Ways Bicyclists Can Make Themselves More Visible to Vehicles

Posted on May 3, 2023

Bike riding is a healthy choice for the body and for the earth’s ecosystem. It’s also a wonderful way to appreciate the outdoors. But the unenclosed format of a bicycle leaves no protection for cyclists in an accident, especially in a traffic collision with a 4,000-pound vehicle. While wearing a bike helmet can help protect from some types of head injuries in an accident, a cyclist is still highly vulnerable to serious and even grave injuries. One way to reduce the risk of an accident is for cyclists to make themselves more easily visible to drivers during both daytime and nighttime riding.

Studies show that it takes up to 2 seconds for a driver to recognize an unexpected object and react appropriately. Even at a slow 30mph, a car travels 55 feet in only 2 seconds. This makes it clear how easily accidents can occur to vulnerable bicyclists who don’t take proper precautions to increase visibility.

Tips For Increasing A Bicyclist’s Visibility by Day

Bikes are great for taking in the scenery and for transportation to destinations within the community. But whether driving in busy, high-traffic areas or long stretches of empty country roads, the slim build of a two-wheeled vehicle can be difficult for drivers to discern. Some great ways to maximize visibility in the daytime include the following:

  • Wear reflective clothing, even in the daylight. If you don’t have cycling gear with built-in reflectors, you can purchase adhesive reflectors. When you add reflectors to your body as well as your bike, they catch and reflect the sunlight in the early morning, mid-day, and at dusk, increasing visibility
  • Avoid vehicle blind spots. Always be mindful of a car’s typical blind spot when riding alongside slow-moving traffic and stay far enough back to be clearly visible in a car’s rearview mirrors
  • Wear bright colors. While many cycling shorts and shirts come in black, it’s best to choose either bright colors or black clothing with vivid neon stripes to catch the eye and increase visibility to drivers
  • Understand biomotion. Biomotion is the method of adding bright or reflective gear to the parts of the body that move while biking. By adding reflection and color to the feet and legs where the greatest movement occurs during bike riding, it helps pedaling cyclists to be more eye-catching to motorists. Reflective ankle tape, neon leg warmers, and neon shoe colors for cyclists are all excellent ways to add eye-catching motion.

It’s all too easy for cyclists to assume they are clearly visible during daylight hours but most bike accidents occur during the daytime. While this is partly due to the fact that more people bike during the day, it’s also a high-traffic time in most regions.

Tips for Increasing Visibility on a Bike at Night

Most states and municipalities have laws for night cycling that include at least the addition of a white headlight and red taillight or red back reflector. These basic precautions are critical if you must ride at night, but with the following extra precautions, cyclists can significantly increase their visibility when riding after dark:

  • Use a headlight with 600-800 lumens and a red tail light of at least 400 lumens
  • Add reflective tape to clothing, especially at the ankles and knees where the most motion occurs
  • Prioritize lower body reflectors because more motion occurs on the lower body during cycling, headlights aim low, and reflective vests may resemble road signs at night
  • Choose tires with reflective side walls so spinning wheels catch the light from traffic
  • Add flashing lights in both front and rear patterns to draw the eye and make you stand out from motionless objects at night. Studies show that a mix of steady and flashing lights is the most eye-catching combination in the dark
  • Maximize visibility with glow-in-the-dark clothing
  • Add a headlamp to your helmet to increase visibility along with your head motion and to increase your own ability to see when you turn your head in directions away from the front beam of your headlight.

By making yourself and your bike a spectacle of lights and reflections, you can greatly increase your nighttime visibility and maximize your riding safety.