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What do you think? Encouraging high-vis gear

Posted by on December 12th, 2014 at 12:16 pm

People on Bikes - Copenhagen Edition-48-48

Can’t miss this guy.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Publisher’s note: “What do you think?” is a new series we’re trying out where we gauge your opinion and ask for feedback on a specific topic. Think of it as our version of those ridiculous and annoying reader polls you see on other sites so often. — Jonathan

It seems innocent enough: When days get shorter and people are commuting in the dark, transportation agencies will often encourage people to wear bright-colored and reflective clothing, use lights, and so on. That might sound like important, common sense information to some of you; but to others it’s a cringe-worthy offense. To them it’s a form of victim blaming that actually results in ever more dangerous streets.

This week, both TriMet and the Portland Bureau of Transportation promoted high-visibility cycling.

TriMet did it as part of their annual “Be Seen. Be Safe.” campaign. I got an email yesterday asking me to enter a contest to win a “bike visibility kit”. The $135 kit includes a flourescent yellow helmet cover, a reflective safety patch, hi-vis gloves, and a rear light. “Make yourself visible to drivers and cyclists around you!” the promotion urged.

vis-trimetlead

Then PBOT’s Active Transportation Division got into the act with this tweet

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… which was quickly followed by a number of negative responses from their followers…

vis-tweets

I agree that it’s a good idea to remind folks to be as visible as possible while riding. And I don’t think these critics would have any trouble with a general message like that. What gets their dander up is the added suggestion that to conform to expected norms you need to dress like a traffic cone.

After all, in places with very good bicycle safety and high rates of bicycle use, like Copenhagen, people don’t wear high-vis gear. Check out the image below, which shows randomly selected riders from Copenhagen and Portland. Can you tell which is which?

ppl-bikes

(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Like the Helmet Debate, this is an issue where people tend to be passionately entrenched on one side or the other.

What do you think? Should we encourage agencies to tone down these types of messages — or stop them altogether? Or is high-visibility gear so important to people’s safety that it should be promoted whenever and however possible?

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

301 Comments
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    dan December 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I think that construction workers wear high-viz for a reason, same thing for hunters and their blaze orange vests. I think we can get the mindset change that the anti-high-viz set wants by enforcing our existing laws: 3 feet to pass, yield to bikes in bike lanes, bring menacing charges for deliberately threatening behavior, etc. If all that happened, then high-viz clothing wouldn’t be any more of an excuse for poor driving than the current requirement that cars need headlights at night.

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      9watts December 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      What Would Vision Zero Say?

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        Scott Kocher December 12, 2014 at 6:08 pm

        Vision Zero says neon isn’t the problem. Vision Zero says serious crashes are unacceptable, and their causes can be identified and addressed in many incremental steps by many agencies. The FAA has applied this lens to aviation safety, with phenomenal success.

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          9watts December 13, 2014 at 9:32 am

          “Vision Zero says neon isn’t the problem.”
          Exactly. And I might even go one half step further and argue that Vision Zero says the thinking that suggests neon is the problem is a problem, a distraction from the important work we need to do.

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            Rob Chapman December 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm

            When a public agency like Trimet suggests that it takes $135 worth of special equipment to be “safe” I’m left to wonder what in the hell they are smoking. Anything to ignore the real problem, crappy drivers.

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      John Lascurettes December 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      For the record, bicycles require a working headlight at night too.

      I’m amazed at all the ninjas out there every winter. It’s ironic to me that the front white light is required while the rear red light is optional (reflector needed at minimum), but so many riders choose to outfit themselves with only a rear light.

      Here’s the deal, if I’m in a car coming up behind you, my headlights light you up (and if you have even the smallest bit of reflective target, that lights super bright up too). I have no trouble seeing a bike in my headlights. However, in my rear or sideview mirror, I cannot see a bicycle rider without a white light in many cases. There’s been times that I’ve only made out a cyclist because of the silhouette they cast when headlights are behind them.

      As far as high-viz clothing goes, it certainly should never be a requirement any more than helmets for adults should be a requirement. That said, personally, I wear a helmet and tend to wear a brighter jacket (no dayglo though) with a reflective accent somewhere – that’s my choice. If people have their working front light and rear reflector/light, there’s no real need for them to do anything special with their clothing.

      I do really like using tires with reflective sidewalls though. They’re amazingly effective in both being visible as well as making it immediately understood that it’s a bike in front of the lights that are lighting it up.

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        was carless December 13, 2014 at 6:31 pm

        Yeah, I avoid day-glo. I do have an orange fluorescent showers pass emergency rain jacket, but I rarely wear it, instead opting for more reasonable attire. Clothes that I can actually wear at work during the day and not look like an idiot.

        Also, cycling cleats: just why?

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        Carl November 10, 2015 at 4:58 pm

        Agreed. One of the less commented-on aspects of biking in places like Copenhagen is that everyone–EVERYONE–has a headlight and taillight, and everyone signals when they turn.

        This seems like a sensible precaution, that assumes people will dress like people, and let the vehicle handle the visibility precautions (just as we do when driving a car).

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          soren November 11, 2015 at 8:28 am

          And lots of beater bikes with nonfunctional/deficient lighting.

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      gutterbunnybikes December 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      As a construction worker (and one that often operates heavy equipment) Hi Vis doesn’t work very well. It only works when one is in the headlights, and within roughly the foremost 33% of your field of vision. So in reality you’re already in someones sights if they see you with or without hi-vis.

      The further you get from center of the field of vision you (all of us) loose color detection. Feel free to look it up, I’m probably being generous (might be as low as front 15-20%).

      And to use construction workers as an example of safety is ridiculous. I wear the gear at work because the fines OSHA can impose are huge.

      Myself as an iron worker (mind you one of the most dangerous trades there is in construction) can honestly say that the closest I have come to falling – in well over a decade in the trade, has always been the result of tripping on or malfunction (in these cases they worked too well) of a of said “safety gear”. Never once has it saved me.

      And sometimes the safety gear might save you from one situation and kill you in another. For example if you fall with a harness on, you’ll likely survive the fall (if it doesn’t fail—not an uncommon occurrence) but if you aren’t rescued from hanging on the line in 3 minutes, you run the risk of a heart attack upon pickup because the harness blocks the blood flow from legs to the rest of the body and once the pressure is relieved, there is a good chance that it all comes at the heart at once. Three minutes isn’t very long, and in the case of 30 foot fall, you’ll likely survive without safety gear. But the regulations on tying off/harness are for anything over 3 or 6 feet depending on the state. So someone could die from a heart attack from using a harness on a what could have otherwise been a broken limb from an eight foot fall.

      For the most part most safety gear and regulations in construction are not designed by people in the field who actually use the stuff and do the work, but by an large is designed by “experts” who work in little cubicles inventing more ways to keep their jobs relevant (be it safety inspectors, safety professionals, or insurance companies)- not very different than the bicycle safety industry as well.

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        Pete December 14, 2014 at 10:13 am

        You nailed it. My most reflective cycling clothing is black. Some of my brightest hi-vis stuff I would never wear at night. I recently outfitted my wife’s bike with reflective tires because she was nearly hit at a 4-way stop when the second driver back didn’t see her (bright lights) from the side and rolled a California stop.

        When I took LCI training we video’d ourselves riding 500′ away from and back to a stopped car’s headlights. The reflective tires (and my LG jacket) were the brightest things by far (blowing even most lights away!), and the day glo stuff was nearly invisible (hence the name I guess).

        I think something overlooked here is that the reflectivity of these materials comes from years of roadway paint research, maybe a bit more effective than your safety harnesses, and trying to solve a general problem with hurling mass quickly forward in the dark. Having been lectured once for wearing a black jersey on a bright sunny day I’m on the fence about PSAs that teach drivers that bicyclists and pedestrians are the problem, but that’s also just noise I can filter out and focus on simply keeping myself as safe as possible at night. Most people will still believe what they want to, and frankly a campaign like this is really just a checked box on some OSHA-like form.

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        wsbob December 17, 2014 at 12:41 am

        “As a construction worker (and one that often operates heavy equipment) Hi Vis doesn’t work very well. It only works when one is in the headlights, and within roughly the foremost 33% of your field of vision. So in reality you’re already in someones sights if they see you with or without hi-vis. …” gutterbunnybikes

        Your opinion, is that hi-vis doesn’t work very well. When you say hi-vis, it seems you’re implying the reflective material, as well as the colors. Depending on situations and conditions, that gear does work very much better in aiding visibility of people using it, than gear that isn’t hi-vis.

