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Old 02-22-10, 09:08 AM   #1
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How safe is high-visibility clothing?

Has it been researched?
Is it just a myth?
Many cyclists claim that cars give them more room if they have their really, really bright yellow vests on. Is this really the case? Can yellow and orange vests safe lifes?
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Old 02-22-10, 09:15 AM   #2
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I'm not a researcher, but during dark winter commutes and late night rides home from church meetings and choir practice, here along Connecticut's busy I-95 corridor, I feel much safer and am convinced that cars drive more safely around me when I'm bright and reflective.

My reflective gear consists of a $9 Nike yellow half zip windbreaker to which I've ironed on and sewed reflective tape.

I've never gone out bike ninja style, so I have no real comparison, but this seems like a pretty obvious question to answer.
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Old 02-22-10, 09:24 AM   #3
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I understand that many people feel they are more safe. But is it really? That's what I'm interested in knowing.
Cyclists with lights and reflectors wearing normal clothes V.S. Cyclists with lights and reflectors and high-visibility clothing.
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Old 02-22-10, 09:49 AM   #4
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I understand that many people feel they are more safe. But is it really? That's what I'm interested in knowing.
Cyclists with lights and reflectors wearing normal clothes V.S. Cyclists with lights and reflectors and high-visibility clothing.
I don't think there's any way to "research" whether high vis clothing saves lives. Clearly it makes you more visible to other road users. Common sense might tell you that's a good thing.

(BTW, "high visibility" clothing is designed mostly for daytime wear. Lights and especially reflectors are mainly for nighttime.)
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Old 02-22-10, 09:52 AM   #5
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At night I'd say it does close to nothing, compared to reflective materials (provided the motorists have functional headlights) and bicycle lights (which I think are far more important than anything else after dark).

In the daytime, particularly on overcast days, I think hi-viz lime and orange work better than any other method of improved visibility, and for that purpose I can't recommend them enough.

That said, I've had plenty of mishaps with overtaking motorists that had nothing to do with visibility, so results may vary.
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Old 02-22-10, 09:55 AM   #6
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At night I'd say it does close to nothing, compared to reflective materials (provided the motorists have functional headlights) and bicycle lights (which I think are far more important than anything else after dark).

In the daytime, particularly on overcast days, I think hi-viz lime and orange work better than any other method of improved visibility, and for that purpose I can't recommend them enough.

That said, I've had plenty of mishaps with overtaking motorists that had nothing to do with visibility, so results may vary.
agreed
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Old 02-22-10, 10:06 AM   #7
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I don't think there's any way to "research" whether high vis clothing saves lives. Clearly it makes you more visible to other road users. Common sense might tell you that's a good thing.

(BTW, "high visibility" clothing is designed mostly for daytime wear. Lights and especially reflectors are mainly for nighttime.)
On the contrary I think it would be very possible to research. Just compare the percentage of cyclists using high-visibility clothing to the percentage of injured cyclists using high-visibility clothing. I would be very interested in the findings.
I do understand that it is common sense that more visibility helps. But how much in percents, or injuries per cycled miles, or something else concrete? Does false security play a role in this matter? Do we act more recklessly or trust the drivers more if we have our vests on?
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Old 02-22-10, 10:10 AM   #8
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safer than dark clothes especially at night.

you know, they invent stuff for a reason ...

for example, in the old days when emergency workers arrived at car crashes on the highway they would see the dead and dismembered bodies strewn along the roadway and then see the mostly intact car. they would shake their heads saying, what can we do to save these people? then they decided to strap them into the cars with seatbelts.

how many cyclists died where the driver of the car said: "I never saw them"

I've noticed more courtesy room with hi-vis clothing, but nothing got me room like the old bike flag. yep, silly as it was - when people saw that they steered clear of me.
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Old 02-22-10, 10:10 AM   #9
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At night I'd say it does close to nothing, compared to reflective materials (provided the motorists have functional headlights) and bicycle lights (which I think are far more important than anything else after dark).

In the daytime, particularly on overcast days, I think hi-viz lime and orange work better than any other method of improved visibility, and for that purpose I can't recommend them enough.

That said, I've had plenty of mishaps with overtaking motorists that had nothing to do with visibility, so results may vary.
I wonder how many accidents during daytime would have been prevented with high-visibility clothing in the place of normal clothing? But I also wonder if any accidents may have taken place because of the high-visibility clothing? (I don't find this likely, but certainly possible).
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Old 02-22-10, 10:17 AM   #10
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safer than dark clothes especially at night.

you know, they invent stuff for a reason ...

for example, in the old days when emergency workers arrived at car crashes on the highway they would see the dead and dismembered bodies strewn along the roadway and then see the mostly intact car. they would shake their heads saying, what can we do to save these people? then they decided to strap them into the cars with seatbelts.

how many cyclists died where the driver of the car said: "I never saw them"

I've noticed more courtesy room with hi-vis clothing, but nothing got me room like the old bike flag. yep, silly as it was - when people saw that they steered clear of me.
Still, people drive cars without helmets.
Some research shows that drivers wearing seat-belts drive faster and more recklessly than those not wearing seat-belts.

