Thursday, August 31, 2017

For safety, see and be seen

BWL Column
The News-Press, 8/31/2017
by Ken Gooderham

A recent issue of “Bicycling” magazine included a lengthy segment on safety, and what they found might surprise you.

The insert, entitled “The ABCs of Awareness,” (sponsored by Trek and Bontrager, so they are trying to sell you something), included the following:

A – Always On: Front and rear lights, day and night

  • Image:
    80% of accidents happen during the day
  • Daytime running lights work – for bikes, motorcycles and vehicles. That’s white lights in front, red in back, and on all the time.
  • The drop in collisions attributed to daylight running lights for bikes was 33%, for vehicles was 25% and for motorcycles was 13%
  • Good daylight running lights need three components: Focus (to direct light and increase visibility), flash (an interruptive pattern increases visibility) and range (to be visible from at least a quarter-mile away).

B – Biomotion: Highlight your body’s moving parts

  • We are wired to see motion, so focusing attention on the up-and-down pedaling motion enhances visibility to others. Cyclists who draw attention to the moving parts can be up to 83% more noticeable to drivers.
  • Fluorescent clothing increases visibility, but using it to highlight the biomotion – actions that make the brain recognize this action as being human – increases its impact.
  • One example: Cyclists who wore fluorescent leggings could be by drivers up seen 600 feet away. Those who wore black leggings were recognizable at 180 feet away.
  • The reason this matters is that vehicle braking has three components: Thinking distance (reacting to a cyclist’s presence), consideration distance (acting to modify behavior, such as stepping on the brakes), and braking distance (the time it takes to physically bring a vehicle from speed to a complete stop). If you can shorten the first two by biomotion and visibility, vehicles can stop that much sooner.

C – Contrast: Choose the right gear for day and night

  • Fluorescent attire can decrease a cyclist’s chance of “incident” by up to 53%.
  • Sunlight does not equal visibility. To be seen, you need to stand out from your surroundings… which is why fluorescent wear can be so effective.
  • But its effectiveness comes with sunlight, not headlights. Fluorescent colors do not have the same visibility at night, even if illuminated by a vehicle’s lights. What works after dark is reflective attire – which can make you up to 72% more noticeable.
  • Use a variety of reflective options – on your body and on your bike – to enhance your nighttime visibility… and, of course, use lights to be seen and see where you’re going.

Elsewhere in the same issue, the editors compiled a depressing series of stats and stories on bike safety – such as two cyclists are killed by drivers in the United States every day. They also look at how streets of the future can (and will) be safer, and eight things you can do now to improve safety (topics for another day).

As was mentioned at the beginning, this safety information was presented by companies who 1) sell bikes and 2) sell lights, apparel and reflective gear. However, their stats are sourced and their message rings true – so don’t let the commercialism get in the way of the common sense. (After all, they want you to live long enough to be a customer, right?) You can find out more at

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Still not much on the calendar (just wait until October)… but you can find a Labor Day 5K in Naples Sept. 4 and a Medical Society fun run 5K in Fort Myers Sept. 16.

Ride? Look for the regular Critical Mass rides: Friday is the downtown Fort Myers ride at 7:15 p.m.; Sept. 8 is the NE Lee rise at 7:40 p.m.; and the Sanibel ride is the following day at 7:30 p.m. For night rides lights are required, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at Those looking for a longer route should consider the Tour of Sebring Sept. 2-4, where you can pick the number of days and miles you wish (

Both? September brings the Venice YMCA Sprint on Sept. 2 (, followed by the Galloway Captiva Tri weekend Sept. 9-10 (kids are Saturday, sprint on Sunday; info at At the end of the month there’s the Siesta Key Sprint ( and the Marco Island Sprint (


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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