Why don’t I dress up like a traffic cone?

7 03 2011

One of my typical high visibility black/gray cycling outfits...

Most of the time I wear dark colours cycling.  Why don’t I wear one of those traffic cone inspired bike outfits? This question has 3 answers:

  1. I mostly ride for transportation so I wear the clothes I would wear if I walked, drove or took a bus.
  2. My risk assessment tells me street clothes are safe for cycling.
  3. I want to promote cycling as something beyond a sporting activity or transportation for a select group of geeks.

Bikes are serious business...

Transportation

The ideal forms of transportation are quick, cheap and low hassle.  The more you get away from these qualities the less likely someone is to utilize them – assuming they have a choice in the first place.  I wear the same type of clothes most days. So if I decide I need to run an errand I can walk out my door and jump on a bicycle without the need to locate and put on any specialized clothing – that really simplifies the process. When I get to the other end I just hop off my bike and blend in with the rest of human society. Additionally many of my transportation needs are to get to social events. I want to get there looking normal. So I either wear my street clothes to the event while riding my bike or I have to get there and find away to change. At the very least I need to put away my neon yellow cycling jacket or my hot pink high visibility jersey.

The other non-sporting use I put my bike to is touring. I like blending in with my environment when I travel. I want to step away from my bicycle and be just one more person at my destination without some major Superman finds a phone booth to turn into Clark Kent process. That’s far harder to do when you look like a space traveler who has just landed wearing tap dancing shoes!

Cycling for everyday people...

Cycling is Safe

My comments on cycling safety only apply to places I’ve lived and travelled.  This would include most of Canada, a good chunk of Western Europe, portions of the Western US and Baja Mexico.  Cycling is safe – period. No special safety gear is required for non-extreme forms of cycling [ie. riding to get a coffee or pick up some groceries]. You don’t need to look like a traffic cone to be safe. I think the most important aspects of cycling safety are intelligent route choice and effective cycling skills [ie. where to be in a lane and how to make turns,etc...]. I don’t have regular close calls while cycling in dark clothes. Cars can see me. So can pedestrians and other cyclists. I do occasionally wear bright clothing even cycling specific visibility clothing [my rain jacket is bright orange because they didn't offer it in black! and I own a few items of street clothing that are quite bright] and I am treated no differently when I do.

Black for visibility on a rainy day...=-)

You might think I am a high risk individual which is why I don’t take special safety precautions.  I’m 42 years old and have been to the emergency room 4 or 5 times in my life. I had two factures and never had a clean break in a bone. I don’t get hurt often. I’m actually a low risk person, but I get to that state not by a paranoid application of every possible safety measure, but rather by a reasonable assessment of the specific risks I am exposed to and a logical application of the appropriate mitigation measures.

In fact I would go so far as to suggest the fetish some cyclists have for neon colours may actually put them at higher risk of an accident if they feel over confident of their safety because they assume they have to be visible to traffic given how blindingly bright they jacket is. I feel the same way about our helmet obsession. By all means wear a bike helmet, but be honest about how much safer you are with it on and don’t forget that when that bus runs you over it really won’t matter a whole heck of a lot that your helmet was CSA approved.

Photo: Scattomatto56 on Flickr - click image to see original...

Cycling for the Masses

I want more people to ride bikes. Currently in North America cycling is viewed as a sport like football/tennis/running or as a hobby for a bunch of geeks that like to dress like traffic cones. This view of cycling limits the public’s desire to ride bicycles. They see a roadie going full tilt down a highway in a body hugging spandex number and they want no part of that foolishness. They see a hardcore traffic cone wearing bike commuter battling their way through traffic and they see a geek who is fighting for their life – not appealing. On the other hand if they see someone riding through town on a bike wearing street clothes looking relaxed they can relate. It starts to look like cycling is safe enough to try and can’t be that tough because normal folks are doing it.

Sharon commuting to work...

I drink tap water for 3 reasons:

  1. it’s cheap
  2. it’s convenient
  3. it’s what I want to see others doing

I can afford bottled water, but I think it’s bad for the environment and I know that many people can’t afford it. If everyone who made more than $30K a year drank bottled water would society really care what happened to the water supply? I doubt it. But, by being invested in the public water system for my own health reasons it forces me to ensure that it is safe and available to everyone – including those whose voices are not as well heard.

What the heck does that have to do with cycling? Well I can afford all the latest safety nonsense for my bicycle. If the only way to be safe was to spend money on cycle specific gear that not everyone has – the solution, in my mind, wouldn’t be to equip myself with the latest gear and battle to stay alive on the mean streets of my city. It would be to advocate for safe streets for normal cyclists. Just like safe drinking water there should be a reasonable level of safety for any cyclist. Not only does that make cycling more accessible to everyone, but it means my own cycling is more pleasant.

Cover your eyes!

Don’t I ever get my traffic cone on?

You got me! I do sometimes. Like in Calgary when I was undertaking a snowstorm Pugsley assault of downtown I wore a high visibility eye searing vest like the one above. At night I’ll use reflective leg bands and a reflective sash that can be removed in seconds and stashed in a pocket when I arrive at my destination. If it was densely foggy on my way to work I woud take some extra precautions. These sorts of conditions occur a handful of times a year where I live. So a prudent person need only do/wear something unusual on occasion.

Aaron gearing up for a rando training ride...

What if you want to dress like a traffic cone?

Go for it! I’m not telling you what to do. My purpose for this post was to get people to think about what they wear cycling and why. If you love eye searing bright colours and/or you feel they are absolutely necessary for your continued survival – then be my guest! You gotta ride your own ride…=-)

My high visibility black rando gear...=-)

As a pedestrian I deal with cars at every intersection I cross and every time I cross mid-block at a cross walk. I feel more at risk on my feet crossing roads than I do on my bike riding in traffic. This is because on my bike I am riding like a car going with the flow whereas on foot all my interactions are at 90 degrees to the direction cars are moving. In every city I’ve lived pedestrians get hit and seriously injured/killed by cars. I never hear anyone suggest that pedestrians should wear neon safety jackets or wear helmets. When I go downtown walking with my friends nobody sports specialized visibility gear yet we might well cross the road 30-40 times. If dressing like a traffic cone on a bike makes sense it would make equal sense for a pedestrian that has to contend with traffic. Of course nobody would go for that!


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79 responses

7 03 2011
Rob E.

