Orly Ramirez was driving at night four years ago when he nearly ran over a bicyclist. Then he got creative.
“I think of silly things to make all the time,” said Ramirez, 50, who has designed inside composting bins for apartments, easily washable water bottles, hands free shower heads that can be installed anywhere in a bathroom and stationary bikes out of road bikes. “Then I go home and try it out, and after a while, when it brakes, I move onto the next thing.”
But Ramirez’s latest creation – the Brooklyn Bicycle Brake Light – has not been pushed off to the sidelines for a new idea. He has been working on it for four years, and in the last 18 months, he has progressed farther than ever before. Two weeks ago, Ramirez received the first shipment of his provisionally patented product – 2,500 Brooklyn Bicycle Brake Lights.
He spent more than $80,000 from his savings, but now he has the products to show for it.
The brake light is designed to attach to a bike below the seat with a cord that attaches to the rear brake line. When the brake is squeezed on the handlebars, a red light turns on behind the seat – much like a car’s brake lights. A steady or flashing white light can also be turned on at night for extra safety. With this light, Ramirez hopes riders and drivers can use the road together more safely.
In the past three years, Brooklyn had the most bicycle fatalities of any of the five boroughs, according to the numbers from the Department of Transportation. In 2011, of the 22 cyclist fatalities in the city, 11 took place in Brooklyn. The preliminary numbers for 2012 indicate that Brooklyn again has the most fatalities out of any other borough, with seven out of 18.
With few protected bike lanes, bikers in Brooklyn know that being alert while biking is of utmost importance, said Brooklyn Bicycle Club President Mark Kizelshteyn. He said he likes the sound of Ramirez’s invention.
“Being safe at night is about standing out,” he said. “So using a light is surely important.”
Ramirez made his original prototype out of a light from a 99-cent store and some wires. Once it was working, he looked online through patent databases, but found nothing exactly like what he made. He then hired a company to research into the current patents to make sure a similar brake light had not already been created. When the search came up clear two years ago, Ramirez was issued a provisional patent for his idea.
Next came finding a manufacturer, but Ramirez had connections. He had been part of the Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club of Suffolk County for two years before joining the new branch in Nassau County a year ago, so he knew many other inventors, had listened to a lot of speakers, and he had bounced around ideas with other like-minded people.
Brian Fried, 39, the president of both inventor clubs, has known Ramirez since he joined the group three years ago. He said being around other inventors and getting inspiration and feedback from other members really helped Ramirez move his idea forward.
Fried said that for an inventor, the most important feeling is seeing people use a product as the inventor intended, and he can see that with Ramirez’s invention.
Ramirez, however, does not like to be called an inventor. He takes normal everyday items and turns them into something else, so he thinks “transformer” is better suited.
Ramirez chose a manufacturer in Hong Kong that could make the light most inexpensively, and after changing elements of the design three times, he finally had a product he was happy with. The light now costs $19.95. The final change was to make the light removable from the casing attached to the bike.
“This is New York City, if you leave it on the bike, people will steal it,” he said. “So now, you can remove it, use it as a flashlight if you need to and take it inside at night.”
Contact Orly Ramiraz: firstname.lastname@example.org
See also Brooklyn is Bad News for Cyclists, Third Year in a Row by Ryan Book.