Cyclists: Turn Your Phone Into a Shield

App warns drivers of approaching bicyclists

If enough people use TheBikeShieldApp, communication among vehicles on the road could improve dramatically by keeping drivers alerted of nearby cyclists they can't even see yet. (Tobias Ackeborn/Thinkstock)

A new app for cyclists is banking on a very simple premise that could keep bikers safe when sharing the road. Using a phones’ GPS capabilities, TheBikeShieldApp alerts nearby drivers when they’re in proximity of a bike or motorcycle.

As a massive report from the League of American Bicyclists found, only 94 of 628 fatalities that took place from 2011 to 2013 were considered the cyclist’s fault. Thus, TheBikeShieldApp is engineered to help drivers avoid bikers and motorcyclists. Users select how they’re getting around: by car, bike, or motorcycle. For car drivers, the app emits a sound to warn of nearby bikers or motorcycle riders several seconds before they’re visible. Bikers and motorcyclists won’t get the potentially distracting warnings. The app, scheduled to be released on September 12, is compatible with iPhone and Android.

For TheBikeShieldApp to have real impact on cyclist safety, a large number of drivers and riders will have to download the app and use it every time they’re on the road. The app’s designers hope to integrate it into other programs we already use, like Google Maps.

As Pere Margalef, one of TheBikeShieldApp’s designers, explained to Fast Company, the app does what expensive car sensors of the future are promising. “In 10 years, cars may be driving themselves and preventing accidents,” he said. “But that’s too late. I’m riding my bike and motorcycle now, and I want to fix the problem now.”

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