Labor Day will soon be upon us, bringing with it some good — fewer tourists on the roadways — and some not so good — fewer hours of daylight.

You’ve probably already noticed that your after-work rides have gotten shorter and darker since our hours of daylight began to dwindle around the second week of July.

Lack of daylight is no reason to cut your riding season short, but it may spur you to make a visit to your local bike shop to invest in some of the many options for lighting up your ride.

Anyone who rides knows of headlights that attach to handlebars, head lamps for helmets and red “blinkies” or taillights that can be clipped to a seat. A Spotlit Clip Light will run you just $5.95 and can be clipped to clothing or a seat bag. Or find LED lights that clip to the spokes of your tires for as low as $9.95.

If you’re hoping for a higher safety factor than those options provide, be patient: there’s some pretty exciting LED lighting technology for bikes coming down the road.

Two entrepreneurial groups in particular are working toward safer cycling in the dusk and dark. At Carnegie Mellon University, students Jonathan Ota and Ethan Frier have put a research grant to work to develop a bike lighting system they call Aura.

The cool factor is pretty big here — and the price tag likely will be also. The technology embeds groups of bi-colored LED lights into both the front and rear tire rims. They’re to be powered by a built-in dynamo generator. When the bike’s in motion, the lights start out appearing as red circles. As speed picks up, they transition to white (check out a video of Project Aura at

This technology goes above and beyond the norm because, while head and taillights get bikes seen from the front and rear, Aura calls attention to cyclists for cars coming at them from the side. Since, as the Aura video claims, 36 percent of cycling accidents occur at intersections, this technology could be a lifesaver.

Once it’s installed, it’s turned on and off by a power switch on the handlebars.

Following the “better safe than sorry” mantra, you’ll still want your headlight and taillight with this system, but it’s hard to imagine that any responsible motorist could miss an Aura-rigged bike pedaling down the street.

Ota and Frier plan to commercialize their lighting system, but there’s no telling what the time frame (or the cost) will be.

In the meantime, inventor Kent Frankovich and his cohorts in California are working to perfect a system they call Revolights. Here’s how it works:

Two hoops with eight LED lights each are clipped onto the bike’s rims. A lithium-ion battery pack mounted to the bike runs the lights, which blink on and off. The speed of the blink coincides with the speed of the moving tires.

Half of each tire is always illuminated and the system is devised to send light forward, backward and to the sides so other lighting isn’t necessary (see the video at

The creators of Revolights are raising money to commercially develop the product, but expect it to be ready by the end of this year for about $220.

If that’s a bit out of your price range for accessories, no worries. There are plenty of really reasonable lights you can pick up at local bike shops to keep you safe when twilight falls too early.

Contact Deputy Features Editor Karen Beaudoin at 791-6296 or at:

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