Blubel is a Smart Bell The Navigates Safe Routes for Bicyclists

The bell combines community-sourced data with route maps to choose the best bike routes.

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Sasha Afanasieva originally started biking around London, England to get in shape, but quickly discovered how fun and freeing bike commuting was and soon enough it was her main mode of transportation. However, her enjoyment of biking was tempered somewhat by the usual stressors urban cyclists face, especially in a large urban center such as London. She would occasionally get lost, or inadvertently end up on a fast arterial route, in a busy roundabout, or on a dangerous street with no easy way to stop and look for a better route. 

“It’s difficult to navigate for cyclists: unlike for pedestrians, it’s not easy or convenient to look at the phone or stop to check directions,” Afanasieva explained. “In a car, it’s easier to mount a smartphone to listen to directions, whereas on a bike it’s more difficult to follow on the go.”

While biking around, Afanasieva began brainstorming ideas for a navigation device specifically for bicyclists that would be easy to use on the go. With that, the idea for Blubel was born.

Blubel functions like a sat nav for bicyclist, which leads riders to their destination through a simple interface of LED lights as well as audio signals. It pairs with a supporting app through Bluetooth – hence ‘Blubel’ – to record data on hazards on stressors in order to choose the safest and quietest route to each destination. Every time a rider rings the bell to report a hazard, Blubel records it, thereby creating an increasingly comprehensive data set of areas of the city which are more or less stressful to ride in. It also works in conjunction with other data such as route maps, so if somebody rings the bell to indicate a pass in a protected bike lane, Blubel would understand that as a “social ring” rather than hazard.

Afanasieva and the Blubel team won the IBM Smart City challenge earlier this year for their prototype, and were then selected by the European Space Agency Technology Transfer Office to join their incubator program, receiving technical support and funding to further develop the product. Now that it’s ready to hit the streets, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Blubel to market.

As a community-supported app, Blubel only gets better at mapping out safe cycling routes as more riders use it. Afanasieva also plans to share the data with city planners in order to better equip them to identify issues and improve their cycling routes.

To learn more or to pre-order, check out the Kickstarter campaign and blubel.co.

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