Great post. I’ve seen a few visibility-focused posts in other places lately, and I have very mixed feelings about the. First and foremost, I think people should feel safe on their bikes. If that means reflective clothing and so many lights on their bike that people want to put gifts under it, then by all means do that. But when it comes to preaching that we should all do that, I start to balk. We have minimum visibility requirements defined in the traffic rules (at least we do where I live), and I encourage people to follow them. Beyond that, do what makes you feel safe. Bike accidents are relatively rare, and even more rare if you actually make an effort to ride safely. Going above and beyond makes it look like you’re engaging in some extreme, high-risk sport. And advocating for that behaviour makes it seem like if you do less than the maximum, you are somehow responsible if someone does not see you. On a local bike-issues list someone made a comment about how they were surprised, given the attention that so-and-so seemed to have paid to their bike, that they only appeared to have one headlight, one taillight, and no reflective clothing. That seems like an unfortunate attitude to me. A cyclist is responsible for making sure that they can be seen. The drivers are responsible for actually seeing them, and we take that responsibility away from them at our own peril. If Day-Glow Orange makes you feel safer, go for it. I also have my high-vis vest for when I feel the need. But the day it becomes a safety standard, or even a law, that’s the day we make it official that we are responsible for not being run over, rather than cars being responsible for looking where they’re going.

7 03 2011
adventure!

After reading this post, now I think I have an idea for a Halloween costume this year! Though I don’t know if they make a traffic cone big enough to fit me! ;-)

Thanks for mentioning tap water as well. The one thing I really really hate about bottled water (besides waste and the environmental impacts) is that it’s convinced a lot of people that tap water isn’t “safe.” About once a day at my job (hostel) I get asked “Is the water safe to drink?” Yes, it’s safe. Sure, the US sometimes resembles a developing country, but we do have standards for water. In fact, tap water is better tested than bottled water. But somehow bottled water is “safer”. Can bottled water taste better than tap? In some instances, yes. But it doesn’t make it safer. (And Portland’s got some tasty tapwater!)

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

In a lot of cases bottled water is just tap water you have to pay for.

7 03 2011
Val Garou

I have a friend who always wears neon now because a lawyer he rides with (who does a lot of cycling cases) told him to. This lawyer says that if you get clipped by a car, and if it then goes to trial, the first thing the driver is going to say is “I didn’t see him.” The first thing the lawyer likes to do then is hold up your blinding jersey to the jury and say “Really?” Says it works a treat.

Now, in Canada, your medical bills are paid for regardless of the driver’s insurance status, but it might be something for your readers in the States to think about.

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

I wouldn’t want to make decisions that affect every ride based on the unlikely event I end up in court and have to hold up a jersey. Using that rationale any person with more $$ than their partner should sign a prenup since no matter how good things are now you may end up in court and want to hold it up. Similarly doing so would affect your relationship in a material way.

7 03 2011
NickBob

Good post, but the lukewarm take on helmets troubles me. I took a spill coming home fromnworl 2 weeks back and came down quicker than I could react horizontally on the sidewalk, my arm took the major part of the fall and was useless for three days and is still sore. My helmet took a strong enough hit to crack it, but my head is as fine as it ever is, doing better than my arm, anyway. I’m 56, been cycling for years but I’ve never had such a direct demonstration of the benefits of that silly headgear. Clothing shouldn’t be a barrier to cycling, neither should safety be minimized as a way to get more of us on the road.

7 03 2011
Rob E.

Val, that’s what I see as the problem. Somehow, “I didn’t see him/her.” got to be an accepted excuse. I agree with your friend’s lawyer-friend’s advice. It would strengthen your court case. But it still plays into the idea that it’s the cyclists duty to grab the eyes of the driver. And, of course, in the stated case, it’s not a safety measure at all because your wardrobe only becomes an issue after you’ve been hit. It’s an acknowledgement of the fact that you can light up road, be a glaring eyesore, and still not be seen. The idea that this lawyer deals with a number car cyclist collisions where the cyclist is wearing bright, high-vis clothing might be enough to suggest that it holds little safety value.
If a person feels safer, I say do it. Don’t go out of your house feeling like you’re taking unnecessary risks. But when it comes to advocating, I say put your energy towards advocating for better enforcement and better safety education for all involved. I suspect that the reality is that great number of collisions of the “I didn’t see you.” variety have less to do with wardrobe choices then they do with the fact that someone’s attention was not on the road at all. And even then those collisions are statistically not that common. I think there are things that can be done to make us all safer on the streets, I’m just not sure giving everyone a safety vest is high on the list.

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@NickBob – as I said wear a helmet if you want. If wearing a helmet is important to you consider that it would also be a useful safety measure in a car or while walking. My objection is to 1) mandatory helmet laws and 2) to the irrationale obsession with helmets both above more important safety issues and how other more risky aspects of life that could benefit from helmets are never considered – just bicycles.

7 03 2011
Micheal Blue

While this article makes some good points, I can see from my own experience that brighter clothes catch attention more easily. If all drivers would drive aware and paying attention, then I’d agree with the article 100%. However, it’s very easy for a driver to get distracted by something, and a good number of drivers seem to be spaced-out yahoos. If you’re a small mouse (a guy on a bike is a small mouse) that blends with the background, a distracted driver can easily overlook you. When you have a bright jacket, that flash of bright colour can distract the distracted driver from the original distraction and alert his/her brain that there is something. Have you noticed when walking through a dark(er) house (for example), that a tiny flash of light that may come from a car going by immediately catches your attention? In that dark(er) house a flash of colour of the same hue and brightness as the background wouldn’t catch your attention because it would blend in. Also, there is more to getting into an accident than just wearing or not wearing high-vis clothes: fate. If it’s in your book of life to go through an accident, then you can wear a lighthouse on your head, and still will get into an accident. If it’s in your life story not to get into a serious trouble, you can wear black at night and still be safe. However, consciously we don’t know what our life path is.
Thus it is good to use common sense and set a positive field of intention. If a bike rider wears dark clothes because he/she doesn’t give a damn about others, he/she creates a negative field of intention and asks for trouble. The same could be said about a cyclist who wears bright clothes and thinks that’s a ticket to owning the road. Personally, I wear normal clothes with a yellow MEC cycling jacket. The jacket is light, packs up small and is very visible.
I wouldn’t dare to cycle on a busy road in clothes that merge with the background. In Holland and Denmark people almost alway wear normal clothes because they have an excellent cycling infrustructure and drivers that are aware and tolerant of cyclists. In NA most drivers are not used to/aware of cyclists. BTW, it’s a good idea to filter tap water to get rid of chlorine and DBP (desinfection by-products that are many times more toxic than chlorine). I use Aquasana filters at home.

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Michael – do you wear high visibility gear as a pedestrian? You are after all the smallest mouse on foot.

7 03 2011
Val Garou

Vik,

I know you return to the argument about helmets in cars and hi-viz on pedestrians quite a bit, but I’m not sure they’re logically sound. Because OTHER people could be safer in OTHER situations but aren’t, does not mean that YOU should not be safer in YOUR situation. And a helmet is safer than no helmet.

Similarly, your argument that a helmet won’t help when you get run over by a bus is a straw man. By the same token, you should not buckle your seatbelt or prefer a vehicle with airbags because neither will help you should your truck stall on the tracks and be smashed by a train.

It is false to claim that if a helmet does not render one invincible, it is useless. I drove an ambulance for a number of years; I saw people die from VERY low-speed impacts. The goal of the helmet is not total safety, but to simply slide the bars that separate fine from injured and injured from dead a little further down the line into the wearer’s favor.

