Deimatic Clothing mimics animal defence
mechanisms to get women cycling

| 14 comments
 

Central Saint Martins graduate Will Verity has designed a jacket with LEDs that flash faster as cars come closer to help women overcome fears of cycling.

Only 25 per cent of journeys by bike in the UK are made by women – versus 55 per cent in the Netherlands and similarly equal numbers in other countries where cycling is more prominent – according to UK government report Get Britain Cycling.



In response to the report's calls to "increase cycle use from less than two per cent of journeys in 2011 to 25 per cent by 2050", Will Verity looked into what was stopping women taking to their bikes.

He found that in the UK, cyclists are overwhelmingly white, male, and between the ages of 25 and 44.

Fear of accidents was identified as the biggest barrier preventing women from joining their ranks – above more tangible barriers such as not owning a bicycle.

Diematic Clothing by Will Verity

Verity cast cyclists in the role of prey and drivers in the role of predators to explore the threatening and startling "deimatic" behaviour used by animals to scare off and distract predators, such as suddenly displaying conspicuous eyespots, as a potential solution to the problem.

The resulting jacket features proximity sensors embedded into its back that control an LED panel.

If a vehicle gets too close to the cyclist, the jacket will respond with intermittent flashing, which gets faster as the vehicle gets closer. The garment is made from waterproof lightweight technical fabrics.

Diematic Clothing by Will Verity

"The aim was to not only develop a responsive garment but also to change the visual language of cycling jackets," Verity told Dezeen. "The current language of high-visibility jackets is too similar to road signs, highway maintenance works and other barriers in the built environment – resulting in cyclists being seen as obstacles rather than people."

"The Deimatic Clothing jacket is trying to move away from this visual language and develop new perceptions, with the aim of giving cyclists more space on the road and a safer riding experience," he added.

Deimatic Clothing was developed as part of Will Verity's graduate project for his BA Product Design course at Central Saint Martins.

Diematic Clothing by Will Verity

It was displayed at Part 2 of the New Designers exhibition at London's Business Design Centre earlier this month.

Designers and architects are constantly developing ideas to improve cycling safety in the UK, and the volume of proposals has increased following a spate of deaths on London's roads earlier this year.

Norman Foster promoted a concept to build a network of elevated cycle pathways above London's railways and a cycling organisation came up with a concept for a lorry with no blindspot to reduce the number of cyclists killed in collisions.

  • Romain_M

    Well done ! Love the idea of reminding the drivers that cyclists are actively involved in traffic rather than obstacles to be avoided. But how does the garment differentiate approaching vehicles and static objects? Relative to an advancing cyclist, isn’t the whole world in movement?

    Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be restricted to just women…

  • Redfern

    I know plenty of women who are not afraid to cycle in London and plenty of men who are. This should not just be pitched at women.

    Why don’t men and women in the Netherlands need something like this? Because their road infrastructure is more cleverly designed to encourage cycling. They have proper cycle lanes which are level, well connected to each other and protected from other traffic – not awkwardly tacked onto bus lanes or pedestrian walkways, disappearing intermittently, following ridiculous road contours or non-existent etc.

    Whilst it is good that Will Verity is trying to address this problem, a person would ultimately need to brave London’s busy traffic albeit with some improved safety apparel.

    The ultimate way to encourage all people to cycle in London is to install proper cycling infrastructure like in the Netherlands where anyone can feel safe cycling. This is a design challenge that has not yet been achieved in London despite the cycle superhighways.

    • Kalum666

      I keep being amazed by how both professionals and non-professionals in the UK are obsessed with infrastructure when it comes to road safety.

      A huge factor that is never mentioned in the UK/Europe comparison for road safety is the application of the “weak user principle” (usager faible – sorry couldn’t find the official translation).

      In France, Belgium and the Netherlands, “weak users” ALWAYS have priority on others. Also, by default “strong users” will always be blamed in case of an accident.

      It applies to pedestrian-cyclist vs motorists.

      It also applies pedestrian vs cyclists. By the way, the latter behave awfully towards pedestrians in the UK.

      I find it crazy that there exists such a thing as “non
      priority” pedestrian crossing in this country.

      Stop arguing around about the next zebra crossing design that will change the world, or how Europeans, about lunatic out-of-touch ideas like Foster-Boris 22m high segregated cycle lanes or how Britons are supposedly culturally different.

      Set the law right and just watch how lawyers will correct behaviour within less than a decade.

  • cubert

    To feel safer, maybe she should have to use a helmet before wearing this kind of stuff. And if she does, we can put it on a rotating beacon. In this way she could carry a backpack.

    • cubert

      I didn’t notice, but actually her bike has neither lights nor reflective surfaces? Oh, come on! Did Mr Verity ask himself if women in the UK have a fear of bicycles just because they don’t use basic equipment?

  • Ryan Sloan Blueprint

    Not bad but surely it should be in red, not white LEDs?

  • Trinko Bumbinko

    I want to buy one and be safe on the roads, but I cannot as I am male :(

  • Melle

    I’m somewhat surprised by this design. Sure the idea sounds commendable, though I wonder if the research behind identifying the problem was done seriously at all. I find the concept of casting cyclists in the role of prey and drivers in the role of predator highly doubtful.

    In my opinion the best way to improve cycling safety is by creating an environment where both can coexist. Not only will this make traffic safer, it will also promote bike use since car drivers can see cycling as an pleasant alternative.

    By casting them as enemies it will put them even more in this mindset, and I can imagine that the blinking bright light going faster and faster when getting closer might even provoke aggression.

    What really disqualifies this design though is the use of white lights. Even if I would emphasise with the philosophy behind it, the execution just won’t work. There is no way that white light facing backwards will make any traffic situation safer.

    • Kalum666

      Please see my comment below about “weak user principle” and the UK’s road safety legal environment.

      Less design and more common sense.

      Otherwise, indeed it is quite overdue in the UK to move away from segregation and antagonisation.

  • Chris

    Not a bad idea. If infrastructure designers would design bike lanes and side walks as if they were designing for their own children, this would be unnecessary. If a bike lane or sidewalk isn’t safe enough for your own child, then it isn’t a real bike lane or sidewalk.

    Designers need to think more about pedestrians and cyclists in their future world. Less planning like Robert Moses and more like Jan Gehl.

  • ddp12

    Surely this is a bad idea. The LEDs would burn the user… if the battery didn’t die in 5 minutes.

  • Lucy

    As a female in Australia, who has been hit by a car on my bicycle, I would say that it doesn’t matter how visible you are. If a driver isn’t looking for a bike, they still will not see you no matter how lit up like a Christmas tree you are!

    I wonder why there are no lights on the front of the jacket? Is it not important for drivers to see you in their rear and side mirrors? Many of the bicycle accidents in Australia come from vehicle ‘door-ings’. Nonetheless, any project that focuses on better road safety is important and commendable. Thank you.

  • Snarf Mar

    Stripes would be more flattering on men and women. Bonus if they animate to cover the whole surface and especially the sleeves. Looks promising and exciting, but this strikes me as a bulky beta concept.

  • Fuk Yoo

    Oh, thanks. Now, as a frightened, insecure and weak woman, I can FINALLY go cycling. Thank you. So much. You took ALL the fear away from me. You alone. Forever, or at least until the batteries are empty.