Innovation for Independence


Blind cyclist using the ultrabike kit on a bicycle
Publish date:
16/01/2015 - 11:57am
Last updated:
16/01/2015 - 11:57am

The UltraBike kit has been designed so that people who are blind or visually impaired can cycle independently. The kit is attached to the centre of the handlebars on a bicycle so it is completely detachable and can be used on most types of bikes. The kit contains two ultrasound sensors that are positioned on the front, that point directly forwards but angled slightly outwards by 5 degrees. This is to ensure that the sensors can detect not just what is in front of the cyclist, but what is also at either side of them, but always looking ahead. Attached to the kit are two ‘arms’, one on either side and they contain a tactor button. These arms are positioned at either end of the handlebar and can be moved around so that the cyclist can position their thumbs on the buttons but still be able to hold onto the handlebar, steer the bike and use the brakes. The tactor buttons will vibrate when the sensors detect the boundary of the cycle track, giving ample warning so that the cyclist can turn away from the obstacle and continue cycling within the centre of the track or path. Currently cycling clubs rely on sighted pilots to ride tandem with people who are visually impaired or blind and this restricts the number of people able to participate in cycling activities. The UltraBike kit is not for use on roads, but within controlled cycling environments and cycling clubs.

Insight & Impact

The UltraBike kit was developed for a TV programme to determine whether people who are blind or visually impaired could safely navigate their way around a cycle track using the same echolocation techniques that bats use and so ultrasound sensors were incorporated into a unit that was attached to the handlebar of a bicycle and viewers watched as a blind student cycled through a woodland cycle path using only the ultrasound to guide him safely through. Following overwhelming response after the programme was aired, we decided to enhance the kit further and organised a cycle event in Bristol for blind and VI people to try the new kit out, allowing them to cycle on their own around a cycle track without the need for a sighted guide, using just the sensors and feedback tactors to guide them safely around. The UltraBike kit is unique and will allow many more blind and VI people to be able to join cycling clubs and enjoy the freedom of being able to cycle independently on a bicycle using the ultrasound technology. We believe this kit can be further enhanced for velodrome bicycles, tricycles and recumbent bicycles; for adults as well as children. Sporting facilities have increased dramatically over the past few years for people who are disabled especially with the Paralympics. The UltraBike kit will enhance the experience of cycling for blind and VI people worldwide.

Skills needed for this project

  • electronics, engineering

Please add a comment here....


Chris crabtree's picture
What a wonderful idea! I can see several spin offs to this.
John's picture
I am so glad to see that the UltraBike is being developed further. I went on it during an event in Bristol a couple of years ago. It was amazing, I couldn't believe I was cycling on my own again after 14 years of being blind and not having ridden a bike for all that time. Keep up the good work guys! John
Philippa's picture
What a wonderful, life changing invention, well worth all the hard work!
Jack's picture
These are fantastic, what a breakthrough, well done!!
Julie McVeigh's picture
Amazing! Opens up another avenue for visually impaired persons - love it!
Jayne Hamilton's picture
This is a wonderful idea and will make such a difference to anyone visually impaired. It's an amazing invention!
Abs Tripp's picture
Amazing idea and great to see it in action at Herne Hill velodrome with our VI and blind cyclists. They can't wait to have another go and i have one regular who hasn't tried and keeps asking me about it!
Chris's picture
the current situation looks even more positive, both from a users perspective, and from a commercial point of view. this is something that will bring so much to a blind persons quality of life, that somehow it must come to fruition. surely this project should be a prime candidate for funding support - lottery money etc etc 3 3
Ricki Owen's picture
I would love to to see this come to market, I used to love riding my bike but haven't been able to cycle solo for many years, would be fantastic to have that freedom again, s magnificent use of technology that could give VI and Blind people the chance to experience something that sighted people take for granted, will be watching this inventions progress with great interest and would love to try it.