        With my own eyes, I’ve seen the improvement in visibility the gear can provide. The improvement offered is something I’ve heard many other people speak of as well, as seen with their own eyes. Granted, the gear can’t offer perfect protection against collision. Nor is it really necessary in all riding situations and conditions, though I don’t think safety campaigns maintain that it is. Use of the gear, when and where, is one of the basic bike knowledge considerations, people that ride can benefit from having understanding of.

        Some of the other info offered in your comment about construction worker body safety harnesses, was interesting and valuable to know though.

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      Jeffrey December 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Nitpicking a bit here, but 3 feet to pass isn’t actually a law in Oregon. The law states “safe distance” and 3 feet is is just one guideline that people use.

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        El Biciclero December 15, 2014 at 9:33 am

        The law states that passing distance must be sufficient to avoid hitting a cyclist if they were to fall into your lane. I call it Oregon’s six-foot passing law. Too bad it isn’t understood or enforced.

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        one December 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm

        On rural roads with a speed limit of 35mph or higher in OR, people driving motor vehicles must give a minimum of 3 feet of passing space while passing people on bicycles.

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          El Biciclero December 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm

          Regardless of location (rural, narrow road, etc.) the law still requires essentially six feet of passing clearance, but you make a good point: the rule goes away in the presence of a bike lane (doesn’t matter if a cyclist is riding in it or out of it), or when the speed of the motor vehicle is less than 35 mph.

          I don’t like these exceptions because a) they mean a driver at any speed, e.g., 50 mph may pass me with no minimum clearance as long as there is a bike lane present (even if I am near the left edge of the bike lane or have temporarily moved out of it to avoid a hazard), and b) 35 mph seems really fast for not requiring any minimum clearance.

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    Buzz December 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I will never be seen wearing Hi-Vis clothing; I ride in my regular clothes and all my lights and reflectors are on my bike, where they belong.

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      John Lascurettes December 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Yup. Lights front and back and reflective sidewalls on my bike. No need to add dayglo silliness to that. I do tend to look for winter gloves with a bit of reflective piping on them to make hand signals a little more obvious though.

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    Champs December 12, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Come as you are. To hell with style fascists and safety freaks alike. Wear what you like, it’s fine by me.

    My own style is never really down with the construction worker look. Lycra’s great when I’m on the open road in a way that cargo shorts and a wife beater just don’t when I ride my single speed around the city on a hot day. Your mileage may vary.

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    Jim December 12, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Well, I like runners and walkers to wear some reflective gear on MUPs so I have no problem asking cyclists to wear reflective gear on roads. It’s a cooperation issue and helps us all get along.

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      Janet Lafleur December 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      But runners and walkers don’t have bike lights. Light the bike, not the rider.

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        Peter R December 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

        I run with a headlamp at night. Anything to make me more visible.

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        Doug Rosser December 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        I ride along North Willamette Boulevard on my commute. Lots and lots of walkers and joggers wear both hi-vis as well as both red “blinkies” and “headlights” when it’s dark.

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        soren December 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

        i’ve seen an increasing number of runners/joggers wearing head bands with lights, day-glo reflective clothing, and sometimes even a red flashing bike light hanging from a loop on their derrière. i suspect that back packs with safety triangles and red flags could be the next safety innovation for runners and walkers.

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        wsbob December 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm

        As others here have noted, some people that walk and bike, are hip to the effectiveness of hi-vis, reflectivity and lights. Some carry flashlights, lanterns. They put blinkies on their dog’s collar. I see this up on Fairmount Blvd (around Council Crest.).The street does have street lights, but has many dark sections and shadowy areas. In conditions such as are there, the improvement in visibility of someone using the gear, over people not using it, is huge.

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          dr2chase December 12, 2014 at 7:10 pm

          Dog eyeballs are retroreflective (for white, not amber, guess how I know), and they hear something as quiet as a bicycle, so they will look and reveal themselves if you are running lights as small as 3 watts. There’s no need for more, unless you are talking about exceptionally careless road users.

          For people, pedal reflectors and reflective trim on tennis shoes, or the glow from a cell phone are all adequate. Reflective piping on a jacket or backpack is a huge bonus, but I cannot depend on that.

          I share space with pedestrians on various MUPS after dark, and these things are entirely adequate for me, and I wear bifocals. Of course, I may not be typical, because I do actually have zero tolerance for hitting pedestrians, and if I insist that *other* people change their behavior to meet *my* goals, I can be pretty sure that I won’t meet my goals. (A corollary of this is that any instance of “didn’t see” or “almost hit” is MY mistake, not their mistake.)

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    Dave December 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    seasonal speed limit changes?

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      paikiala December 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Or maybe some sort of Rule that would be Basic to every situation, requiring all road users to adjust speed and behavior according to current conditions. Maybe with a snappy name like,… Basic Rule.

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      Cheif December 12, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Or just keep em low all year long..

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    Alex Graham December 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm
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    encephalopath December 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    If they want to hand out safety advice maybe they should provide some evidence that high-vis actually does something useful first.

    If this stuff is so invaluable to cycling safety it should be really easy prove, right?

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      lyle w. December 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      And watch how much the PPB cares about the safety of cyclists when you call them to report being harassed and/or reckless and threatening driving directed at you as you’re on your bike.

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        BG December 12, 2014 at 1:15 pm

        My most recent experience was being refused the ability to report because I waited until I got to my office instead of calling from the side of a road with only a narrow bike lane. They also directed me to a neighborhood policing center for N PDX who never returned my call.

        Why don’t we focus more resources on enforcing traffic laws?

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      Dweendaddy December 12, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      The incidental economist weighed in on the evidence around this:
      http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/argh-bike-safety-edition-also-i-dont-get-how-we-make-policy-sometimes/

      Basically, daytime running lights decreased cycling injuries in Denmark in a well designed study by 20%. I run daytime running lights on my car. I run daytime running lights on my bike.

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        Adam H. December 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        I recently got a dynamo light for my bike, so daytime running lights cost me no effort or extra battery. All good commuter bikes should have dynamos IMO.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

          I used to have dynamo lights and was a big believer … .Until someone snipped the wire and stole it off my bike while it was parked in NW Portland.

          Since that happened, I will never use dynamo lights on my city bike again. bummer.

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            Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database) December 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm

            Even without dynamo lights, there are so many conveniently rechargeable lights available these days, that there’s no reason not to have lights on even in the daytime. I always have lights on when riding in traffic, regardless of the time of day. I have fewer close passes and cars pulling out in front of me compared to when I didn’t ride with daytime lights.

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            Todd Hudson December 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

            Jonathan, someone tried to steal mine (they must have been interrupted), so I did this: cut up an old inner tube, and wrap/tie it around the light’s base (the part that at attaches to the head tube) so the screws/bolts cannot easily be accessed. Wrap it up like a mummy. Then, take some Shoe Goo and smother the head of the bolt that keeps it in place (opposite side of the head tube). The result is a dynamo light that is a PIA to remove! See pics below:

            http://i.imgur.com/HHoOLHF.png
            http://i.imgur.com/ZANfSsa.png

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              Rob Chapman December 12, 2014 at 2:36 pm

              That’s a great tip Todd, thanks for sharing.

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              Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

              Thanks for that Todd. Maybe I gave up too easily. If I ever get a new front dynamo light, I’ll definitely take some of your tips.

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                Editz December 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

                You might try replacing the mounting bolt with a Pitlock, but the mount itself is pretty thin and wouldn’t likely stand up to a bolt cutter. Thieves would still probably snip the wires even if they bothered to notice the connectors pull out from the light.

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            Champs December 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm

            Jonathan: c’mon now, you’ve already had an entire bike stolen due to absentmindedness. Surely over the long run you’d get more mileage from a dynamo light with some theft deterrent than remembering to take the lights off every time.

            My girlfriend is already halfway to a Supernova.

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            MaxD December 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm

            That is a very strong reaction and a complete 180! From “strong believer” to “will never use again”. I am so surprised by this, would you be willing to elaborate a bit more? Do you now use removable lights? Is your unwillingness to buy a replacement light because of cost? What else drove that decision?

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              Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm

              Yes. Now I use removable lights.

              I never thought someone would snip the wire on my dynamo light. And yes, it’s a big expense to get a new one. Like I said above, I suppose I shouldn’t be so rash and I should try to take some anti-theft measures like Todd has done.

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                Todd Hudson December 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

                After getting a bike *completely* stripped (never park your bike at a MAX station), I came up with some MacGuyver anti-theft solutions. Mostly Shoe Goo and old tubes.

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                dr2chase December 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm

                If I may briefly rant…

                We’re doing lights way the F wrong. Lights are cheap. I build my own. Anyone with modest soldering skills can do the same.