Don't get me wrong here, I am sure that high-visibility clothing adds security for cyclists. I'm just interested in knowing how much. I didn't find any data on the subject, that is why I started this thread.
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Old 02-22-10, 10:28 AM   #11
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How and where a cyclist drives is far more important, but under certain lighting conditions hi-vis gear likely provides an edge in being noticed.
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Old 02-22-10, 10:32 AM   #12
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There has been a huge amount of research performed on highway worker safety, including the effects of various types and colors of high vis clothes. Probably not much that directly addresses cyclists but what works for flagmen probably works for cyclists.

Here's something I found from the State of Utah which includes a lot of references to previous research if anyones interested.
http://www.nascoinc.com/standards/hi...y%20Report.pdf
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Old 02-22-10, 10:35 AM   #13
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But I also wonder if any accidents may have taken place because of the high-visibility clothing? (I don't find this likely, but certainly possible).
I'll give three somewhat far-fetched scenarios:

1. Motorist can see the hi-viz cyclists so well, he risk-compensates and drives faster and hits a cyclist or pedestrian that is not hi-viz (similar happenings up north when they put reflective posts along the highway so the nightime driver can see where the road curves, and speeds up and plows into a moose)

2. Cyclists thinks he can be seen so well, he risk-compensates assumes a car that is NOT LOOKING AT ALL can see him.

2. While riding full-lane, I once had an angry motorist yell something along the lines of "since you are dressed like a roadblock, you must have planned on blocking the road". Maybe he'd pass closer to "send a message"? Who knows.


Whatever, I'm not too worried about any of the above, personally.
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Old 02-22-10, 10:51 AM   #14
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I don't have cycling data points about hi-viz clothing, but will vouch for effectiveness in motorcycling. Motorcyclists suffer from the same driver inattention, "I didn't see them" being as much a common admission of guilt/excuse when a driver hits a biker as when a cyclist gets hit. Basic rule for me on a motorcycle is: be seen, be safe. First hand experience, swapping from hi-viz roadcrafter one-piece riding suit to standard leather jacket and jeans confirmed this on multiple occasions for me.

Plus, people who work on roads for a living wear this stuff.

Just got a hi-viz cycling jacket, I trust that it will make me as visible as I am in my motorcycle hi-viz gear.
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Old 02-22-10, 11:24 AM   #15
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There are lots of temporary signs put on roadside here for garage sales, store sales, etc. Usually a couple a mile block. A recent trend is to write them on hi-vis lime/yellow board. It is not uncommon for me to see the 'glow' of one up ahead and think I will be catching another cyclist soon. That at least shows they stand out.
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Old 02-22-10, 11:35 AM   #16
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On the contrary I think it would be very possible to research. Just compare the percentage of cyclists using high-visibility clothing to the percentage of injured cyclists using high-visibility clothing. I would be very interested in the findings.
I do understand that it is common sense that more visibility helps. But how much in percents, or injuries per cycled miles, or something else concrete? Does false security play a role in this matter? Do we act more recklessly or trust the drivers more if we have our vests on?
Who will look at the dead bodies of cyclists and record the type of clothing they wear?
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Old 02-22-10, 11:45 AM   #17
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I feel like I notice cyclists sooner when I am behind the wheel and they have it on. On the other hand, when I got hit last year I was wearing a high vis jacket.
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Old 02-22-10, 11:58 AM   #18
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On the contrary I think it would be very possible to research. Just compare the percentage of cyclists using high-visibility clothing to the percentage of injured cyclists using high-visibility clothing. I would be very interested in the findings.
I do understand that it is common sense that more visibility helps. But how much in percents, or injuries per cycled miles, or something else concrete? Does false security play a role in this matter? Do we act more recklessly or trust the drivers more if we have our vests on?
One problem with such a study is that there are lots of other variables involved. The cyclists who wear high-vis clothing are likely to vary in other respects from those who wear darker or more regular clothing. I'd expect more of the high-vis cyclists to be club and recreational riders who have lots of cycling-specific clothing. OTOH, transportational cyclists are more likely to be wearing their regular clothes instead of some flourescent yellow jacket or brightly colored jersey.

Observed differences in injury rates would therefore not only be a measure of the effect of the clothing visibility, but also a result of different riding styles, locations, times, etc. It would then be very difficult or even impossible to decide how much of the difference in injury rate is the result of the clothing visibility and how much is due to other factors.

