TriMet safety campaign picks up on novel reflectors

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Brian Engelen shows off his 'DynoLight,' a bicycle light powered by a generator in teh wheel hub.Engineering and design may be Brian Engelen’s profession, but biking — particularly mountain biking — is his passion. Through his innovative designs for generator-driven bike lights and whimsical reflector stickers, the Cooper Mountain resident is finding a way to combine the two.

Under the umbrella of Engelen Machine Design, which the namesake has operated out of his home since 1999, Engelen has two subsidiary businesses, Light On! and Fun Reflector. The former focuses on his high-powered “Dynolight” that operates from separately purchased wheel-hub generators. The latter is based on a variety of reflector stickers and iron-ons designed to make bicyclists more visible in a fun, fashionable way.

With help and inspiration from his wife, Vera, Engelen’s stickers come in shapes such as stars, playing card suits, a mini-astronaut and rocket, fish, a peace sign, yellow flames, and of course, smiley faces. The Engelens sell the reflectors for $4.95 a pack.

“We try to have cute shapes instead of something a little too rough around the edges,” he says. “Instead of, say a Harley-Davidson, they’re more family style.”

Design inspiration comes from just about everywhere.

“The astronaut was inspired by a Lego piece,” he says. “The alien, I drew that. The flames I drew on paper, took a picture of it and digitized it.”

Sticking to safety

It’s that combination of safety and family fun that attracted the attention of TriMet, which made a bulk purchase of Engelen’s stickers as part of its current “Be Safe, Be Seen” campaign.

Now in its third year, the regional public transportation entity’s campaign promotes bicycle and pedestrian safety as the end of daylight saving time and the onset of winter bring darker, wetter days.

“We’re out to remind them, this is the time you need to be visible,” says Pam Wilson, TriMet’s marketing and outreach manager. “There is a higher percentage of pedestrian deaths in the winter months. Pedestrians and bicyclists need to use reflective wear, and drivers need to be especially alert. The big message is safety is everybody’s job.”

As part of the community-based campaign, TriMet volunteers — with help from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, the Beaverton School Board and others — have handed out Engelen’s stickers at various locations across town. TriMet learned of the products through a counterpart at Metro regional government and the Bike Transportation Alliance.

“If we can ever buy local and work with local businesspeople, that’s our preference,” Wilson says.

As soft-spoken and unassuming as he is creative, Engelen, 51, says he likes that the reflector designs are reaching a wider audience while promoting safety.

“It’s nice to be contributing something and be appreciated. People who do think (safety) is important are super appreciative of everybody trying to get the same point across. Some people are really passionate for one reason or another. You hear lots of stories about people who’ve lost someone” in a bicycle accident, he said.

Career designs

In addition to TriMet’s interest, Engelen is building his market for his Light On! product as well as Fun Reflectors. He wholesales the products to 50 bike shops across the country, overseas locales like Barcelona, Spain, and through website orders ( and

“The bike lights started off as a hobby I was doing for myself and friends, and I decided to take it to the next level,” says Engelen, an avid nighttime mountain biker who caters to other fans of the practice. “They need lights that last all night long. They’re real serious about what they do.”

His latest pending innovation is a hybrid Dynolight that incorporates a generator as battery power.

“You can get more power if you spend time charging the battery,” he explains. “When you need more power for a bright light, you can draw from the battery.”

An employee of Tualatin-based D.W. Fritz for more than 10 years, Engelen ultimately decided to take full control of his talents and set up shop at home. When not designing bike-safety components, he uses his engineering skills to help other companies “come up with ways to assemble things.”

“I think of it as kind of a progression,” he says of going independent. “When you do certain things for so long, it’s exciting. It’s freedom. You get a lot of sense of accomplishment.”

Surprisingly, perhaps, of his three engineering-oriented pursuits, it’s the reflector business that may win out in the long run.

“Engineering is always profitable,” he says. “But I’m looking to be full time with Fun Reflector. We’re well on the way to doing that right now.”

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