See.Sense ACE bike lights

I have a thing for bicycle lights. I’ve got multiple sets, many of which were acquired through various Kickstarter campaigns. The See.Sense ACE lights are one such set.

I joined the See.Sense ACE Kickstarter campaign as soon as it launched back in October 2017, and managed to secure the Super Early Bird price of £40 for the set. If you want to buy them now, they cost £79.99 on the See.Sense website, so I got a good deal. However I did have to wait a year for them to arrive!

These are the second set of See.Sense lights that I’ve bought. I also have the ICON lights (another Kickstarter purchase) so you could say I’m a fan of the brand.

I like the fact that See.Sense push the boundaries of what a bike light can be. Sure you can turn them on and off with a push-button like other bike lights, but they are also bluetooth-connected to an app on your phone for more granular control, and to enable advanced features like crash and theft notifications.

The lights react automatically to changing road conditions, and flash brighter and faster in situations when you need to be more visible.

Personally I like to pair the ACE lights along with another set of bike lights. The first set of lights are set to constant beam, and help me see the road ahead (potholes and other debris), and the ACE lights do their flashing thing to help me be seen by other road users.

I don’t mind having two sets of lights on the go. They’re all USB rechargeable, so it doesn’t cost me anything to use them (especially if I recharge them at work). And I would rather light up my bike like a Christmas tree than dress like a clown in high-vis gear!

See.Sense ACE bike light

I’m still experimenting with the ideal positioning location for the ACE lights. At the moment I have the rear one mounted just about the reflector on my rack.

I’m not sure whether the lights are meant to be vertically or horizontally mounted. The See.Sense website says that they provide 200 degrees of side visibility, but I’m not sure if that’s from all angles. In their promo video they have people using them both ways, so maybe you can use them equally both ways. At the moment the vertical mount seems to work best for me.

The only slight downside is that the flashing of the front light is visible in my peripheral vision, and can be distracting at night. The ICON lights were provided with a black rubber band that you could use to eliminate this distraction – albeit narrowing your visibility to others in the process. There’s no similar band provided with the ACE lights, so I may need to improvise something with a bit of black electrical tape.

I’m also using the lights for day and night cycling. I like the idea that I have highly visible at all times, regardless of the time of day – and these light are certainly bright enough to catch people’s attention even in the middle of the day.

Here’s a short video of the flashing in the bike park at work, to give you an idea of the brightness and speed of flashing.

See.Sense ACE bike light flashing

If there was one improvement I’d like to see, it would be to have a more solid and permanent mounting system. My other bike lights are permanently mounted on the bike and have special proprietary anti-theft bolts to make sure they can’t be stolen. The ACE lights, in comparison are mounted using a rubber band – and I have to remember to remove them from the bike every time to make sure they aren’t stolen!

The problem with Grand Canal cycle path traffic lights

The segregated cycle path along Grand Canal is an example of the kind of cycling infrastructure that we should have all over the city.

It’s clearly a very popular resource, especially during the rush hours, with thousands of bikes passing every hour – mostly with people heading to and from the Grand Canal Dock area. It gets so busy that as many as 50 bikes bunch up to wait at each phase of the traffic lights crossing the arterial roads such as Charlemont Street and Baggot Street.

Unfortunately the traffic light sequences just aren’t long enough for the sheer volume of cyclists. The bike-specific green light only lasts for a few seconds – enough time for maybe 10 bikes to get through. And so cyclists are routinely setting off to cross the roads as soon as the pedestrian lights go green (ahead of the bicycle green light), which obviously leads to some contention with pedestrians trying to cross at the same time.

Most of the cyclists are respectful of the pedestrians, and wait for them to cross first, but there are a small minority of cyclists that act in a way that can appear selfish or dangerous to pedestrians.

On top of this there are also vehicles, waiting at the traffic lights, that sometimes block the junctions where people are trying to cross – leading to more contention between pedestrians and cyclists being squeezed into a small space between cars.

The answer to this would seem to be to adjust the bicycle-specific traffic lights along this route to allow a lot more time for bikes to get through – even if that's just for weekday rush hours. And also, to keep junctions free of vehicles, I would suggest that yellow boxes should be extended to include the crossing areas.

By doing this, we can make this route a safer and more pleasant environment for both pedestrians and cyclists, who vastly outnumber those in cars, and enhance this popular commuting route.

