Bicycle Night Visibility Study

30 12 2010

"Away Team - set phasers for stun!"

Andrew posted a link to an interesting study from the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety about how visible cyclists really are on the road.  You can read the whole study as a PDF here.

This is an abstract from the paper:

“Visibility limitations make cycling at night particularly dangerous. We previously reported cyclists’ perceptions of their own visibility at night and identified clothing configurations that made them feel visible. In this study we sought to determine whether these self-perceptions reflect actual visibility when wearing these clothing configurations. In a closed-road driving environment, cyclists wore black clothing, a fluorescent vest, a reflective vest, or a reflective vest plus ankle and knee reflectors. Drivers recognised more cyclists wearing the reflective vest plus reflectors (90%) than the reflective vest alone (50%), fluorescent vest (15%) or black clothing (2%). Older drivers recognised the cyclists less often than younger drivers (51% vs 27%). The findings suggest that reflective ankle and knee markings are particularly valuable at night, while fluorescent clothing is not. Cyclists wearing fluorescent clothing may be at particular risk if they incorrectly believe themselves to be conspicuous to drivers at night.”

Thanks to the Aushiker Blog for posting the link to the study.



5 responses

30 12 2010
Micheal Blue

This is a helpful study in having a better understanding of what clothes work the best at night. Of course, if they included also proper bike lights, which would be a more accurate real-life situation, then the results (especially) for the older drivers would be much better very likely. I’m not sure it’s necessary to be recognized as a cyclist; it’s more important to be recognized as “something there to be avoided”.

30 12 2010

Hey Vik,
Does the weight of the battery pack bother you at all?

I used to have a very similar setup once (had both the front and the rear Dinotte’s on the helmet). But then one fine day, I fell asleep on the train after a ride and I had cocked my head to one side when I was asleep. Man, I tell ya, I couldn’t straighten my neck for a bit.

Also, do you think having the light atop the helmet compromises the safety of the helmet? Meaning if you crash and landed on your head, will having the light atop the helmet cause you more harm than otherwise?

Your thoughts?

Peace 🙂

31 12 2010

@Chandra – The key to any weight on the helmet is balancing it front to back relative to how you hold your head on the bike.

As for safety implications you’d have to consider the benefit of being able to put light where you want it and perhaps avoiding smacking your head on the ground in the first place vs. the potential that the stuff on your helmet might reduce the safety value of the helmet.

My initial thought it that it’s better to not hit your head at all then have a safer helmet on and the potential safety reduction would depend what you have on your helmet, how it’s attached and how you crash. In many types of crashes a helmet wouldn’t help at all so if I thought the light would aid my ability to see well at night on a specific ride I’d use it. Everyone would have to evaluate those factors for themselves.

I’m not in favour of the unfocused Dinotte 200L’s symmetric beam so I won’t be using it in this mode any longer unless I was riding off road. Helmet light can be useful for seeing signs, reading maps and putting light around corners on higher speed descents. I haven’t decided what I’ll do about a helmet light in the future.

31 12 2010

Hey Vik,
Thanks for your thoughts. The balancing part actually resonates well with me. May be I will give that a try.

I like having a light on my helmet, especially for commuting, as it enables me (or so is my hypothesis) to warn vehicles merging onto the street I am on from the side, from either side.

I haven’t fully read your post on the Dinotte, yet, but I will do that soon, so I know your take on the “unfocused symmetric beam” thingy.

Peace 🙂

PS. I posted something on my thoughts reg. Co-Motion v. Thorn! Please check it out when you have time. Happy New Year!!

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

[…] also references a detailed Australian study on nighttime cyclist visibility.  It’s 6 pages of detailed stats.  If you really want to get into the weeds, it’s a […]

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