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Harrogate entrepreneur takes blind cycling technology to capital

A Yorkshire-based entrepreneur has taken is unique bike invention to London’s Science Museum.

Dr Paul Clark’s UltraBike unit is an ultrasound sensor kit that enables people with visual impairments to ride a bicycle independently.

Designed and developed in Harrogate, the unit uses obstacle detection technology to help cyclists along a controlled route.

The developers of the UltraBike used the same obstacle detection capability in the award winning UltraCane, an electronic mobility aid.

The UltraCane mimics the echolocation abilities of bats and was featured on the BBC documentary series Miracles of Nature, fronted by Richard Hammond in 2012.

The programme makers approached Dr Clark’s company Comms Design, to adapt the UltraCane technology for use on a bicycle that could be tested with a blind rider.

Dan Smith, who had been a keen solo cyclist before losing his sight, was shown on the programme steering a straight course through a heavily wooded cycle path on the first UltraBike.

The display at the Science Museum includes an interview with Dr Clark in which he explains how he approached the challenges of turning a ground breaking ’what if ’ idea into an engineering reality.

Since the programme, Sound Foresight Technology, also Harrogate-based, has made the kits more widely available, to give groups of visually impaired riders the opportunity to try an UltraBike, most notably at a world first event run by Life Cycle UK in Bristol, on a specially constructed cycle track.

Dr Clark commented: “The UltraBike is not suitable for visually impaired road cyclists because road drivers assume a cyclist can see, so this is clearly too hazardous. It is designed for use in a supervised and controlled environment and has great potential for use in sport and velodrome settings in particular. We are now looking at specific enhancements to the technology for this purpose.”

Sound Foresight Technology is currently working with sports organisations around the country to run UltraBike events and is encouraged by the interest shown in the technology by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and the organisers of the Commonwealth Games, due to take place in Glasgow in 2014.

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