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Study Finds Bicyclists Less Visible at Night Than Believed

Monday, May 27, 2013

A bicyclist’s risk of being involved in an accident increases during low visibility conditions at nighttime. Those risks may be even higher because bicyclists are not aware of exactly how invisible they are during nighttime. A new study finds that many people who ride bicycles at night may be too optimistic about their visibility to motorists.

The report is based on a study conducted by scientists at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. The results of the analysis are due to be published in Accident Analysis and Prevention soon. The researchers recruited subjects who were asked to wear black clothing, as well as florescent clothing and reflective vests, and estimate the distance at which an approaching motorist would be able to see them.

Persons, who wore black clothing or just a reflective vest, seemed to be the most optimistic about their visibility to motorists approaching from a distance. They thought motorists would see them from nearly twice the distance than motorists actually did. Most bicyclists however managed to correctly estimate that they were much more visible to motorists and other people, when they were wearing reflective tapes on their knees and ankles. Interestingly enough, these strips are actually much more effective in increasing visibility, than the bicyclists knew.

Bicyclists are likely to overestimate their visibility in those conditions in which their visibility is actually minimal. According to the results of the study, they also seem to underestimate the benefits of pairing reflective vests and reflective strips on the knees and ankles. As California bicycle accident attorneys would expect, determining visibility seems to get better with the frequency of bicycling. More frequent bicyclists were likely to better judge the distance at which a motorist could see them, compared to persons who did not ride much.



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