None of this is to say anything about helmet laws or what any individual rider should do.

7 03 2011
th

What’s wrong with a little color? I have a hi-vis yellow windjacket that I wear quite a bit. I’m sure that It helps motorists to see me. If they weren’t so distracted, I wouldn’t have to be so visible. But it’s not an all or nothing game. My winter jacket is red. It’s a muted red but more visible than black, which was the other color offered. When I used a Chrome backpack, I purchased orange instead of black. I consider it a courtesy to motorists to try to be visible. Sure it’s their responsibility not to hit me but I’ll do what I can to stack the cards in my favor.

7 03 2011
Val Garou

Rob,

No, the court-case justification has nothing to do with safety, but ever since I heard it, I have to admit that it does factor into my calculations about the “value” of choosing a bright jersey over dark one.

I should also say that I don’t have the problem you seem to with the “idea that it’s the cyclists duty to grab the eyes of the driver.” In a perfect world, I agree that this is not the model that would be in place, but as a matter of daily practice, I’m fine with it. Only I am responsible for my safety, and that means assuming that drivers are totally incompetent. Maybe this comes from my boating background, but it’s an old nautical law that each captain must do EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER to avoid a collision–you cannot rely on rights-of-way or navigational markers to excuse a collision. Similarly, I don’t really care what “responsibility” drivers have to pay attention or avoid me. I have to assume they won’t live up to it.

As an aside, there have been some studies (which, unfortunately, I don’t have at hand) regarding the “I didn’t see them” excuse and motorcyclists. There’s some reason to believe that it might not be about looking at the radio, but that the brain actually DOESN’T PROCESS small targets like motorcycles and bicycles when driving. The gist is that the brain is always filtering stimuli, otherwise you’d be overwhelmed all the time. When driving, you’re trained by practice to be aware of cars and trucks–big objects moving quickly in the center of their lanes. In the way that you can’t really hear background conversation while focused on reading a good book, small targets that don’t seem to present IMMEDIATE DANGER are filtered. Motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians often fall into this category.

As a result, motorcycle designers have been trying to space headlights further apart to “widen” bikes, or put some lower to create a triangular visual target. Bright colors help a rider “pop” from the background. Motorcyclists are also advised to try moving laterally within their lane. In my own anecdotal experience on a motorcycle, weaving in the 100 yards before an intersection DRASTICALLY cut the number of cars turning left in front of me.

All of that is to say, that it’s probably a bigger question than just driver education or consideration or fancy vests. We may be up against some degree of biology here.

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Val – I use the examples of folks driving and walking to point out that the risk analysis we [as in society] uses for these activities, which could clearly benefit from the same measures as helmets and in the case of peds high visibility is totally different than what is used in cycling. So the idea that it matters in one instance and doesn’t in the other is irrationale.

Your argument that it makes you safer shouldn’t end with simply a helmet or a muted red jacket…if that is your take on things why not a neon high visibility jacket?…why not body armour? If a little is good more must be better? Why wouldn’t you want to be safer and more protected?

7 03 2011
Rob E.

I guess if you believe fate is the over-riding influence on your life events, there is no point in any safety measures. If it’s your day to be run over, it’s going to happen with or without your high-viz vest. But I guess in that case you want the vest for lawsuit purposes. ;-) Although if fate says it’s not your day to win in court…

Cycling is the one sport-like endeavor I participate in, and even then not as a sport but as a way to get around. So I don’t know if there are as many alarmists in other activities, but it seems like there are a fair number of people trying to convince you that you are in serious danger if you don’t take at least as many safety precautions as they do. I just don’t know if there are numbers to support that. One reason for that is that bicycling is relatively safe. It’s hard to draw reasonable conclusions from the scant data that we have about bicycling accidents. That’s a good problem to have: That we can’t amass enough injured or dead cyclists to get a statistically significant sample size. Most of what we have are anecdotes. Lots of vocal helmet advocates have horror stories of cracked helmets. I’m just not convinced those stories make for compelling statistics. In my area there have been 5 fatal bicycle/car collisions in recent memory. Three of them were wearing helmets, and the other two were riding at night with no lights, one down the wrong side of the road, fleeing police after having robbed a liquor store if I remember it properly. I have a hard time looking at that situation and saying that his fatal mistake was not wearing a helmet. But, again, anecdotal evidence. It proves nothing. The one statistic that does seem to keep coming back is this: the more bikes on road, the safer it is for all bikes. It seems like multiple areas that have seen a surge of bike riders have found accidents happen in a lower percentage of the cycling population when the cycling population is bigger. So if we believe that statistic is accurate, and we really want the roads to be safer for cyclists, then what we need to do work towards better facilities, and do whatever else it takes to make people feel safe enough to get on the road. If that means giving them a helmet and fluorescent clothing, then do that. But telling people they’re likely to die if they don’t have those things seems unhelpful because it makes cycling seem more dangerous then it really is, so unless you’re a thrill seeker, being encourage to wear helmets and high-vis vests is not going to encourage you to ride. Which isn’t to say that I don’t get a thrill from riding my bike. It’s just not because I think I’m about to be run over.

I don’t dismiss the idea that it’s better to be seen then not to be seen, or that you’re better off with some head protection if you’re going to get hit in the head. I just think that you have to figure in the odds that visibility and other protective measures will come into play. Every day I am in situations that could be made safer, but I may choose not to make those situations safer because the odds that my safety will be compromised by, for instance, not wearing a bullet-proof vest, are so infinitesimal that I have decided it’s not worth the effort to buy and wear a vest in case of stray gunfire. Even so, thousands more people die by gunfire in a year (in the U.S. at least) then by cycling accidents. And yet it’s still a precaution that most people, myself included, consider statistically unnecessary. Everything has risks associated with it. We just have to make decisions about how likely we are to be endangering ourselves and what we can do to lessen the danger. At some point precautions are deemed to be more trouble than the likely cause of not taking precautions. It’s a matter of drawing a line between safety and convenience, and we do it every day in everything we do. Where that line is is a personal choice, but it seems like in the cycling world there’s a push to have that line be far closer to the safety side of the scale then they do in many other activities. Absolutely people should be safe, but realistically, statistically, I’m more likely to die from heart disease then from a car collision. I’m more likely to suffer obesity related health problems then head trauma related ones. With or without a helmet and vest, the safest thing I can do is pedal my fat *** to work.

I think people interested in safe cycling is a good thing. I just think focusing on the gear is less helpful in the long run and far from best things you can do to improve your safety.

7 03 2011
john

yo,

what is that headgear in the pic “Aaron gearing up for a rando training ride”? looks nice and warm having it under the helmet.

thanks!
John

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Rob – well said.

@John – I don’t know, but I’ll ask him next time I see him and post the answer here.

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

When I add up the risk vs. the benefits cycling is often the safest thing I do all day!

