This week – 20th - 26th November – marks Brake’s annual Road Safety Week, so Invision spoke to two cycling experts to get their tips and hints on making yourself as visible as possible out on the roads.
Use reflective – not just fluorescent – gear.
Reflective gear is a must for cycling during darkness. The light from a car’s headlights hits you and is reflected back to the driver, lighting you up like a Christmas tree. Fluorescent high visibility gear, on the other hand, has strong visual impact in daylight, but in the dark you may as well be wearing black. Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director for Cycling UK concurs: “High visibility and reflective are not the same thing. Reflective is much more important: at night you need to be able to reflect in a car’s headlights.”
Ensure you have a front and back light.
UK law obliges you to have one front white light and one back red light – so make sure you’ve got yours fitted before venturing out. However, you should always make sure that they’re fully charged and emitting strong light – a light dying due to lack of battery could have serious consequences. You may even want to consider using additional lights on your helmet and backpack (if you use one).
Be noticed, not just seen.
Geffen explains: “There’s this important distinction between seeing and noticing. Humans are known to be fallible in terms of things they see, even within their field of vision, they might be able to see them but they won’t always notice.” So how can you make sure you get ‘noticed’? Geffen advises that, as well as wearing reflective gear, it helps drivers notice you if you reflect light and move in a way that is characteristic of a person, as opposed to a static object. This causes drivers to pay more attention to the shape that they can see. As well as wearing a reflective jacket and lights, you might also consider using reflective ankle bands, or a pair of LED armbands, which will move as your arms and legs move throwing out a distinctive, human form to a driver’s eye.
Clothing is vital. During the day, you’ve got natural light on your side, therefore reflective clothing isn’t a must. But, high visibility gear will do the trick. High visibility is defined as being easily distinguishable from a plain background – so, a bright fluorescent yellow or orange, for example.
Take extra care at junctions. Don’t approach a junction at speed, take your time to make sure you are aware of all traffic around you and signal clearly in the direction you want to go.
Be aware of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). Drivers of big lorries can’t always see you so it’s best to avoid riding on the inside of a large vehicle.
Be aware that car stopping distances will be longer. Rule 126 of the Highway Code states that stopping distances in wet weather can be up to double the regular distance. Make sure you keep a good distance and pay attention to the motorist’s movements. It’s also worth bearing in mind that your own stopping distance will lengthen, too.
Optimise your tyres to the conditions. Different weather conditions call for different tyres, or tyre pressures. Roger Geffen offers one very handy tip: “On an icy day you might want to reduce the pressure in your tyres to give better grip on the road.”
Reconsider the type of tyre you use: Nick Lloyd, road safety manager for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) explains: “Think about the tyres you use in relation to the type of riding you’re going to be doing. If you’re riding a racing bike for pleasure on a Sunday morning you probably won’t venture out when it’s predicted there will be rain or ice, since those kind of tyres, generally speaking, won’t have much tread. If you’re commuting, the more tread you’ve got, the more drag and more friction you get, but also more tread means that the tyres will disperse rain water better, giving you more grip on the road.”
Cycle according to the weather in front of you. Lloyd adds: “If the forecast is predicting ice on the road, cycle accordingly: go a bit slower, avoid sharp turns and sharp movements and remember that it will take you longer to stop.”
The Proviz Switch range is perfect for the winter months when you might find yourself cycling in day and night conditions. Each item is reversible, with a fluorescent side for the day and a reflective side for the night.
Or, if you fancy something that actively works to make you seen, opt for the LED Nightrider Cycling Jacket, it's the first in the range to incorporate machine washable LED lights in to the jacket to aid with visibility during both night and early morning.
The reflective capability of our REFLECT360 material helps other road users to identify a runner or cyclist’s position on the road at night.