Author Topic: Musings on visibility  (Read 1708 times)

Musings on visibility
« on: January 10, 2021, 01:10:54 pm »
I've actually written a lot of this before but not posted. I'll make this very clear this isn't victim blaming. If someone dosnt look then your not going to get seen whatever

However the last three or so months I've had several events that made me think about how visible we are on our bikes

First one was locking up at work. Our workshop had a 40 foot artic trailer in white ish. It was pretty dark in there but as I opened the door to my office the light from my office hit the reflective tape around the perimeter of the trailer and lit it up. Now it certainly wasn't invisible before but was surprising how it wasn't obvious

Second one driving home. About to pull out for an overtake so moving into lane two on a two lane A Road. Hesitated as something didn't seem right and glad I did as seconds later a motorbike with rider obviously passed me. It had a single front light and single rear light, the rider was all in black and once the lights were lost among the car headlights and tail lights was again very hard to spot

Driving yesterday to get dog food. B road that you can cycle on but isn't particularly pleasant. Mid morning very bright and low sun, car coming towards me but fair distance away indicates left. I was a little confused as no turning till I spot the ninja cyclist that had just been overtaken. They were in the long shadows and again were really not obvious.

On the flip side back in probably October when we could ride in small groups I was behind one of my friends for several minutes till I realised his rear light had failed. It had a built in reflector which my front light was picking up. I also notice that when my bike is facing away from the house the lights from the back of the house are enough to light it up. Have reflector in the dyanmo light on the rack, one on the mudguard, on the pedals and those long silver ones that go on the spokes

Just for me reinforced how certain items can really make a difference to our visibility

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2021, 01:53:49 pm »
Visibility is the intersection of psychology and optics.

Optical visibility is rarely a problem, especially if you have a reasonable amount of lights/reflectors.  I agree that the edge cases tend to be low sun, shit weather and being lost in clusters of city lights, but most of the time this isn't a problem because you aren't in conflict with whoever can't see you.  (ETA: I should probably add A-pillars and inappropriately designed large vehicles here.  Those can render you invisible in any conditions.)

Psychology is about attention.  Catching a driver's eye for long enough that they accurately assess your position and velocity.  This is mostly a function of putting yourself where they're going to be looking for cars (because what they're looking for is cars), and being somehow interesting (weird bike, unusual cargo, being a target for sexual harassment, whatever).  Space-lemon tactics do very little to help, and might actively hinder.

And of course nothing will make you visible when they're not looking.


As ever, the best approach is to assume they haven't seen you, and that if they do, they're probably going to try to bully you anyway.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

fd3

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2021, 04:44:39 pm »
To be visible you need to stand out, so moar lights may well not do it.  I have heard from taxi drivers that the thongs they notice most are moving pedal reflectors and helmet lights.  I think reflectors in general help as they go from being unlit to be lit, which is a change and therefore makes your brain think.  I tend to think that it's worth having a light that illuminates the bike/cyclist to avoid the "ninja" effect - probably better than high vis.
The best solution of course is to ban all cars as they spread COVID.
And we know the flag of love is from above/And we can force you to be free

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2021, 05:06:24 pm »
I totally agree on the pedal reflectors or on my bike that doesn't have them I normally use overshoes with reflective strips Something I have found useful is a helmet mounted light. Not major bright but enough to give drivers a quick flash as you look at them

When I learnt to ride bikes with engines they taught to make eye contact at junctions

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2021, 05:18:56 pm »
Second one driving home. About to pull out for an overtake so moving into lane two on a two lane A Road. Hesitated as something didn't seem right and glad I did as seconds later a motorbike with rider obviously passed me. It had a single front light and single rear light, the rider was all in black and once the lights were lost among the car headlights and tail lights was again very hard to spot

This is an interesting observation, often overlooked. When there are a lot of lights around, drivers who are looking for a car will see them not by the lights on the car itself but by the fact that it blocks out the lights behind it. Which doesn't work for bikes, motorbikes, scooters, etc.