                PCB is $3 (but you cannot buy fewer than 3).
                4 Diodes are $2.
                2 small caps are $1.65.
                Big cap is $3.60.
                1 terminal block is $1.40
                (total, $11.65)

                This solders into a cylindrical lump that is 110mm x 22mm.
                Yes, I have one of these in the seat tube of one of my bicycles.
                This converts Hub AC into unregulated DC —
                but note that modern high-power LEDs can suck down all the current a hub can supply, so there is no need for more regulation, and the largish cap kills most of the flicker.

                White LEDs are $9.17 each. I use two.
                Lenses and holders are a $1.50 for the pair, I used two (one spot, one elliptical).
                $21.34 for the front lights.

                Red, red-orange, and amber LEDs are $3.60 each.

                $36.60 for electrical parts and lenses, front and rear.

                Get two bell clamps, some aluminum angle, appropriate longish bolts and some nuts, epoxy, and some acrylic mirror from a craft store. That makes your front light, bolted to your handlebars. Your rear light might just be epoxied to an aluminum scrap bolted to a fender. It’s not enough to clip wires (and if they did, just wire-nut or solder them back together again), they’ve also got to undo the two bell clamps, and the resale value on the lights is zip, especially after the bozo thief touches an unregulated battery to them and ruins them.

                And this is damn bright; on my main bike, I also have two ambers with lenses in front activated by a toggle switch; those are my low beams.

                More here: https://dr2chase.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/lights-for-a-beater-bike/

                PCB source: https://oshpark.com/shared_projects/QSplfQc6

                I have these cheap lights on two of my four bikes and all three of my kid’s bikes. My other two bikes have more experimental (and expensive) better circuits. One of my children has experimentally tested how the circuit works after it has been soaked in rain water (it continues to work) and one of them has been outdoors in Massachusetts for about 6 years now. There is no off switch; if the bike runs, they run.

                The better circuit is better, but more expensive, and not necessarily as water-tolerant.

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                Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database) December 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

                Ain’t nobody got time for that!

                (I mean, I’ve made some of my own lights too. But you can get a great set of rechargeable lights for $70, and for many people it’s worth that $40 price difference not to be messing around with trying to solder things and such.)

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                dr2chase December 13, 2014 at 5:27 am

                Nathan, I do understand that it’s not for everyone, but if you’re going to also recommend cheap battery-powered lights, and also complain about people riding around with undercharged batteries….

                When I started building my own lights the choices were not nearly so good, and when I went to put lights on my kids’ bikes (lights that I wanted to always be on at night), I had to consider the cost, possibility of whole-bike theft (we’ve lost two), and durability in the face of the usual abuse. I’ve had notably poor experience with top-dollar equipment and weather. The choice to not include an off switch improves reliability, reduces cost, and increases the chances that my kids will have lights on after dark — it was a happy accident to later learn that this was also a proven safety feature, even in a place where cycling was relatively safe (Denmark, the study is paywalled, but it looks like DRLs cut your daytime with-a-car collision risk by 50% http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2012.07.006 — and this study was a RCT, not blinded for obvious reasons though they tried to adjust for that, but otherwise the real deal).

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                Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database) December 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

                dr2chase –

                Just to clarify, the lights I recommend are predominantly rechargeable lights with regulated output. Undercharged isn’t an option, because the lights output a mostly constant beam until the battery dies, and they typically have a low battery warning of some sort. There’s a lot of options these days that are low-cost but still very effective. I’d love to see more widespread use of dynamos, but let’s face it, they’re expensive and a pain to install, so I understand why more people don’t use them.

                I’ve seen that study before, I do very much agree that having daytime running lights is a good idea; I made a comment somewhere else in this thread about that. I always ride with my lights on regardless of time of day, and encourage others to as well!

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                Todd Boulanger December 12, 2014 at 6:16 pm

                As a dynamo user for 20+ years…they were more theft safe than battery lights until recently when two things happened: their price / quality became “high” and the thieves found a market for them. Thieves would steal anything else on my bike but my dynamo set up…

                So yes, Jonathan, given them a second chance with the counter measures and perhaps a little less blingy gear…since if you gave up the first time your bike /bike gear got stolen you might be writing a new blog like: [Skateboarding] Portland or similar. ;0

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            John Lascurettes December 12, 2014 at 3:10 pm

            Jonathan, several coworkers have gone to using the Magnic Lights (that are more easily detached and put in a bag). They have all the benefits of dyno lights (powered by the wheel, not batteries) with the benefits of battery lights (easily detached and stored).

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            Adam H. December 15, 2014 at 9:07 am

            I had my local bike shop glue a ball bearing into the screw securing the light to the frame.

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          soren December 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm

          sorry but i still believe my commuter bikes are “good” even though they lack daylight running lights and dynamos.

          these types of absolute assertions about how other people should commute/cycle are not only somewhat rude but are often based on nothing more than personal opinion and anecdote.

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      Bay Area Rider December 12, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Just say this video yesterday. Give you a chance to see what a driver sees with different options for lights and clothes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZRXlrJ3Mi0

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        NE Portland Rider December 13, 2014 at 10:27 am

        Great video

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        Pete December 14, 2014 at 11:54 am

        Despite all this cultural commentary, the PBOT tweet actually just succinctly summarizes the findings in this video.

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    Tim December 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Isn’t winter drab enough without everyone wearing grey and black.

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      MaxD December 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      not drab, refined-sophisticated even!

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    Brian Davis December 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    The (perceived) need for high visibility clothing is a symptom of a greater problem with the design of our infrastructure, the enforcement of existing laws, and the sense that driving is the “normal” activity on roadways while cycling and walking are “other” activities that require special gear. By focusing on the symptom rather than the problem itself, we allow the underlying issues to continue and exacerbate.

    The inescapable fact is that, in a busy, vibrant urban area, it’s simply not safe to drive faster than an absolute crawl (10 to 12 mph tops) in the less-than-ideal conditions associated with a December night in Portland. Unfortunately, we are not willing to ask that of drivers, so we get these initiatives instead. Hi viz may well be effective as a way to reduce your own personal risk of being struck relative to that of other people walking & cycling, but it will do nothing to increase the overall safety of the system.

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      davemess December 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      “the sense that driving is the “normal” activity on roadways while cycling and walking are “other” activities that require special gear.”

      I see your point, but remember that cars have lots of visibility features built in (and required by law) like lights and reflectors. Maybe we just need to make those required on bikes as well.

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        davemess December 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm

        And I should add: ‘”required” as they require the manufactures to build bikes with those safety features (don’t make the onus just on the rider to fix their errors). Can you imagine if car owners had to go to the store and buy and affix their own array of variable head and tail lights?

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          Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database) December 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm

          I don’t think it makes sense to require they be built in to bikes. There are too many different types of lights for different types of riding. Requiring they be built in will just lead to a proliferation of low-quality, low-brightness lights that don’t actually do much good – places selling cheap bikes will try to minimize any additional cost. The marginal cost of lights in a car are low, especially because the engine’s already providing power. With bikes, you have to consider the weight vs. runtime of the light, how bright it is, etc. A mountain biker and a city commuter’s needs are different, but you can’t just tie it to the bike type, because plenty of people commute on mountain bikes.

          I would maybe support requiring that lights to be purchased at point-of-sale or the user showing that they already owns bike lights that they will install themselves.

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            davemess December 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

            “A mountain biker and a city commuter’s needs are different,”

            Sure but making at least a minimum threshold wouldn’t be that bad, and then people could just add more lights/power as they need it.

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        Howard Lovecraft December 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

        Bicycles (not bicycle operators) already are required to have reflectors and lights for low-light, low-visibility operation.

        The hi-viz craze is just another marketing campaign capitalizing on the institutionalization of distracted driving and the institutionalization of victims being responsible for others mistakes (‘the rider crushed by the truck was not wearing a helmet’).

        No amount of blinkies or hi-viz or reflective garb will protect the vulnerable road user from careless and distracted operation of a motor vehicle.

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    OnTheRoad December 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I wear hi-vis clothing and use lights because I don’t want a driver who might hit me to be able to use the excuse “I didn’t see him.”

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      Bjorn December 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      And there is the problem with government agencies running these blame the victim awareness campaigns, they reinforce the idea that it is a reasonable excuse to say I didn’t see them when you hit someone who isn’t dressed like a traffic cone, even if you were doing something illegal at the time of the collision.

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        paikiala December 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm

        So, riders have no responsibility to stay safe? Courts generally assign blame proportional to the actions, or inactions, of the parties involved.

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          9watts December 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm

          “So, riders have no responsibility to stay safe?
          The danger to life and limb emanates in the majority of cases from the person driving the car, either driving too fast for conditions, or failing to pay sufficient attention, or some combination of both. As such, you’d think that the chief responsibility would lie with those piloting the vehicle. As El Biciclero has said here many times, anticipating the need to jump out of the way of an inattentive driver is something we probably would be wise to learn, but this is a defensive strategy rather than, properly speaking, a responsibility of ours when biking.