Symbolic “Die-In” as part of Stop Killing Cyclists protest

A protest by people who ride bicycles took place outside the Oireachtas, Leinster House, last night (21st November 2017) in response to the 14th person so far this year who has died while cycling.

The death of 14 cyclists is a disturbingly high number, and a tragedy for their family and friends. The gathering – which was jointly organised by Dublin Cycling Campaign, Cyclist.ie, IBIKEDUBStayin Alive at 1.5, and Cycling Without Age – was a vigil to remember those who had died, and also a protest to demand action and funding for proper cycling infrastructure from the government.

A symbolic "die-in" formed part of the protest, with bicycle users lying on the road.

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Photo credit: @nickkeeganirl

Dublin See.Sense Cycling Data Trial

I signed up to take part in the See.Sense Dublin trial for Smart Dublin, to help collect data on cycling habits and road conditions.

The project uses a special version of the See.Sense ICON bike light, which automatically collects data during bike rides.

This version of the light used for the trial is a back (red) light, and it looks essentially the same as the existing ICON bike lights. However it does have some subtle style changes. There is a blue band around the light (instead of the usual red), and a blue rubber strap for attachment. The back of the light is also grey instead of black.

Participants also need to join the beta version trial for the See.Sense ICON app, and upgrade the firmware of the light to the latest version.

It's a shame that the app doesn't show any details of the data its collecting. I guess I'll just have to wait until Smart Dublin publishes its results in the future.

Sometimes cyclists are in the wrong

When having discussions about conflicting road usage, it's often happens that we blame the 'other side'.

Cyclists blame motorists, and motorists blame cyclists. It's easy to demonise a different 'group' of road users, when in actual fact it's never just one 'side' that's in the wrong. Normally there's problems on both sides.

Most motorists are careful and considerate drivers, most of the time. They act with consideration to the rules of the road, and for other road users. But then there is the visible minority that place their own convenience over the potential risk to the lives of vulnerable road users – and they are the ones that do things like dangerous overtaking, running red lights, and illegal parking.

In a similar fashion, most cyclists are careful and considerate road users, most of the time. They act with consideration to the rules of the road, and for other road users. But within cyclists there is also a visible minority that place their own convenience over the potential risk to other road users – and they are the ones that run red lights and cycle on pavements.

It's these people who behave badly that give everyone else a bad name. We use examples of this bad behaviour to criticise the 'other' group, and if we're being lazy we attribute those behaviours to the entire group. After all, it's easier to demonise all cyclist or all motorists rather than acknowledging that it's all a bit more complicated than that.

So what do we do about it?

Well, there are a number of possible responses:

  1. We take matters into our own hands – we get aggressive and confrontational in a bid to enforce our own views on the situation. However actions like motorists trying to run cyclists off the road, and cyclists banging on the side of cars, never seems to end up doing any good. People get angry with each other, and often entrench their negative views rather than acknowledging they are in the wrong.
  2. We get the authorities to police bad behaviour – we could lobby for road traffic offences to be policed more rigorously, and prosecuted more fully. This might work, but you end up criminalising people who don't necessarily think they're doing anything that wrong. And, of course, you can't put a Guard on every street corner – and some might say it would be better to use their limited resources for dealing with more serious crime.
  3. We could accept the situation for what it is – and accept that some people are always going to behave selfishly. The very definition of stress is getting upset about something over which you have no control, and we have no control over how other people act. So rather than getting angry over the actions of others – especially people who often have no clue you are upset with them – you can decide to change your reaction to the situation. Once you accept that others sometimes act with disregard to you, and stop trying to 'change them' in your mind, you'll feel a lot better about it!
  4. We could educate people to be more mindful of others – rather than demonising and criticising people because of their actions, try instead to explain the consequences of their actions on others. Try to get them to empathise with how others feel, and people will in themselves begin to act less selfishly. A driver, who understands how their bad parking puts cyclists in danger, would hopefully decide to park with more consideration in the future. And a cyclist that runs red lights, who understands how it might frighten drivers and pedestrians trying to cross their path, might decide to stop and wait at the lights.

Personally I'm more of a fan of responses 3 and 4, as they involve changing the hearts and mind of all road users – and teach us to share the road and be considerate of all road users.

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