Cycling is fun, eco-friendly, and efficient, but it can also be dangerous if you're not very visible to cars and other bikes. And while there are already a wide range of options for increasing visibility, including the reflectors that come with most bikes, reflective tape for helmets, clothing, and frames, as well as bright bicycle lights, there's another bicycle safety accessory that could increase safety, and it comes in the form of an old-school toy.
A decidedly low-tech children's toy, the pinwheel, has been reinvented as a cycling visibility option, and could be an affordable and effective way to make biking safer, especially for kids.
The Flecto Spinner, which is basically a brightly colored and reflective pinwheel that mounts onto bikes, strollers, scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, or helmets, uses the power of the wind to spin and catch the eyes of drivers and other cyclists. With an adjustable and secure mounting bracket, they can be attached to handlebars, front or rear bike forks, helmets, or just about anywhere else on a human-powered vehicle, making them much more visible at night or during the day.
Tom Kahan, inventor of the Flecto Spinner, breaks it down for you in this short video (plus, superhero cape):
According to Kahan, back in 2001, he saw a woman with a spinner taped to her bike's handlebar, and realized that if that spinner were really eye-catching, it could help to make cyclists more visible, and hence safer. He began having the spinners produced in China, and sold a number of them to toy and bike stores in 2006, but soon ended up discontinuing them due to poor communication and low quality. But now he's reviving the Flecto Spinner, this time by manufacturing them in the US, and using crowdfunding to produce the first batch.
Flecto Spinners are made with fluorescent colors and retroreflective materials to be as visible as possible, using polyethylene and polycarbonate for the blades and the base as they're said to be "less toxic and easier to recycle" than vinyl.
Backers of the Flecto Spinner campaign on Indiegogo at the $22 level will receive two of the adult versions of the device ($19 for two of the child's version), which are expected to ship sometime in June of this year.
The Flecto Spinner is designed for flexibility!
- Its C-shaped base is flexible, opening wider or narrower. It can also be trimmed with scissors to make it fit narrow-gauge tubing like the back bike forks.
- It attaches to normal bike tubing with 2 zip ties. For bike tubing much wider than normal, longer zip ties are available in hardware stores.
- The distance between the pinwheel and the base is adjustable. The pinwheel can be pulled out even more from its barrel, say on the handlebar, to make more room underneath for the rider's hand.
- On the front and back forks, the pinwheel can also be pulled out so it sticks out farther into traffic for better visibility.
- The petals can be swiveled in any direction. They can also be positioned at any angle relative to the wind as shown below in a cool, swept-back formation on the back forks.
This idea is one of those where you go, "I wish I had thought of that," and one which might also lend itself easily to being adapted by DIYers, as pinwheels are readily available in dollar stores and toy stores (though the Flecto Spinner is said to be made from heavier duty materials, and should last longer than a homemade version).