Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility ...

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Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility ...

Postby Aushiker » Tue Dec 21, 2010 1:40 pm

Hi

I don't recall this being posted before but if it has been discussed my apologies. I picked up on this from The Views of a Cyclist from Croydon blog.

The article is titled Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility do not necessarily match reality, is authored by JM Wood, RA Tyrrell, R Marszalek, P Lacherez, T Carberry, BS Chu, and MJ King and is published in the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, 21(3). pp. 56‐60.

The abstract is quoted below and the full journal article is available in PDF format here.

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 recognised 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.


Andrew
Last edited by Aushiker on Tue Dec 21, 2010 4:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by BNA » Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:28 pm

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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Max » Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:28 pm

That was a really good read. I've taken to wearing a reflective band on my right ankle and right wrist when riding in low-light conditions. It's nice to know that doing so increases the likelihood of my being seen by motorists.

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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby il padrone » Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:34 pm

I must say, there's nothing new in the inadequacies of fluorescent vests. BV was publicising the fact that at night all colours (including fluorescents) look grey in car headlights, about 15 years ago. White and reflective fabrics are the best by far. Also it's best to keep them low, to catch the car headlight beam earlier.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Oxford » Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:46 pm

having reflective material on a moving part of you or your bike is considered to be the best as the circular or up/down motion is what motorists associate with bicycles.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby jules21 » Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:08 pm

Oxford wrote:having reflective material on a moving part of you or your bike is considered to be the best as the circular or up/down motion is what motorists associate with bicycles.

yeah.. i always wear reflective ankle straps (my pedals don't have reflectors). the wheel reflectors are good too.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby zero » Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:29 pm

Having a good light set is better. Its an interesting study, but its a shame the whole study was done without managing to design the experiment to contain lit cycles as well.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby kellyu » Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:45 pm

zero wrote:Having a good light set is better. Its an interesting study, but its a shame the whole study was done without managing to design the experiment to contain lit cycles as well.


But how many bike ninjas do you see out there (Bike Ninja = black clothes, no lights). I see a few, and I think that I see them only because I'm a cyclist and I can recognise the vague movement in the dark.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby jules21 » Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:31 pm

zero wrote:Having a good light set is better. Its an interesting study, but its a shame the whole study was done without managing to design the experiment to contain lit cycles as well.

with respect, i think that's missing the point. lights are essential, but they don't compete with reflective items, which utilise other lights sources (headlights). you should use both.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby il padrone » Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:42 pm

Actually, my experience when I've driven past cyclists at night is that modern LED tail-lights are very bright and drown out any red reflectors. Good white reflective fabrics and tape may be brighter. This is not denying the crucial role for reflective material - in the extreme, if the light fails, you are still visible. Rather than flattened.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Mulger bill » Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:01 pm

I s'pose that's why most shoes have shiny bits these days?

Might stick some reflex tape around the ends of the cranks and see what the lad looks like at night. Up, down up, down...
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Rhubarb » Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:07 am

That study is no surprise ... but needs to be read in context as its only part of picture.

I think reflective bits (particularly moving ones) are the best way to be seen by motorists with bright lights at night. There are other situations though where other things are better.

When you are not in the path of light (eg when coming up behind or on the inside of a motorist who might be looking in their mirrors before turning left) reflectives aren't so great and you need to be creating your own light via bright lights. This also applies for being seen by the ninjas who frequent the bike paths at night (riding skateboards, walking dogs etc) whilst dressed entirely in dark clothing with no lights or relectives. If they aren't producing light, your reflectives are not going to be seen.

Then in broad daylight, I think the flouro gear is more effective than either lights or reflectives which really only work in low light. Whilst we'd like to believe others should be able to see us in broad daylight, I have no doubt that frequently a cyclist is lost in the background of everything else, and that flouro clothing helps you stand out.

My commute is a mix of well lit areas and complete darkness, mostly bike paths but some busy roads and some back streets as well. Its often bright in the morning on my way in but dark on the commute home.

So my solution is to ride in a hi vis flouro jersey with reflective bits, plus a hi vis reflective flouro backpack cover, plus a PBSF main rear flashing tail light and another cheap red blinky on my helmet, with a MS 900 lumen light on the front. There are many threads where people complain about bright lights but I would not have anything less. I've often thought of running 2 headlights but 1 is sufficient. I have also retained the front and rear reflectors on my bike.

This covers me for all situations, the backpack cover is also water proof for when I get caught in a shower or two.

So yes I am a big advocate of the reflectives, but its only part of the overall solution.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby il padrone » Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:14 am

Rhubarb wrote:When you are not in the path of light (eg when coming up behind or on the inside of a motorist who might be looking in their mirrors before turning left) reflectives aren't so great and you need to be creating your own light via bright lights.

In that scenario, reflectives are useless. Believe me, I almost doored a couple of cyclists one night in Melbourne in just this scenario.

Use lights at night!
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Max » Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:32 am

zero wrote:Having a good light set is better. Its an interesting study, but its a shame the whole study was done without managing to design the experiment to contain lit cycles as well.


It seems to me that the purpose of the study was not to perform any sort of comparison or assessment of visibility brought about by bicycle lighting. Rather it was intended to highlight the differences that clothing/equipment actually worn by the cyclist can make to visibility. Studies are often performed in isolation of other factors, because their purpose is very specific. In this case - what difference does clothing alone make to visibility?

I think the study is useful in that it debunks a common assumption that fluro clothing is visible at night. It might also be useful as a reference when making purchasing decisions about cycling clothing.

