Inteview: Lucy Brainer – founder of LUMO, wearable tech for cyclists

It turns out safety clothes don't have to be ugly

The safest thing you can wear while riding a bike is probably a neon high visibility jacket. However, you’re not going to look very cool turning up at the bar after work with all that on. It’s no surprise that some people just jump on their bike with only their work clothes when they cycle in the city. The vast majority of cycling deaths in the UK occur in low-light conditions but only 10% of us wear high-visibility clothing.

Lucy Brainer and her husband founded English wearable tech company LUMO to address this problem. Their launch line-up, The London Collective, mixes style and safety with the goal being to have no compromise. They want people to feel comfortable in good-looking clothing but remain well-lit when cycling at night. The LUMO clothing features bright LEDs that are invisible until turned on. When you get off the bike, you don’t look like you’re wearing safety gear. Check it out:

We love this blend of fashionable and functional so we spoke with Lucy Brainer, founder of LUMO, about cycling safety and tech entrepreneurship.

A lot of cycling clothes focus on fashion and barely on safety at all. The safest clothing options are often the ugliest. Is there a problem with cyclists choosing looks over safety? Is that a real reason some people don’t have safe gear?

Yes, certainly. 92% of cycling fatalities happen in low light conditions, yet just 10% of cyclists wear high visibility clothing with the most common reason being cited as ‘image concerns’. Not everyone wants to turn up to work ‘looking like a cyclist’ in Lycra or high-vis, but at the same time it’s important to feel safe on the road and be comfortable on the bike.

LUMO clothing is designed for cyclists who don’t want to make that compromise between style and safety. We take classic British designs like the Harrington or Parka jacket, and subtly integrate cycling function. This includes the integration of waterproof LED lights concealed within the jacket, making the cyclist visible to traffic up to 400 meters away.

Cities and drivers are often at fault but I also see people with no helmets, running red lights, and with no lights on at night. LUMO would make them safer but is there an attitude change required first?

I think the single biggest change that could happen to improve cyclists’ safety in London would be the improvement of infrastructure to make it easier for cyclists to share the road with vehicles. We’re seeing this with the building of cycle superhighways across London which is fantastic as it gives cyclists a segregated lane from other road traffic.

However, there’s still a long way to go to make the capital a truly cycling friendly city and for the most part cyclists and motorists still need to share the road. I think it’s important that both sides treat each other with respect and drive or ride responsibly. That means as a cyclist making sure you have lights (the law), not jumping red lights (the law). Wearing a helmet is a personal choice.

We’re seeing a lot of great tech recently that we’re surprised doesn’t already exist. Is tech catching up with people’s ideas? Are we seeing a boom in entrepreneurs because of tech?

Technology has become more accessible to everyone and that means we as entrepreneurs can bring concepts to market quickly without needing the big budgets of larger organisations. Software, data, consumers, suppliers, they are all just a few clicks away.  For example, start-up hardware companies in the UK can now create prototypes of their ideas for a couple of hundred pounds using a 3D printer as opposed to paying thousands in mould fees at large factories overseas.

Advances in technology also mean start-ups are able to scale more quickly. LUMO is 100% crowd-funded, a concept that was not in existence 10 years ago. Before we launched we had pre-orders from 32 different countries.

With technology now making it easier for us to bring ideas to life quickly and cheaply more people are encouraged to give their ideas a go. Given that a more digital economy can increase GDP per capita growth rates by 40%, it makes sense that governments and public policy makers recognise this relationship between technology and creativity and do what they can to support it. In an upcoming Index on Digital Life, to be published by Telefonica, the case for countries looking to build strong digital economies by prioritising support of entrepreneurs just as much their investment in things like network infrastructure will be explored.

Looking back at my own experience with LUMO, I know that we never could have dreamed of achieving the awareness and success we have without technology providing us the platform with which to do so.

All images © LUMO