Staying visible!

Sorry Mate I Didn't Arrrggghhh!!!

by Agony Guy   April 26, 2013  

Got your attention now, sunshine?

Jim at the forum writes:

Okay, so my girlfriend is worried about me being hit by a car and wants me to get some sort of high vis top whilst cycling. She suggested a high vis sash, I refused. I use a front/rear light combo everytime I'm out. I was thinking of getting a fluro top (do these only really work in dull light or will they be good in summer too?) but wondering if I'd be better off with a bright coloured top...

As cyclists, our visibility should naturally be enhanced by the glow of righteousness that comes from choosing this transport option.


Realistic illustration of what can happen to the unrighteous when exposed to the holy glare of the righteous

Unfortunately the wattage of virtue is usually not strong enough to bring us out of SMIDSY territory; in sad point of fact, nor would it be even if the sun were shining out of our saddle. I have my own experience with close encounters of the horrid kind (though that's not the best test case, as I was wearing black at night. As a pedestrian, though.)

Studies have shown that being seen is both a science and an art.

First the science.

The paradox of Schrödinger's cat teaches us that the act of observing disturbs the observed. You can experience this by performing the following simple experiment: the next time you go for a ride, instead of your usual kit, wear a dress. (The technique works if male or female.) This is guaranteed to generate comments, maybe even wolf whistles if you've recently shaved. Make careful note of your reaction to the attention. I can confidently predict that your passions will have been excited one way or the other.

Now the art.

Striking livery has a spotty track record for attracting attention – see above reference to sun, and this recent road.cc article. Unfortunately, in these cases I cannot tailor bespoke advice, other than to suggest perhaps another dress. It's down to individual circumstances and interpretations. Like any good art, you'll know it when you see it. Or when somebody else does.

3 user comments

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There clearly isn't one single solution to being seen. If there was then we'd know about it.

As you say, hi-viz works well in dull light (dawn and dusk) but doesn't do anything in the dark, when you need lights and reflective material. In the daytime you shouldn't need anything special unless its a very dark overcast day, when hi-viz might be useful.

Other things you can do to make yourself more visible are to ride 3 or 4 feet from the curb (secondary position), or in the middle of the road (primary position) if required. Don't ever, ever ride in the gutter - drivers won't see you.

No matter what you do there will be some people who simply don't see you because they aren't looking. They might be checking the sat-nat, texting on their phone, fiddling with the radio etc. Then there are others that do see you but simply don't give a crap, or have poor driving skills.

Try and have good awareness of what's around you. Take regular shoulder glances - both shoulders if riding the primary position. Look at the road and traffic ahead, and spot potential hazards before they happen. Assume that drivers are going to behave aggressively, stupidly or dangerously. Most of the time they won't but occasionally they will.

The real key to staying safe is to avoid other people's mistakes.

posted by qwerky [134 posts]
26th April 2013 - 10:25

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not wanting to rain on your parade but whilst i'm not doubting hi vis helps in lower light and even day light, in 10 years of commuting the one time i was hit by a car was in daylight whilst wearing a hi viz commuter jacket. ironically the driver was also a cyclist who "always looks out for bikes" as he rides one too. despite that i still got SMIDSY.

as qwerky wrote

The real key to staying safe is to avoid other people's mistakes.

very wise words

posted by fretters [30 posts]
28th April 2013 - 22:24

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I agree. Hi vis all the time, hot pink in summer (maybe not for the blokes though) and flashing lights on very sunny days especially when you're going between strong light and deep shadow. As they say, every little helps.

posted by RuthF28 [92 posts]
4th May 2013 - 14:22

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