How to Be Visible on the Road when Bicycle Commuting

Being visible on the roadway is key to cycling safety. Being seen involves wearing the right clothing for the riding conditions, having the right safety equipment, and proper riding techniques.


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    Wear bright, easy-to-see clothing in the daytime. During daytime hours, brightly colored clothing is key to being visible. Immediate visibility is the key reason why road workers wear bright colors, like fluorescent green-yellow or fluorescent orange, so use their safety lesson as your guide too.Make sure you just don't stand still on your bike, move your legs or hands so they see something move :)
    • Judge for yourself as you are driving in your motor vehicle. Watch for pedestrians or workers in different types of clothing. You will probably see that those wearing the bright fluorescent colors are visible long before any person wearing darker colors.
    • Reflective material does not provide a huge advantage during the day but is essential in low light conditions. If you live in a place that frequently experiences grey and overcast weather, lots or rain or snow, then reflectivity will be useful during the day too.
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    Wear clothing with reflective material at night. Clothing or a safety vest that has reflective strips will greatly improve your visibility at night. Low cost vests with reflective strips are available at most automotive supply stores and home improvement stores. These vests are lightweight, can be slipped on over your normal outerwear, and provide improved visibility at night.
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    Wear reflective material on shoes and helmets. Also add reflective material to pedals and other bicycle parts. Most bicycle shops carry safety gear such as reflective ankle bands, reflective arm bands, reflective tape, and other safety gear designed specifically for cyclist. You can purchase reflective adhesive tapes that can be applied to most surfaces. Everything you can do to improve your visibility will improve safety.
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    Use lights and reflectors to improve visibility at night. Reflectors are most effective at night when vehicles are using their headlights. Blinking red lights on the rear of your bicycle and solid or blinking white lights on the front can enhance visibility and improve safety.
    • Most areas have laws that require reflectors, as a minimum, when riding on public roadways. Many states, provinces and local governments are passing laws that require powered lights on bicycles when riding at night. Bicycle headlights come in two categories: see or be seen:
    • Lights in the see category provide enough light to allow riders to see the roadway in front of them in dark conditions. The illumination distance is related to the speed of the cyclist. You want to have enough illumination distance to ensure you can see potential obstacles or hazards and have enough time to stop safely. In other words, you do not want to override your headlights. If you are a fast rider, you will need a higher powered light that projects light far enough in front of your bicycle to allow a safe reaction time.
    • Be seen lights allow the rider to be seen by drivers when riding at night. These lights, often blinking lights, help to make the cyclist visible at night. The blinking effect can aid in getting a driver's fast attention and are useful when there is sufficient ambient light to allow the cyclist to see the roadway.
    • Many riders use lights even in daytime conditions, again with the thought being “everything you can do to improve your visibility will improve safety”.
    • Light intensity, measured in lumens, can range from a few lumens to well over 1000 lumen for bicycle lights. One key thing to consider when choosing a bicycle headlight is how far ahead of the bicycle the light will illuminate.
    • Black "ghost" reflective tape blends in with black bike parts (or even clothing, though you'd probably have to stitch it on) in the daytime, but appears bright at night. The gray tint absorbs much of the light shining on it from any given direction, but the retro-reflective prisms or beads' focusing of light back toward its source more than offsets the partial loss to the tint to shine powerfully in drivers' eyes.
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    Ride in a way that ensures drivers see you. Do this by following the “rules of the road”. Most areas have bicycle safety laws that require bicycles to follow the same rules as motor vehicles when using public roadways.
    • Some riders feel that riding against traffic is safer, because it allows them to see oncoming traffic. However, riding against traffic causes several major problems. One of the most important aspects of riding with the traffic flow is that this puts the cyclist in a position that motor vehicle drivers expect to see other users of the roadway.
    • In countries that have right-hand traffic (cars drive forward on the right side of the road), drivers coming from a crossroad expect to see other traffic coming at them from the left. If you are riding against traffic, you will be in position that drivers do not expect.

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