Getting Loud: A Car Horn for Bikes

This Kickstarter project aims to give cyclists an audible edge.

loud bicyclePhoto used with permission from Loud Bicycle

You may have noticed that we talk a fair share about bikes, and the tragic death of a B.U. student Christopher Weigl last week had several of us chatting about the how the incident put us on edge. We started to discuss better ways to alert drivers to the presence of an oncoming cyclist, noting that bells, air horns, and banging on the hood of an offending vehicle seem to have little effect. “Surely some engineering student here in Boston can develop a car horn for a bike,” we said, and agreed that'd be a rather brilliant idea.

Thankfully, Jonathan Lansey already had it. The B.U. graduate had experienced enough close calls on his bike that he'd thought the same thing, and, being an engineer, he set about to built one, BostInno reports. The result is the “Loud Bicycle,” an attachable bicycle horn that releases a sharp, two-toned honk that sounds identical to a car's horn. He put his project up on Kickstarter on Thursday, and has already raised more than $11,000 toward his $43,000 goal.

After having the idea about a year ago, Lansey went to AutoZone and hacked together a prototype for his bike and was immediately impressed with the results. Drivers are conditioned to respond to car horns and tend to automatically hit their breaks, he realized, so they're apt to stop faster if they hear a horn rather than taking a few seconds to locate the source of a bell, or air horn, or angry cyclist screaming at them. “One or two seconds can be enough to save someone’s life,” he says. After working with his brother Andrew, a mechanical engineer based in New Jersey, the two developed a battery-powered horn that weighs about 23 ounces and can last several months. It releases a honk that's 112 decibels loud, and stays consistently loud, even when the battery's power is waning (the length of the honk only gets shorter as the power dies). They printed out their final prototype using the 3D printers at Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, and the “Loud Bicycle” was officially born.

Lansey says that aside from getting his bike horns funded, his larger goal is that drivers actually become better attuned to sharing the road. “I used to bike on those streets every day,” he says of the section of Commonwealth Ave where Weigl was killed, and notes that the truck driver's right hand turn was the cause of the crash. Motorists, he says, often “have no idea that they've cut off a cyclist. But if they get honked at it can not only prevent an accident, but the driver will know what happened, and they will be able to learn a be more careful in the future. It can have a much larger effect, it can really create a change in perspective.”