Reflectors don't help if, for example, someone is about to pull out from a side road and the single light from a nearby two wheeler could easily belong to something further away, and there's no blocking effect to show the presence of a nearby object.

The only way of changing this is for two-wheelers to be less rare, changing the way the drivers look. Failing that, as ever, kim's advice is the best.
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2021, 05:25:20 pm »

There is no right answer, and even with segregated cycling infrastructure I've still had far too many near misses.

I think the best solution is to just ban cars.

Sure you'll still be hit by morons on bikes, but it'll hurt less.

Also yes, pedal reflectors are great, which is why they are a legal requirement, and why you should all stop using shit pedals, and get some with proper reflectors.


J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2021, 05:25:38 pm »
I totally agree on the pedal reflectors or on my bike that doesn't have them I normally use overshoes with reflective strips Something I have found useful is a helmet mounted light. Not major bright but enough to give drivers a quick flash as you look at them

When I learnt to ride bikes with engines they taught to make eye contact at junctions

Helmet mounted lights as your only lights are spectacularly bad, as they are at an unexpected height, and much more difficult to gauge the distance. For the purpose you describe they are extremely good.
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2021, 05:28:18 pm »

Helmet mounted lights as your only lights are spectacularly bad, as they are at an unexpected height, and much more difficult to gauge the distance. For the purpose you describe they are extremely good.

Which is why they are considered illegal in most (if not all) countries. Even the Dutch who do allow for body mounted lights insist they must be mounted to the torso.

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2021, 05:32:18 pm »
Reflective tape on the cranks, is cheap, lightweight and moves.

Reflective tape is also good for delineating the edge of the bike or rider.

Stuck onto tyre levers, it can help locate them should they fly out of sight following a nocturnal rural visitation.

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2021, 05:34:19 pm »
Talking about pedal reflectors, we had a thread some time ago about reflective tape on your crank arms being effective.
There was an online source for the same vinyl tape as used on police cars - I think they were selling offcuts.
I bought some and used it on crank arms. My current bike does not have any and it would be useful to get some.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2021, 05:37:15 pm »
Talking about pedal reflectors, we had a thread some time ago about reflective tape on your crank arms being effective.
There was an online source for the same vinyl tape as used on police cars - I think they were selling offcuts.
I bought some and used it on crank arms. My current bike does not have any and it would be useful to get some.

I got mine off ebay. If you're doing pedal/crank reflectors, make sure they are yellow.

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2021, 06:01:44 pm »
Helmet mounted lights as your only lights are spectacularly bad, as they are at an unexpected height, and much more difficult to gauge the distance. For the purpose you describe they are extremely good.

The other problem with helmet mounted lights is that nearly all the rear-facing ones are aimed in the wrong direction. It seems unlikely that they're all habitual recumbent riders compelled to use a DF bike for some reason, so I can only assume they're concerned about being SMIDYed by low-flying aircraft. 
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2021, 06:02:29 pm »
Stuck onto tyre levers, it can help locate them should they fly out of sight following a nocturnal rural visitation.

Hearing aids TTAW.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2021, 06:05:29 pm »
Talking about pedal reflectors, we had a thread some time ago about reflective tape on your crank arms being effective.
There was an online source for the same vinyl tape as used on police cars - I think they were selling offcuts.
I bought some and used it on crank arms. My current bike does not have any and it would be useful to get some.

I got mine off ebay. If you're doing pedal/crank reflectors, make sure they are yellow.

Meh.  It's not legally compliant, so I settle for avoiding red/blue/green, and pick a colour that looks best on the crank in daylight (usually white or black).  It's not like most cycle clothing and luggage isn't showing white reflectives to the rear anyway.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2021, 06:13:59 pm »
Talking about pedal reflectors, we had a thread some time ago about reflective tape on your crank arms being effective.
There was an online source for the same vinyl tape as used on police cars - I think they were selling offcuts.
I bought some and used it on crank arms. My current bike does not have any and it would be useful to get some.

Have a look in Halfords'  (or other car accessory shop's) motoring section.