7 03 2011
Val Garou

Vik,

I’m suspicious of the argument about “where will it end?” What is the point of that argument? To get me to admit I think we should all wrap ourselves up in bubble wrap and never leave the house? Or merely to portray me as a person who feels that way? That’s borderline insulting to a guy who put around 5,000 miles on his bikes last season and hasn’t used a motor vehicle to get to work in over two years.

Nor is it helpful if it’s only to suggest the most extreme outcome of one’s position. I could just as easily ask you why you tolerate even the smallest inconvenience in the name of safety and assume you don’t buckle your seatbelt, have a smoke detector in the house, or support restrictions on gun ownership.

But I don’t do that, because in a discussion of where and how people draw their own personal line between safety and convenience, I don’t think it’s particularly meaningful (or respectful) to talk in extremes.

I’ll just say one more time, I’m not advocating body armor or helmet laws. My post was merely to indicate that

People in cars would be safer with helmets
People in cars don’t wear helmets
Therefore people on bikes shouldn’t feel the need to wear helmets.

is not a valid syllogism.

7 03 2011
Val Garou

Rob,

This quote of yours, “The one statistic that does seem to keep coming back is this: the more bikes on road, the safer it is for all bikes. It seems like multiple areas that have seen a surge of bike riders have found accidents happen in a lower percentage of the cycling population when the cycling population is bigger, ” speaks to the biology issue I mentioned earlier.

Ultimately, the thing that is going to make us safer isn’t a piece of gear, or a bunch of gear, or a new set of laws. It’s getting enough of us on the road to become part of the fabric of traffic that we shift into the “relevant” column of drivers’ subconscious filters….

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Val – You can be suspicious of the “where will it end” argument. I’m suspicious of the “it can’t hurt to wear brighter colours” argument myself. Riding around all the places I’ve lived I see no evidence that wearing street clothes [usually on the darker side of things] is any less safe than wearing a muted red cycling jacket for example or even a neon yellow one. So when people suggest it’s necessary to pile on the safety gear to ride a bicycle I balk.

Cycling seems pretty safe to me even without a helmet or a colourful jacket.

What bothers me about all this is as Rob said above – if we make cycling look incredibly dangerous why would anyone new want to take it up? I’d also add that if we make ourselves look like space aliens why would anyone want to dress up like us to get a coffee or get to work?

Wearing normal street clothes cycling communicates two things to the non-cycling public 1) cycling is a safe activity and 2) normal people can ride bikes without a lot of hassles.

7 03 2011
Val Garou

For what it’s worth, though it’s about motorcycles, this study associates the wearing of reflective or fluorescent color clothing with a 37% reduction in crashes:

http://www.bmj.com/content/328/7444/857.abridgement.pdf

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

I was a motorcyclist for more than a decade. I wouldn’t apply stats from that activity to cycling. The speeds and behaviours relative to other motor vehicles is quite different from cycling.

7 03 2011
Mark

I relate to your viewpoint. I’ve gone from using helmets religiously for close to 30 years to hardly ever wearing them for the reasons you mention. But, now having moved to an urban area where people drive cars like assault weapons, I have taken to using a high visibility vest. And you would be impressed by the number of pedestrians who do also. But as soon as I am at my destination, off comes the vest, and I am just another normal(?) person in street clothes. I am looking forward to higher gas prices and less cars on the roads.

7 03 2011
alang

Vik, that’s an interesting jacket that Aaron has. Do you know what it is?

I get what you are saying. I am easing into doing more ‘not-just-transportation-cycling’ (slipped in a 100km ride over the weekend!), i am struggling deciding where to put my dollars for clothing. I have the showers pass portland jacket, but i find it’s not ideal for long rides. i have never owned any lycra, and don’t plan to, if i can help it, but i must say the temptation is growing stronger….

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Alan – his jacket is made by Sombrio – not sure which one:

http://www.sombriocartel.com/

If you aren’t doing uber hardcore riding I would suggest going to a store like REI and looking at their hiking clothing. The only time I wear tight fitting bike specific clothing is for rando riding and mountain biking. Hiking clothing has a lot of the technical fabrics cycling clothing uses, but with a more relaxed cut you can wear casually off the bike.

You can always add a neon reflective vest over top for night riding or a low visibility foggy day.

7 03 2011
Aaron M

Greetings fellow Lazy Rando readers, I noticed there were a few questions about my kit. Vik’s a busy guy so Alang I’ll just let you know that my Jacket is a Sombrio Habitat, if I remember correctly. It’s about three or four years old & I don’t believe they make the same style anymore (shame) It’s fairly water & wind resistant and stretchy. For John, the ear warmers are made by 180s. http://www.180s.com I’ve had them for about 10 years and they are one of my all time favorite bits of winter kit. Happy trails y’all & keep the rubber side down.

7 03 2011
Kriss

Great post. Thanks. I am currently trying to work through clothing options that make sense in my climate. I live in subtropical Brisbane in Australia. Even simple transport rides to get groceries result in a flood of perspiration. I want street-looking clothes so I can blend in (as you point out), but feel stuck with wearing some form technical clothing due to the sweat. Any suggestions out there? In terms of commuting, this can only be done where there are end of trip facilities – which is getting much better here. K.

7 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Kriss – hiking clothing offers all sorts of technical options that look reasonably civilized. Some running clothing looks casual and is quick dry.

For example I love these Patagonia button up shirts…they are the fastest drying top I own:

http://www.patagonia.com/us/product/patagonia-mens-puckerware-shirt?p=53001-0-794

Yet they look like normal street clothes.

8 03 2011
Rich

I live in a University town so it dosnt matter how bright my cycling jacket is, someone else will look wierder than me! And i dont really care anyway, ive often called into the supermarket in winter dressed in full length lycra bibs, a luminous jacket and clickety clack shoes, do i care if people glance my way? no.

I picked up the Luminous Jacket at the end of last year as my new commute takes me through a few busy/congested inner-city roads and my old dull-blue jacket had ceased to be water-proof. I still get idiots passing too close but I continue to wear it as i know that in dark/dull light it is easier to spot.

I almost always wear a helmet too, i wear it to reduce any injury i get from falling off, not from getting hit. If i crusied around everywhere at walking pace then id not bother with a Helmet, but once i get out of traffic i like to go a bit quicker (NOTE: I ride appropriatley when in traffic rather than fighting/racing it) and the biggest risk to me is falling off on a patch of diesel/gravel/mud or having a pedestrian/dog step into me on the shared paths. I only wear the helmet as i dont think the risk is a high enough to require elbow/knee pads, skin heals quick enough, but hitting your head on the deck hurts enough that im happy to take the (supposed) inconvenience.

I dont agree with the analogy with walking, IMO pedestirans getting hit by cars are idiots who dont look before they leap. And as for falling when walking, they are usually caused by the individual failing to assess the risk correctly or not paying attention. No-one falls just walking along the sidewalk (ok, old and infirm might) but how many times do you see a person fall because they are running with their hands full of bags?

