Why You Sometimes See Black Tubes Stretched Across the Road

David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you spend enough time driving down the right route, you may notice them: the skinny black tubes that seem to appear on stretches of road at random. But the scaled-down speed bumps are easy to miss. Unlike other features on the highway, these additions are meant to be used by the government, not drivers.

According to Jalopnik, those mysterious rubber cords are officially known as pneumatic road tubes. The technology they use is simple. Every time a vehicle’s tires hit the tube, it sends a burst of air that triggers a switch, which then produces an electrical signal that’s recorded by a counter device. Some tubes are installed temporarily, usually for about a day, and others are permanent. Rechargeable batteries powered by something like lead acid or gel keep the rig running.

Though the setup is simple, the information it records can tell federal agencies a lot about traffic patterns. One pneumatic tube can track the number of cars driving over a road in any given span of time. By measuring the time that passes between air bursts, officials can determine which time of day has the most traffic congestion. Two pneumatic tubes installed slightly apart from each other paint an even broader picture. Using this method, government agencies can gauge the class, speed, and direction of each vehicle that passes through.

Based on the data, municipalities can check which road signs and speed limits are or aren't working, and decide how much money to allot to their transportation budgets accordingly.

For a closer look at how these tubes are installed, check out the video below.

[h/t Jalopnik]

Mountable Laserlight Projector Creates a Personal Bike Lane for Cyclists

Beryl, Kickstarter
Beryl, Kickstarter

All the blinking lights and reflectors in the world aren't enough to prevent your bike from disappearing into a truck's blind spot. But what if you could extend the length of your bike by an 20 extra feet with the click of a button? That's the concept behind the Laserlight Core, a product currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Fast Company reports.

Laserlight resembles a small flashlight, and it attaches easily to the front of your handlebars. When biking, you can switch it on to project a laser image of a green bike symbol onto the street several yards in front of you. If the driver of a van, truck, or bus can't see your actual bike in their mirror, the idea is that the light will make them aware of your presence. The projection is about the width of a bike lane, so it may also encourage drivers to give cyclists more road space than they would have otherwise. According to an independent study on the light from Transport for London, bikers with Laserlight are about 97 percent visible at night to drivers in vans (compared to 65 visibility with a standard LED light).

Emily Brooke came up up with the concept seven years ago as a design student at England's University of Brighton. After a frighteningly close encounter with a van while biking, she wondered if she could invent a way to get the attention of drivers even when she was stuck squarely in their blind spots.

Her product, originally dubbed Blaze, launched on Kickstarter in 2012. The campaign was a success, and now she's returning to the crowdfunding platform with a new-and-improved version of the item. Laserlight Core is easier to mount than its predecessor and it also projects a clearer image. You can reserve yours with a pledge of $75 or more with shipping estimated for December of this year. (It makes a great gift for the dedicated cyclist in your life, too.)

[h/t Fast Company]

Website Lets You Report Individuals Affected by Hurricane Michael to Search-and-Rescue Teams

Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images

When Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on October 10, it became the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. since 1992. Homes from Florida to Virginia have since been leveled and at least 11 people have died. With internet and phone lines down across the disaster zone, many people are desperate to know if their loved ones are safe—now there's an online tool that can help them.

If you're having trouble getting in touch with someone who was in the hurricane's path, you can report them through a new website set up by the Florida National Guard, First Coast News reports. The site asks for the person's name, gender, age, and address, as well as any life-threatening issues they may be facing, such as low oxygen or medication supplies. After you submit their information, the State Emergency Operations Center forwards it to the relevant local agency doing recovery work.

Michael moved back over the Atlantic as a post-tropical storm Friday morning following its rampage through the southeastern U.S. More than 1000 search-and-rescue workers have already been deployed in Florida alone, and the death toll is expected to rise as clean-up efforts continue across the region.

[h/t First Coast News]

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