John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
These LED-studded gloves not only look nifty, but could save lives, too.
Bicycle lights have evolved to the point where they could stun a rampaging rhino from a thousand feet with the sheer power of lumens. But their effectiveness is limited to only showing where a bicyclist is, not where a bicyclist plans to go. And at night, drivers often can't see your hands gesturing to indicate a left or right turn.
The "Early Winter Night Biking Gloves," created by Vienna-based tech artist Irene Posch, tackle this safety issue with a design ripped straight out of Tron. These futuristic fashion accessories are made from felt or knitted wool and are studded with 3-millimeter LEDs arranged into the shape of arrows. As Posch explains on her website:
Raising visibility is a big issue for urban bikers. The Gloves aesthetically and functionally translate this need: Winter nights come early, thus there is more need for extra lighting; at the same time it is cold, so wearing gloves is necessary anyway. Preserving the look and feel of normal gloves, LEDs showing a turn signal light up when the hand is stretched out and a fist is formed, a strong signal for following cars....
Choosing gloves as the basis allows to have the signal actually at the furthermost extension of your body, being for following cars not just an indication that you are turning, but also what distance they should keep from you. Also, risks that the signal is covered by a backpack or similar, as possible when directly mounted in a jacket for example, are kept minimal.
How does making a fist activate the lights? The fabric that Posch uses is threaded with metal hairs to make the gloves electrically conductive, a not-unheard-of trick in the world of crafting. (Check out these lamp-dimming pom poms.) Closing the hand completes a circuit running on a tiny 3-volt battery and bing! On go the diodes.
Another feature of these pieces of wearable technology: The fingertips are conductive as well, allowing a rider to use a smartphone while pedaling down the street. How the gloves hold up when a distracted biker is violently skidding hands-first on rough asphalt has yet to be determined.