Always been my source (since about 1975!)...

https://www.halfords.com/motoring/paints-and-body-repair/adhesives/summit-safety-reflective-tape-1530mm-x-19mm---white-655757.html
https://www.halfords.com/motoring/paints-and-body-repair/adhesives/summit-safety-reflective-tape-1530mm-x-19mm---yellow-655765.html
https://www.halfords.com/search?q=reflective+tape

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2021, 06:29:22 pm »
The best solution of course is to ban all cars as they spread COVID.
The only way of changing this is for two-wheelers to be less rare, changing the way the drivers look.
There is no right answer, and even with segregated cycling infrastructure I've still had far too many near misses.

I think the best solution is to just ban cars.
Could be a trend gathering here.  ;)
Faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person. (David Byrne)

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2021, 06:40:18 pm »
In addition to the moving reflectors, I’ve got a pet theory (with no studies to back it up, but why let that get in my way): two similar lights, at the same height, are more noticeable than one. Partly because they cover a greater area - one advantage of a car headlamp is that it isn’t a point source and so is easier to see. Reflecting off a patch of road is probably our best bet for area. And partly because it looks like eyes, and there’s a stone age response to glowing eyes in the night.

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2021, 06:47:14 pm »
....which reminds me...
Around 23 years ago, when I was new to the Interwebs and to uk.rec.cycling, on a similar thread, I recommended Summit reflective tape.

I had to point out that Summit was a brand name to a Yorkshireman there...

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2021, 06:51:38 pm »
In addition to the moving reflectors, I’ve got a pet theory (with no studies to back it up, but why let that get in my way): two similar lights, at the same height, are more noticeable than one.

The thing that's always made me nervous about this is that pairs of lights might be assumed to be a car's width apart, suggsting that you're much further away than reality.  Which is why I fitted barakta's trike with a flashing light on the rear rack, in addition to the pair of static ones on the back of the front mudguards.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2021, 06:54:45 pm »
I’m pretty sure your positioning on the road is just as, if not more, important for getting noticed.  Getting noticed is the key, and visibility is rarely the issue.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2021, 06:58:43 pm »
In addition to the moving reflectors, I’ve got a pet theory (with no studies to back it up, but why let that get in my way): two similar lights, at the same height, are more noticeable than one.

The thing that's always made me nervous about this is that pairs of lights might be assumed to be a car's width apart, suggsting that you're much further away than reality.  Which is why I fitted barakta's trike with a flashing light on the rear rack, in addition to the pair of static ones on the back of the front mudguards.
Front lights too. I know someone who mistook a motorcycle with twin headlights just behind him for a car about half a mile back. The irony being that he was on a motorbike himself.
Faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person. (David Byrne)

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2021, 07:55:19 pm »
Just to clarify I run a dynamo light mounted on the fork. The head light is for a bit of added vis and looking at signs etc

Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2021, 08:14:45 pm »
Oh and I seem to recall a lot of twin headlight motorcycles only have one on the front when dipped so doesn't look like a car far away

FifeingEejit

  • Not Small
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2021, 09:29:24 pm »
Contrasting with the background seems to be the best way to be visible (Although not seen).
Wearing Orange works well, but not great in situations where you want black (riding into the sun).

This comes back to my photo of a cyclist and a car the other month.
The cyclist was invisible because they didn't contrast with the direct sunlight = lights, but was also hidden against the hedge by wearing black.

Increasing the chances of being noticed by a dozy git behind the wheel of another vehicle is different again.
If it's dark the motion of pedal reflectors really gets them noticed.
If it's day light, non-steady movement.

Wish I could find that video that discussed motorbikes and how the human eye works.
This does have bullet points on Sacadic masking
https://motorbikewriter.com/scientific-studies-explain-smidsy/

Also this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x94PGgYKHQ0

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Musings on visibility
« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2021, 09:33:59 pm »
Contrasting with the background seems to be the best way to be visible (Although not seen).
Wearing Orange works well, but not great in situations where you want black (riding into the sun).

No colour's going to be good all the time.  But a consistent colour is better than not, as it makes you more obviously a human shape.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...