Interest Check: Hand Signal-Activated Illuminated Turn Signals- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Idea! Interest Check: Hand Signal-Activated Illuminated Turn Signals

    Hi mtbr!

    I'm a cycling enthusiast and commuter. I'm in a group of fourth-year engineering students and we're thinking of building an electrical turn signal which is automatically activated when a user makes a left hand signal, right hand signal or stop signal. A smartwatch or custom-fabricated wristband could sense which signal the cyclist is making and control the light system.

    We believe that hand signals are the safest way for a cyclist to indicate a turn. Here's why:

    a) Hand signals are currently the most recognized way to indicate turns on a bicycle.

    b) A vehicle travelling very closely will be able to see an outstretched hand, but not necessarily a light system mounted below the seat or on the handlebars.

    However, standard hand signals alone aren't very visible in the dark.

    Compared to existing products like illuminated gloves or switch/button-based electric turn signal systems, this requires no additional steps to activate the turn signal without interfering with the existing hand-signals which many drivers (and traffic laws) will expect, while providing additional, illuminated turn signals.

    We're confident we can build this to be fairly affordable, say an extra $10-20 on the cost of a lighting system (for the wireless receiver) for people with a smartwatch (with a free app), and an additional $50-100 for the custom-fabricated wristband for those without a smartwatch.

    Does this sound like something that would be useful? What's your preferred method for making your turn signals visible at night?

  2. #2
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    Sounds pretty cool. What about integrating these into the backside of a pair of gloves?

  3. #3
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    The problem with gloves is that they require additional equipment to carry around and pack in your bag. The nice thing about bike-mounted lights are that they only require a smartwatch, which is usually worn anyway, or a custom-fabricated wristband, which is much less obtrusive than a glove.

    Another problem with gloves is they are typically only visible in one direction (the rear in the case of Zackees).

    On the custom-fabricated wristband route, a light-up feature like Useeme would be cool, but probably not a replacement for bike-mounted lights.

  4. #4
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    It's an interesting idea, but I'm told all the cool kids just point with the corresponding hand vs. doing a proper right turn signal with the left hand. so you'd possibly need a receiver on each wrist (or just tell the riders to do it right?).

  5. #5
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    I weAr gloves when riding anyway and do not wear anything else. I am not really interested in bike jewelry

  6. #6
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    This is an interesting concept, but, not something I would buy. In the dark, motorcycle type tail and turn lamps would be great, LEDs are getting common enough that you might be able to adhere them to the brake/ shifter hoods etc. etc. If I had such lights, I would rather have a switch on the bike than a watch.

    Lights on gloves, I might buy at the right price. Mostly, motorists here don't recognize hand signals, or they don't respond to them. Not sure which.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sanath View Post
    It's an interesting idea, but I'm told all the cool kids just point with the corresponding hand vs. doing a proper right turn signal with the left hand. so you'd possibly need a receiver on each wrist (or just tell the riders to do it right?).
    Guilty as charged. Makes more sense to do it this way if you ask me. I see it like turn signals on a car, they flash in the direction that they are turning or want to go. Doesn't get more straight forward than that.

    This is a good idea in theory, but would be difficult to execute in real life I would think. There are a few things on a bike/gear that are personal, like the saddle, and gloves are one of them. Attaching it to the bike itself invites thieves.
    The pedals turn, not just the left one, but the right one too.

  8. #8
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    Could attach to panniers or a back pack, not everyone uses these either.

  9. #9
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    Cars can do this because there is good separation between left an right turn signals, such that the left turn signal is to the drivers's left and the right to their right. For a cyclist to the right of the driver in the lane, a left signal will be mentally registered as a right turn signal unless the driver is activiely paying attention to the signals on the bike, which we don't tend to do. Some wil register the turn signal as a blinkie.

    The idea seems logical, but in application we have to deal with the driver mindset, which is that all lights belong to cars. Two red lights in a horizontal plane on a bike can be mis-interpreted as a vehicle far ahead instead of a bike just ahead. Motorcycles have kept the single rear red light for this exact reason: it is out of the norm and forces the driver to come to full attention. Maybe if we add a size reference like motorcycles have with their license plates, we can pull something off, but I have believed for three decades that the safest form of lighting for night cycling is that which does NOT present easy identification, and forces the driver to come to full attention to deal with your presence. Make them aware that you are a cyclist, and use signals they expect from a cyclist. Don't need any special clothing outside of not wearing black at night on your upper body.
    I will suffer no butt-hurt fools!

  10. #10
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    ^ exactly the reason that I will never run a rear light as a solid but always as a blinker. I recently got one that has two different lights that both blink at different intervals and brightness. I am hoping that this odd looking light will bring attention to the fact that I am not a car or a motorcycle and to look out for me.
    The pedals turn, not just the left one, but the right one too.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bstock92 View Post
    Hi mtbr!

