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Risk Hierarchy: Information - Rider Ed - Driver Ed - Conspicuity - Bike Defect - Ultra-Defensive Riding - Crash Avoidance - Injury Mitigation - Crash Scene
Being Seen: Conspicuity
We have seen in the Driver's ED page, that many drivers fail to see bikes, and that frontal visibility is a major factor. We discussed the ability of cage drivers to estimate the closing speed of an oncoming bike. We also note that visibility from the rear can be an issue, often when the bike is stopped. A bike does not offer many visual cues to help people's vision gauge the closing speed. There is support for this in research, see Forensic Engineering Investigation by Randall Noon, CRC Press, 2001, ISBN 0849309115 (Google Books has an excerpt). Here's an excellent article on the cognitive processes around vision, conspicuity and attention.
We are getting outside the area of hard data here, but we plan to break up this subject into the following areas:
- Your bike front lights
- Other bike lights and visibility aids
- Rider helmet visibility
- Rider equipment visibility.
Conspicuity dictionary definition: the quality of being clear or bright. In the following pages, we are concerned mainly with making the bike more visible, by lighting and other means. This we call passive conspicuity. There are also things we can do while riding to be more conspicuous. This is called active conspicuity and we talk about it in the ultra-defensive riding section later.
Dynamic Conspicuity is also a riding strategy issue, as being behind an obstacle or well camoflaged is also related to conspicuity. We deal with dynamic conspicuity in the Ultra Defensive Riding section.
Closing Distance Estimation refers to the ability of a cage driver to estimate the speed of an oncoming bike. It is related to conspicuity in our opinion because our consciousness is not deployed on an object which is instinctively estimated to be approaching too slowly to be a concern. We pay some attention to creating a large area of conspicuity pointed frontways, to aid in closing speed determination by oncoming drivers.
Maids emphasized the value of bike or rider colors that contrast with the background.
We have several pages on things you can do to your bike and gear for conspicuirt. In addition to our usual warnings about hubris and risk homeostasis, we recount a story attributed to bike study pioneer Harry Hurt.
A motorcycle cop is engaged in a pursuit, with dome lights, flashing headlights and everything lit up. He slows to 30 MPH for an intersection, edges through and is in the process of speeding back up when he locks eyaballs with a car driver about to pull into his lane. The cage driver pulls out anyway and nails the cop. It doesn't matter if you are lit up like a christmas tree, cage drivers can still ignore you.