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Bike Navigation May Become Simpler and Safer

  • George Putic

As bicycles become an increasingly popular alternative form of transportation in big cities, the number of accidents is also on the rise, often because riders are being distracted while trying to navigate with maps and directions from their smart phones. A new technology developed in Canada may make navigation simpler - and therefore safer.

In many cities around the world, including Montreal and Washington, anyone with a credit card can go to a ride-share station and rent a bike.

But knowing how to ride, and riding on a busy street while making turns to reach a destination safely are two different things.

Public Bike System Company, which operates Montreal’s bike share system, says its riders needed a device that could make figuring out how to get where they were going simpler and safer.

“The less people are inclined to look for information with one hand on their bicycles and the other on their smart phones, the more they are focused on the road the better it will be. And they receive information only at certain times," said Director of Operations Jean-Paul Palaux.

‘SmartHalo,’ developed by Montreal-based company Cycle-Labs, lets riders keep their smart phones in their pockets.

“By having SmartHalo on your bike you get very simple and clear instructions," said Maxime Couturier of Cycle-Labs.

Permanently installed on the handlebars, SmartHalo connects wirelessly to the rider’s smartphone, finding the simplest and safest route to the desired destination.

Directions are communicated with clear visual signals. It tracks the rider's time, speed, distance and calories burned, and indicates incoming phone calls and messages. It is water and dust proof, and cannot be removed from the bike without a special key.

“It's really great when you don't really know which route to take to reach point B. When you don't really know the city, I think it's awesome because it tells you where you can go," said cyclist Emilie Bonnier.

‘SmartHalo’, which costs $150, also has a built-in safety device that flashes red and sounds a loud alarm if someone tries to steal the bike.

Its developers hope to install the device on all bike share bicycles in Montreal, and hopefully on thousands of bikes around the world.

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