    I'm a cycling enthusiast and commuter. I'm in a group of fourth-year engineering students and we're thinking of building an electrical turn signal which is automatically activated when a user makes a left hand signal, right hand signal or stop signal. A smartwatch or custom-fabricated wristband could sense which signal the cyclist is making and control the light system.

    We believe that hand signals are the safest way for a cyclist to indicate a turn. Here's why:

    a) Hand signals are currently the most recognized way to indicate turns on a bicycle.

    b) A vehicle travelling very closely will be able to see an outstretched hand, but not necessarily a light system mounted below the seat or on the handlebars.

    However, standard hand signals alone aren't very visible in the dark.

    Compared to existing products like illuminated gloves or switch/button-based electric turn signal systems, this requires no additional steps to activate the turn signal without interfering with the existing hand-signals which many drivers (and traffic laws) will expect, while providing additional, illuminated turn signals.

    We're confident we can build this to be fairly affordable, say an extra $10-20 on the cost of a lighting system (for the wireless receiver) for people with a smartwatch (with a free app), and an additional $50-100 for the custom-fabricated wristband for those without a smartwatch.

    Does this sound like something that would be useful? What's your preferred method for making your turn signals visible at night?
    Well currently I just make sure I am wearing something high-vis at night if I think I am going to be riding in traffic that warrants it.

    I like the idea of bike turn signals, but wouldn't a switch on the handlebars be a whole heck of a lot more simple and reliable? If I had turn signals at night I would probably just use them and worry less about the hand signals.

    To be honest, if I was going to get turn signals, I would just do the handlebar switch.

    For one thing, I have no interest in getting/wearing a smart-watch, and I am dubious that they are going to achieve more than a tiny fraction of the market penetration that smartphones do.
    This also assumes that the wearer of the watch does so on the same arm they signal with. I also am not interested in paying $50-100 for an extra thing I have to remember to wear at night, and probably do not want to leave on my bike.

    Second, most people that I see signaling their turns (including myself) just point. I so rarely so the "correct" hand signalling that the last time I was driving behind a guy that made a right hand turn signal I thought they were waving to someone, or telling me to slow down. Took me a good couple of seconds to register what he was doing. Maybe folks are more vigilant in other areas. I point because I know that people are going to understand that.

    How are you going to keep this system from activating when you make other hand gestures, like waving someone past you or reaching down to brush something off your leg?

    If the concern with a handlebar switch is that it interferes with the hand signal, just put the switch on the opposite side that you do your hand gesture with.

    If you just want an interesting project this sounds cool, but as a regular commuter this sounds expensive, complicated, and potentially unreliable. However, I am sure there is a segment of tech nerds who are also commuters at night that will really dig this.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by TenSpeed View Post
    Guilty as charged. Makes more sense to do it this way if you ask me.
    The traditional right turn signal was for a car. Not sure what a driver of a right hand drive car is supposed to do. Anyway, quite a few people even a local cop do not understand the left hand turn signal, the right one would be nearly meaningless here. So I adopted the point where I am about to go as it takes less mental horsepower to figure out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flamingtaco View Post
    For a cyclist to the right of the driver in the lane, a left signal will be mentally registered as a right turn signal unless the driver is activiely paying attention to the signals on the bike, which we don't tend to do. Some wil register the turn signal as a blinkie.
    It won't work 100% of the time, no. Will it work enough times to be worth the cost/effort? Maybe. It may remove the question of whether you signaled or not is there are other observers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flamingtaco View Post
    The idea seems logical, but in application we have to deal with the driver mindset, which is that all lights belong to cars. ... I have believed for three decades that the safest form of lighting for night cycling is that which does NOT present easy identification, and forces the driver to come to full attention to deal with your presence. Make them aware that you are a cyclist, and use signals they expect from a cyclist. Don't need any special clothing outside of not wearing black at night on your upper body.
    Unless you use a light to wash a Hi Vis jacket or vest at night, it just doesn't show unless there is good street lighting. Even they it disappears between light poles. I have found that the earlier that drivers see my odd lighting, the kinder they are to me at night. I don't think that turn signals would detract from that. Since my Hi vis jacket or gloves do not show up in low beams my hand signals are more for form than function at night. It is what it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by TenSpeed View Post
    ^ exactly the reason that I will never run a rear light as a solid but always as a blinker. .
    If I was only running a single rear light I agree. I run two flashing differnt patterns and two on solid wide angle and as bright as stop lights on cars. The vertical arrangement is very odd on purpose. Signal lights would not change that.

