Would better rear view vision make cyclists feel safer?

Quieter roads of lockdown Britain are encouraging new cyclists to take to the roads - would rear view products make them feel safer?

Over the years, several brands have created products designed to provide cyclists with a clearer view of what’s going on behind them.

So far none of the options has been successful enough to become a widely adopted market leader – think Garmin to cycling computer as Hoover to vaccum cleaner, though the GPS brand’s reign is less secure these days.

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However, in the Covid-19 world with its quieter roads, desire to avoid public transport, and a promised £2bn spend on cycling infrastructure, more new riders are taking to the roads, while stores such as Halfords are reporting ‘very strong’ sales. So could it be time for a better solution?

E-bikes are increasing the popularity of cycling as a method of transport

My dad, as an example, is one such newer cyclist – compelled to try cycling thanks to a mixture of reduced traffic on the roads and the discovery of the assistance on offer from an e-bike. He’s already purchased a bar-end rear view mirror, but was quick to point out that it’s not as ergonomic as the simple ‘flick of the eye’ solution in every car he’s ever driven. He actually called me to ask what was available, coincidentally just as potential new brand HindSight launched its Kickstarter campaign.

The brand writes on its campaign page: “Rear vision is important to anyone on the road. So important that it’s illegal for most road users not to have any. If rear vision is so important, why do cyclists have no good options?”

HindSight is marketing its glasses both at commuters keen to have a greater view of what’s around them, as well as at competitive cyclists who want to ‘stay aero’ whilst knowing what’s going on behind.

The Cycling Weekly news team (and basically all photographers, ever) would mourn the loss of the backwards glance should this be a success, but that’s perhaps minor collateral damage.

Founded by physicist Alexander Macdonald and backed by Olympic champion Callum Skinner, HindSight is looking for £30,000 to move its rear view glasses prototype into production. So far, at time of writing, it’s raised 13.5k. For comparison sake, the Body Rocket aero sensor raised a quarter of a million earlier this month well before the crowdfunding deadline.

Image: HindSight

HindSight’s creation of course prompts several questions – would backward vision be distracting? Don’t the mirrors get in the way?

The brand has produced an FAQ video in response, with Skinner saying: “HindSight glasses do not impede your forward vision. This is due to the technology which is contained in the glasses. At the edge of the lenses there’s a slight angle and a slight transparent mirror… this doesn’t impede your forward vision because you can still see through the lens, but it also extends your perifory to whats going on behind you.”

Videos on the Kickstarter page show the product in action, and for now we reckon we’d really need to try this to be completely convinced.

An early bird deal in the glasses – at 30 per cent off – would see them come in at £139. The current design is only a prototype, the Kickstarter campaign looks to allow the brand to create three models – one for commuters, another for amateurs and a final model for elites.

Skinner comments: “The cycling market is about function and form, and needless to say that a lot of solutions on the market are quite obviously a safety feature. Cyclists want to look good and be safe and that’s what you get with HindSight glasses.”

Form is subjective but I think it’s fair to say the brand also has some work to do on the aesthetic before cyclists the world over will be convinced.

There have been other options produced in the past few yeas. There was the Fly6 rearview camera, this takes footage as you ride and can be used as evidence to back up a claim if needed. Garmin’s Varia lights now work with a smartphone app to provide a warning of fast approaching traffic, though the question has always been ‘does knowing something fast is approaching really help?’

I don’t doubt that there’s a need for something to provide cyclists with an easy vision of what’s going on behind them. As Macdonald comments: “attempts have been made to try and solve this problem for cyclists, none of them were really working to a degree which we considered functional.”

The brand presented its creation at the Scottish Edge business innovation awards, winning the competition and using the proceeds to set up the Kickstarter.

Would a solution to rear view vision make cycling more appealing to beginners, particularly those used to using the roads in a car? I think so. Is HindSight going to be the next market leader? It remains to be seen.