          “Courts generally assign blame proportional to the actions, or inactions, of the parties involved.”

          Except when someone was *not* in a car. They get nothing.

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          dr2chase December 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm

          But inaction is usually relative to laws not obeyed that contributed to the crash, or actions not taken to avoid an obviously imminent collision — i.e., if there is someone standing in the road, even though they are jaywalking, if you have time to stop, it is against the law to run into them. Dinging cyclists for not being more visible than the legal standard is like dinging drivers who skid for not using a car with ABS brakes. And the legal standard for cyclist visibility is 100% utterly silent on clothing choices, so there is no possible law that dressing in flat black breaks.

          In practice (especially in places like NYC) drivers are not even expected to obey all of the laws — most recently, a driver seen on video driving over a little girl legally in a crosswalk with her grandmother escaped all prosecution and had his tickets voided.

          Again — and this is phenomenally irritating to me — admitted driver failure to conform to the basic speed law, “I didn’t see him in time”, “the sun was in my eyes”, etc, is considered exonerating, but failure to obey imaginary dress code laws is considered to be contributory. This is a wee bit of a double standard if you ask me.

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            9watts December 12, 2014 at 4:56 pm

            comment of the week!

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              Opus the Poet December 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

              I concur, this is the comment of the week, month and year.

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          soren December 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

          can you provide citations suggesting that hi viz clothing significantly reduces cyclist collision risk?

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      Adam H. December 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      They’ll still use that excuse though.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I think similarly about this issue as I do about the helmet issue. When I’m riding my around-town/city bike, I don’t wear a helmet and I don’t wear clothing that’s specifically high-vis. The reason is because I don’t think riding my bike is inherently dangerous… and I don’t like to play a part in the arms race on our streets. We’ll only have peaceful streets when everyone puts down their weapons and focuses on each other instead of only on themselves. I also think that if we expect people to not see us, then people will not see us. When I’m riding my bike, I expect people to see me and not run into me as long as I’m reasonably visible.

    on the flip side, when I go out on my fast road bike on country roads, I always wear a helmet and have several hi-vis jerseys.

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      todd December 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      NO. WAY! You saying you change your behavior based on variable conditions? Seems like a slippery slope into a relativistic quagmire of possibly good and bad decisions all mingling promiscuously, so… confusing? Who will think of the children? What kind of example does it set for them if they can’t rely on SIMPLE UNCHANGING RULES of ALWAYS and NEVER!?

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      wsbob December 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      “…When I’m riding my around-town/city bike, I don’t wear a helmet and I don’t wear clothing that’s specifically high-vis. The reason is because I don’t think riding my bike is inherently dangerous …” maus/bikeportland

      Jonathan, riding your bike amongst motor vehicles in use, is what’s inherently dangerous. Maybe though, you’re somehow managing to ride in town, only where motor vehicles aren’t in use.

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      Carl December 15, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      High-viz can help prevent a crash. Helmets can’t. Helmets signal a cynical acceptance of cars hitting people on bikes — padding the china rather than taming the bull, so to speak. Meanwhile, lights and high-viz shifts some responsibility to car drivers — the bull in the china shop — by taking “he came outta nowhere” off the table as an excuse.

      So: while high-viz and helmet campaigns both have troubling elements of victim blaming, I’d much rather see promotion of lights and reflective stuff than promotion of helmets.

      It’s a conundrum, though: will we ever reach Copenhagen levels of ridership and safety — levels that make wearing all black reasonable — if people think you’ve got to dress like a lightbulb in order to be safe?

      I know one thing: If Trimet really wanted to keep people walking and biking safe, they’d target their safety campaigns at the behaviors that tend to hurt those people: distracted driving, driving under the influence, speeding, and failing to obey crosswalk laws.

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        9watts December 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

        “Meanwhile, lights and high-viz shifts some responsibility to car drivers — the bull in the china shop — by taking “he came outta nowhere” off the table as an excuse.”
        Carl,
        with all due respect, can you point to a single case where high-viz clothing made a whit of difference in our society’s reflexive predisposition toward exonerating drivers running into or over someone walking or cycling? Your sentence above already concedes that they’re going to run into or over us regardless… but, you opine, just won’t have as easy a time using that lame excuse. I have not seen this in action. Wanda Cortese is just one example. There are many more, even in this thread.

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          Carl December 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          You’re missing my point, Ruben. I’m comparing increased visibility measures to helmets.

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    Pat Franz December 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Yeah, a certain amount of reasonable effort to make yourself visible is a good idea, but the bigger part of the equation is the drivers that aren’t paying attention, or just don’t seem to care. Like the Prius just this morning, backing out of a driveway across the bike lane on 52nd. The windows were completely fogged up. All the high vis in the world wouldn’t have helped. I don’t even think a super bright light would have helped.

    That said, I do think clothing that stands out during the day, and lights and reflectives at night is a good idea. Helps with the ordinary driver. But the other drivers- you can die on their whim anytime.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT December 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I notice that there’s no “Slow Down and See” counterpart to the Tri-Met ad campaign.

    And until PBOT gets behind a MASSIVE campaign to educate drivers about their need to yield to peds at an unmarked crosswalks, I really don’t want to be told anything by them.

    I’m tired of the mostly one-way tone of this “conversation.”

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      Justin Carinci December 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Trimet gets criticized hard for this, but the reason they don’t have a counterpart campaign to this (and I’m not assuming you’re asking for Trimet to be the agency to do it) is because it’s not their audience. Trimet is looking out for its passengers: people on foot or on bike. They’re the agency serving every corner of the metro area, including those without sidewalks or bike facilities. They’re operating huge machines that can kill. I think it’s a reasonable request from that standpoint. If it gives the impression that we live in a place that’s not safe to walk or bike? Well, I’ll tell you that’s the wrong impression once east Portland looks a little more like Copenhagen.

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        9watts December 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm

        “it’s not their audience”

        I disagree. What about all those bus posters about how many cars are not on the road because of one bus? Are those also addressed to pedestrians and cyclists? What about the fact that their audience might participate in all those modes, including driving?

        ODOT, PBOT, what about them? They have similar campaigns that follow the same asymmetric logic with most of the exhortations directed at people *not* in cars.

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          Justin Carinci December 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

          What I mean is it’s not the audience for that campaign. They may have campaigns geared toward drivers, but I read this one as geared toward transit riders in their role as transit riders.
          ODOT and PBOT have a far broader role and can actually build safer facilities. Trimet has to live in the world it lives in, and if it can’t build sidewalks and other facilities across its coverage area, it can at least communicate information it believes will make its customers safer.

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            9watts December 13, 2014 at 9:14 am

            “I read this one as geared toward transit riders in their role as transit riders”
            Sure, but why?
            In my view the more logical approach would be to live down this legacy of blaming the weakest class and acknowledge the fact that speed and attention on the part of people driving is what deserves our attention.

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              Justin Carinci December 15, 2014 at 8:52 am

              roach would be to live down this legacy of blaming the weakest class and acknowledge the fact that speed and attention on the part of people driving is what deserves our attention.

              I agree in the broader scope. As a society, yes. As a city or state transportation department, yes. As a transit district, sure, fine. But if they feel they can make more of a difference (or a more immediate difference) by focusing on their individual riders, that is neither blaming riders nor discounting the fact that speed and attention are causes of the problem. It’s their take on the serenity prayer.

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                9watts December 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

                “It’s their take on the serenity prayer.”
                If that is the best they can do we need to put someone else in charge of our transit agency. That is giving up the fight before they even finished tying their shoes.

                God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
                The courage to change the things I can,
                And the wisdom to know the difference.

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                Justin Carinci December 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

                If that’s giving up, I guess I’m reading it wrong. 🙂

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                9watts December 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

                My point was that *as a transit agency* if they feel that browbeating pedestrians is the best they can do then they have misunderstood their position, their ability and responsibility, to tackle this head-on, rather than unimaginatively do what comes easiest, or simply warm up last year’s misbegotten campaign.
                This strikes me as a more general problem with our local and non-local transportation authorities. They don’t seem to recognize the position they are in, or have to guts, to articulate a bolder vision, to throw their weight around a little when it comes to *policy* matters, to changing the inequities in the present.

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    dan December 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Brian Davis
    Hi viz may well be effective as a way to reduce your own personal risk of being struck relative to that of other people walking & cycling, but it will do nothing to increase the overall safety of the system.
    Recommended 2

    I think you’re right about that…however, I’m highly motivated to reduce my own personal risk of being struck 🙂

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    Ben Fleskes December 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Here is another way to think about it. Dark clothes are like camouflage at night. If you want to avoid being seen, dress in dark clothes. If you want to be seen, dress is bright/reflective clothing.