    Quote Originally Posted by TenSpeed View Post
    I recently got one that has two different lights that both blink at different intervals and brightness. I am hoping that this odd looking light will bring attention to the fact that I am not a car or a motorcycle and to look out for me.
    Twin PB Turbos or twin PDW Radbot 1000's even on the same pattern are almost never in sync and that movement in and out of sync seems to sink into the subconscious as being very annoying. So you only need two flashing lights same flashing pattern or no. However I am using a PB Turbo in flash mode on the helmet and a HotShot on the seat post on a fade in and out mode, plus twin 100+ lumen wide angle solids on the rack. Seems to work.

    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta View Post
    Well currently I just make sure I am wearing something high-vis at night if I think I am going to be riding in traffic that warrants it. .
    Unless you have very good street lighting, high vis pants will help but the upper body is not lit up by low beams unless you are a tiny person. At almost 6 feet my high vis stuff is hardly visible at night when I have videoed my lights. True the POV camera is not quite as sensitive as my eyes at night, but it is likley a good indicator for a senior driver's nigh vision.

    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta View Post
    I like the idea of bike turn signals, but wouldn't a switch on the handlebars be a whole heck of a lot more simple and reliable? If I had turn signals at night I would probably just use them and worry less about the hand signals.... I point because I know that people are going to understand that.
    I point because the law says I must and I want to give no loopholes to an idiot who hits me. I know some won't see it. I know some will see it and think "Huh"? I know at night even with my high vis gloves it is more for form than any real communication. So signal lights would be defense in depth. Might double the drivers who know what we are about to do (up from maybe 20 to 40%? ) Figure half or more will still be clueless.

  13. #13
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    I'd favor 2 smart wristbands, kind of like the regular ankle bands, but smarter, that would blink like crazy when either arm is pointed to signal. Then they could be used winter or summer, with any weight gloves or none at all.

  14. #14
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    Interest Check: Hand Signal-Activated Illuminated Turn Signals

    Cool idea but if I'd just as soon go for some actual low profile LED signals with switches on the handlebars. Rechargeable and quick release. The key would be figuring out how to get massive visibility.


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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by bstock92 View Post
    Hi mtbr!

    I'm a cycling enthusiast and commuter. I'm in a group of fourth-year engineering students and we're thinking of building an electrical turn signal which is automatically activated when a user makes a left hand signal, right hand signal or stop signal. A smartwatch or custom-fabricated wristband could sense which signal the cyclist is making and control the light system.

    We believe that hand signals are the safest way for a cyclist to indicate a turn. Here's why:

    a) Hand signals are currently the most recognized way to indicate turns on a bicycle.

    b) A vehicle travelling very closely will be able to see an outstretched hand, but not necessarily a light system mounted below the seat or on the handlebars.

    However, standard hand signals alone aren't very visible in the dark.

    Compared to existing products like illuminated gloves or switch/button-based electric turn signal systems, this requires no additional steps to activate the turn signal without interfering with the existing hand-signals which many drivers (and traffic laws) will expect, while providing additional, illuminated turn signals.

    We're confident we can build this to be fairly affordable, say an extra $10-20 on the cost of a lighting system (for the wireless receiver) for people with a smartwatch (with a free app), and an additional $50-100 for the custom-fabricated wristband for those without a smartwatch.

    Does this sound like something that would be useful? What's your preferred method for making your turn signals visible at night?
    I cycle in a very hilly city, where it is often wet (rainy). As such, I don't signal anywhere near as much as I might otherwise because I'm not taking a hand off the handlebars in such conditions. So this wouldn't work for me.

    Am I missing where you detail what the lights are like? I'm running too damn many lights already, the last thing I'd want to add is another 2 or 4 lights that I have to find real estate for and constantly feed batteries.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bstock92 View Post
    The problem with gloves is that they require additional equipment to carry around and pack in your bag. The nice thing about bike-mounted lights are that they only require a smartwatch, which is usually worn anyway, or a custom-fabricated wristband, which is much less obtrusive than a glove.

    Another problem with gloves is they are typically only visible in one direction (the rear in the case of Zackees).

    On the custom-fabricated wristband route, a light-up feature like Useeme would be cool, but probably not a replacement for bike-mounted lights.
    I think your reasoning is backwards there. Anyone that has hurt their hands once going down is probably always going to be wearing gloves. Likewise anyone that rides roads with a lot of vibration or struggles with hand numbness. I've ridden exactly twice without gloves in the last three years. Smartwatch? Do those even exist yet? The watch or wristband are the additional equipment being carried around, not gloves.