I see the point about the above mis-advertising cycling as dangerous, but quite frankly i see novice riders on the road every day (pulling stupid manouvers!) and i think for them, it actually is dangerous!

8 03 2011
Micheal Blue

Vik, your wrote “@Michael – do you wear high visibility gear as a pedestrian? You are after all the smallest mouse on foot”. This doesn’t make sense. One either walks on the sidewalk and then looks left/right before he/she crosses the road or if one has to walk on the road one walks facing the traffic (or is supposed to) – that way the hiker is always aware of what’s coming and how it’s coming. If one walks with his/her back to the traffic, then yes, brighter jacket or hat or something would help. Most backbacks have high-vis strips, as well.
When you bike your back is to the traffic, and the tiny mirror, if you have one, is not sufficient to monitor the traffic the same way a hiker facing the cars does. If what you say were correct, then putting lights on cars and other vehicles would be pointless. We could have even darker cars on the roads with no lights and it would be safe. It would also be pointless putting high-vis marking on ambulances and police cars; we could have all of them black or brown or navy blue. And why to have neon traffic cones to alert to big holes and other dangers on the road? A black traffic cone would be sufficient.
There is a reason for all this high-vis stuff. People are not perfect and with all the stuff that goes on in their minds it’s easy to be distracted. Sometimes it takes a tiny subtle distraction to make a big mistake. A high-vis stuff is a visual jerk to a potentially distracted mind: “hey something is there, pay attention!”

8 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Michael – well clearly peds get run over on a regular basis so being seen as a pedestrian is as much of an issue as or a cyclist. Lots of people drive black vehicles and don’t get smashed into by other vehicles. Of course a car is bigger than a bike, but as a cyclist I’m generally not riding in the middle of a lane so I am harder target to accidentally hit. In fact as a cyclist I am going with traffic doing traffic like things which unlike a pedestrian crossing a road is on the minds of other drivers. If I have to cross 10 blocks downtown at rush hour I’d feel safer doing that on a bike in a gray jacket than having to cross at 10 intersections on foot.

Personally I think we’ve just all gotten freaked out about being on a bicycle for no reason justified by the risks and so we are paranoid about our safety pedaling, but when faced with similar levels of risks walking or driving we react in a more rationale way because we aren’t reacting emotionally to the activity with fear. When I lived in Calgary [bigger city] drivers were killed going to work on a regular basis and I never heard anyone worrying about driving to work or doing anything special. People were able to rationalize that a few driving deaths in a city of 1 million is nothing to be worried about. OTOH a cyclist gets hit by a car in Portland and cyclists in Calgary get up and start wearing two helmets and put 4 red blinkies on their bike as they pop some valium for the ride to work.

I participate in sports with higher risk rates than transportation cycling and by far cycling is the more fearful activity.

8 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Rich – aren’t you saying that the peds who get hit are hit for stupid reasons and the newbie cyclists you say do stupid things are at risk….so isn’t it the same thing? Shouldn’t both groups add safety gear to their arsenal to be safer? And does that mean that the peds and cyclists who are not stupid/doing goofy things aren’t at such high risk and shouldn’t need the same level of precautions?

BTW – I wear a helmet when doing anything I’m likely to fall when doing as I agree with you.

8 03 2011
Rich

I suppose thats probably what i am saying vik? If you cant assess/mitigate the risks then maybe you need help?

I’ll still wear Hi-viz on my commute tho because i cant make drivers pay more attention by wishing it, so i need to make it easier for them. I could just take the risk of course, but for sake of wearing a jacket id rather not.

I dont think what other cyclists wear is putting people off cycling tho, i think its more to do with the roads. Im pleased to say that in my city there has been a huge increase in cycling commuters, but most people who are not yet cycling are mostly concerned with the speed and closeness of passing cars. And its difficult to tell them otherwise as if people are not currently cycling they are driving so they see the risks cyclists have to take every day

8 03 2011
Rob E.

I’m always open to new interpretations of statistics, because I know that they can always be presented in a misleading fashion, but on the face of it: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

2009, most recent year of available data, in the U.S.: Motor vehicle crashes claimed the lives of 4092 pedestrians and 630 cyclists. It may seem logical that pedestrians are at less risk than cyclists, but they seem to account for more then 10 percent of traffic fatalities while cyclists are less then 2 percent.

I would never tell someone to not take safety precautions that they feel are important. And I don’t dispute that, more often then not, being seen is better then being not seen, and bumping your head is better when you have some head protection. But this is the case all of the time. It’s not cycling-specific, but somehow it takes on more importance in cycling discussions because cycling is viewed as high-risk behavior. And it’s not. And, what’s more, it gets safer the more bikes we get on the road. So I say to do what makes you feel safe, but /advocate/ for what will get other people on the road because that makes everyone safer.

I wear a helmet a lot of the time. I sometimes have a safety vest, and I almost always exceed, at least by a little, the minimum visibility requirements specified in the law. But I don’t tell people that that’s what they need to do be safe, because I don’t think that’s the case. That’s what I need to do to /feel/ safer, or to have my wife feel better about what I’m doing, often as not. But proper riding, knowing the traffic rules, knowing where to ride and where not to ride are all far more important to lowering your risks. And ultimately your risks aren’t that much higher than many other, normal, every day activities, including driving and walking. And what risks there are pale in comparison to the risks of sedentary lifestyle.

I don’t think putting on a safety vest will scare people away from biking, but insisting that it’s a necessary and effective precaution might. Talking about cycling as if the biggest risk is getting hit by a car is misleading because you face bigger health risks by not bicycling, and you don’t escape the risks of getting hit by a car. Death by accident(not just auto-related) is the fifth most common cause of death, with the top four being health-related. Of those accidental deaths, about one fourth involve motor vehicles and about one half of one percent involve bicycles. So your odds of meeting an accidental death are possibly worth considering, but your odds of doing so on a bicycle are minuscule. So minuscule that they can be completely ignored? Maybe not. But they definitely shouldn’t be overstated. They don’t seem to remotely warrant the attention they get when branding cycling as high-risk. So feel safe. Be safe. But don’t over-state the risks and scare people off the road because that makes them and the rest of us less safe.

8 03 2011
Mike Croy

Interesting article Vik:

As a randonneur myself I would personally rather wear as much high visibility reflective gear as possible. I appreciate that during the day time I look completely insane with my usual rando gear on, but I also choose to ride my breverts straight through as best I can. I was really appreciative of all my lights and anything that might catch a drivers eye on my first 600km ride which I rode straight through without sleep. Most brevets will take you along roads that are very lightly traveled at night and many drivers are not expecting to see someone on a bike on that road at all at that time of night.

My list of things I carry to ensure I can be seen is:
Reflective ankle bands
Booties with built in reflective material
Safety triangles on bike and my camel back
Safety sash(instead of vest)
Plus my lighting for my bike and helmet lights.