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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby TheSkyMovesSideways » Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:57 am

I saw this study a few months ago when Bicycle Victoria reported on it. Didn't think it was a particularly worthwhile experiment.

Their method involved having driver do laps of a circuit, and they had various obstacles along the side of the road, including bollards with reflectors on them, and cyclists on stationary trainers. The drivers were to indicate when they thought they'd seen a cyclist. So all it's really measuring is what techniques best allows drivers to differentiate between you and a reflective bollard. I don't think this has any crossover to actual safety, since drivers tend to avoid all obstacles in their paths. They don't need to know whether it's a cyclist or a bollard up ahead, they just need to see it enough to avoid it, something which this study didn't test. Furthermore, by excluding lights from the study, I'd be very worried that it sends the message that it's ok to ride without lights at night as long as you have reflectors. :|
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby ghettro » Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:03 pm

When I drive, I tend to notice cyclists who have more than one set of lights - typically if you have one low on your bike and one on your helmet it gives the driver a better idea of size. I definitely think reflectors on the pedals are really good and reflective stripes on clothes, bags, mudguards etc all help the driver percieve the size of the cyclist up ahead.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby GraemeL » Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:21 pm

I have a red light on the back and have bought a cheap $20 flashing light that I have mounted on the back of my bike facing me. I wear a high vis vest and I look like a flashing neon sign :lol: but it really makes me stand out to drivers as they approach from behind. For the main light I use NiteLites 900 lumen.

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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Rhubarb » Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:58 am

GraemeL wrote:I have a red light on the back and have bought a cheap $20 flashing light that I have mounted on the back of my bike facing me. I wear a high vis vest and I look like a flashing neon sign :lol: but it really makes me stand out to drivers as they approach from behind. For the main light I use NiteLites 900 lumen.

Graeme


That's sounds like a great idea and I bet its quite effective. I run the front light on flash mode when its low light but not darkness. I really notice the road signs flashing hundreds of metres ahead they really stand out !!

If I had a higher proportion of on-road riding on my winter commute I'd probably do the same.

My only concern would be the flashing effect. I need to change from flash to steady on the front light as soon as it becomes too noticeable on the ground in front of me. Does the rear flasher become irritating or distracting for you, or is it dim enough and hidden behind you so that it doesn't distract you?
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Ross » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:18 pm

Is this another study from the School of the Bleedin Obvious? :idea:
Who would ever of thought black clothing is hard to see at night? :roll:
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Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility ...

Postby Max » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:49 pm

Ross wrote:Is this another study from the School of the Bleedin Obvious? :idea:
Who would ever of thought black clothing is hard to see at night? :roll:


What we might also take away from the study is that clothing that is hi-vis in daylight is indistinguishable from black clothing at night. This finding challenges a commonly-held view that fluro/neon clothing improves our chances of being seen at night.

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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby GraemeL » Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:07 pm

Rhubarb wrote:
GraemeL wrote:I have a red light on the back and have bought a cheap $20 flashing light that I have mounted on the back of my bike facing me. I wear a high vis vest and I look like a flashing neon sign :lol: but it really makes me stand out to drivers as they approach from behind. For the main light I use NiteLites 900 lumen.

Graeme


That's sounds like a great idea and I bet its quite effective. I run the front light on flash mode when its low light but not darkness. I really notice the road signs flashing hundreds of metres ahead they really stand out !!

If I had a higher proportion of on-road riding on my winter commute I'd probably do the same.

My only concern would be the flashing effect. I need to change from flash to steady on the front light as soon as it becomes too noticeable on the ground in front of me. Does the rear flasher become irritating or distracting for you, or is it dim enough and hidden behind you so that it doesn't distract you?


Sorry for the delay.

It doesn't bother me at all, because I can't see it. We have Nitelights mounted on our helmets, which are rated at 900 lumens, when I ride with the wife I have mine on flashing and the wife has hers on continuous. This way it makes us really stand out to motorists.

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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Nate » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:28 pm

Oxford wrote:having reflective material on a moving part of you or your bike is considered to be the best as the circular or up/down motion is what motorists associate with bicycles.


100% spot on...
Its all about visible MOVEMENT

There's a bit in a paper from the Australasian Road Safety people about it - couldnt find it though :(
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby hannos » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:30 pm

Nate wrote:
Oxford wrote:having reflective material on a moving part of you or your bike is considered to be the best as the circular or up/down motion is what motorists associate with bicycles.


100% spot on...
Its all about visible MOVEMENT

There's a bit in a paper from the Australasian Road Safety people about it - couldnt find it though :(


I need to find me some reflactive ankle things. I've seen some at my tri club, they wear them on their runs when it's dark.
One on each ankle would be great I think.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Nate » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:40 pm

hannos wrote:I need to find me some reflactive ankle things. I've seen some at my tri club, they wear them on their runs when it's dark.
One on each ankle would be great I think.


Simple:
Reflective Tape on Shoes & Pedals!
http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ORANGE-3 ... ccessories
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby Oxford » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:47 pm

bike shop should sell them, Big W has them too I think. I got mine from Ride to Work days, Dept of Transport (QLD). I have one on each arm/leg and the two spares on the bike. No excuses to not see me coming a mile away.
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Re: Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility .

Postby }SkOrPn--7 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:15 pm

I also wear tights that have all the calf and thighs impregnated with Reflective Illuminite like the link below as another visual aid to all the other crap I use.

http://www.aerotechdesigns.com/tights.htm#reflectivetights
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