What colour will make a cyclist the most visible on the road?
There’s such a vast amount of debate around what colours are best to wear when on your bike cycling on the road.
Many people actively bash cyclists wearing black for putting, not just themselves, but also other road vehicles in danger due to their lack of visibility. However, Soudi Masouleh, who has worked on collections for Nike says there’s no longer any need to wear hi vis colours over black these days. The advancement of reflective technological fabrics now means that cyclists can wear black and be seen just as much. The trick is that reflective elements are strategically placed on the parts of the body that move the most. Creative Director of Vulpine, Nick Hussey agrees and says that the research on visibility is so mixed that he’s not even sure there’s much point of wearing hi vis kit in the day time and feels its only necessary at night. He thinks it’s vital to focus on reflective elements that are relevant to the cyclist position on the bike when a car is close by.
It seems the main focus for a lot of people is being seen on a night as opposed to the daytime and it’s up for debate as to whether reflectivity is needed in the daytime. Certain coloured reflective pieces such as a reflective grey jacket is dangerous in the UK sunlight as it renders you virtually invisible. In contrast with Masouleh and Hussey, many sources believe that wearing fluorescents in the daytime is vital in order to be seen. In a meta-review of studies from 2004, it was found that drivers consistently recognised fluorescent colours faster and from farther away than standard colours. Fluorescent materials reflect the non-visible UV light back which makes the colour appear around 200% brighter in daylight. Neon colours are a given to be noticeable but it also depends on the levels of sun and where it is in the sky, if there’s bright, low-hanging sunlight and you’re wearing a yellow neon jersey then you will glow to the high heavens, to the point of blinding drivers to your presence.
According to statistics you are four times more likely to be knocked off your bike at night but it’s worth considering that even in broad daylight you can suddenly find yourself plunged into darkness by entering a tunnel of greenery or an underpass. Even if you’re wearing fluorescent kit you can become completely indistinguishable in seconds. The human eye also sees differently depending on the levels of light; we have rod cells and cones cells that asses light and colour differently. It’s important to understand that it can take up to half an hour for our eyes to adjust from cone to rod cells, but only five minutes for rods to adjust to cones. In other words, going from a bright light into dark takes a lot longer to adjust to than dark into light. Which means not only is your fluorescent kit not noticeable in the dark you’re even less visible to a driver having just entered a tunnel of darkness. Here it becomes really quite difficult to prescribe what to wear on the bike as it’s so subjective to where you’re riding and what the weathers like on that day. This is where Daytime Running Lights come in.
What are Daytime Running Lights?
DRL’s are small flashing lights on the front and back of your bike. Unlike the daytime running beams that have been compulsory on cars and vans in Europe since 2011, they're not a legal requirement for cyclists but many believe they should be. Studies have shown that riding with a flashing, daylight-visible light is the single best way for a cyclist to be seen by a driver.
It’s generally advised for daytime cyclists to don the fluorescents and for nighttime cyclists to cover themselves in ergonomically placed reflective elements but it seems the lynchpin to the visibility argument is the consensus that everyone should have flashing lights on their bikes, day or night.
Need some advice on which ones to get or where to get them from? Don’t worry our community is full of people that can help give you recommendations. Just ask the question!