    Sounds like you are assuming the lights are being left on the bike. Do they have some sort of security feature to keep them from being stolen?
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sanath View Post
    It's an interesting idea, but I'm told all the cool kids just point with the corresponding hand vs. doing a proper right turn signal with the left hand. so you'd possibly need a receiver on each wrist (or just tell the riders to do it right?).
    Guilty. Been a while since I was cool, and even longer since I was a kid though. When I do signal, it's a crapshoot whether I signal properly or with my right arm, if it is a right turn. Mostly because I assume most car drivers these days have no idea what the proper signal means, an assumption sometimes reinforced by their response (or lack of) to proper signals.

    I assume bicycle signals are still part of driver education, but I don't think anyone is paying attention.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

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    I ran an extremely unscientific poll this afternoon among my fellow grad students who are bike reliant.

    All (6) thought the idea was intriguing and would sell, none wanted to buy it. When pressed further, none of us want "smart watches," unless it is the Dick Tracy type, replacing the phone; we are all concerned about anything which takes more time to install/ remove at the bike rack or which might be stolen from the bike.

    There were two suggestions for improved bike safety ( from an Uzbek and an American), develop a dope- slapping device using sound, water, or small pebbles to alert motorists that they have buzzed bicycles; and similarly, use sound to alert motorists when they are approaching a bicycle, similar in concept to a proximity car alarm.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    I'd favor 2 smart wristbands, kind of like the regular ankle bands, but smarter, that would blink like crazy when either arm is pointed to signal. Then they could be used winter or summer, with any weight gloves or none at all.
    This sounds most feasible to me. Hurdles would be making them bright enough, and having batteries in them that didn't weigh a lot, but could be rechargeable and would last at least 3 hours (enough to commute in to work and home again before recharging). If you go this route, make sure that the wristbands are adjustable and wide enough for bigger folks, and for possibly wearing several layers under them in winter.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  20. #20
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    Interest Check: Hand Signal-Activated Illuminated Turn Signals

    Quote Originally Posted by Medic Zero View Post
    I think your reasoning is backwards there. Anyone that has hurt their hands once going down is probably always going to be wearing gloves. Likewise anyone that rides roads with a lot of vibration or struggles with hand numbness. I've ridden exactly twice without gloves in the last three years. Smartwatch? Do those even exist yet? The watch or wristband are the additional equipment being carried around, not gloves.

    Sounds like you are assuming the lights are being left on the bike. Do they have some sort of security feature to keep them from being stolen?
    I think the reality is that smart watches and gloves are both rare. In the summer I see few people wearing them. I don't wear them anymore in the summer, for commuting around town.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medic Zero View Post
    I cycle in a very hilly city, where it is often wet (rainy). As such, I don't signal anywhere near as much as I might otherwise because I'm not taking a hand off the handlebars in such conditions.
    I am in a similar position. On my way to work I have to turn right going down a hill. It's very hard to give a hand signal because I need to brake at the same time.

    To be honest, I think such a system would have very limited appeal. There are likely to be few situations where hand/arm signals would be significantly less visible than the additional turn lights. Plus, the complexity of light triggers seems rather convoluted when a simple switch on the bars would do the job. Seems to me like you're just looking for an excuse to use the technology.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta View Post
    I think the reality is that smart watches and gloves are both rare. In the summer I see few people wearing them. I don't wear them anymore in the summer, for commuting around town.
    Interesting. I haven't paid any attention to other folks, but after losing a silver dollar sized chunk out of my palm when I went down after getting hit by a car, I virtually never ride without them. The few friends I have who ride have the same policy for the same reason. I just figured everyone that wears a helmet is probably wearing gloves, but I'm thinking about it more, I'm probably way off.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  23. #23
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    Interest Check: Hand Signal-Activated Illuminated Turn Signals

    Quote Originally Posted by Medic Zero View Post
    Interesting. I haven't paid any attention to other folks, but after losing a silver dollar sized chunk out of my palm when I went down after getting hit by a car, I virtually never ride without them. The few friends I have who ride have the same policy for the same reason. I just figured everyone that wears a helmet is probably wearing gloves, but I'm thinking about it more, I'm probably way off.
    I always wear gloves mt biking, as well as road rides outside of my around-town commuting. Gloves have saved my hands many times, and I have lost some skin without them. OTOH, I have (thankfully) never put a helmet to the test (other than at a DH resort with a full face helmet).
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

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    I see this being more style than substance. If you are gonna do it, you may as well install some type of real tactile triggers, or buttons on the actual bike. I can see gestures being misread and creating a distraction for cyclists, who already don't have the luxury of proper infrastructure to be spending time distracted on the road, because an accelerometer didn't interpret their desired motion command.

    Look at the video game wars and how the Nintendo Wii, other than selling alot of consoles to kids and grandparents, wasn't up to snuff compared to real tactile controllers for the hardcore market.

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