Bike lights are an essential safety tool, and yet the vast majority of them are cheap and shoddily designed. There are a whole host of issues, from the way they're powered to the way they're mounted to the way they produce light, and, incredibly, a new Kickstarter project seems to address all of those issues.
The Double-O light was created by London-based design shop Paul Cocksedge Studio, best known for their work in light and sound, like this bent vinyl sound cone and these phenomenal non-lamp lamps. It's a rechargeable LED bike light but so cleverly and carefully designed as to be much more than an experiment—it's one of the most practical lights I've ever seen.
The Double-O is shaped like two small circles, each circle embedded with 12 small LEDs. As the convention requires, the light meant for the front of the bike is colored white, and the rear light is colored red. The ring shape turns out to be a little stroke of genius, for a few different reasons. For one, separating out the lights around the circle, rather than clumping them all together, diffuses the glow a bit, meaning that it's just as bright but no longer blinding to drivers or other cyclists. It's the same reason photographers prefer a ring-shaped flash array over a single flash.
The other reason for the shape is for security. Bike lights need to be easy to remove from the bike, because leaving them on the bike is an invitation for the lights to be stolen. The Double-O light comes with a magnetic holder—the Kickstarter page shows a demonstration of riding a bike down some stairs to prove that the magnets are strong enough to hold the lights in place—so they're easy to remove. But what do you do with them when you've removed them? It's annoying to put lights in your pocket or bag. But! These lights are the perfect shape to slide onto a common U-lock, which many cyclists use to lock bikes to a rack or pole. They're designed to magnetically snap together, face to face, to protect the LEDs. Then you thread the lights onto your lock and secure your bike as usual. It's such a simple idea but such a great one.
The lights charge via USB, and last for, according to the Kickstarter, anywhere from 2.1 hours (for a steady light) to 10 hours (on "eco" mode), which is maybe a little low, but the fact that they charge via USB makes that a lot easier to forgive. Other lights use bulky AAA batteries or hard-to-replace flat watch batteries.
They're not cheap: The Kickstarter "early bird special" (meaning this is at a slight discount from what'll hopefully be the final retail price) is £69, or about $115, for a pair of lights. Considering you can go to your local bike shop and pick up a pair of cheapie lights for $20, the Double-O is definitely at a premium. That said, those $20 lights will almost certainly break or get stolen or lost, and won't do as good a job of alerting other people on the road to your presence. The studio is asking for a steep £75,000 to fund the project, but unlike so many of the Kickstarter projects that pass my laptop screen every day, this one is actually, legitimately, a good and practical idea.
Go here to order yours.