Just when you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to well-meant but bound-to-backfire initiatives aimed at improving the safety of cyclists, one of arrives from way out of left field – ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Ford’s Emoji Jacket.
No, don’t bother checking the date, for it is indeed still early February and we haven’t jumped forward a few weeks to April Fool’s Day, this is an actual real, live thing.
It’s been launched under Ford’s ongoing Share The Road campaign, three words that tend to raise the hackles of anyone fighting for cycle safety, implying as they do that someone inside a metal box weighing a tonne or more is on the exact same footing as a flesh and blood person on a 10 kilogram bike.
It gets worse when you read the press release. “Our roads are busier than ever with drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians all vying for space,” Ford says, sombrely.
“It’s no wonder that tempers are lost, and conflicts arise as our ability to communicate is locked behind windscreens and inside helmets – resulting in more than 2,000 cyclists being killed on roads in Europe each year.”
Well, at least they acknowledged in a roundabout way where the greater threat comes from.
“But what if our roads don’t have to be a communication vacuum, save for gestures and blaring horns?
“Ford’s answer is the ‘Emoji Jacket’, a prototype jacket created in partnership with industrial design specialists Designworks as part of Ford’s ongoing ‘Share the Road’ campaign.
“The jacket allows the wearer to effectively communicate their emotions to other road users around them by using emoji icons.”
Excuse us a second while we head off and try and find the WTF emoji.
According to Ford, “The back of the jacket features a large LED panel that allows the user to display their mood – whether they’re happy, neutral, or worried while travelling.
“Indicators, and a hazard symbol can also be displayed to make other road users aware of the cyclist’s movements and possible dangers ahead.
“These functions can all be controlled without the cyclist removing their hands from the handlebars, thanks to a wireless remote, featuring independent buttons that is easily mounted and removed from the bike.”
Emoji expert – no, really, he’s a cognitive scientist – Dr Neil Cohn PhD said: “Emojis have become a fundamental part of how we use language.
“Whether used to convey facial expressions, humour, or sarcasm, they have become integral to our ability to express ourselves and quickly.
“This jacket created in partnership with Ford Share the Road allows riders to express their feelings and creates an important emotional link between them and other road users.”
We said at the top of this article that campaigns such as this do, at heart, have the best of intentions.
Indeed, the motor company says that its “Share the Road campaign underlines Ford’s belief that enabling more people to cycle safely, especially for short journeys, benefits everyone.
“Believing that by fostering harmony between road users, raising awareness, and increasing conversations between them, our roads can become a better and more accepting environment for all.”
The execution, though … well, in this case, it leaves us speechless. It’s absolutely tone deaf.
What do we want? Safer roads, more protected infrastructure, fewer rat-running drivers especially in 4x4s, better driver education among other things, you know, the things that DO actually make cyclists safer out there in the real world.
An Emoji Jacket? No thanks.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.