Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cars Stop—But Only if you Speak their Language: The story of a Vietnam vet, a Boston mom, and a loud bike horn

Imagine you’re in your car, cruising down the road, when suddenly you hear: honk honk honk! What do you do? If you’re like most people, you slam on your brakes and frantically look around for fear of being hit by another car.

That gut reaction of stopping at the sound of a car horn is exactly why avid cyclist Jonathan Lansey created the Loud Bicycle horn—a horn that sounds just like a car but is made for bikes. His dream was to make biking safer by providing a tool that could communicate in the universal language of the road.

After the Loud Bicycle horn prototype was perfected in the fall of 2013, Jonathan launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production. The campaign was far-reaching, but this story begins with one particular Kickstarter contributor—a Boston University college student named Colleen. She took the green line to classes every day, but she loved the concept behind Loud Bicycle.

Colleen shared the Kickstarter campaign with her mom, Joyce Cressman, and asked her about making a donation to the campaign. Joyce loved the idea.

"I thought that creating a horn for a bike that sounded like a car was a brilliant idea", said Joyce. "My worst fear is for a biker to be in my blind spot while driving and I accidentally hit them." Joyce donated $100 to the Kickstarter.

Around the same time, 15-year-old Jayson Webber from Tarpon Springs, Florida learned about Loud Bicycle and wanted to get his dad a horn for his recumbent trike. His father, Jay Webber, fought in the Vietnam War. The US Department of Veterans Affairs had given Jay the recumbent trike so he could take it to rehab for a knee injury. Even though the trike came with a horn, it sounded like a bird. This was a huge problem, because Florida has a lot of birds and drivers are likely to ignore the sound of a bird call.

Jayson wrote to Jonathan and asked if Loud Bicycle could offer a military discount for his father. Since the horns didn’t exist yet (Jonathan was still in the process of manufacturing the first horns) he reluctantly told Jayson that a discount was not possible at that time. But Jonathan took down Jayson’s information and promised to get back to him once the horns were produced.

About a year went by when, out of the blue, Joyce received an email from Jonathan. He asked her if she wanted the money she had donated to the Kickstarter to be used to give a Loud Bicycle horn to Jayson’s father.

"I couldn’t believe Jonathan remembered that I was the one who donated the money," said Joyce. "Not only did Jonathan find the perfect recipient for the gift, I was in awe that he actually made the effort to ask me if I was okay with who’d be receiving the horn." She wholeheartedly agreed to donate the horn to Jay.

When Father's Day rolled around, Jayson marched up to his father and presented him with a Loud Bicycle horn.

"The second I pressed the button I was blown away," exclaimed Jay. "Neither my wife or my son, nor I, could wipe the huge smiles off our faces! This horn is beyond amazing. Now I can finally retire my old police whistle, which really doesn’t stop cars the way I thought it would, and finally feel safe while riding."

Jay’s Loud Bicycle bike horn immediately became the envy of the neighborhood. “I have so many friends who really want one of these for their wheelchairs and golf carts, but I tell them No, that’s not what it’s for. It's for bikes, so we don’t get hit by cars. It’s not to scare people who are walking so they get out of your way.”

Every time Jay honks his horn at a car that can’t see him on his low-to-the-ground recumbent trike, he thinks of Joyce—a woman 1300 miles away. Unbeknownst to Joyce at the time of her donation, she helped give the gift of freedom to a Vietnam veteran, who, over 45 years ago, helped give others the gift of freedom through his naval service in Southeast Asia.  

Now that his trike is decked out with a Loud Bicycle horn, Jay can continue his rehab without the fear of getting run over. While it’s still hard for cars to see Jay on his bike, they can definitely hear him—and they always stop.

By Laura Van Loh and Sophia Griffith-Gorgati

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