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Does lighter color bike = easier to see/safer bike?

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Does lighter color bike = easier to see/safer bike?

Old 08-01-17, 10:08 PM
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little.old.lady
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Does lighter color bike = easier to see/safer bike?

I tried using Google to see if riding a light colored bike is safer (less likely to get hit by car) than riding a dark colored bike - and could not find any information on this. Somehow it seems to me that riding a lighter colored bike would be safer, but wondered what people's thoughts on that were? (I'm currently looking for a new bike.) Thanks!
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Old 08-01-17, 10:13 PM
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I don't think it matters as long as you wear bright colored clothing/helmet. And at night, obviously it matters less...throw some 3m reflective tape on your bike and maybe some wheel lights along with your regular lights. Imo a bike frame is too small to be noticed by drivers but a rider in visible clothing (not all black, for example) will be noticed. My own personal experience is that more than one bright color helps; all neon green has not seemed to be noticed by drivers as much as a mix of neon green, orange, red, etc. But that's just personal experience.
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Old 08-01-17, 10:18 PM
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For what it's worth, silver cars are the hardest to see, followed by the various earth tones. Linberl's suggestions are about right.
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Old 08-01-17, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by linberl View Post
I don't think it matters as long as you wear bright colored clothing/helmet.
Agreed. When I see another bicyclist way up ahead I see the color of their jersey and possibly helmet long before I can tell what color their bike is. I also agree that extra reflectorization and/or lights can also help. In the unfortunate case where you end up negotiating with an insurance company or in a civil court case it could be helpful to show that you not only met the legal requirements for visibility but even went beyond them.
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Old 08-01-17, 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by little.old.lady View Post
I tried using Google to see if riding a light colored bike is safer (less likely to get hit by car) than riding a dark colored bike - and could not find any information on this. Somehow it seems to me that riding a lighter colored bike would be safer, but wondered what people's thoughts on that were? (I'm currently looking for a new bike.) Thanks!
I don't think colour of the bicycle matters one bit. The frame is so small that even if it were hi-vis yellow, it wouldn't really stand out at any distance ... especially not from the front or back.
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Old 08-01-17, 10:51 PM
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<snicker>

What do we reckon the visible surface is of a bike when viewed directly from behind? Fifty square inches? Less? It could be the brightest pigment yellow/orange/pink known to mankind and be invisible at 30 yards.
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Old 08-01-17, 10:58 PM
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The bike is too small an element in the overall picture to matter much. If I had to assign importance to various elements, I'd say that your shirt or jersey is most important, followed by whatever is covering your rear end.

If you really want an idea of what you look like to a driver ask a friend to ride his bike past you and note what you see as he fades into the distance. To do this right, you should stand out in the road at the left tire track so you line up with where a car's driver would be. While you're at it, note how the bike's lane position affects how much it stands out against the background.

At night, it's all about lights and reflectors so the bike certainly doesn't matter.

IMO - every cyclist should do this "what do I look like from the driver's seat" exercise both day and night and under various lighting conditions, especially heading into a low sun.
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Old 08-01-17, 11:06 PM
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If you ride a white bike in front of a white wall to a driver you appear to be floating ... the driver might freak out and panic and hit you through stunned incomprehension.

I suggest repainting the bike to contrast whatever scenery you are passing.
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Old 08-01-17, 11:24 PM
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One thing for sure Red is definitely faster.
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Old 08-02-17, 12:05 AM
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Thank you for your answers, and lol on some of them
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Old 08-02-17, 01:49 AM
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I have always wondered why bike frames are not painted with reflective paint. We have the technology...
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Old 08-02-17, 04:00 AM
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Originally Posted by berkeley23 View Post
I have always wondered why bike frames are not painted with reflective paint. We have the technology...
There is a company in the Boston area that will do it for, off hand I can't remember the name, but it can be done.
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Old 08-02-17, 04:11 AM
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This is a question that's influenced highly by ones surroundings.

In the snow, I'm sure white would be terrible.
Against dark cornfields and wooded areas, I can't imagine any color would be better than white - especially since white also stands out against the dark road.

At the end of the day, kit and helmet probably matter the most - but absolutely the frame color can matter.
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Old 08-02-17, 04:22 AM
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I've posted this before, but here it is again. This is a photo I took in Plymouth, UK. I turned, saw the cyclists, and clicked.

What do you see first?

