You don’t need more lights…

29 12 2010

Take me to your leader Earthling...

Reflective gear has seen as many advances as modern bike lighting. It’s bright when a car or bike’s lights strike it. It’s cheap and it lasts for years with no batteries to charge or electric circuits to fail.  For some reason cyclists treat reflective material as an accessory. It’s fine for the trim on our rain jackets or a nice to have on a messenger bag, but not something we think about with the same importance and focus as we do bike lights.

That’s a mistake.

As a driver I often spot a cyclist up the road because of their reflective material before I see their lights. Pumping ankle bands are distinctively a signal there is a cyclist ahead.  My brain is trained to think cyclist, runner or road worker when I see reflective material. All of which demand some extra care as I approach them.

"X" marks the cyclist and arms signal my turns...

By all means fit your bike with effective lights, but also make sure you have made good use of reflective material as well.  Ankle bands are small, cheap and useful if you are wearing street clothes.  They really catch the eye of a driver.  Reflective gloves make your turn signaling much more effective and they’ll fit over gloves in cool weather.   A reflective vest or sash is easy to wear over anything and packs away into a small corner of your bag during the day.

You don’t have to wear all the stuff I have on in these photos, but wear a couple items to make yourself more visible without needing to add the weight, cost and complexity of more lights.


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15 responses

29 12 2010
tyler

This is about like talking about helmets….

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/reflectors.html

29 12 2010
thelazyrando

@TY – he’s talking about flat surface reflectors and about reflectors vs. lights. I’m saying use both and his article was last updated 6yrs ago – a lot has changed in reflective technology as it has in lighting technology.

But you don’t need to trust me or Sheldon…just go try for yourself. Get a friend to wear reflective gear and ride his bike while you drive a car past him in either direction. Judge for yourself.

I agree with Sheldon which is why you don’t see any stock OEM reflectors on my bikes and why I use bike lights + high quality reflective clothing.

29 12 2010
SteveP

Nice! Can you list the items you are wearing? That vest has great reflective power.

29 12 2010
UnderDaHill

I’d be interested in a list of the items you were wearing.

29 12 2010
thelazyrando

From head to ankle:

– helmet with reflective stickers
– Buff neck warmer with reflective stripe
– MEC cycling jacket
– neon wind vest over jacket [didn’t really add anything compared to jacket alone]
– MEC reflective vest
– reflective sash [didn’t really add anything compared to just vest alone]
– Glo Gloves
– MEC ankle bands

30 12 2010
Andrew Priest

A recent Australian study on this topic has been published. Details here.. Just to add to the discussion.

30 12 2010
Encontrando el brillo adecuado. | Vallarta en Bici

[…] respecto a que los reflejantes son tan importantes como la luz emitida (publicado en ”Usted no necesita más luces“). Hoy su mensaje es “Tu luz trasera es demasiado brillante […]

31 12 2010
bikeboy999

Hey VIk,

Nice articles on reflectors vs lights you have found, thanks. Now I have tried to find gloves for many years. Can you put up a url for the gloves. Did you ever see the illuminite product?

B
PS happy new year.

31 12 2010
thelazyrando

http://www.gloglov.com/

I’ve seen illuminite online, but not in person.

Happy New Year!

1 01 2011
Ben

Undeniably, reflectors are bright when a light is hitting them. But there is no update in reflector technology that will ever address the problem Sheldon discussed.

Other problems, such as working when wet, are worthy of attention–many of the microsphere reflectors on non-marine clothing (and perhaps surprisingly the ones on my Ortlieb panniers) do not.

One thing Sheldon missed that I think could be important: perhaps the single best way to improve cyclist safety (besides banning cars) is making drivers aware that there are bikes on the road. Not the bike they’re about to squish, but bikes generally.

If a car’s lights strike my spoke reflectors, chances are very slim that the car will avoid a collision with me, since we weren’t on an intersecting course anyway. But chances are very good that that is one driver who will say “Another cyclist! I need to watch out for those!”

1 01 2011
thelazyrando

Ben – have a close read of Sheldon’s article. He is talking about flat reflectors like the ones that are legally mandated by US law. What he says doesn’t apply the same way to a wrap around cycling.

1 01 2011
The [not so] Lazy Randonneur on bike lighting « Velobusdriver's Blog

[…] reflective gear including stripes on the side of my bike and ankle […]

1 01 2011
Ben

thelazyrando – The only issue Sheldon discusses that can be solved by better (e.g. wrap-around) reflectors is “entrance angle” (point 2 in the summary bullets near the top, point 1 in the detailed discussion).

The world’s most perfect reflector doesn’t affect most of his argument. See especially “Vehicle positions on the roadway.” That’s where he explains why in side-on and quarter-on approaches it’s unlikely that the car’s headlights will illuminate the bike’s reflectors at all until the moment of collision.

But reflectors are cheap, light, bright, and useful under some circumstances – mostly front and rear approaches – and I don’t see how they can do any harm. I believe the correct attitude is to be pleasantly slightly surprised when your reflectors make you visible.

1 01 2011
Andrew Priest

@bikeboy999 Not Illuminate gloves but Ken at Palm Beach Tours has a review on Go Gloves. Might be worth checking out.

Regards
Andrew

5 01 2011
A tail that sheds some more light on lights….. «

[…] You don’t need more lights… […]

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