Be Visible While Riding a Bicycle in Colorado

visibility while riding bicycle

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

May 6, 2022

Top Rated Bicycle Accident Law Firm

Keep yourself visible and safe. My advocacy for cyclists has been continuous for the past 7 years. I believe that cyclists may reduce the chance of a car-on-bike accident by making themselves more visible to drivers.

What I’m about to say is not just “common sense” or wishful thinking. On this issue, the science is unambiguous:

There is a seven-to-one size difference between automobiles and bicycles. By making it easier for drivers to see you, you may reduce the size disparity visibility advantage that automobiles possess.

The majority of car-on-bike accidents happen at night

Perception distance is the distance at which a motorist may first detect your presence in their vision. This indicates that the motorist is aware of something (you) but has not yet identified what they are aware of (a cyclist).

The recognition distance is the distance between a motorist’s initial recognition of you as a cyclist and the point at which the car stops. Because it takes time for a motorist to identify that there is something (you) on the road after first perceiving that there is something (you) on the street, recognition distance is less than perception distance in this situation.

The perception distance for black clothes in the dark is just 75 feet at night. When traveling at 60 miles per hour, drivers have less than a second to respond once they see the bike approaching them. Drivers had fewer than two seconds to react once they saw a bike, even at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (mph).

The perception distance for reflective material at night varies between 1,200 and 2,200 feet.

It is possible to see up to 2,200 feet in the daylight while wearing high-visibility clothes.

The nighttime recognition distance for reflective material varies from 600 to 700 feet in complete darkness, but it drops to 260 to 325 feet when the backdrop illumination is higher. The perception distance for high-visibility apparel may rise from 150 feet to 560 feet when used at night.

It is possible and recommended that cyclists use a variety of conspicuity-enhancing tactics to improve their visibility to automobiles. A chance encounter with these conspicuity-enhancing tactics in the actual world presented itself to me recently, which was unexpected. In Silicon Valley for an event, the venue was in Cupertino, Colorado, located on the border between Cupertino and Sunnyvale, and the event was in Cupertino, Colorado. According to the League of American Bicyclists, both communities have been classified as Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Communities. This certification was prominently displayed along the route connecting the two cities.

As I was making my way to the venue, I spotted a big group of bicycles, around 20 in number, who seemed to be taking part in a guided cycling tour of some kind. What particularly stuck out and caught my eye as the group was waiting for the traffic signal to change was their attire–every single one of the riders was wearing a brilliant yellow-green safety vest.

To be honest, the brightly colored safety vests were so effective at grabbing my attention that I didn’t even notice that all of the cyclists had stopped at the traffic light, demonstrating that they had completely failed to be the lawbreakers that cyclists’ detractors routinely falsely accuse them of being.

Some drivers would assert that “Bicyclists DO NOT Observe LAWS…EVER,” despite extensive proof showing many bikers do follow the rules of the road. This is due to a psychological phenomenon known as confirmation bias (and likewise, many drivers do not follow the laws). According to the definition, confirmation bias occurs when we hunt for information that supports our pre-existing beliefs while disregarding or ignoring data that contradicts our pre-existing beliefs.

The following is an example of confirmation bias in action: Drivers who think that “Bicyclists do not observe the law…ever” will come across several cases of bicycles breaching the law on their commute. Some of those examples will be clear violations of the law, while others will be more subtle. However, some of these will be cases in which the rider complies with the law, but the driving is either unaware of or unconcerned about the road rules. Having made up your mind that cyclists are lawbreakers, you are unlikely to be influenced by data that contradict your viewpoint.

Confirmation bias has both positive and negative effects. However, you will not see the numerous examples of motorists acting cautiously and courteously, which are plenty. It is impossible to locate several instances of drivers acting recklessly, which might damage or kill you if you are a cyclist who thinks that all vehicles are out to murder us.

However, on that particular day in Sunnyvale, I wasn’t seeking proof of bikes violating the law or even evidence of riders respecting the law. Suddenly, I became aware of a big group of cyclists, all of whom were wearing bright, high-visibility safety vests, while I was seeking entry to my location. And as I passed by other bikes, I observed that they were all wearing neon hi-viz safety vests or jackets, which I thought was cool.

