Sometimes I like to say that the Silicon Valley startup culture is based on inventing problems that nobody knew existed -- then creating solutions for those very dilemmas. Bicycle turn signals are one of those, except this problem wasn't dreamed up by an ambitious engineer.
It is a problem that one Google engineer is hoping to rectify.
Enter the Zach Vorhees, and the Zackees.
I previously wrote about the Zackees in the Cyborg Cyclist of the Future a few weeks back. Since then, the company, which is fundraising for his nearly eponymous Zackees Turn Signal Gloves, has met its goal of $35,000 and even exceeded it, amassing nearly $50,000. There are no stretch goals for the project. The gloves in kickstarter form started at $59 for a pair (sadly, those are gone now). You could also purchase a single glove for only $49 (called the MJ Edition).
This is one of those projects that sort of makes you face palm. The idea of a turn signal for a bike is so obvious that it's almost unthinkable that someone hasn't invented a solution for this already. In fact, people have been using turn signals for years. It's just that they are 1. not that visible, especially at night, and 2. nobody uses them or knows what they mean.
But the Zackees Signal Gloves resolve some of the biggest problems with hand signals -- they are visible even at night, and they're very easy to comprehend.
Unfortunately, the Zackees Signal Gloves share one problem with hand signals: you've got to take your hands off the handle bars to use them.
Hand signals have both the problem/advantage of being exclusively with your left hand. The Zackees gloves will use both hands. That's not better or worse really; the advantage probably still goes to the Zackees since they can show your intention to turn into oncoming traffic with your hands still on the bars.
In any event, I'm not saying these turn signal gloves from the ex-Google software engineer aren't a good idea, just that they aren't a totally new idea. I'd love to see someone using turn signal gloves instead of just swerving any which way in the dark. I'd also love to see more cars using turn signals -- and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.