Be Seen: Four Ways to Increase Your Visibility
1. Use front and rear daytime running lights day and night, every single time you ride
Studies show that cyclists drastically overestimate their visibility. Do you feel that your reflectors are enough? They’re not. Do you think a tail light at night is all you really need? Nope. Fact is, the use of front and rear daytime running lights (DRLs) — run both day AND night — will significantly reduce your chances of being hit by a motorist.
Why run lights during the day? Bike lights maximize the contrast between the light and the light’s surroundings. Approaching motorists can more easily spot you from a distance far enough way that they can safely react and avoid an accident. It’s important to note that DRLs are not simply extra bright lights. True DRLs are designed around a specific focus, flash, and range, making them exceptionally effective during daylight hours, as well as at night.
It’s important to choose DRLs that excel in challenging lighting conditions like dawn and dusk as well. We recommend the Bontrager Ion 100 R/Flare R City Bike Light Set which comes with both front and rear USB rechargeable lights. Each light in this set features focused optics, an interruptive flash pattern, and broad range to ensure visibility. Their compact design and wide beam spread are optimized for city riding. Upgrade to the Bontrager Ion Pro RT/Flare RT Light Set for more lumens.
Make it a habit to ALWAYS turn on your lights (and to keep them charged in the first place). Every ride, no matter how short or long, or time of day. Your safety isn’t something you want to cut corners on.
2. Wear a hi-vis helmet
Although daytime running light are the foremost measure in increasing visibility, they aren’t the only gear that can help ensure that motorists are well aware of you. A helmet in a hi-vis color will stand out during the day; add a reflective strip for a boost of visibility at night.
We strongly recommend a Bontrager helmet with WaveCel technology … check out the Specter road helmet in Radioactive Yellow, XXX road helmet in Radioactive Yellow/Black, and Charge commuter helmet in Radioactive Yellow/Black. WaveCel’s ground breaking technology reduces the chance of concussion to 1.6% any time you have an unexpected meeting with the pavement. Learn more about WaveCel here.
3. Choose hi-vis apparel
Additionally, be sure to wear a fluorescent jacket or vest during the daytime and choose a retroreflective version for night. Why isn’t a fluorescent jacket effective at night as it is during the day? Well, visibility depends on contrast. Although fluorescent is quite bright, it’s the way the sun causes the fluorescent to contrast with the surrounding environment that makes it stand out (even on foggy days).
But after the sun begins to set, that contrast dissipates, and fluorescent apparel might as well be a dark hue. Switch to reflective apparel after the sun goes down (or add reflective elements) to make you visibile in the dark. This isn’t something you want cut corners on — invest in your safety.
For daytime cycling, we love Bontrager’s Circuit Convertible Windshell Jacket in “Visibility Yellow,” as its sleeves can be easily removed, turning the jacket into a vest for those warmer temps. Secure reflective strips (available at our stores) for pedaling from day into night.
4. Draw attention to your moving parts
Finally, highlight your body’s moving parts with fluorescent and reflective leg bands and/or shoe covers (using the same guidelines for fluorescent vs. reflective described above). Long story short, our brain has an uncanny ability to recognize a biological form with just a few clues to the form’s shape. This means that we humans are pretty darned good at recognizing fellow humans. Drawing attention to your moving parts will help motorists recognize you as human and trigger an instinct to give you space. During the day, opt for fluorescent socks, shoes, shoe covers or warmers, and leg bands. At night, highlight your legs, ankles, and feet at night with reflective materials.
In conclusion, don’t overestimate the distance at which you’re detectable by motorists. Actively do something to increase your visibility, or you risk not being seen at all. With the few simple steps and gear choices outlined above, you can bike safely and set an example to others for safe cycling as well.
Come by either of our convenient locations, and our friendly, knowledgeable crew will be happy to point you to the gear we recommend for keeping you safe!