In a way, this should have seemed like a triumph of sorts. For years, I had been campaigning for this cause. The rumor had spread across the community. Almost every biker adhered to the same kinds of safety precautions that were previously recommended on the road. Despite this, it did not seem like a triumph in the least. While watching the bikers ride down the road that day, all of whom were wearing high-visibility apparel; I couldn’t help but wonder, “What have we done?”

Neither “we” as riders nor “we” as advocates for riding safety are correct. But, as a culture, what type of roads have we built where cyclists must take exceptional care in the hope that they will make        it back home alive is a mystery. Cyclists are urged to dress in high-visibility clothing and to ride with lights, especially during daylight.

They are also recommended to wear a helmet, even though bicycle helmets are not intended to protect against the kinds of high-impact crashes that occur in a car-on- bike accident. Though it may seem “normal,” do you think we’d think it’s normal if we told drivers to purchase vehicles painted in high-visibility colors, to turn on their headlights even on a bright sunny day, and to wear helmets while driving? What if we told people to make sure they’re wearing a brilliant yellow safety vest with flashing lights, as well as a helmet, every time they go walking?

While it is true that drivers have safety measures in place, it should be noted that these measures are mandatory and built-in: Everything from seatbelts to crumple zones to side-impact safety to airbags is mandated and built-in. Think about it: the safety precautions we demand drivers are designed to reduce the risk of injury to the driver and other passengers at the time of an accident.

Because they don’t do anything to prevent an accident from occurring in the first place, which is the purpose of safety measures such as high-visibility clothes, they aren’t effective. Manufacturers do their utmost to equip automobiles with improved braking systems, but such systems are meant to counteract (and are counteracted by) the higher speeds produced by powerful engines.

It is not just the high speeds reached by hazardous automobiles. Setting excessively high-speed restrictions themselves might cause additional accidents, which is especially true when they are not enforced. In addition, cars going at much greater or lower speeds than other vehicles on the same route are the most deadly of all.

When we paint a line on the road in the United States, we know that bicycles are often unable to go at the same pace as automobiles. We require drivers to drive on one side of the line and cyclists to ride on the other. This is precisely what occurs when we increase the speed limit on a route used by both vehicles and bicycles.

Bikers are separated from multi-ton cars traveling at speeds two or more times faster than the bike by just a few centimeters. Even though experienced cyclists may have grown accustomed to a sense of danger while riding in traffic, the majority of people who are new to cycling may find that the feeling that their lives are in danger can quickly become the norm for their overall cycling experience, according to the American Cycling Association. Unsure cyclists may feel that the painted lines on the street (sometimes known as “the bike lane”) would protect them until they have their first near encounter.

The use of high-visibility clothing is effective. Paying attention when driving, on the other hand, is essential. Just the other day, I was driving along a rural road as the sun was about to set. The visibility along the forest-lined road was dwindling, and up ahead were three bicycles, all dressed in greys and other muted colors, who were about to pass.

Because I was paying attention, I was able to see them even in the absence of high-visibility clothing and lighting. I would have spotted them much sooner if they had been wearing high-visibility clothing since that is exactly what it does for you, but I did see them nonetheless. “It’s a marvel that reckless drivers don’t harm and kill even more cyclists than they already do,” I’ve remarked before. Despite this, when a cyclist is hurt or killed by negligent driving, the most common justification used by the driver is “I didn’t see the            rider.” It’s like a talisman that suddenly protects you from being accused of negligence: “I didn’t see the bicycle at all.”

However, it is not a talisman. It is not an acceptable reason. Even worse, it isn’t even an explanation.

“I didn’t see the bicycle,” on the other hand, is nearly usually an admission of carelessness.”

Every cyclist who wears high-visibility clothing seems to be a success for rider safety. Still, in reality, it is simply another example of how we have transferred responsibility for cycling safety away from cars and onto the shoulders of cyclists themselves. A very strong reason we must take our safety seriously is that drivers do not take it seriously, our traffic authorities do not take it seriously, our legislators do not take it seriously, and our law enforcement and judicial systems do not take it seriously.

While we must be aware of our safety, we should not get complacent in believing that we are doing enough if we are concerned about our safety. It is not up to standard. A better technique to safeguard people’s lives while they are riding bicycles has to be developed. In truth, there is a better way to do things. In addition, I’ve already said that.