    My opinion: I want to be seen so I wear a bright yellow construction vest, bright yellow backpack cover, bright yellow helmet – all with reflective striping. Top it off with helmet mounted lights (front and back) (and also include bike mounted lights as well). I ride on dark, roads far outside the city core where there simply aren’t many bicycles and cars don’t expect them.

    So I prefer not to camouflage myself. I want to be seen. If somebody else doesn’t want to, I’m okay with that to. But if you expect other (cars and trucks) to share the road with you, it’s best to give them a fair chance at seeing you. How can a car share the road with something that can’t be seen?

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      Bill Walters December 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Well hang on, now. It’s false that a person “can’t be seen.” Otherwise, you know the Pentagon would throw big money around to equip a stealth army of super-soldiers with that magic combination of bikes/walking shoes and ordinary street clothing.

      Really, it’s that people in cars are overdriving their (often age-glazed) headlights and the prevailing conditions in violation of Oregon’s basic speed rule. (See http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/TRAFFIC-ROADWAY/Pages/speed_zone_program.aspx#The_Basic_Rule)

      So, let the “can’t be seen” hyperbole perish and let the outreach campaign fit the crime.

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        Paul in The 'Couve December 12, 2014 at 2:07 pm

        Yes, Even the kid on a BMX bike or skateboard wearing jeans and dark hoodie with no reflectors isn’t invisible. I SEE them all the time. I see pedestrians in dark clothing at the time too. The fact is I see them. They can be seen. It may take paying attention, but they are visible.

        I don’t advocate purposely dressing in dark clothes. I think it very sensible to have some light color at least. I have no problem with people who chose to wear something reflective, or lights. But letting drivers off the hook for the basic rules of 1) paying careful attention to the road environment and 2) driving within the limits of visibility gravels my butt.

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          CaptainKarma December 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm

          I am not arguing. I agree that its the drivers’ ultimate responsibility to see, but I do not trust them to do so. A conundrum: how do you know you saw ALL the dark dressed PEDs? I have seen a few at the last second (luckily) but maybe there have been others that weren’t on a collision course ( but could have changed course abruptly) that I never knew were there…

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            Paul in The 'Couve December 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

            Notice, I didn’t say whether I wear reflective gear or use lights (a lot of the time for the first, always for the second) nor do I discourage other’s or say it is a bad idea to wear reflective clothing.

            I try to drive very cautiously especially in the dark. I very frequently see people and things that apparently campaigns like this suggest I can’t see. I see garbage cans, tree limbs, people, mailboxes, tree and a host of other things that aren’t covered in reflective tape.

            I did have a moment of less than perfect attention recently heading east on turning right onto 20th in the early evening, just past dusk but not quite fully dark. There was a cyclist on 20th I didn’t *notice* until the last second, but when I saw him, I did see him. I should have seen him earlier. I agree it would have helped had he had lights. Also, I can’t really figure out where he came from because I wasn’t that distracted. I speculate he may have come off the sidewalk along Weidler and turn with me into the street on 20th, but really, I didn’t notice him because I wasn’t looking, not because he was invisible. Like I said, I saw him just fine when I swerved to avoid him.

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              Paul in The 'Couve December 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm

              Should read “east on Weidler”

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            Bill Walters December 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm

            The answer, according to Oregon’s basic speed rule, is that you slow your speed as appropriate for the conditions.

            Keep in mind that the scope of the question in the original post was particularly about agencies and the content of their outreach campaigns. An answer to that may be easier to reach compared to “What about all facets of the high-viz issue?”

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      soren December 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      “Dark clothes are like camouflage at night. If you want to avoid being seen, dress in dark”

      If anything, the few studies that have been carried out that address this suggest that hi viz clothing has little impact on driver visual *perception* at night.

      http://eprints.qut.edu.au/47281/1/

      Moreover, a cochrane review indicates that there is essentially no evidence that hi viz clothing impacts cyclist injury collisions.

      http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/userfiles/ccoch/file/Safety_on_the_road/CD003438.pdf

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    J December 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    I bought a bright yellow, low end Showers Pass rain jacket last year, and I love it. I’m not going to wish the cars away. The fact is Tri-Met is already under-serving the community and not everyone can ride a bike. The streets in Portland are absurdly narrow, and some roads-Skyline and Germantown are two in my area- are so dangerous that speed limits need to be lowered. And we’ll all help work on this and other safety issues, and over time we’ll see some progress. Do you really need to impress the world with your personal style while you commute? And why would I ever get on a bike in my nice clothes ( that aren’t my fine cycling threads)?

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      Janet Lafleur December 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      “Do you really need to impress the world with your personal style while you commute? And why would I ever get on a bike in my nice clothes ( that aren’t my fine cycling threads)?”

      Fine for you if you want to wear bright yellow casual wear. I prefer to look more stylish so I light up my bike instead of me. My bright front and rear lights, plus spoke lights and reflective tires are plenty bright for my low-key commute. If I spent more time on heavier traffic roads, I’d add front and rear blinkies on my helmet.

      As for the dig on nice clothes, I ride in dress clothes every day because it’s the nature of my job and there’s no reason to carry a whole change of clothing when I’m only riding 5 miles. I’d rather save pannier space for my laptop, groceries and other things I might pick up on the way home.

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    Bjorn December 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I find these Trimet ad campaigns offensive, especially in light of incidents like their driver Sandi Day running over 5 people walking with the walk signal in a crosswalk while she was making an illegal left turn. Shortly after that incident I began seeing a poster on bus shelters with the orange don’t walk hand and the phrase, “Waiting won’t kill you.” It is absurd, crossing against the light is no where near the top of the pareto for pedestrian injuries and deaths, far more often the pedestrian is crossing legally and hit by an illegally turning vehicle. I think that what we really need is a “drive legally” kit for Trimet drivers before we have the “hi-viz” kit.

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    Christopher Sanderson December 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Are any public awareness campaigns effective?

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    NC1 December 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I was always more the Cowboy than the Construction Worker.

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    Chris December 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    On a personal level, it really depends on where I’m biking. When I was living in outer East Portland, I had a hi-viz vest on myself and my bags, and reflector pant leg cuffs on both ankles. I was dealing with really terrible shoulders and high traffic volumes at high speeds, and very sparse street lights to get to and from my job at the airport.

    Once I moved to SE and a different job, I (now that I think about it) subconsciously stepped away from it. I feel safer on these streets that have better infrastructure, more street lights, and lower traffic speeds.

    (Then again, I did just buy a fantastic rain cloak from Cleverhood that has reflective threading in it… soooo…)

    But to each their own. If it makes you feel safer, go for it. But it shouldn’t be a requirement by any means.

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    Adam H. December 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I never wear hi-vis – I have bright enough lights on my bike. I don’t like the idea that I need special clothing just to not have people driving not run me over. Where does it stop? Should I wear hi-vis when I’m walking? When we encourage use of hi-vis, it gives the impression that cycling is inherently dangerous and discourages people from starting up riding.

    The burden of responsibility should lie with the one with the ability to cause the most harm. Blame the car drivers for not seeing people riding bikes, not the person riding a bike for not being visible enough.

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      colton December 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      “it gives the impression that cycling is inherently dangerous and discourages people from starting up”

      Replace bike with car (plus a contextual change): …seatbelts and airbags “give the impression that driving is inherently dangerous and discourages people from starting up”

      I myself don’t buy into the concept that cycling is totally safe. Until I do, I plan to continue to look to ways to make it safer. If others see my actions as implying that cycling is dangerous, so be it. Same goes for airbags, anti-lock brakes, seatbelts, child seats, back up cameras, etc. when I drive.

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        Alex Reed - BikeLoudPDX December 12, 2014 at 2:10 pm

        Those things are on the car and add essentially no burden to your life when using the car. The high-viz gear is “supposed” to be on your person, and adds the significant burden of either (A) looking like a complete dork constantly or (B) carrying high-viz everywhere, taking it on and off when getting on and off your bike, and still looking like a complete dork when on your bike. These things don’t matter to some, but to be realistic, they matter to a sizeable majority of people and always will.

        To counteract the obvious response of “What’s looking like a complete dork compared to your life?” – the comparison is invalid because we shouldn’t be in danger of our lives every time we go somewhere by bike. Government’s proper role in this topic is to change infrastructure and driver behavior so people biking and walking can go places in peace. It is not to harangue people who are doing what gov’t supposedly wants (biking and walking!) into accepting another burden above and beyond the already-heavy burden of inadequate infrastructure and aggressive driving.