I personally would rather be seen many miles up the road and have a driver wonder to themselves WTF is that up there ahead of me? Why is a Christmas tree moving up the road at 2am? If that’s the case my job has been done by being noticed.
The other thing I consider when choosing products is how visible are they and how easy are they to put on when riding a brevet and I might be really tired.

8 03 2011
Micheal Blue

Vik, I completely agree with your statement: “Personally I think we’ve just all gotten freaked out about being on a bicycle for no reason justified by the risks and so we are paranoid about safety pedaling, but when faced with similar levels of risks walking or driving we react in a more rationale way because we aren’t reacting emotionally to the activity with fear. When I lived in Calgary [bigger city] drivers were killed going to work on a regular basis and I never heard anyone worrying about driving to work or doing anything special. People were able to rationalize that a few driving deaths in a city of 1 million is nothing to be worried about. OTOH a cyclist gets hit by a car in Portland and cyclists in Calgary get up and start wearing two helmets and put 4 red blinkies on their bike as they pop some valium for the ride to work.”

8 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Mike – my rando gear list is the same except I lack the safety triangle and helmet lighting. I also live & ride on an under populated island now so I may face completely different conditions when out of the city on a brevet than you do.

8 03 2011
Aaron Kaffen

Living in a (relatively) urban area, I’ve struggled with this argument for years. On one hand, safety gear is, well, safer. There’s no arguing that, in some instances, a helmet will be the difference between a slightly nasty spill and a life-altering injury. The same can be said for brighter “safety” clothing.

On the other hand, I also believe that part of enjoying life is accepting some risk for the sake of purely esoteric pleasures. For me, the occasional helmet-less ride in street clothes is a welcome treat. It reminds me that, as the author pointed out, bicycling is a safe and fun activity that doesn’t *always* need to be shrouded in reminders of accident and injury.

All that being said, it’s a matter of personal preference, as so many here have pointed out … and one, I think, that should be respected. Honestly, I’m just happy to have come across a bike-related blog post where the comment thread hasn’t devolved into vitriolic threats involving u-locks “upside” heads 

8 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Aaron – hahaha…I don’t use u-locks so you are safe…=-)…j/k…my only point of disagreement with you is that beyond a certain point we really don’t know if safety gear is safer. So I wouldn’t argue that using lights at night isn’t a good idea, but are two lights safer than 1?..are 4 lights safer than 2?…are 900 lumen lights safer than 200 lumen lights? The same logic can be applied to clothing…I wouldn’t argue that black clothing head to toe on a foggy rainy day is a great idea and I agree you should use some lights/higher visibility material in that case, but is a black jacket less safe than a muted red one on a sunny afternoon?…if so is a neon yellow jacket safer than a muted red one on a sunny afternoon?

The reason this interests me is that I see quite a few cyclists falling into a safety spiral of paranoia where at every turn they do stuff that supposedly improves their safety, but I don’t have any confidence it actually does. I’m worried that we are letting unsubstantiated fear turn a fun safe activity into a death cult. It’s like we are going over the top of the trenches every day we hop onto a bike.

I’m not against being safe or safety gear. I strap on a helmet and body armour when mountain biking – I also fall of my bike just about every time as well!

8 03 2011
Ty Smith

Another excellent article Vik! I also love all of the debate it has generated.

I have always been a bit over-kill on the safety clothing and lights and must admit it has given me a fall sense of security. Your last few articles on this subject have really made me think and I am not so fixated on bright clothing and lights anymore. Thank you!

On the other hand, I do notice I see someone in a bright yellow jacket a lot quicker than someone in darker clothing, but that also does not mean I don’t see the person in dark clohting either. It is just that one might catch your eye more readily than another, but BOTH do catch your eye.

I will always wear a helmet though. My choice. I just have read too many stories about traumatic brain injury to leave that out. Sure, the helmet won’t help you if you are hit broadside by a car going 50 MPH, but what if you simply hit a pothole, fly over your handlebars and crash?

But heck, go to Amsterdam and NOBODY wears a helmet, so what do I know?

Again, great stuff. Thanks for sparking such a a good debate!

Ty

8 03 2011
john

thanks for the info Aaron!

wow 40 comments and counting…

blinky lights ftw!

8 03 2011
Aaron Kaffen

@thelazyrando: That’s an excellent point. Let me amend my statement to include that safety gear must be used to its intended end to be safer. Gear that is designed to help you be seen is only effective in scenarios where you’re, otherwise, unseen. Gear that is designed to keep you dry is only useful when it rains, and so on.

Further, I agree wholeheartedly that more gear does not equal more safety. I actually used to turn my lights out when I was riding out in the middle of nowhere. As long as there was a decent amount of moonlight, I could see more of what was around me by letting my eyes adjust to the available light. If I had my headlight on, I could only see what was right in front of me.

But that brings up another, somewhat touchy, issue. What about gear that may make you safer, but that puts others at risk? For instance, having 6 watts of blinking lights on your helmet and handlebars may make you more visible to cars and decrease your chance of getting hurt. But, as an oncoming cyclist on a dark night, it might hinder my ability to see the road, increasing my risk.

At the end of the day, though, I feel that the most important take-away is that cycling is frequently singled out as somehow less-safe than driving or walking. The

8 03 2011
Micheal Blue

Hey, another way of biking safely could be biking naked. I recall seeing this guy biking on a Toronto street just in his dental-floss briefs. Everyone on the street noticed him.

8 03 2011
Mike Croy

Hey Vik:

I also ride brevets on Vancouver island.

Mike

8 03 2011
Vik

@Mike – ahh…cool…I haven’t met any BC randos face to face yet and I’m rubbish with names sorry!

I’ll be happy to meet you at a brevet this year. I’ll be at the back pedaling slowly on a very white bicycle…=-)

9 03 2011
Mike Croy

Some of the roads on Vancouver island on the longer brevets can be very isolated. On the 600km’s and the 1000km’s rides it’s not unusual to have 80-125km’s between control points with nothing what so ever in between these points.
But the rides scenery more then make up for the lack of things along the route.

I will be organizing the spring 600km Vancouver island brevet on May 28th that will go up to Campbell river. Maybe you would consider volunteering for the ride?

Look forward to seeing you on some local brevets!

Mike

9 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Mike – I’m quite impressed with the scenery on Van isle [what I have seen of it so far]. I’m looking forward to some longer rides. I’d be happy to help out on the 600K. My work is project based and often requires travel so it’s hard for me to commit so far out, but I should know what’s happening by the start of May if that is enough notice for you?

14 03 2011
Ron

Howdy–

I’ve always found high-vis clothing a little off-putting. It screams for my attention, insisting that this blown pixel of color is more deserving of my attention than every other potential danger or joy in my field of vision. It is the cyclist equivalent of motorcylists’ specious claim that “loud pipes save lives.” Commanding an extra share of drivers’ attention doesn’t increase the amount available, only the amount expended on you.