A new type of ripple effect occurs when people realize that their safety is taken seriously and that riding is safe not just for the strong and courageous but for “everyone from 8 to 80,” according to the authors. Positive ripples are evident in the Netherlands and Denmark, where individuals are aware that their safety is a social priority.

Therefore we know they are present and active. The sheer number of individuals who ride in these countries—everyday, ordinary people who may not even consider themselves “cyclists”—demonstrates that when people believe their safety is taken seriously, they will ride.

Being a powerful and brave rider, or a risk-taker, or highly trained, is not required. Nor is it essential to use helmets and lights or to ride in neon or fluorescent colors. The only thing required is to prioritize rider safety, stop transferring responsibility for accidents from

negligent drivers to their victims, and stop normalizing and excusing unsafe driving. Because of these actions, individuals feel comfortable and are more likely to take the bus or ride their bicycle because they know they will arrive safely at their destination.

This should be the ultimate objective of any bicycling-friendly town, shouldn’t it? For people to feel so comfortable riding their bikes that they know they’ll get home safely at the end of each day, shouldn’t this be the ultimate goal? Such safety, true safety, does not come from painted lines on the road, bicycle helmets, or high-visibility clothing and accessories.

It derives from the effective items: Bike lanes and highways; stricter requirements for obtaining and maintaining a driver’s license; shifting the burden of proof in traffic collisions away from cyclists; lower speed limits on streets where it is not possible to separate car and bicycle traffic; passing laws that close the legal “donut hole” between minor traffic violations and reckless driving; and stricter enforcement of the law are all recommendations.

As a result, vast numbers of people ride their bicycles because it feels safe for “everyone from 8 to 80,” according to these traffic safety methods used in nations where cyclist safety is taken seriously.

However, we are citizens of this nation. So, should bikers wear high-visibility clothing (or continue to do so)? On highways where cycling safety is not taken seriously (which is nearly every road in our nation), high-visibility clothing may assist riders in being visible and remaining safe. Is there anything more we can do? Yes.

Bicycling is a safe and healthy exercise, and it can be made even safer by taking the necessary measures and paying close attention to your safety. Real progress toward making riding even safer is feasible, but we haven’t quite reached that point yet. Despite this, no sports activity can ever be considered fully risk-free.

Despite your best efforts, there will always be a slight chance that you may sustain an injury. In most cases, whether a bicycle accident is caused by one person’s negligence or by the negligence of another (for example, a collision with an car or a defective cycling product), it is the result of someone’s negligence–whether it is the driver’s negligence, the cyclist’s negligence, the negligence of both drivers and cyclists, or the negligence of the local government responsible for the condition of the roads and trails.

Whether the motorist was negligent (or whether the government agency responsible for maintaining the roads was irresponsible, or whether the maker of a faulty bicycle product was negligent), the rider has a legal right to be reimbursed for his or her injuries.

Please call bicyclelaw.com or another personal injury attorney familiar with biking if you have been hurt while riding a bicycle. While many lawyers are capable of handling general injury claims, you should ensure that your attorney has the expertise and is knowledgeable with the following areas:

  • Traffic regulations for bicyclists
  • Dealing with insurance providers in the aftermath of bicycle
  • Taking bicycle accident cases to trial in a court of law
  • There is a widespread bias against bicycles held by motorists and jurors.
  • The names and functions of all bicycle components are listed
  • The speed at which the motorcycles move, as well as their braking and turning,
  • Bicycle handling methods and procedures, as well as bicycle customs
  • How to get property damage estimates for your bicycle that are equal to the full replacement
  • value of the bicycle
  • Determining the monetary worth of missed riding time
  • The world’s leading bicycle accident reconstruction specialists
  • Licensed forensic bicycle engineers are

It is necessary to establish the monetary worth of permanently impaired riding abilities.

For a free consultation with bicycle attorney Jeremy D. Earle, JD, please visit Warrior.law if you have been hurt in a bicycle accident, whether it was a solo accident that may have been caused by  another party’s carelessness or a collision with another person.

719-300-1110 is the best ways to reach us if you have questions concerning a collision, your rights, or advocacy issues.

Warrior Car Accident Lawyers

1902 W. Colorado Ave., Suite 100

Colorado Springs, CO 80904

719-300-1100

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