All cyclists must share the road with other users including cars, vans, trucks and motorbikes and it’s paramount that they be aware of your presence, especially in poor light conditions. For this reason it’s recommended by many road safety agencies that cyclists wear high-visibility (hi-viz) clothing in order to reduce the risk of accidents.
A 2006 review of 42 studies in this area indicated that fluorescent clothing could increase the distance at which drivers could detect and then recognise cyclists in daylight conditions, and that that retro-reflective materials worn by cyclists at night had a similar effect on driver perceptions. However a 2013 study from the University of Bath and Brunel University found that the wearing of hi-viz clothing made no difference to how close drivers passed when overtaking, so it is important not to overestimate the effectiveness of hi-viz gear, or assume that the wearing of it overrides normal safety considerations when biking, or the rules of the road.
While the matter of whether or not to wear hi-viz is a personal choice, it’s certainly something to consider for commuters who must negotiate busy city streets in the early morning, at dusk or in conditions of poor visibility (such as mist, fog or rain), as well as for road riders who train under similar circumstances.
Hi-viz clothing and accessories are characterised by bright, fluorescent colours – yellow, green or orange being the most common – which are designed to stand out clearly against the normal muted backgrounds of city streets or country roads. They will also feature reflective strips or piping which – as the name suggests – reflect the beam from vehicles’ headlights to increase visibility at night and in low light.
Multiple different types of hi-viz garments and accessories are available including:
• Jackets: With all the functionality and performance of ‘standard’ cycling jackets, including lightweight, waterproof and breathable materials and a small stowage size so they can be easily stored in a backpack or jersey pocket, hi-viz jackets are the sensible choice for anyone riding in low light conditions or who simply wants to be as visible to other road users as possible.
• Gilets: As above, lightweight cycle gilets are available in hi-viz colours for early morning spring training rides or any ride at all.
• Vests: Hi-viz vests will typically emphasise visibility rather than breathability or performance, reflected in their relatively inexpensive price tag. Although perhaps not suitable for long training rides – their non cycle-specific cut and technical limitations soon proving a disadvantage – they are absolutely fine for commuters, walkers or even motorcyclists.
• Gloves:M Hi-viz cycle gloves are intended to improve visibility of cyclists’ hand signals in poor light conditions.
• Backpack covers: Perfect for all-season commuters, hi-viz backpack covers will increase your visibility from the rear with the added bonus of keeping the contents of your backpack dry in the event of inclement weather.
• Adhesive reflective strips: These can be added to any part of your bike or cycle apparel for increased visibility – for example the rear of your helmet or the back of your child seat.