Thursday, 19 February 2015

Why Cyclists should wear white

Want to be seen on the road?

Being seen and being safe is a prerequisite for any cyclist. I write this only the day after I witnessed a young woman knocked off her bike by a car pulling out of a side road. The conditions were clear, bright and dry, yet the driver just didn't see her. Luckily she was ok, but it goes to show that drivers are not in the mindset for looking out for cyclists at the best of times, so when the weather turns in or it is getting dark, how can you best make yourself stand out?

I am a professional artist and a keen cyclist in my spare time and I always make sure I wear white if I'm hitting the roads, especially in the dark. There are so many variants of high viz available but in my opinion they are not always as 'high viz' as you would like them to be. The other week I noted how a cyclist riding at night in a yellow high viz shell blended in so well to the street lighting, yet today from my studio I watched a cyclist in white pass by on the road and I really noticed how visible he was.
On a recent visit to my local bike shop I was surprised at how much dark winter clothing was available, probably created more for fashion rather than visibility. If you wear darker clothing and you cycle on dull days, at dusk or in the dark, one important aspect to look for is how much reflective material is on your kit. This has far more impact than the yellow or orange colour of high viz. Note that reflective strips are also white.

So why white? The answer is simple - it is the brightest colour in the spectrum. Don't confuse this with light physics or colour wheels or anything like that and please don't be pedantic and tell me that white isn't a colour. As an experienced artist and colourist, I am acutely aware that white is the lightest element of our daily lives. To our visible eye there are 8 basic colours that range from dark to light. I have listed them below in their order of the spectrum with my views on their visibility against a darker background. You may also note how visible the words are against their backgrounds.
White, yellow and orange stand out the most but white will always be the brightest colour you can wear. Enjoy your rides and stay safe!

White - The brightest colour of the spectrum and will be seen against any landscape or low light.
Yellow - A light colour but as a derivative of green it blends with landscapes and yellow lighting well.
Orange - Quite a striking colour but a great disguise against street lighting.

Red - Approaching the darker end of the spectrum. Not good especially as its often combined with black material.
Violet - Wooah. A very dark colour. May look great in the mirror but think of a fleeting glimpse from a motorist at night.
Black - Nooo. Why do companies make so much kit in black? You will be invisible in most cases!
Blue - Be careful of blue. It is still dark and may blend with roads and dark skies from the perspective of a car seat.
Green - If you ride through pastoral countryside, leave the green kit at home, but do put something on!!

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