John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The latest entrant claims to be more convenient than a standard bike-safety light, but we've got a few concerns.
The Monocle, a prototype in the workshop of Philadelphia's Studio KMD, is meant for people heading out in the evening who forget their bike lights (but quizzically remember to strap on a custom-made phone holster). The patent-pending design is simple: Turn on the Monocle app, then insert the phone into a fabric pocket looped through your belt. The photo flash blips through a red filter, giving the appearance of a tiny but intense rear safety light. Somehow, this process does not result in your phone being filled with thousands of blurry photos of the street.
How quickly will this invention kill your battery? Its makers say they've performed "a few preliminary studies" on this question, and that a rate of three flashes per second will drain about 7 percent of the power in 15 minutes. If you're worried about it, there's the option of setting an alarm when the juice is nearly gone.
Studio KMD claims this light is more convenient than the standard model, citing these benefits:
- Stay safe using a device you already have with you
- Automatically adjusts to fit most belts
- Attaches to the person so it travels with you
- Will not be stolen when your bike is parked
- Usable on any bike in your fleet, no tools required
- Retro reflective strip helps increase visibility even if battery fails
However, the biking community has been slow to support the Monocle. The device still needs more than $6,000 to reach its minimum funding goal on Kickstarter. Perhaps that's because there's already a glut of more powerful lights in the market, or maybe some people just don't want to advertise their pricey gadgets.
Designers have been fooling around with the concept since at least 2008 without it catching on fire. This phone-light presents an unblinking wall of whiteness, for instance, while this one looks like a window into a Colombian discoteca:
(H/t to Cyclistchic.)