Riverview teen invents 'Beth's A Metre Matters Bike Light'
Beth Stevens was inspired by Ellen's Law and is now selling her STEM project at the Moncton Market
A student from Riverview High School has come up with an invention to help cyclists and motorists share the road safely.
Beth Stevens, who is 15 years old, has developed a light that shows a motor vehicle driver how much clearance a bike needs when they pass it.
The light is attached to the bottom left side of the bike frame and has to be angled to illuminate the road over a distance of one metre.
"It would be hard to tell, if you're driving, how long one metre is," said Stevens.
"If you're in the light it means they're too close."
When positioned properly the light also ensures a cyclist is visible to drivers.
"That way, if they aren't giving the metre, they can't say, 'Oh, I didn't see the cyclist,' because that's a big issue."
Stevens said she tries to get out and cycle as much as she can because it's good exercise and good training for the other sports that she does.
She came up with the idea for "Beth's A Metre Matters Bike Light" as a school STEM project. The challenge was to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to solve a real-world problem.
While she was doing research, there was a lot of talk in the news about Ellen's Law.
The provincial law was brought in after the death of up-and-coming competitive cyclist Ellen Watters, who was struck during a training run in the Sussex area.
Vehicles in New Brunswick are now required to keep at least a metre away while overtaking a cyclist.
The penalty for not doing so is a $172.50 fine and the loss of three driving points.
Her first prototype used a 12-volt, 12-pound battery, said Stevens. It had "a bunch of wires" and a switch that attached to a bike's handle bars.
"It was very made-in-your-garage. It was fun to make but it was also really impractical."
She refined her invention over the course of multiple entrepreneurship challenges and with the help of her parents and Riverview High science teacher Ian Fogarty.
The latest version is a USB rechargeable red light, that has a little button on top and five different modes — low, mid and high-beam ("kind of like your car"), flashing and strobe.
Stevens recommends strobe mode during the day and steady beam at night. She said the light shines toward the ground so it shouldn't be blinding or distracting to drivers.
"After you're out for a ride, you can just plug it into your iPhone or computer charger and just get it all juiced up and then go back out again."
"I think it's brilliant," said Simon Dubé, executive director of La Bikery bike co-op in Moncton.
Dubé said things have improved in the last few years, but he still gets cut off frequently. And even the drivers who seem to want to give him clearance don't always do it well enough.
"They give us maybe … two feet. To have that light is a gentle, passive reminder that this is one metre. This is what it looks like. And you have to respect it."
Matt Savage of Savage's Bicycle Centre in Fredericton said he also likes the concept. He's seen some similar products in recent years that use laser lights to draw lines on both sides of a bike.
Many bike lights use strobe effects, he said, and he's never heard of any safety issues from them.
Stevens is currently sourcing her lights overseas but is looking for a New Brunswick manufacturer.
So far, they're selling well among friends and family members.
"My grandfather took five lights this weekend and he sold them to all my relatives. So, he says that he's my new sales rep."
And Stevens was encouraged by the interest from customers at the Moncton Market.
"I got a great reaction and I'm super happy about that," she said.
She plans to return today and next Saturday.
With files from Shift