Conspicuity: The Value of Hi Viz

Arai RX-Q Helmet – Hi-Viz

When I geared up for this season the biggest item I bought was a new helmet.  I have been riding with either Shoei or Arai helmets now for more years than I care to count. It is no surprise then that this year when I needed a new helmet to replace my 5 year old Arai Corsair I popped for the Arai RX-Q Hi-Viz.  When I found out that Arai had a HI-Viz helmet that fit my head I didn’t hesitate. I have been slowly heading toward Hi-Viz for a while. When you watch the Olympics the shoes that leap off of your hi-def screen are those yellow green Hi-Viz track shoes. I recently bought a set of work gloves at the big box hardware emporium and among them was a pair of bright yellow gloves. Up until now I had never seen bright yellow work gloves. Hi-viz is slowly (too slowly, I think) starting to infiltrate our visual awareness.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I ride a bicycle as well as a motorcycle. Over the last few years I have been slowly adding reflective stickers to my bike helmets and I am now  riding with a worker type lime green safety vest. All of the gear I buy now will likely be Hi-Viz.

There are just too many idiots on cell phones now and too many distracted drivers for me to not to take the whole conspicuity thing seriously. I am not preaching to the unconverted. If you think that lime yellow/green gear just isn’t for you then there are lots of safe(r) options out there for you in terms of new gear. I just want to be seen as far away and by as many drivers as possible . Its that simple.

I’m not the only one thinking this way. My copy of David Hough’s 2nd edition “Mastering the Ride” arrived not too long ago. It was on reserve for a couple of months awaiting the July release date.  Its great. I recommend it because it really starts a decent discussion about how to save your own life when you are riding.  If you live in the Bay Area you have the advantage of access to both Friction Zone magazine and Citybike. Both of these are motorcycle rider publications and both of them just had articles relating to David Hough and to riding safety. Its on the minds of a lot of folks these days and there is no better ambassador than Hough.  This book is the followup to his excellent “Proficient Motorcycling” and they are both great.

On page 91 of ‘Mastering the Ride’ (available at: http://www.bowtiepress.com/bowtie/promotor.asp)  he talks about the importance of being seen when you ride and the importance of conspicuity gear. Here is a part of what he has to say:
” One of the conclusions if the Olson Report was that wearing a brightly colored (they call it “fluorescent”) jacket was very effective, especially a jacket in the bright-green spectrum.  For whatever reasons, having a brightly colored fairing was not as effective as wearing a brightly colored “upper-torso garment.” For riding at night, the report showed considerable benefit in having reflective panels in the riding jacket.”

“… Hi-viz Lime Yellow “jumps out” on a primal level because it is not naturally occurring, and because the human eye is most sensitive to light in this part of the spectrum. (The eye is least receptive to red and black.) The brightest color possible under visible light, Hi-Viz Lime Yellow is more effective than fluorescent colors which, because of their chemical makeup are dependent on the UV radiation in sunlight to “glow,” making them less effective at night and in vehicle headlights.  The piercing Hi-Viz lime Yellow carries plenty of visual “punch” even under incandescent and low-light conditions.”

I cannot recommend the Hough books more highly. I am fond of my Arai RX-Q Hi-Viz helmet and will write up some of my thoughts about it in another blog post. Get out there – and be seen.

Gerde Applethwaite

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