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CONSPICUITY FOR CYCLIST SURVIVAL. Jack Holmgren Member San Francisco Randonneurs Randonneurs USA 3-31-12 (All errors and opinions are the author’s). Don Mitchell at the start of the 2009 Gold Rush Randonnee. Our Fallen Comrades. Bruce Taylor – 2010 Don Mitchell – 2010

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conspicuity for cyclist survival


Jack Holmgren


San Francisco Randonneurs

Randonneurs USA


(All errors and opinions are the author’s)

our fallen comrades
Our Fallen Comrades
  • Bruce Taylor – 2010
  • Don Mitchell – 2010
  • Jim Swarzman – 2011
  • Others hurt or killed by cars at night, in low-light, or daylight
  • We owe it to them to be as conspicuous as possible.
the problem drivers
The Problem = Drivers
  • The man who struck Don Mitchell at 50 MPH
  • 78 years of age
  • Driving near on-coming traffic – glare
  • Twilight
  • Shortly after the switch to Daylight Savings
  • Was likely 4 feet into the shoulder
  • Credibly said that he NEVER SAW Don
holmgren s first law of cycling survival
Holmgren’s First Law of Cycling Survival
  • You can never be too conspicuous.
cars and bikes
Cars and Bikes
  • Drivers – Younger AND Older Fail to compensate
  • Limitations at night
  • Reduced contrast
  • Sensitivity to glare
  • All of which decrease their ability to SEE CYCLISTS.
we know drivers fail to compensate
We know Drivers fail to compensate
  • Is this bad?
  • Yes, it is bad.
  • But what can we do about it TODAY?
  • We can compensate for the drivers by being MUCH MORE conspicuous.
  • The property of being clearly discernible.
  • The state or quality of being clear or bright; brightness; conspicuousness.
vis quiz the best way to boost awareness of a cyclist in the dark low light is
Vis Quiz – The best way to boost awareness of a cyclist in the dark/low light is:
  • 1. Blinking tail light ____
  • 2. Solid tail light ____
  • 3. Reflective vest ____
  • 4. Reflective Sam Browne Belt ____
  • 5. Rear facing horn ____
  • 6. Reflective ankle bands ____
  • 7. Reflective material on cranks ____
biological motion biomotion
Biological Motion (Biomotion)
  • Drivers see and recognize a human form:
  • Retroreflective material
  • Worn on moving Joints
survival conspicuity material
Survival Conspicuity - Material
  • Start with the shiny stuff as it works in the rain/fog/sleet – buy products made with slick retroreflective material - see article in American Randonneur, Reflections on Retroreflectivity
  • Go for as much as you possibly can get.
  • Beware of phrases like “reflective accents.”
survival conspicuity biomotion is the most important
Survival Conspicuity - Biomotion is the Most Important
  • Ankle, ankle, ankle
  • That’s about the only place on a cyclist that
  • Brings out the biomotion.
  • Rivendell makes big, fat, slick ankle bands.
  • They cover the leg and stick out a few inches.
  • You want the “best and the brightest.”
survival conspicuity reflective clothing
Survival Conspicuity – Reflective Clothing
  • Calculate coverage – how many square inches/centimeters of reflective material?
  • Look only to the reflective coverage, e.g., some ankle bands have bright colored fabric and only .5 or .75 inches of reflective stripe.
  • Reflective material that is 90 degrees to the road or close to that is most reflective.
  • Think about the garment’s angle to vehicle headlights as worn by the cyclist while riding.

Moonbeam DIY modification – 4 inch wide strip of slick material sewn to the bottom of the back of visibility vest

survival conspicuity camelbak issue
Survival Conspicuity – Camelbak Issue
  • Put
  • Your
  • Camelbak
  • On
  • Before
  • Your
viz quiz the best way to boost awareness of a cyclist in broad daylight is
Viz Quiz – the best way to boost awareness of a cyclist in broad daylight is:
  • 1. Rear facing horn___
  • 2. “Share the Road” decal on top tube___
  • 3. Clothing that uses black and colors found in nature like brown, green, eggplant, blue…___
  • 4. Clothing that uses retroreflective material___
  • 5. Clothing that uses loud colors like Hi-Viz Yellow, Safety Orange___
  • 6.Mixed in checks or chevrons___
is this conspicuous
Is this conspicuous?
  • Go to the Rapha, Capo, Castelli, Pearl Izumi, You-Pretty-Much-Name-It cycling clothing company website and click on all the “cool” looking black and earth-tones clothing.
  • In their defense, they are responding to a degree to market-share pressure. Be the pressure and don’t buy these drab and invisible colors and they will go away.
traffic master jersey a good example http www elevengear us trafficmaster html
Traffic Master Jersey – A good example
survival conspicuity wear clothes that stick out during the vast majority of your riding daylight
Survival Conspicuity – Wear clothes that stick out during the vast majority of your riding (Daylight)
  • Contrasting colors are best
  • Hi-Viz Yellow
  • Safety Orange
  • The two winners (In a 1994 study, “...fluorescent yellow was found to be best detected and fluorescent orange was found to be best recognized against any of the three backgrounds investigated.” (Zwahlen & Vel, abstract) )
  • But these are of little help at night/low-light.
  • Don’t get lulled into thinking you’re safer just by wearing these colors at night.
survival conspicuity distractions competition for driver attention
Survival Conspicuity – Distractions = Competition for Driver Attention
  • GPS
  • Cell Phone and Audio
  • Cars and Buses
  • Signs and Scenery
  • Pedestrians and animals
  • Threat level highest in urban environments so APPLY Survival Conspicuity to your COMMUTE
survival conspicuity fashion quiz
Survival Conspicuity – Fashion Quiz
  • Would you rather:
  • 1. Look good on the bike and be hurt/dead?___
  • 2. Look like a clown on the bike and be alive?___
  • If you selected #2 then consider wearing your L2s visibility vest always (that means on your commute, brevets, permanents, centuries, double centuries, training rides, etc.).
  • Clubs can order custom L2s vests at:

survival conspicuity tail lights
Survival Conspicuity – Tail Lights
  • Which is more important?
  • Your fellow riders not liking your bright lights?
  • Getting killed/hurt by a car because you did not have the brightest lights?
  • Always move up with the technology, e.g., Planet Bike Super Flash .5 Watt was the best but PB Turbo Flash = 1 Watt can and should be used in daylight too.
survival conspicuity to flash or not to flash
Survival Conspicuity – To flash or not to flash?
  • Randonneurs must have A steady light in low-light and at night.
  • Some run that and one or several flashing.
  • Flash or steady is personal.
  • The point is to have good LIGHTS (plural)
  • Multiple lights are part of the Rando ethos of back-up.
survival conspicuity multiple tail lights
Survival Conspicuity – Multiple Tail Lights
  • “Volagi” mount (brake bridge)
  • Seat-stay mount
  • Helmet mount
  • Many is much better than one
  • Is this obnoxious?
  • Yes.
  • Does it make you more conspicuous?
  • Yes, and that is more important than anything.
survival conspicuity aim
Survival Conspicuity - Aim
  • Not about alerting Martians
  • Aim for the Earthlings
  • No seat-bag, seat-pack, Carradice bag, pannier, Camelbak, mounting of lights as too much variation
  • Have a friend help by looking at the light from several distances, e.g., 50, 100, 200, 300, 500 meters to determine optimal positioning.
survival conspicuity always ride with lights on
Survival Conspicuity – Always Ride with lights on
  • Cars turn their lights on during the day.
  • So can you! Increases conspicuity by day
  • Many lights designed to be seen by day:
  • Planet Bike Turbo Flash
  • Portland Design Works Radbot
  • Dinotte
survival conspicuity front lights
Survival Conspicuity – Front Lights
  • Have good ones.
  • Have a back-up.
  • Daytime running lights – an idea whose time has come.
  • Endorsed by Robert Choi, inventor of the LED tail light!
survival conspicuity reflective bikes and bits
Survival Conspicuity – Reflective bikes and bits
  • Powder coated reflective paint rims and frames
  • Stick-on bits of reflector on cranks, seat stays, helmets (up high so they’re visible in areas with many cars), etc.
  • Strands of bendable lights to wrap the frame with.
  • Reflective strips on tires and spoke lights.
  • Lights that project the image of a bike lane.
  • All communicate that the driver is approaching a cyclist.
survival conspicuity organize
Survival Conspicuity – Organize!
  • Join a/several bike coalitions:
survival conspicuity organize1
Survival Conspicuity – Organize!
  • Amplify your voice with a chorus by joining a coalition or several coalitions.
  • Support programs that lead to greater driver cognition and awareness of cyclists in daylight, at night, and in low-light.
  • Ride with others in low-light or at night.
  • Ride with others in daylight.
daytime riding
Daytime Riding
  • Helmet + Ankle Bands + Conspicuity Vest + Daytime Strength Tail Lights +Daytime Strength Front Light =
  • SAFETY or greater safety
night time riding
Night Time Riding
  • Helmet + Ankle Bands + Conspicuity Vest + Daytime Strength Tail Lights + Night Time Strength Front Light (s) =
  • SAFETY or greater safety
a n c l
  • A = Ankle bands for biomotion
  • N = Noggin for helmet to protect same
  • C = Conspicuity Vest for conspicuity
  • L = Lights for front and back always on even by day
  • Do an ANCL check just before riding off.
holmgren s second law of cycling survival
Holmgren’s Second Law of Cycling Survival
  • You should always try to be more conspicuous!
  • To the science gals and guys at Queensland U out there in Brisbane, Australia.
  • FEMA

  • They study this stuff and publish so that I can lift much of it verbatim and put it on the screen.
  • Thanks to them and thanks to all the researchers working on this life and death issue.