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White bike & helmet = better rider visibility?

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' at netrider.net.au started by night-timer, Jul 20, 2010.

  1. I have a white bike and a white helmet. I figured it would give me better visibility on the roads, especially at night.

    I was talking to a cop who also rides and he said, in his 15 years of experience, bike/helmet colour makes no difference.

    He said the best way to stay safe is to avoid riding in a driver's blind-spot.

    Sure, but I still think white is more visible at night than black (???)

  2. I would agree with the policeman; lane and road positioning is way way way way more important than choosing a high-vis colour. (Hint: If they can't see you at all, it doesn't matter what colour you are).

    Food for thought: The (quite old) Hurt report found that white bikes were underrepresented in crashes. They couldn't comment on orange/yellow (which were significantly overrepresented) or black (underrepresented) because of chronological faults with the data for those colours.

    Hurt Report found that none of the helmet colours make a difference to crash rates except for black helmets, which were statistically quite overrepresented in accidents.

    High-vis jackets were found to be way way way way way underrepresented. Ie: people who wear high-vis jackets tended not to be involved in accidents much at all.

    Bear in mind that the Hurt Report was done in a time before hard-wired headlights appeared on most bikes, so that may be a confounding factor if we try to apply these findings to modern bikes.

    Incidentally, bikes with headlights turned on were half as likely to be involved in a daylight crash than those with their headlight turned off.

    Other food for thought: A recent study (I've quoted it here on NR before, can't remember the name/link at this hour) found that for cars and other car-like vehicles, black, grey and other low-visibility/low-contrast colours are up to approximately 10% higher probability to be involved in an accident compared with solid-white.

    This difference decreases as the lighting approaches dawn/dusk or other bad lighting situations (eg: rain, fog). At night time there was no difference found in the likelihoods of any colour.

    It's assumed that this is because people tend to use their headlights in shit weather conditions, and at night time you are not going to see anything that isn't either (a) lit up by its own headlights/taillights or (b) retroreflective. And they don't make retroreflective vehicles.

    So generally the literature suggests that there's some benefit to riding with your headlight turned on and ensuring that large percentages of your bike and upper body's surface area are a high-vis colour, yep. During the day, anyway. At night it would seem that colouration makes no difference whatsoever.

    But if I had to make a choice between "Riding outside of blindspots, riding to stay visible, with all-black armour on an all-black bike" and "Riding a white bike with white armour and staying in blindspots without a care in the world", I'd take the black bike with the better roadcraft. If they can't see you at all, no amount of hot-pink paint will make you visible.
  3. People with white bikes and helmets shit me, I always think it's a copper and get the "oh crap" feeling
  4. Better than all black, but not at all a gauranty to being seen.
  5. i actually think your helmet colour/graphics is the only thing that might help make drivers more aware that you're amongst the traffic with them... because that's all they see of you much of the time, over the roof line of cars... so like if they're stopped at an intersection they might notice a bike up ahead, or a glimpse in the rear mirrors they might catch the helmet comming through in traffic behind... it just might make them aware there is a bike around them somewhere, even if they can't keep track of where it is... and they may be less prone to do anything unpredictable...the vast majority of people are more carefull if they notice a bike around them, probably because they're worried about hitting it.
    so i just try to go with an eye catching helmet, something that stands out from everything else around.
    solid black helmets are a definate no for me though... matt black dissapears into the background during the day... shiny/metalic black at night is useless, it just looks like any other nondescript surface the lights hit... that's why black helmets are always the cheapest to buy.
    and you"ll notice the guys you see riding for commute everyday don't have the black helmets.. but on the weekends if you head up the hills, you notice more black helmets amongst recreational riders.
    i don't like the fluro vests myself because allthough the vast majority of drivers tend to take more care around you when you wear one... theres just that very small percentage of drivers that won't... and the only thing that might discourage them is if you look like someone they don't want to **** with.
    .. and the fluro vest is not really a "don't **** with me" look.

    basically, the only people who notice bikes are those that have ridden them, or those that hate them... so, colour matters not, all bikes are invisible...BUT, from the waist up you take on human form.. and all humans are hard wired to recognise other humans.. so anything you can do to draw attention to the waist up is a win.
  6. My boss was involved in an accident:

    Yellow bike, orange and yellow leathers, yellow helmet...

    The car said? "I didn't see you".


    To me, colours don't mean sh!t. Ride agressively, be aware, use the whole lane and NEVER EVER sit in blind spots or assume they won't move into your lane.
  7. Hey thanks heaps Spots, I DO love some data.

    Do you know what 'errors in chronology' means btw??

    The reflective vest findings are interesting...no doubt confounded by the personality of the person who chooses to wear one, but interestig.