I fear that the more people choose to dress like highlighter disasters, the more drivers will be trained to believe that is what a cyclist looks like. The rest of us will become less visible by comparison.

It also gives ranting drivers one more bullet point on their list of grievances: “I saw a bike rider with no helmet coast through a stop sign wearing ear buds–and he was dressed in muted colors! They’ve got to be stopped!”

We shouldn’t buy into driver hysteria.

Happy Trails,
Ron Georg
Corvallis, OR

14 03 2011
14 03 2011
stubdog

Years ago I was talking with a traffic engineer who analyzed car crashes for a living. He made the interesting point that with the right safety gear nearly all crashes would be survivable. For proof he said look at Nascar and Formula 1 races. The cars are sometimes completely demolished but often the drivers walk away. Why? Because they are in a five point restraint system and wear helmets. We could significantly reduce traffic fatalities if as a society we were willing to institute these measures in cars, but these aren’t inconveniences we are willing to endure. Heck, we don’t even have seat belts in school buses.
My point is simply that there is a risk/benefit analysis that plays into almost everything we do. If you look across the board there is a lot of apparent inconsistency in the measures we enforce in different activities. In cycling, because a lot of safety gear isn’t required by law, that comes down to a personal choice. I’m all for that. I like choice. In a world where drivers can update their Facebook page from the inboard computer in their cars I choose to shift all the odds I can to my side. For me that means dressing in bright colors when I bike. I’m not sure it puts anyone off of cycling, either. When I walk around my local grocery store in my neon yellow Burly jacket I think other shoppers see that and think, “Hey, that guy biked here. Maybe I should try that next time.”

14 03 2011
Deborah

Hey – So I’m wondering who makes that bike bag you’ve got on your bike in the last photo. Looks like black canvas with brown leather. Thank you. I’ve been looking for awhile for a bag that would fit on my short nito rack with down bars, but is big enough to carry some decent stuff. That bag looks like just the trick. Thx for your help! deb

14 03 2011
Rebekah Svadlenka

I guess I don’t wear helmets because they mess us my hair, just kidding. I think the least you could do is throw on a bright colored shirt or reflective patch and not be so wardrobe conscious. I am an avid cyclist who had almost hit another cyclist with my vehicle because they were wearing dark clothing while the sun was setting. I think there are better ways to encourage people to ride that involve health benefits instead of clothing.

14 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Deb – Giles Berthoud makes that bag. I got it from Rene Herse Bikes:

http://www.renehersebicycles.com/

14 03 2011
thelazyrando

Rebekah – maybe a vest or coloured shirt would have made no difference in whether you hit a cyclist at sunset? At that time of day I’d have a rear light on. Maybe you should pay more attention when you are driving at sunset?

14 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Todd – great post…I’m drowning in cycling fear and paranoia. Glad to see I’m not alone in noticing how irrational the mainstream cycling mindset has become. It appears from looking about you at the “essential” safety gear required to ride a bicycle that it’s clearly the most dangerous form of transportation on the planet. I can’t think of any other common method of getting around that engenders so much fear.

14 03 2011
Yuhani

When a motorist hits a cyclist in the dark, they say “I didn’t see him, because he wasn’t lit up or wearing enough reflectors”. When a motorist hits a cyclist in daylight, they say “I didn’t see him”. And where I live, 9 collisions out of 10 happen in broad daylight, even when half of the cyclists here ride without any lights in the dark. If you really want to improve your visibility, just stay out of the sidewalks and gutters.

14 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Yuhani – and if you have a reflective vest on it’s your fault because it wasn’t the latest version of that reflective vest or you swerved unpredictably. If you had uber bright lights/reflective vest on you dazzled/blinded the driver…etc..etc… That’s the problem with taking an irrational approach to safety. Nothing you do will ever be safe enough.

14 03 2011
Ty Smith

@Yuhani – I agree. One thing I have learned riding daily during rush hour in the financial district of San Francisco is to ride predictably and to “take the lane.”

I see way too many people skirting along the gutters, hopping on to the sidewalk and back… and they wonder why they get hit when they pop right out of nowhere in front of a car?

These are also the same yahoos who blow through traffic lights without a care in the world.

If we stayed visible, not with lights, but with positioning, and rode in a predictable manner, there would be far less accidents. No question about it.

Just my two cents…

14 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Ty – Lazy’s Law = the best protection for your brain is using your brain.

14 03 2011
Richard Edge

Great article Vik. I must admit that I used to fall into the category of wearing bright and colourful cycling specific clothing at one time, even to work although it was a carry over from my cycling for fitness and training. When I first got back into cycling about 8 years ago I had initially tried cycling in street clothing but quickly learned how uncomfortable it could be. Now this was all before I learned about proper application of course. In other words wearing jeans on a bike ride of over 30 km is not a good idea (at least on a DF ), but since my commute is 5 km each way street clothes should not be a problem and I have now been riding to work in my work clothes. On my other rides I have been gradually replacing some of the cycling specific stuff with clothes that are comfortable, but blend in better with my environment and that look less like cycling clothing.

This is also something of a learning experience as I have to learn that my commute is not a race. I *can* ride slower so as to arrive at work without needing a shower. What has been interesting is the reaction of co-workers. Now that I am cycling to work on my Dahon in work clothes (semi-dress slacks and dress shirt). They are surprised to see me I arrive in my work clothes and that cycling specific clothing is not required. Now I had never stated that it was, but I guess that because I was previously doing so, my actions spoke louder than my words. It appears as though I was being perceived not as just someone who commutes by bike, but as a hard core cyclist. This seems to have the unfortunate effect of producing a “That’s not for me” response whenever I try to encourage others to try it. Not exactly what I was wanting to promote and counter productive to getting more people on bikes.

Now I do have some exceptions. I wear a reflective vest and leg/arm bands through the winter primarily as it is dark for AM/PM commutes during that time of the year. Secondly I do often wear cycling specific clothing during spring and summer commutes if I decide to turn my commutes into longer faster training rides. I also do make sure I have proper lighting on my bikes, but as much to see as to be seen and do not use all of them during all night rides. The lighting I choose to use will depend on conditions.

14 03 2011
Bryce

After being hit by a car last year I decided to start wearing a flouro jacket. The woman claimed that she didn’t see me. It’s not the sexiest outfit in the world. But, when riding at dusk I want to take every precaution.

14 03 2011
Bicycle Defender

Black actually stands out during daylight hours too:) This is what I tell myself when I don’t want to look like an idiot or a crossing guard on my way to work.

14 03 2011
stubdog

Animals that don’t want to be seen practice camouflage. Some examples are octopi, chameleons and cat burglars. Animals that want to be seen, like Monarch butterflies, poison dart frogs and highway paving crews sport bright colors. I certainly defend your right to wear whatever you want while you bike right up to and including nothing at all (at least on World Naked Bike Ride day.) However, if you should get hit (and I sincerely hope you never do) please don’t blame those of us that choose to make ourselves as visible as possible while we ride for your misfortune.

