Mind, Body, Motorcycle: Getting Geared Up For Safety

Mind, Body, Motorcycle: Getting Geared Up For Safety

By Jill Dunphy

Ahh, October in California. After months of scorching heat and blindingly sunny days, this former East Coast gal can finally sit with a warm spiced cider and enjoy the early season rain as I settle down to write this column. For us riders though, the onset of “sweater weather” also means less daylight for riding, and greater than usual chances of riding in poor visibility weather conditions. ‘Tis the season’ – for understanding how we can become more visible to other motorists, and for us to see things better as well.

Several studies, including the well-known Hurt Report, have been conducted with respect to motorcyclists’ “conspicuity:” how easily we are seen by others, and how that contributes to accidents. Motorcycles are much smaller than cars, and lack the large items like windshields and large bumpers that typically alert a motorist to a neighboring vehicle. These reports conclude that the failure of motorists to recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominant cause of motorcycle accidents, and agree that headlights and auxiliary lights, high-visibility (hi-vis) clothing, and retroreflective materials significantly reduce accidents caused by failure to recognize motorcycles. Both offer ways for us to be more visible during every condition: bright sunlight, crappy weather, and darkness.

Hi-vis garments make motorcyclists more conspicuous during the day. They use a pigment that reacts to invisible wavelengths of light that almost seem to vibrate, which attracts the eye. (As a child of the 80s, it clearly attracted mine, if my bulging closet full of neon shirts and accessories at that time was any indication…) Numerous anecdotes of motorists noticing the colors of a rider’s jacket or helmet, rather than the motorcycle itself, can be found in articles, online, and in various forum posts; and studies have shown that motorcyclists wearing hi-vis clothing are 37% less likely to be involved (Wells et al., 2003). Hi-vis colors like yellow, orange, green, and pink, are noticeable in bright sunlight, but really grab your attention in low-light conditions. Some claim that the neon color is fatiguing to the eye after time, which can be important if you frequently ride in a group behind the person with the all-neon jacket. But never fear. Aerostich, a popular retailer of motorcycle riding apparel, tools, luggage, and other accessories, has a color called “hi-vis lime yellow,” which is a natural pigment. Natural pigments are more pleasing to the human eye, yet every bit as visible, as its neon counterpart. You don’t have to commit to a hi-vis jacket though; there are vests, motorcycle luggage, messenger bags, gloves, and helmets and much more available in hi-vis colors!

See page 8 for the complete article…