A bike can take you, can take us, to so many great places but a lot of our travels while on the bike are often on roads we share with vehicles and, by default, there is an inherent level of risk we face when we ride on the road. We can ride as carefully and correctly as possible but if a bike and a car come together, even if the cyclist has the right of way, the cyclist will suffer the worst of it.
Most of us who ride also drive so we know what it’s like as a driver. There multiple pieces of information a driver is processing every second, whether consciously or subconsciously, that they are behind the wheel. However, the majority of the driver’s attention is focused on they expect the greatest threat to their own safety while driving. Bikes are hardly considered a threat to a vehicle, as you can imagine. So a driver’s attention is on the road, on signs and signals, on oncoming traffic, in the rear view mirror, on the lookout for road hazards and other vehicles in front of them. Bikes on the shoulder blend into the sidewalk and can be mentally discarded from attention much like a pedestrian on a separated sidewalk would be.
One of the best ways to stay safe on the road is to make sure you can be seen as easily as possible when you ride on the road. Research shows that there are three key factors that give vehicle drives 3X more time to see you, slow down or evade you and pass you. Here they are:
1. Wear flourescent colours on moving parts of your body.
2. Use lights on the front and back of your bike.
3. Add reflective elements wherever you can - clothing, bike, helmet
So, let’s make sure we can put it into practice. Here’s our list of the 5 steps you can take right now to improve your visibility on the road:
This is so much easier and less expensive than it used to be. And the product options are so much better: new lights are brighter, lighter and there are so many options that are USB chargeable. No more need to worry about battery replacement (although you do have to make sure you have a charging cord handy).
Now, many of the better lights have multiple illumination modes: multiple flash options, variable brightness and many are removable and can be used as a flashlight.
Another great option are the front/rear pair light options. This way, purchase one pair and you are ready to light up your bike. For maximum visibility, bike lights should be used even for day time riding. I rarely ride at night myself so the lights on my bike are mostly used for being seen out there.
|One great option is to buy a set of front and rear lights together. You'll often save a bit of money but, more importantly, you get your bike kitted out in one step.|
There are lots of reflective options for riding in any weather. Jackets and vests are great for cooler temperatures so just look for outerwear that has reflective elements.
Many reflective fabrics don’t offer much breathability, however, so for warmer temperatures, look for reflective accents on clothing that still has plenty of technical breathable fabric or venting.
However, most jerseys now have at least some reflective elements somewhere. Highly reflective materials resonate much larger visually than their actual footprint so even small bits of reflective material can have a large impact. It is really common to see hits of reflective fabric at jersey hems and pocket trims.
Many of the clothing designers and manufacturers are definitely contributing to enhance our visibility by using flourescent and high-vis colours. Incorporating bold graphic patterns into the design with blocks of flourescent is a great way to give us high visibility in appealing designs. The more design options there are, the more likelihood of appealing to individual tastes. I don't know about you, but I am more likely to wear something that I like and that I think looks good on me so if that design has also happens to have some blocks of bold, high visibility colour, I'm more likely to wear those items that enhance visibility.
|Here's an great example. This uses 2 different flouro colours including a big piece across the rear pocket.|
Prints, patterns and colours that help you contrast with your environment will all contribute to enhancing your visibility. There has been a local trend to wearing fairly stark design black jerseys with black shorts. Now, I don't know where you're riding but the asphalt in our area is mostly black. I can also confirm from experience that riders dressed in all black riding towards me are much more difficult to spot than riders wearing a colour or colours that don't blend so well with the colour of the pavement. Choose lighter or brighter colours as an option in order to make yourself more visible. Layer that with reflective elements and/or some flourescent hits for even more visibility.
I have to say that our best-selling helmet colours are black and white. If you insist on sticking with that black that matches the pavement so well, you can enhance your visibility by adding some reflective stickers or strips.
|Consider a bright colour when you buy your next helmet but if you can enhance your current helmet by adding reflective elements. The complete sticker set has enough to add visibility to multiple helmets and even to your bike.||
High visibility elements that have some movement can be a strong visual cue to drivers: movement can attract more attention. If you insist on black or white shoes (just like helmets, those are the two most popular colours for shoes), make sure your shoes have reflective accents. Another way to get high visibility in a moving element is to look for socks that have reflective features. In cold or rainy weather, apply these same considerations to your selection of booties or shoe covers.
Front and rear lights can absolutely make you more visible to oncoming and approaching traffic but what about vehicles approaching from side streets? Consider adding reflective stickers or elements that can be seen from the sides as well as from the front and back. Admittedly, your clothing and helmet can go a long way to enhancing your visibility but having as multiple enhancements for improved visibility can really add up to better safety.
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