When Zach Vorhies suggested that I try out his turn signal gloves, I thought they were a dumb idea. Very few cyclists bother to signal and there isn't much point to it, because very few drivers bother to pay attention to them or even understand them. Hand signals that cyclists are taught are derived from hand signals designed for drivers, who can only use their left arm.
So when turning right, cyclists are told, counter-intuitively, to use their left hand, pointing up. Most drivers don't get it. In fact, most drivers don't pay much attention at all to cyclists, and need a big honking bright arrow in their face to understand that something is happening. That's why these gloves are not such a dumb idea at all. Because they don't work on the convention of arm up or down, they simply and logically point in the direction you are going.
They also work really well with oncoming traffic where traditional hand signals are even more confusing.
Would cyclists actually use them?
Then there is the question of whether a cyclist wearing these things would use them, and I think the answer is yes. After all if you have invested US$ 69 in something like this you are going to show them off and put them in front of a driver's face, or what's the point? You know they are going to get their attention.
Finally there is the issue of whether cyclists should have to do this at all. As Janice Turner wrote, in much of Europe this would be thought of as completely ridiculous.
In Europe's top three cycling nations -- Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands -- timorous old people cycle, women as often as men, children bike off unaccompanied to school. Cycling is not a moral manifesto or a carbon offset. It does not require DayGlo or £500 alloy wheels or attitude. Cycling is, as it should be, banal. Because it is safe.
Are these "promoting a culture of fear"?
I have complained before that telling people to dress up like a dayglo Christmas tree is, as Mikael Colville- Anderson would put it, promoting "a culture of fear." Certainly headlines like the review on Huffpo, A Pair Of Gloves Could Save Your Life falls smack into that category. I don't think this is the same thing; these are about communication with others, just like turn signals on cars.
Cyclists should signal their intentions, and if these gloves encourage their wearer to do so, in a form that drivers are going to see and understand, that is a good thing.
The gloves are ridiculously easy to use. One would expect that a former google engineer would design a system with GPS and built in google maps or accelerometers to detect a turn; instead, there are two big dumb metal rivets sewn into the side of the thumb and forefinger, you just press them together and the flashing lights go on. Works like a charm.
They are also nicely made, comfortable and very well padded, better than the riding gloves I wear now. On his Kickstarter page, Zach claims that a battery will last up to six months. They are really bright. According to the manual, there is an "ambient sensor" which "allows the gloves to find the right balance between battery life and visibility." At US$ 69, the are not even that expensive, less than some fancy italian gloves that the Lycra crowd wears.
I haven't tried them outside yet; it's 15 degrees F and icy and I will not be night-riding for a while. But I think I am going to give these a thumbs up. More on Kickstarter.