But the high-vis clothing is clearly effective in letting the rider be seen from a greater distance. On one ride on a foggy day I was riding some distance ahead of the group wearing a yellow jacket and a friend wearing blue was behind me. When the trip leader caught up she mentioned that she had seen me from a long ways off but hadn't seen my friend until later even though he was closer.
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Old 02-22-10, 11:59 AM   #19
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There are lots of temporary signs put on roadside here for garage sales, store sales, etc. Usually a couple a mile block. A recent trend is to write them on hi-vis lime/yellow board. It is not uncommon for me to see the 'glow' of one up ahead and think I will be catching another cyclist soon. That at least shows they stand out.
In environments where hi-vis colours are that prevalent, might one actually be blending into the surroundings by wearing it?

I do wear a bright yellow, reflective jacket when weather conditions permit, but my summer jerseys aren't particularly hi-vis (other than the bright red one).
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Old 02-22-10, 12:03 PM   #20
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On the contrary I think it would be very possible to research. Just compare the percentage of cyclists using high-visibility clothing to the percentage of injured cyclists using high-visibility clothing. I would be very interested in the findings.
I do understand that it is common sense that more visibility helps. But how much in percents, or injuries per cycled miles, or something else concrete? Does false security play a role in this matter? Do we act more recklessly or trust the drivers more if we have our vests on?
It's not that easy. You have to normalize for different types of rider to reduce the number of variables. For example, cyclists with high-viz clothing are more concerned with safety then cyclists with dark clothing so they ride in a more safe manner. Any difference in injure statistics maybe due to the way cyclists ride than what cyclists wear.
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Old 02-22-10, 12:08 PM   #21
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The High-viz stuff doesn't cost much (if any) more than the darker stuff most of us buy when we're buying jackets/vests etc, so picking the more visible option seems like the best choice. And when people seem to be giving you more space when they pass you feel you made the right choice. When they tell you they couldn't miss seeing you because you were lit up like a bright yellow Christmas tree you know you only need a little more in the way of lights/reflectors/high-viz gear in that too much of everything is just right way. Loud suits save lives is how they do it with motorcycles.
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Old 02-22-10, 12:08 PM   #22
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It would seem that being seen is safer than not being seen, but just what is it that gets you seen?

Hi-vis clothing may seem to help, but there are a lot of things that compete for a road users attention. I don't think hi-vis clothing is bad, but it may not help as much as one may think.

At night, they may not help at all. Even reflectors require lights being pointed at them to work in the dark. You need lights.

Act like no one sees you, because even at times when someone is looking right at you, they may not see you, day or night.
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Old 02-22-10, 12:30 PM   #23
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I'm not sure how much hi-vis helps, but I think I'm going to read into this that you don't want to wear it. I didn't either.

But, come winter months I put on a hi-vis vest every day. It took me awhile to get used to it as it seemed stupid at first, even though I knew it wasn't. After a week of wearing it, I feel safer and smarter. I'm glad I wear it.

On days like today, where it's in the mid 30's and rainy, I can look in my helmet mirror and notice cars better if their headlights are on. That's important info for me, as it tells me to turn my lights on and wear my vest, even if the sun's been up for hours.
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Old 02-22-10, 12:53 PM   #24
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My motoring acquaintances often thank me for wearing yellow whenever they see me arrive in my gear, usually accompanied by "I hate it when cyclists wear black, so hard to see". A friend of mine wears a safety vest. I once had to chase down a ride I was late for, and out of the whole pack of cyclists, mostly wearing yellow (the club jersey colour), she was the easiest to see at a distance (and I had about a half-hour to stare at them at a distance of up to about 2 km before I managed to latch on).

I think yellow often sends the message that you're responsible and care about your own safety, so many motorists appreciate that and treat you well.

Really, though, I wear yellow because I can afford to buy cycling-specific stuff, and I'm interested enough in cycling that I've thought about how to do it safely. When I was casually bike-commuting as a student, I just wore my only coat (black, as so many are). Buying a $20 safety vest never crossed my mind. That was just how I'd always done things, and how everyone else did, too. Most of my good cycling habits I've learned either from trial and error (near-miss door prize), or from seeing another cyclist doing something smart (like wearing yellow).

Does anyone think wearing bright clothing is going to become more main-steam amongst cyclists in the years to come, as helmet use and lighting did?

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Old 02-22-10, 12:57 PM   #25
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Also, if anyone ever hits you, he's going to have a much harder time playing the "I didn't see that cyclist" get out of jail free card. That's my second reason for wearing brights (safety is #1). I don't want someone mowing me down and getting away with it.

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