    I have also heard somewhere on these forums (but unreferenced) about a study that suggests continuity of colour is important, and this makes a lot of sense to me from the point of view of visual perception theory. To use colour to 'paint' the shape of a vehicle will enhance gestalt processing, and to 'paint' matching slabs of colour to your extremities (tail, helmet, mudguard) will maximize your size. I'm a bit bewildered by things like camo pants (flouro or otherwise) that are actually designed to break up your form and confuse the eye. Ditto wild helmet patterning...although I compromised with mine (bold yellow and white graphic) because I couldn't find an all-yellow one, but I wanted to theme yellow right up to my tippetty top.

    Of course at night, colour don't do jack, you need illumination or reflectivity to enhance your on-road salience.
  8. N=1 ... Therefore Spots wins. :) Use colour AND riding technique.
  9. The hi-vis vest statistic is interesting as it seems pretty clear that wearing a hi-vis vest improves your visibility as there are less crashes by hi-vis wearers. Is that the rea; reason though?
    I'd argue that riders who wear hi-vis gear or white helmets to be seen etc. are actually taking a more conscious and pro-active approach to their own safety and they are also likely to ride in a safer manner as a result. Riding with a safety first focus is the real reason hi-vis/white helmets are under represented and the gear itself is only a minor factor.
  10. And I was trying to win what, curls? Not everything is a comp... :jerk:
  11. When talking about high-vis being under represented is crash data, you need to ask yourself what % of the riding community actually wear it before determining it's value.

    If 95% aren't in high-vis and 5% are you can't treat the control set as being equal, you'd need to do a study using equal numbers. Personally I think it makes sfa difference.
  12. Riding a white BMW R1200RT while wearing a high-vis vest with POLITE ridden on it reduces the chances of a SMIDSY by 50%, reduces right-lane hogging in your immediate vicinity by 70%, and increase your street-cred at MRA events by 90%.
  13. Hey I wasn't meaning to offend you LC honest! I'm a scientist this is just how I discuss shit.
  14. There are very basic statistical techniques for taking that into account and I'm sure a study as big as that one would be allllll over that.

    The issue is confounding factors, as a couple of people here have already said - hi vis wearers are a self-selected population.

    In car data, silver ironically comes up as one ofthe safest colours - but researchers have posited that this reflects the conservative nature of the silver-car purchasing motorist.

    Re: this vest data, it might help, it can't hurt.
  15. Having owned an ex-cop bike which I used to ride while wearing a white helmet I disagree totally - you really get noticed far more. You can always tell when the cars in front look in their mirrors and the brake lights go on...
  16. +1.

    Most SMIDSY's did see you, they just don't care unless they think you're going to book them (IMHO).

    And hi-vis vest wearers don't crash 'cos they all ride like grannies :bolt:.
  17. Right, those who go out of their way to wear safety vests or brightly colored gear are probably more safety conscious and hence partially contribute to the under-representation of accident stats. There are statistical methods to take account of all that (interaction), and if the stat guys took account of all that in their studies (hopefully), the color still may come out as a factor that plays some role in reducing accident numbers.

    But as is always the case with stats, it's sometimes easy to overthink some things. Common sense and practical experience would probably tell one that bright colors DO make a difference. Just look at pushbike riders who wear hi-vis vests -- when I'm in driving, these guys DEFINITELY get my attention earlier.
  18. Dont ride in the snow

    I think a mix of colors is more visable, if you want get a fluro pink bike fluro green jacket and fluro yellow helmet with reflector strips everywhere

    btw i wear black helmet and jacket and pants, never expect cars to notice me anyway, its up to you to look out for them
  19. I'm not sure if a white helmet would make much of a difference - there are some colours along the spectrum that humans are more sensitive to (the yellow greens; the colour of hi vis fluro vests and highlighters) but there's still a big difference in being viewed and being noticed. Unfortunately most drivers suffer from inattentional blindness whilst behind the wheel.

    We're more sensitive to motion in our peripheral vision, so I think lane positioning and moving around would be of more importance. After the driver notices some movement up ahead (or around) it may then be useful to be also wearing something visible so they can steer clear.

    My apologies if I am stating the obvious.
  20. Just don't ride near snowplows. :)

    I agree with the cop. What colour you wear has little impact if you don't get seen. Every rider should 'make' themselves seen. How one does that is up to the rider. Definitely good advice to avoid cage drivers blind spots.

    I must tell you... many moons ago when on my 'L's i had a mate that had a single piece white suit and a white helmet. I admit, it looked pretty good, until. Riding between Traralgon and Morwell we got caught behind a cattle truck containing one particular animal that chose that exact moment to relieve itself. Upon stopping in Morwell I found myself doubled over with laughter at my White, green an yellow spotted friend. The down side was that it stained, and the suit was never seen again.

    It must be said, black at least hides the road grime and other 'things'. :)