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High-Tech Bike Could Make Cycling Safer for Older Riders

The design-challenge winner includes blind-spot monitors and emergency alerts

Bicycle prototype design for older riders, screen in center of handlebar

Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies

Ride Rite has a handlebar-mounted device to help older Americans ride a bike more safely and confidently.

En español | Student designers from Virginia Tech have devised an aging-friendly bicycle designed to protect older cyclists from accidents, and even to call for help if they need it. 

The Ride Rite prototype with a specially angled handlebar recently won the $10,000 first prize in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge.

To help aging eyes and necks that don’t turn as easily, the Ride Rite is equipped with blind-spot monitors that employ laser pulses to detect vehicles or other bikes approaching on either side. When that happens, built-in video cameras activate to let the cyclist see potential hazards on a screen mounted on the handlebar. The screen also would display maps to help cyclists avoid getting lost.

Ride Rite uses gyroscopes to detect when a cyclist takes a spill. If he or she isn’t able to get up and get the bike upright within a set time interval, the Ride Rite would call 911 and also notify a cyclist's emergency contact.

The student designers’ research included interviews with residents of a local retirement community. “A lot of people do stationary biking,” explained industrial design major Eric Lord. “But we looked at the mental health benefits of being outside and saw it was a lot more beneficial.”

The students hope to turn the design into a marketable product, and already they have sparked initial interest from potential backers.

Associate Professor Brook Kennedy said the handlebar is an example of how design can be used to help older people develop an exercise habit and ward off age-related disability.