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          colton December 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

          My response was intended to address the issue of giving the impression that it is “inherently dangerous and discourages people from starting up”, not what is stylish or easy.

          Since I already own a car, driving will always allow me to be both more stylish and it will also be easier than biking.

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          paikiala December 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

          Run for office.

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            Alex Reed - BikeLoudPDX December 12, 2014 at 6:48 pm

            Thanks, I’ve considered it. I understand that it’s politicians who get to (and have to) make these kinds of decisions. Don’t think it’s a good fit for me but I personally would like BikeLoud to grow into something of a political force to influence who is elected and how they behave.

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          caesar December 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

          “Those would would give up essential cycling safety, to purchase a little temporary cycling couture, deserve neither safety nor relaxed-fit neutral earth-toned organic cyclismo apparel.”
          -Benjamin Franklin

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        9watts December 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        “Same goes for airbags, anti-lock brakes, seatbelts, child seats, back up cameras”
        but all that stuff is to protect the occupants from speed (their own or other automobiles). As we’ve had plenty of occasions to learn here, the dangers are modally very lopsided.
        Wearing high viz stuff is different in that it isn’t designed to protect me from myself or from others who are biking, but fromubiquitous the horseless carriages. See the difference?

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          colton December 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

          Maybe if you’re the driver, but what about the passengers, some of them still in carseats?

          How about anti-lock brakes, traction control and back up cameras. Those all benefit all users of the road when somebody makes a mistake. (although I seem to be the only one on this forum that ever makes a mistake on my bike)

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            9watts December 12, 2014 at 2:44 pm

            The point is, as others have already noted, of the 317 possible things to organize a campaign around, what do Trimet & ODOT & plenty of others (predictably) focus on, year after year after year? Oh, right, the same thing the city fathers of Fox Point wrote into law*; something that asks nothing of anyone in a car, whose speed and level of attention are implicated in upwards of 70% of crashes.

            This is not Vision Zero, folks.

            *http://bikeportland.org/2014/01/20/the-monday-roundup-bronzeville-biking-mandatory-reflection-more-100166#comment-4487916

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            dr2chase December 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

            Here, so you will feel better: https://vimeo.com/112875858

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        gutterbunnybikes December 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        I think that a lot of driver indifference has to do with the relative safety of driving. Cars are now over engineered to take so many different kind of impacts – obviously saving lives is a good thing. Crashes that would have killed driver and passengers decades ago are common walk always/minor injury accidents now. The safer you feel the more likely you are willing to take on risk. (There are studies which correlate this data with helmet use on bike riders as well.) Sometimes a little fear is a good thing, it keeps you honest.

        Biking always has been safe. Throughout the last few decades (as long as they’ve been keeping stats) your odds of hurting yourself on a bicycle are pretty much 50/50 that a car is even involved. A little common sense improves your odds of injury incidents by 50% over those that don’t have any.

        If you think riding a bike is inherently dangerous how do you explain the injury fatality rates on Citibikes in NYC? Few helmets, rookie riders, rough streets and traffic, hardly any injuries and only a finger or two worth of fatalities.

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      wsbob December 12, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      “…we shouldn’t be in danger of our lives every time we go somewhere by bike. …” alex reed

      “…When we encourage use of hi-vis, it gives the impression that cycling is inherently dangerous …” Adam H.

      Who told you that? It’s nonsense. Biking is dangerous where motor vehicles are in use. Hi-vis is one of the visibility aids that can mitigate some of that danger. Learn what situations and conditions hi-vis can be effective in aiding visibility of yourself to other road users, and use it there.

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        9watts December 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm

        “Biking is dangerous where motor vehicles are in use.”

        Thanks for that, wsbob.

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        Alex Reed - BikeLoudPDX December 12, 2014 at 6:34 pm

        Wsbob – my personal moral compass combined with an appreciation of the huge societal benefits of cycling, and the impossibility of truly widespread cycling without a near-seamless feeling of safety and comfort, told me that we shouldn’t be (or feel) in (significant) danger of our lives while biking.

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          wsbob December 12, 2014 at 10:15 pm

          “…we shouldn’t be (or feel) in (significant) danger of our lives while biking. …” alex reed

          Nevertheless, people biking alongside and amongst motor vehicles, are in significant danger, and none of the huffing and puffing in the world is likely to change that equation very soon, at least not here in Oregon and the greater U.S.

          You don’t want to aid road users driving motor vehicles, in seeing yourself as you, as vulnerable road user, walk or bike on the road? Fine. That’s your choice.

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            9watts December 12, 2014 at 10:21 pm

            Why so dichotomous?
            because it is so dangerous you either apprise them of your vulnerability through dayglo (prudent/alive), or you don’t (imprudent/dead).
            What about all the in-between possibilities?
            – Biking isn’t that dangerous, after all.
            – We don’t have much evidence that day-glo/high-viz/retro-reflective stuff makes much of a difference to the wearer’s chances of being hit.
            – Not to mention the myriad dynamic feedback loops we unleash by hewing to this line that would have us make up for inattentive/overconfident driving by emulating poisonous insects in our clothing choices.

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              wsbob December 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

              “…We don’t have much evidence that day-glo/high-viz/retro-reflective stuff makes much of a difference to the wearer’s chances of being hit. …” watts

              Maybe you and your group of “…We…”, whoever that is, are only concerned with considering the question of whether or not collision rate of motor vehicles with vulnerable road users, is reduced, through vulnerable road users use of hi-vis and reflective material; that is, as a condition of you and your group supporting the use of those materials by vulnerable road users.

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                9watts December 13, 2014 at 8:31 pm

                “Maybe you and your group of ‘…We…’, whoever that is, are only concerned with considering the question of whether or not collision rate of motor vehicles with vulnerable road users, is reduced, through vulnerable road users use of hi-vis and reflective material; that is, as a condition of you and your group supporting the use of those materials by vulnerable road users.”

                Well, excuse me, but what other reason could there possibly be for anyone to don such garb (much less exhort others to don it) it if were found that it had no effect on their chances of being hit?

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                wsbob December 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm

                “…it if were found…” watts

                Found by who or what? Let me guess: you’re thinking about some study or another.

                From first hand observation of their experiences while driving, friends and acquaintances relate how the use of hi-vis gear by people as vulnerable road users, helps them to see vulnerable road users far more readily and easily. That to me, equates to fewer close calls, a reduction in potential for collision, and helps reduce tension and anxiety amongst all road users. Very good reasons for the use of hi-vis gear by vulnerable road users.

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                9watts December 14, 2014 at 7:32 am

                I’ve noticed this before: you privilege your friends’ anecdotal experiences driving around Beaverton over studies that purport to examine the question at hand. We’re not going to make any headway this way. Have you read any of the studies folks are citing here? Why do you feel qualified to dismiss their findings? Overrule them based on your friends’ eagerness to validate their desire to see others take more responsibility?

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                El Biciclero December 15, 2014 at 12:37 pm

                The only time I’ve ever been hit by a car was in daylight, while wearing bright orange, with 600 lumen lights on. The driver simply was not looking where they were going.

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            Rob Chapman December 13, 2014 at 2:32 am

            ***deleted.***

            Rob, threats — no matter how small — are not tolerated on this site. I hope you understand — Jonathan

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              Alex Reed December 13, 2014 at 2:32 pm

              Whoa there stallion, don’t kick wsbob in the head just because he made you mad. Trying to convince people through civil discussions on the internet is productive, while I don’t think yelling at wsbob on the internet is.

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                Pete December 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

                Methinks wsbob is BP’s sacrificial lamb… 😉

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                9watts December 15, 2014 at 6:42 pm

                maybe goad?

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              wsbob December 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm

              Alex Reed at: http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/12/think-encouraging-high-vis-gear-115550#comment-5986395

              Alex…thanks for weighing in. I believe your comment’s previous location was eliminated when bikeportland’s staff did a judicious bit of content moderation.

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        soren December 15, 2014 at 12:47 pm

        “biking is dangerous where motorvehicles are in use”

        biking is not particularly dangerous when motorvehicle speeds are low or when motorists are accustomed to cyclists. perhaps this, in part, explains why portland is among the safest cities to bike in both americas.

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    JohnnyK December 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I was posting this stuff on twitter. Construction workers that work on the roads wear high-viz and they get hit. Hunters wearing high-viz get shot. The thing is these organizations should not make it seem as if it is bullet proof because it is not. If high-viz coloring was the answer then our motor vehicles would be high-viz and our ditches would be high-viz and the little white high-viz line used to mark bike lanes would be enough but it isn’t.

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      dan December 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Yes, and people in hospitals die. Does that mean that going to the hospital doesn’t reduce your chance of death? No one (except you) is suggesting that high-viz results in no chance of getting hit; the idea is that it might improve your chances.

