisson says.

Sounds like the capital’s public bikes might start looking a little more like this.

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9 Comments

  • Slow_Factory

    Lux-narcissism is illegal in the Netherlands, and this is part of the reason the Netherlands is the safest place in the West to ride a bike. Bicycles cannot be fully reflective there! People!!

    Hyper-illuminating a bike makes the cyclist on that bike more visible than others who may themselves be perfectly legally illuminated! In other words, it drowns the others in darkness, including pedestrians! Why should they suffer for the selfishness of these "safest" cyclists.

    It is easy to understand why "bikers" in N. America have this frontier mentality. Please stop the distracting fake fixes and get better infrastructure somehow, either from grassroots or if you need to with some mayor-driven solution. 

  • Chief Nocahoma

    Since this is an article focused on safety, maybe one should consider wearing reflective clothing and a helmet.

  • BGR66

    This bike is phenomenal- I've heard of Halo Coatings, there big in highway applications down here in Texas. Didn't know they even did bikes! I want one now!  

  • Kid Riemer

    Research your subjects before you write your stories. This is nothing more than a contemporary city bike with some reflective paint.

  • rockfish66

    Oh come on, other than the paint, this is all standard stuff. He also missed a few things - reflective sidewalls on the tires, for example. And what about "flat-proof" tires like those available from Hutchinson? Wouldn't that be safer still?  As Tatyler noted, some more visible clothing woudl go al long way to safety, too.
    A year in the making? Really? You could build the same bike, minus the fancy paint, in a weekend in your garage. OK, call it a week if you count ordering all the parts.
    He "enlisted craftsmen to help?" Really? Other than the frame, don't you mean "he bought things from..?"
    Pathetic excuse for an article.

  • sean carter

    Safety should also consider theft - where is the integrated locking system?

    This bicycle is nothig special.  Internally geared hub bikes that come with dynamo lighting are available from many manufacturers.  The only unique product is the rear "brake" light and the reflective paint - both of which can be added to almost any bicycle.

    Every bicycle could be the "safest" bike on the road if governments would slow down cars, build separated bike lanes, and increase education of all road users.