Just what we needed: More magical thinking about techno-fixes instead of safe infrastructure and driver education.
Being the beginning of the month and a slow Friday, I wanted to start with a clean desk and get all these silly stories out of the way. The Life Sticker was going to be in this un-TreeHugger "Just what we needed Dept." But it isn't silly. It is a tiny electronic device that is supposed to prevent dooring, or as it is sometimes known, the Door Prize. According to Semcon:
Any car door that’s opened suddenly can have serious consequences, especially if cyclists or motorcyclists are approaching from the rear. Semcon’s patent-pending solution is called Life Sticker. Life Sticker can be stuck easily to a door mirror, no matter what kind of car you have – old or new. When a cyclist approaches, the driver is alerted in time and can avoid opening the door into the cyclist, thereby preventing an accident.
The device sticks on top of the driver's outside mirror and uses Bluetooth to detect a cyclist's smartphone. This, of course, assumes that every cyclist is carrying a charged smartphone and has Bluetooth on. Currently, the rider will need a special app as well. The Life Sticker is solar powered and has some kind of directional antennas that can pick up a cyclist at 100 meters (328 feet)
When a cyclist approaches, the driver is alerted in time and can avoid opening the door into the cyclist, thereby preventing an accident. An initial prototype has already been completed.
So what's wrong with this picture?
- First of all, they keep calling dooring an accident. The word accident implies that it couldn't be helped and that nobody was at fault. But there is always someone at fault in a dooring; the law is clear that drivers are supposed to look before they open the door. A door prize is never an accident
- It assumes that every cyclist is equipped with an appropriate phone, which of course, they are not. So a driver can't rely on it.
- It's on the outside mirror, so why not just look in the mirror instead of the blinking light?
- It assumes that there is one bike on the road. Otherwise, the light is going to be flashing all the time and is going to be totally ignored.
But most importantly, it is another silly hardware solution when the problem is fundamentally one of driver carelessness -- how much trouble is it to look in the mirror or turn your head? or do the Dutch Reach? -- and of bad road design (why isn't there a safe place for cyclists to ride that isn't in the door zone?).
This isn't silly like the DipClip; It is beyond silly. It is dangerous to think that a three-buck blinking light could work dependably enough to protect cyclists.
It is this kind of magical thinking, seen previously in Volvo's beeping helmet and other techno-fixes, where beeping half-baked electronic solutions are offered instead of what we really need -- driver education and safe infrastructure.