Cyclists are often not be as visible as they think

If you happen to bike in the dark, make sure you read this

BRIGHTCYCLIST by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Whether you are cycling in the shorter and duller days and darker evenings of winter or in the dark generally remember that being seen is almost more important than seeing yourself.

Most cyclists are good about trying to wear clothing and accessories that are highly reflective and easy to see in the dark, but according to a new study released in autumn 2010 cyclists may not actually be as visible as they think they are, which can increase danger.

Here's the abstract of the paper:

"Visibility limitations make cycling at night particularly dangerous. We previously reported cyclists’ perceptions of their own visibility at night and identified clothing configurations that made them feel visible. In this study we sought to determine whether these self-perceptions reflect actual visibility when wearing these clothing configurations. In a closed-road driving environment, cyclists wore black clothing, a fluorescent vest, a reflective vest, or a reflective vest plus ankle and knee reflectors. Drivers recognised more cyclists wearing the reflective vest plus reflectors (90%) than the reflective vest alone (50%), fluorescent vest (15%) or black clothing (2%). Older drivers recognized the cyclists less often than younger drivers (51% vs 27%). The findings suggest that reflective ankle and knee markings are particularly valuable at night, while fluorescent clothing is not. Cyclists wearing fluorescent clothing may be at particular risk if they incorrectly believe themselves to be conspicuous to drivers at night."

The danger is of course that if you think you can easily be seen, you might make decisions that you wouldn't be making if you knew that you were hard to see, putting yourself in hazardous situations.

The best way to avoid this is to go the Christmas tree route and have all kinds of reflectors along with bright clothing and LED lights. Or if you don't want to go that far, at least do some tests at night with someone else; have them wear what you would wear and bike around a bit. That way you'll know exactly how visible that is, and you'll better be able to calibrate your judgment when biking in the dark.

Way too many people that I encounter on a daily basis wear dark clothing – and due to the uniform I wear I cannot say too much here as it is dark (with the exception of the high-viz jacket) – when cycling and in addition to that have inadequate lighting or even non on their bicycles while traversing the parks.

I also see people riding their bikes on the town roads where there are, I admit, street lights without front or rear lights turned on relying entirely on their front and rear reflectors, the former white and the latter red. Those, however, in my experience, do very little to nothing.

Being visible to other road users, as a cyclist, and that also includes pedestrians, is most important for they will be able to react to what you, as the cyclist, are going when they cannot see you properly. Many an accident might not happen if people would consider the “BE SEEN” approach.

So, get some lights, and the more the better.

A little P.S. To the pedestrians out there too: being seen is also important for you and wearing something reflective in the dark is also most advisable for you and if you walk through parks, forests and on country lanes do also have a flashlight with which to make yourself even more visible to others.

© 2010