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    Nick December 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I think these ad campaigns are simply lazy and ineffective. They don’t convince anyone of anything. Thus, while I am annoyed that they think people not supporting the status quo should walk around town looking like fools, I also don’t care that much, because I think most people see it for the stupid and unconvincing idea it is. What a waste of time and ad space.

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    JohnnyK December 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    What will save lives is to slow traffic down. Thin roads out. Lower speed limits around stores and put in speed deterrents. stop all traffic when pedestrians are in the road. Make it illegal to turn right on red because there may be pedestrians in the road. But those that drive motor vehicles don’t want to hear any of this they would rather keep on killing people and blaming the dead. I mean come on people think about this people hit buildings! Should buildings be painted high-viz too?

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    Paul Wilkins December 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Meh. Too much grar grar amongst the peanuts on this one.

    Do what makes you feel comfortable. But for some folks, agida is confort.

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      Paul Wilkins December 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      er, comfort…

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        dan December 12, 2014 at 1:45 pm

        er, agita…

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    Gary December 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    My problem with the high-vis is the over saturation aspect. Roads these days are smothered in signs and warnings and lights and so on. Drivers have become so numb by it all now we have to have absurdly over-the-top flashing crosswalks (with islands and pavement markings) just to have a safe ped crossing. To me high-vis clothing is yet another symptom of that problem. What comes next when everyone everywhere has high vis clothing (not being entirely hyperbolic, as more peds on the sidewalk and motorcyclists are wearing it, then those crossing or riding the stret are less likely to stand out). So yeah, I want to be seen by a car, but I’m drawing the line at lights on my bike.

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      Adam H. December 15, 2014 at 9:24 am

      Lights are great because all road users are required to have them (save for people walking on the sidewalk), so drivers see a light coming at them and know it’s another person.

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    pdx2wheeler December 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Give out car kits that include a defogger, window cleaner, a lock box for cell phones, and a sticker to put in the front windshield reminding drivers to watch for vulnerable road users.

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      Bill Walters December 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Don’t forget a polishing kit to remove the glaze that dulls headlight lenses after a few years.

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    Trikeguy December 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Even though hi-viz is of very limited value at night, my jackets are hi-viz with reflective elements. I wear riding clothes anyway – hard working bodies deserve comfortable clothes – so having the tops hi-vis is almost hard to avoid 🙂

    From the standpoint of seeing peds, I have to admit I love the ones who have a few reflective elements in their clothes. I see them way earlier and can give them far more space.

    The other morning I cruised through a cross walk and only realized as I went by that there was someone who had started to enter it then pulled up to let me go by -5am, no streetlights and he was wearing all dark clothes, I didn’t see him against the dark background until I got really close.

    The lesson is clear – you want someone to give you the space you’re entitled to, help them see you. Lights are good (day and night), in some cases reflectors are better. Hi viz I can take or leave.

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    Dan December 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Don’t want to get mugged? Don’t go out at night! Thank you for helping us keep the city safe!

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    Bob December 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I think of the case of Michael Cooley in 2013 and read how much reflective clothing he wore and multiple lights on his bike and he still got hit from behind. I don’t mind wearing reflective clothing but sometimes think that in certain situations it does not help at all.

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    JAT in Seattle December 12, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    (insert standard claims establishing cycling bona fides)

    I don’t know about all you guys, but even with what I presume to be higher than the norm attentiveness to the presence of cyclists and pedestrians, with my aging eyeballs and rain on the windshield (or my night-riding specs), I’ve seen dark clad un-lighted road users way too late more often than I’d like.

    I want to give all those out there less able or less inclined to see me every chance I can. To my mind there’s a big difference between blaming the victim to absolve the wrong-doer and raising awareness to aim for success.

    I surprise myself with my Pollyanna-ish attitude today…

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    CaptainKarma December 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    The logic not used in this discussion really helps me to understand why ‘muricans vote against their own interests repeatedly. I chaperone a down-syndrome client on his bike rides around town. He and I both were resistant to wearing safety vests at first, but once we started, we got so much more respect and deference in traffic that I would literally not leave home without them now. The trouble is, I can’t prove we were not-killed because of the vests.

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      9watts December 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      “we got so much more respect and deference in traffic ”

      too bad you weren’t able to get that before.
      That is a problem that will get worse as more people follow your lead.

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    dave December 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Some people are paranoid enough to put reflective tape and extra lights all over their car / bike / body before going anywhere. Some people are vain enough to buy a sleek black coupe / bike / jacket and just take to the streets. I’m definitely in one group, and I find the other deeply weird.

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      dr2chase December 12, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      I’m definitely in one group and I find both groups deeply weird.

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      Shanana December 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      And some of us happen to actually like day-glo. Maybe I look like a dork, I don’t care, I like bright colors…. especially in the the dull gray days of winter.

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    Ted Buehler December 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    A friend of mine was hit and injured, thrown off her bike, by a car turning into New Seasons on Williams. Last week. Broad daylight. When the safety improvement project was already “done” at that location.

    I was at the bins yesterday. Saw three visi-vests. Bought them. Will be trying them out.

    Ted Buehler

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    CaptainKarma December 12, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    The real reason trimret mounts these campaigns is in order to show proactive regard towards it’s effect in the social milieu. This will give them points for a legal defense when someone sues for getting run over.

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    mikeybikey December 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    The campaigns are out of touch. You can’t take every day cycling seriously while simultaneously promoting the use of these clown costumes.

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    J_R December 12, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    I figure if I wear high visibility clothing and have multiple blinking lights it will help Ray Thomas get my heirs an extra $200,000 in damages because the jury will disregard the motorist’s claim “I didn’t see him.”

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    caesar December 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Howard Lovecraft
    No amount of blinkies or hi-viz or reflective garb will protect the vulnerable road user from careless and distracted operation of a motor vehicle.

    Hmmm….while your assertion would be difficult to prove or disprove without a carefully constructed trial that would probably be unethical to carry out, it flies in the face of logic and reason. While some drivers are clearly unable to perceive and thus unable to avoid hitting a cyclist no matter how brightly lit or neon-clothed the cyclist may be (for example, the driver who is texting or who is turned around attending to unruly kids in the back seat), many other drivers are just unable to clearly see – because it’s very dark, or it’s rainy, or there are confusing or blinding lights from surrounding cars or businesses, or any combination of these. A brightly lit or conspicuous cyclist in this situation would clearly have an advantage over one who was in Ninja mode.

    I nearly hit four pedestrians last month who tried to cross right in front of me while slowly creeping my car across an intersection in the Alphabet District. It was rainy, it was dark, and they were all stylishly wearing black. They blended into the surrounding murk almost perfectly and had I been doing more than 3 MPH it would have ended badly – and there’s nothing wrong with my vision. I’m totally convinced that I would have seen them much earlier than I did had they been wearing something, anything, that was bright or reflective.

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      paikiala December 12, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      this.

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      Bill Walters December 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      So one way to look at this is that Oregon’s basic speed rule worked when obeyed.

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        caesar December 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm

        Yes and no. Had I been driving at 5 MPH (instead of the 2-3 MPH that I was) I would have clipped one of them, even though 5 MPH would be in compliance with section 1 of OR 811.100. That is the “basic speed rule” to which you refer, yes?
        http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/docs/vcb/vcb811.pdf

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          Bill Walters December 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm

          Um, where do you see reference to 5 mph in section 1 of 811.100? ‘Cause I don’t see it. BTW, the code is a little easier to skim here: http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.100

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            caesar December 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm

            Precisely. The code doesn’t say what is reasonable and prudent for a city street like the one I describe, other than mandating a limit of “Fifteen miles per hour when driving on an alley or a narrow residential roadway” and that one must not drive “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to all of the following:
            (a) The traffic.
            (b) The surface and width of the highway.
            (c) The hazard at intersections.
            (d) Weather.
            (e) Visibility.
            (f) Any other conditions then existing.”

            So are you arguing that had I driven 5 MPH on that street instead of 3 MPH I would have been in violation of OR811/100(1)?

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              Bill Walters December 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

              Sure, nothing in the code rules out that possibility. In your reading of the code, how do you arrive at 5 vs 3 mph as some kind of line in the sand?

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                caesar December 14, 2014 at 12:03 am

                My point is that it is quite possible to hit a pedestrian driving only 5 mph. Especially if the pedestrian walks suddenly into a dark street wearing low visibility clothing. Yet a 5 MPH speed would likely NOT be in violation of the OR basic safety /speed law. Unless you ascribe to the self-fulfilling prophesy that any sped is illegal if it results in a auto-v.s. pedestrian collision.

