Cyclists all over the world are using pool noodles on their rides to keep themselves safe - and it could be their best safety tool yet.
In places where there is no shoulder, the foam piece, which can usually be purchased for $5 or under, creates a kind of shoulder to shield the rider from passing cars.
In an ideal world, cyclists would have their own lanes and zero need for a cheap hack like the foam noodle. However, that is not the case in most cities across the globe.
The foam noodle might not look good but those who use it swear by it's efficacy. The noodle sticks out a good metre off the side of the bike and is a good visual indicator of how much distance to keep from the cyclist.
They're not without their downsides, though: they can't mount properly on the vehicle and risk flying off into traffic or get caught on other objects. It's really up to the cyclist whether or not this would be a safe method to use on their commute.
Canadian cycling commuter Warren Huska swears by the pool noodle as a safety device.
"People get really insulated inside a vehicle," Huska said in an interview with The Star in 2016. "They don't really know where the edges of their vehicle are."
"The edge of the noodle (helps them) gauge space instead of them trying to judge where my elbow was," he said, adding that all cars started going around him properly once he started using his pool noodle.
The pool noodle as a tool of advocacy
A recently article published in Quartz highlighted how the cheap hack can save cyclists' lives.
It also mentions how the pool noodle can be a powerful tool for advocating better safety for cyclists.
"To every other vehicle on the road, that $2 piece of foam visualises what the minimum three feet of safe passing distance looks like that is our legal right in more than 30 states in the US," the article author, Annalisa van den Bergh, wrote.
"As more urban dwellers take up cycling, think of the attention we can bring to sharing the road if we all strapped a pool noodle to the back of our bicycles."
It may sound silly - and even look silly - but it does get the point across.
"The hard truth is that bicycles are still largely seen as a nuisance on the road. We're on the margins—literally," van den Bergh wrote. "Cyclists are reminded of this every time we get skimmed by a car. According to the World Health Organisation, over half of international traffic deaths involve vulnerable road users such as cyclists."
"All in all, the pool noodle gives cyclists more of a presence on the streets," she added. "For the first time, I don't feel obliged to ride the balance beam that is the strip of asphalt between the rumble strip and the edge of the road. Although we can't say that the noodle eliminates road rage, we can say that every time a naysayer hollers at us now, at least they're doing so from a safe distance."