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Old 08-02-17, 04:34 AM
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Originally Posted by berkeley23 View Post
I have always wondered why bike frames are not painted with reflective paint. We have the technology...
The company that applies the reflective paint is called Halo Coatings, and is not in Boston, I assumed they were because I read about them a few years ago on the Lovely Bike blog.
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Old 08-02-17, 04:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I've posted this before, but here it is again. This is a photo I took in Plymouth, UK. I turned, saw the cyclists, and clicked.

What do you see first?

Bad example because my eyes first went to the road, then followed to see the dark cyclist first because of where he was in my eye's travels rather than how visible they are. But that's how photos work with leading lines and such. Orange would definitely be the most visible in this scenario if it had been seen for real rather than a photo.
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Old 08-02-17, 05:28 AM
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Oranges and reds are good during most of the year, except for fall. Green and yellow are good for the fall.
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Old 08-02-17, 06:40 AM
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All of my bikes are either black, mostly black or charcoal colored. I ride before dawn with Niterider LED lights and bright bike jerseys, either yellow, orange or red.... and have no problem being seen by cars.
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Old 08-02-17, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
What do you see first?
To be fair, their bikes are hidden behind a hill!

But yes, I agree, far more surface area to clothing than the bike frame, that is where you want the hi-viz first and foremost. Past that, it isn't a "light" color that is going to be seen better, it is a hi-viz orange or yellow. There are many situations where white is going to be just as useless as black. I like higher viz color bags, too, if you have them on the bike.
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Old 08-02-17, 06:56 AM
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I agree with the consensus: Frame color less important than clothing/helmet.
I think helmet color is crucial: Get a light-color helmet, along with a vibrant jersey/jacket. I would like to see the bicycle clothing industry make more vibrant-colored shorts available, like the Altura Night Vision.
I like vibrant-colored bikes, but it is just for the aesthetic. On the other hand, would I feel safer on a white bike than a black one? Probably just a smidge, at least in traffic. That alone might prompt me to choose the white one.
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Old 08-02-17, 07:07 AM
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No, not safer. Even black can sometimes be easier to see during the day than light colors (someone actually tested drivers with cyclists wearing different colors).

At night it's a different story, but the frame color is the least of it IMO. In short, I'd say get whatever color you like and don't be much concerned about whether it impacts safety.
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Old 08-02-17, 07:41 AM
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Agreed the frame color is not much impact on what one sees.

Almost every Wednesday evening, I approach a group of cyclists waiting to ride from a straight line maybe a half mile away or so. Even before I can see a bike or a person well enough to see what they are, the high vis yellow/greenish jersey of one guy stands out against the background. Without that, at that distance I could not even know there are people standing there with bikes.
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Old 08-02-17, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
<snicker>

What do we reckon the visible surface is of a bike when viewed directly from behind? Fifty square inches? Less? It could be the brightest pigment yellow/orange/pink known to mankind and be invisible at 30 yards.
From behind, I would say it's even less. I doubt that the whole frame has 50 square inches of surface area that is directly visible. Remember that we are talking about curved surfaces.

Originally Posted by berkeley23 View Post
I have always wondered why bike frames are not painted with reflective paint. We have the technology...
Several reasons. Just because we have the technology now doesn't mean that we had it in the past...even recent past. I doubt there is much demand for it either. Not that many people ride at night.

There's also the efficacy of the paint. Like I pointed out above, bicycles have lots of curved surfaces which wouldn't reflect light back all that well. The rider has a larger, flatter surface area so reflective surfaces would be more effective on the rider.

Additionally, reflectors are mostly useless except for head- and tail-on. The CSPC did a study that essentially shows that for a driver to detect a bicycle from the side the bike has to be very close to the car. A headlight and/or taillight, i.e. active lighting, is going to be detected much further away in all situations...front, rear or side...than any reflectors. Reflectors are mostly useless when compared to active lighting.
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Old 08-02-17, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I've posted this before, but here it is again. This is a photo I took in Plymouth, UK. I turned, saw the cyclists, and clicked. What do you see first?
I saw the statue silhouetted against the sky. Contrast attracts attention ... but in the gloom, color provides less contrast.
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Old 08-02-17, 08:49 AM
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This discussion reminds me of that story from years ago, a man was watching the TV and they were telling people to make sure they were seen at night on the roads - wear white !

So he goes out & buys brilliant white hat, coat, gloves, trousers, & boots.

He got knocked down by a snowplough.
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