Hi-Viz, the new helmet debate.

Hi-Visibility clothing is designed to make you stand out. The bright flourescent colours absorb UV light and output it in a light form that is visible to us. Hence why during the day, they stand out but at night, it’s a different story.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry wearing Hi-Viz on a bicycle, does it actually make you stand out?

When cyclists talk about hi-viz, we normally refer to yellow jackets. These things are normally too heavy and thick for day use, which the hi-viz is designed to work in. Reflective strips of tape make you stand out in the dark. Are these jackets actually effective at making you visible or is hi-viz the new helmet debate?

A recent study in Australia shows us which one is true.
The study was conducted on a closed road circuit at night where driver participants of various ages were in a specially equipped vehicle and bike rider participants wore various combinations of clothing.
Due to hi-viz working off UV radiation, the hi-viz is useless at night due street lighting and headlights not producing UV radiation. The results showed that flourescent colors did not provide a significant improvement on black clothing at night.

Due to many cyclists thinking that Hi-viz makes them stand out at night, they could be putting them selves at risk if their clothing doesn’t contain reflective material.

Even when the cyclists wore a reflective vest, the drivers said it wasn’t as clear as reflective 3M scotchlite tape on their ankles and knees. This is thought to be down to the torso of a cyclist mostly being still and the ankles and knees are more often than not moving.

Whilst there aren’t many studies out there about Hi-Viz and its apparent safety features for cyclists, I don’t think the study in Australia is one to be sniffed at. It certainly makes more sense that reflective tape on a cyclists ankles will be more attention grabbing in car head lights rather than a vest which won’t get as much light.

I’m not a fan of the Altura NightVision jackets and similar jackets because during the day they are too thick for wearing and at night the reflective tape is often covered by a bag.
And as the study shows, the opinion from drivers, is the hi-viz doesn’t work at night and reflective tape is much better situated on the leg where it is moving more than the torso.

ProViz came up with the idea of using a strip of lights on their jackets and bag covers to make yourself more visible. I’ve yet to see one of these in the real world so I can’t comment on how well they work.
Some cyclists over at CycleChat have been talking about self illumination to make your self morevisible, that is pointing an LED light at yourself rather than the other way. To clear results have yet been seen but it can’t hurt trying.

My personal feeling on hi-viz is just go with out. With over 70% of cyclists wearing it, you really don’t stand out whilst you’re in it. I would much prefer to spend the money saved on Hi-Viz on some reflective tape and a good set of lights for my bike. I use my lights during the day to make up for the lack of hi-viz.