14 03 2011
John Brooking

Nice article, and good discussion. I value wearing “normal clothes”, which I can do on my 5 mile each way commute, and certainly around town. But I appreciate that those with longer commutes may have different needs, that may include cycling-specific clothing, at least for the comfort factor.

I started commuting knowing nothing about traffic safety beyond “ride in the same direction and obey the same laws”, and bright colors were certainly part of my concerns. I’m gradually unlearning that, but I still consider my hi-viz windbreaker (or a bright T-shirt, in warmer months) useful for my commute, which is mostly on medium speed semi-rural roads, both 2-lane and 4-lane. In the winter it is dark when I ride home, and I add reflective ankle straps, and of course a headlight and taillight. I also usually wear a helmet for commuting, and in the winter it has the added benefit of providing a higher mount for a second taillight. This is the limit of my cycle-specific stuff (except the occasional longer recreational ride). When I’m just doing short errands around town, however, I consider most of that optional, except the legally required lights at night. I guess I think of this as a good compromise between being overly visible (for all the good reasons listed) but still helping myself out a bit. And yes, I utilize assertive lane positioning as well.

Here’s a compromise I thought of recently. I bought some red reflective tape and put a few strips of it on the back of my dark blue winter jacket. Cheap, easy, and a little less geeky than a whole outfit, I hope.

15 03 2011
Chrehn

I say do your own thing, especially if you’re a Style-Dog. Since I am married with children and grandchildren, my top priority is being seen, instead of being seen as lookin’ good. I wear a mesh yellow vest over whatever I am wearing, a helmet(which may help keep my head identifiable if I get run over and I run front and rear lights day or night. These steps will not prevent me from being run over, but, it will make it a bit awkward for the driver to explain why he didn’t see me. Enjoy the Ride.

15 03 2011
Urbana Salt

No matter what you wear or don’t wear it doesn’t matter, most drivers just aren’t looking out for bicyclists. I had a roommate a long time ago that actually admitted to me that she never noticed bicyclists on the road until we got her out riding. I do think everyone should at least wear helmets, but I think what has kept me safe for so many years of commuting, is riding knowing that no one sees me.

15 03 2011
Jazz

Shhhhh! I hope my friends dont see this!!! I tell them i HAVE to wear neon colors for safety! If they read this they’ll figure it out that i actually LIKE neon colors! :)

16 03 2011
ATL Rider

I was hit back in July while riding to work. The neon orange safety vest did not help one bit. That’s because the driver was sitting at a red light, looking left so he could turn right. He never noticed I was there.

16 03 2011
Josh

To each is own but…

I run or bike commute every day to work. My work is as a delivery driver. I can see both the drivers, pedestrian, and bike sides of all of this. Driving around all day has made me very aware of how important lights and bright clothing are. I think it is crazy not to at least have some type of flashing front/rear light on the bike. Even during the daytime I think these are more important than bright clothing. I don’t care who’s responsibility it is to see/be seen out on the road, there are so many bad drivers out there that if I get hit at least it won’t be my fault. On another note… I have WAY more close calls when I’m running than I do biking.

18 03 2011
Katja Leyendecker

I want cycling to be normal and commonplace – not like an experience of “Cycling to the Moon”. Explained http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/5263636713/

18 03 2011
JOHN

Vik-
Do you use lights when you ride at night?
John

18 03 2011
thelazyrando

@John – I use a non-flashing front light with a vertical cut off that puts most of the light on the road where I need it and it keeps the light from blinding oncoming cyclists and drivers.

On the back I use a steady planet bike superflash or a slow blink/steady Radbot 1000.

I’ll also use one or two reflective ankle bands and possibly a reflective sash.

I’ll fine tune my night riding gear on a case by case basis.

18 03 2011
The Bike Pittsburgh Blog Archives » Week’s Links: 3.18.11

[...] Why wearing “high-vis black” isn’t such a bad idea [...]

23 03 2011
Ned W

This article was mentioned & recommended by a blogger here in Columbus, OH. I did find your article and the accompanying comments to be insightful and of interest. I don’t wish to get involved in what is is “good or bad”, or “right and wrong”; for each person has his/her own opinion and must take responsibility for his/her own actions. I was pleased to read that you do wear a reflective sash and ankle bands at night. I was, and still am, leery in regard to calling yourself a “randonneur”. Perhaps in other articles you do talk about what randonneurring is actually about. But to simply use the term “randonneur” is misleading as to what randonneurring is actually about.
I do disagree with you regarding the use of helmets. Yes, wearing a helmet is a personal choice, although I do believe it should be mandatory for children. Yes, I agree, that a helmet probably won’t save your life if you happen to be hit by a two ton vehicle, however, I have, and so have some of my friends, experienced unforeseen and uncontrollable events where critters such as dogs, squirrels, and even groundhogs have caused accidents that would have either killed the bicycle rider or left at least one of us with lifelong brain damage. I wear a helmet simply because of chance encounters where I would rather have a cracked helmet than a cracked head.

23 03 2011
thelazyrando

@Ned – here is a quote from the Audax UK website:

What do the words ‘Randonnée’ and ‘Randonneur’ mean?

    ‘Randonnée’ is a French word which loosely translates to ‘ramble or ‘long journey’ – it’s not really cycling-specific, but in AUK we take it to mean a long cycle ride.
    A ‘Randonneur’ is a person who has completed a recognised 200 kilometre ride.”

    I feel like I am on pretty strong grounds on all accounts using the term randonneur in the title of this blog…in particular with the qualification “lazy”.

    http://www.aukweb.net/aboutauk/faq/

    I actually wrote a post about this subject on my other blog:

    http://www.bowcycle.com/bikes/blogs/viks-picks/2011/01/19/are-you-a-randonneur/

24 03 2011
Hi-Viz Not Required | Flock of Cycles

[...] The Lazy Randonneur brings up some good points in defense of bike riding in normal clothes, and I tend to agree with him.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wear bright colors on your bike, especially if it makes you more comfortable, but I don’t think it is mandatory for safety. [...]

7 02 2012
Joey

You would love New Orleans, my home town. Except for the fitness crowd we all wear whatever we happen to have on to ride our bikes here. A strap around the cuff of our long pants and off we go. To see someone wearing a kit during the week and they look way out of place. And no one here shows up at the office Christmas party in spandex or neon, ever.

New Orleans is a small city with lots of shaded streets, so even during the brutally hot summer months commuters can make the ten to twenty minute ride to a destination without sweating out – but you gotta take it slow.

Except for weather extremes, thrift-shop clothing works fine for even my road bike up to 50 miles no problem. Now if only I could be happy with thrift-shop bikes!

6 08 2014
Tammy

Great post! I too do not dress in Hi Vis when cycling. It isn’t any safer and just makes cyclists complacent, in my opinion. Road smarts is all you need to stay safe :) Tammy

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