Business ideas: Bike safety accessories

With cycling accidents on the rise and growing concerns over cycle safety, this product start-up could prove a lucrative business opportunity…

With more people turning to cycling; whether for the daily commute or fitness, starting a cycling business is more attractive than ever.

And with more cyclists on the roads it was inevitable the number of cycling-related accidents would increase, which in turn has led to greater demand for road safety gear and equipment. Despite some great innovations, it’s far from too late and 2015 could be the year to launch a business in cycle safety accessories.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), there are an average of 19,000 cycling accidents each year in the UK and this number is expected to rise further in 2015. Given these startling statistics alongside plans to expand London’s ‘Boris Bike’ scheme, starting a bike safety accessories start-up has clear social and commercial advantages.

Starting a bike safety accessories start-up: Why it’s a good business idea

Combined with research which heavily supports growing demand for bike safety accessories, the success of early-stage businesses in this area demonstrates the potential for budding entrepreneurs to follow suit. Innovative cycle light start-up Blaze is one such example of a company leading the way in bike safety.

Launched in 2013 by Emily Brooke, Blaze uses lasers to give drivers advanced warning of the approach of a cyclist by projecting a bike symbol onto the road ahead. Much like Batman’s Bat-Signal shining in the night’s sky, this innovation has garnered support from high-profile backers – Sam and Holly Branson, the son and daughter of Sir Richard Branson, recently participated in a £300,000 funding round alongside Index Ventures – reflecting the prospective market opportunities for bicycle accessories.

The range of possible bike safety innovations isn’t just limited to lights and lasers though; helmets and helmet accessories, handlebars and wearable gear are all options, and this diversity means that the bike safety sector has great potential.

Recent findings from independent research group Mintel also points to a gap in the cycling market for bike safety-related start-ups. Its 2014 report concluded that 32% of adults believe it is too dangerous to ride a bike on the road and its senior leisure and media analyst Michael Oliver highlighted that “if safety concerns around cycling on the roads can be definitively tackled, it could open the floodgates to a new era of mass cycling participation”.

Bike safety accessories business opportunities

Statistics from ROSPA show that around three quarters of cyclists are killed because of major head injuries so cycle helmets are an obvious area of focus for prospective bike product entrepreneurs. There’s also a strong case for innovations which help drivers see oncoming cyclists; such as Blaze’s concept, as in 57% of cycling incidents drivers said they did not see the cyclist. A bike safety accessory to promote visibility could even extend to satellite navigation or mobile phone technology which could warn vehicle drivers of a cyclist in their blind spot. The fact that Jaguar Land Rover announced plans for its 360˚ Virtual Urban Windscreen, which will project external images of the blind spot onto inner surfaces to ‘fill the gaps’ shows how important this issue is for drivers and cyclists alike.

Of the small cluster of start-ups in the bike safety sector, most manufacture the accessories themselves and often associate with the ‘Made in Britain’ tag, so manufacturing the products in-house in the UK may generate the best consumer response.

Investment and funding into bike safety is also promising. Alongside Blaze’s cash injection, European start-up Hövding; the “invisible” bike helmet/”airbag for cyclists”, has also secured impressive investment to the tune of €3m from Indigo Capital Partners to support its growth. Designed to look like a scarf which then expands into an inflatable helmet on impact and crucially protects the vulnerable back of the head and neck, the company already ships across Europe and is currently being tested in London. The concept promotes bike safety while appealing to the fashion-conscious, an approach which offers potential for similar pieces of bike safety design which could prove to be just as successful.

Who else has started a bike safety accessories business?

It’s not just Blaze and Hövding which have achieved early-stage growth. London-based CYCL is gaining traction with its WingLights device which mounts signal like blinkers on a bike’s handlebars to supplement hand signals while enabling drivers to see the cyclist from 10 metres away.

More convenience over bike safety; the Overade foldable bike helmet has also made waves in the cycling world. The concept is designed to save space while being carried by folding and unfolding in a matter of seconds to a third of the size of a normal helmet, and claims to be just as safe as a non-folding helmet.

Cycle safety also extends further than just accessories for the bike and there’s been a small cluster of British design-led start-ups who have excelled by creating products which protect the actual bike itself. Hiplok and Cyclehoop are two frontrunners in this industry which manufacture bike security devices and equipment; Hiplock is a wearable, portable bike lock which is “designed for riding” while Cyclehoop is the name behind the many bike lockers, racks and “cyclehoops” you’ll have seen dotted around London. There are even private members’ clubs for cyclists such as H2 Bike Run which offers access to secure cycle lock-ups and showers.

Insider opinion

Blaze founder, Emily Brooke, discusses growing demands for innovation in the cycling industry:

“The future prospects for the cycling industry are apparent if you look at the riders on any city street: it seems everyone is taking to two wheels and realising it’s better by bike. Yet everyone is not necessarily a lycra-clad, Strava-tracked, weekend Sportif rider, (though we do have a few in our team!) they’re everyday people just getting across town by bike. Traditional cycle brands aren’t keeping up with today’s riders, and start-ups offer a democratic route to not only give people what they want, but as a consequence also get more people on bikes too.

“At Blaze, we are all too aware of the many challenges facing urban cyclists. We’re building a brand unafraid of thinking differently and with innovation at it’s core, we’re setting out to tackle them. We started with what we believe is the biggest first – being seen in the blind spot and the most common cause of fatality.  The Blaze laserlight looks cool but helps to keep you safe – we haven’t yet got the answer on how to keep dry in the rain though!”

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