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                Bill Walters December 14, 2014 at 10:38 am

                It’s quite possible to hit someone while driving at *any* speed, depending on conditions. You keep bringing up 5 mph as a touchstone, but that has no support in the code. However, with “suddenly,” you did bring up something useful.

                814.040 ( http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.040 ) describes legal responsibilities we actually have while on foot, rather than the imaginary ones about gear and clothing. Among these is not to “suddenly leave a curb or place of safety.”

                So yeah, balanced against consideration of a driver’s speed in prevailing conditions, someone on foot who crosses “suddenly” might be at fault.

                And so, if public agencies insist on targeting their outreach to what people do when they’re *not* wielding the destructive force of 4,000 lbs, they should at least emphasize actual, not imaginary, responsibilities under the law.

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      nuovorecord December 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Totally agree with this. There seems to be an assumption in some of the comments that people driving their cars just don’t care about their human-powered brethren. I think most people honestly don’t want to hit cyclists or pedestrians, and operate their cars in a legal manner (obeying speed limits, not impaired, not distracted, etc.). But the fact is that it is just plain hard sometimes to see. I recently drove on SE Stark out east of 122nd. In the space of less than 5 minutes, I encountered 4 people on bikes, none of whom had lights or anything else to let me know they were there.

      I don’t think it’s blaming the victim to remind people that they can be difficult to see, even if a person is driving in a super-cautious manner as you described. Part of “sharing the road” means sharing the responsibility to be seen.

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        9watts December 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

        “I don’t think it’s blaming the victim to remind people that they can be difficult to see, even if a person is driving in a super-cautious manner as you described. Part of “sharing the road” means sharing the responsibility to be seen.”

        When was the last time you heard of someone ‘driving in a super-cautious manner’ running over someone else?

        But the difficulty of seeing them, and the related risk of hitting and injuring them, is a function of the way cars are designed and the speeds at which they tend to be driven. These two factors are not the responsibility of someone on a bike. If everyone drove convertibles with the tops down (= easier to use your senses in traffic as a motorist that way), and drove at a speed many are now advocating for in cities the world over (= 20’s plenty) most of this problem would vanish.

        It is not my responsibility as a member of traffic who eschews the car to make up for limitations that derive from how cars are designed and how they are driven.

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      9watts December 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      “many other drivers are just unable to clearly see – because it’s very dark, or it’s rainy, or there are confusing or blinding lights from surrounding cars or businesses, or any combination of these. A brightly lit or conspicuous cyclist in this situation would clearly have an advantage over one who was in Ninja mode.”

      Those are exactly the conditions that call for throttling one’s speed until one *can* see clearly. Exhorting pedestrians or those of us on bikes to take care of this mismatch is disingenuous and shifts responsibility in ways that other societies with lower injury rates in traffic wouldn’t be caught dead espousing.

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    danny December 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Interesting that Trimet is trying to get people riding bikes to change their behavior… Perhaps the agency could also devote some time to educating their drivers to be a bit kinder to people on bikes. I’ve had many close encounters with buses that obviously saw me in the first place.

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    meh December 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    All I hear about is bright. Don’t know how many “bright” lights I’ve seen out there that are barely visible because they are a single LED. A larger illuminated area works better than than these pin point lights.

    I can’t count the number of taillights mounted on racks that are covered by the cargo being carried.

    Amazed at the number of lights that at one time were visible but no longer because of dying batteries or covered by dirt.

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      Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database) December 12, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Lights with nearly-dead batteries are a huge pet peeve of mine. I often see people with their Plant Bike Super Flash that hasn’t had new batteries since they bought it 3 years ago. It’s still flashing, but barely! More lights are using regulated outputs now, especially rechargeables. People complain that they have to recharge them so often, but the reality is that if you weren’t replacing the batteries in your old lights that often anyways, they probably weren’t very effective! A larger surface area and multiple points of light are important. Few lights have a large illuminated area, although there are some new ones coming out that do.

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    Shelley December 12, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    My commute is a dark road with very little shoulder. When I drive I am very careful to interact safely with all other users. It is really frustrating to see (or not see) people walking and biking in dark clothes with no lights or reflectors. I never drive my car without lights, likewise my bike has lights and I carry a light when I walk/run near traffic. Even if I “shouldn’t have to” it isn’t difficult to go the extra mile to make myself more visible to other road users.

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    Jim Lee December 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Robert Hurst, in “The Art of Urban Cycling,” discusses the INVISIBLE STYLE of cycling: choosing routes and tactics so one can see but not be seen.

    Definitely no lights whatever, especially at night.

    This seems outrageously perverse, but is congruent with RH’s philosophy of the cyclist’s (sorry, JM) absorbing ALL RESPONSIBILITY for her own safety.

    The INVISIBLE STYLE epitomizes paranoia. No uncertainty whatever. Best suited for absolute control freaks.

    Back in the day when I was commuting I experimented with INVISIBLE STYLE in the quiet streets near my house at night. I concluded that it was indeed safer in that environment, because one actually can more readily detect cars by their headlights: illumination of an intersection when they approach on cross-streets; reflection off the front rim when they approach from behind; when they approach from ahead, duck and dodge. Obviously not a good idea when taking the lane on a high speed arterial, or even staying in a bike lane.

    As in all urban cycling, riding fixed amplifies safety and control.

    Comment on references above to “air-bags” in cars:

    No such things! But explosive-bags abound! Originally these nefarious devices were inflated by sodium azide monopropellants, developed to power the control fins of the Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile. Sodium azide is extremely toxic, even in small quantities on exposed skin, so it is no longer used. The recent spat over deaths in cars from mandated explosive devices relates to ammonium nitrate, the same stuff used to blast TriMet’s tunnels through the West Hills.

    Can you imagine trying to market explosive bags as “safety devices” in cars? Can you imagine the stupidity of motorists charging about at speed with multiple explosive devices inside their cars?

    Now try to imagine that they actually care about seeing us!

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    Lynne December 12, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I am of two minds about this one. I wish drivers would pay better attention. The only time I have been struck by a car was when I was wearing my EN 1150 certified hi-vis reflective vest (standard requires both). But, if it is chilly/slightly damp, I’ll wear that vest anyway. I find myself living in that vest. If it is grey and cloudy/rainy, I’ll run my generator lights (front and rear) all day.
    I am also a randonneur, and we’ve got very specific reflective gear requirements for night and gloomy conditions riding. Even when I’m not on a rando ride, I find myself at most one reflective ankle band short of compliance.
    I know these aren’t magic clothes. But still.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Bikes should be required to run effective lights at night just like any other vehicle on the road. Every night I see cyclists who are simply invisible, running no lights and blacked out like a U boat. I’ve almost been hit by them while riding, I’ve almost hit them while driving.

    High visibility clothing should be up to the individual, just like people are free to buy black cars or red cars as they wish. I wear a yellow jacket for commuting, but I shouldn’t be required to.

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      Paul in The 'Couve December 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      “I see cyclists who are simply invisible..”

      You don’t “see” any contradiction in this? Really?

      There is a fact, even in dark clothing people are not invisible and they are certainly no more invisible that garbage cans, mail boxes, tree trunks, curbs, ….. Pay attention and don’t overdrive one’s headlights.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu December 12, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        If you put a black garbage can in the road, it would get hit.

        The argument by ninja cyclists that drivers simply need to not outdrive their lights is fantasy land thinking. The reality is that drivers drive at speeds that are safe based on certain assumptions. One is that there will not be dark, unlit, non reflective objects in the road. If you want to deliberately test those assumptions, be prepared to be hit. Complain about it all you want. A police officer, prosecuting attorney, or jury won’t care “how they do it in Copenhagen”.

        A friend of mine was driving on a freeway bridge on a dark rainy night, doing about 60 mph. A man in a dark coat walked out onto the bridge, climbed into the traffic lanes, and stood there waiting to commit suicide by car. My friend didn’t hit him. Because she was in the lane next to his. Had he been in her lane, she would have hit him or crashed her car with her child in it, trying to avoid him. Was she “overdriving her lights?” Not according to how people actually drive in the real world. She was driving at a speed that would allow her to avoid slow traffic, stalled cars, things people expect to find in the road. Not to avoid a person who was deliberately making himself both camoflauged and in a position to die.

        A cyclist wearing black, with no lights and no reflectives, on a dark and even rainy night, in the road, is doing something quite similar to the suicide on the bridge. The cyclist isn’t intending to get hit, but intentions count for very little. And, again, outside of the bubble of bike thought that is Bike Portland, no one cares “how they do it in Copenhagen”.

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          dr2chase December 12, 2014 at 6:09 pm

          Try that logic on a moose in Maine, and get back to me. Drivers get used to overdriving their lights because there are no consequences to them. Add consequences, and the behavior changes.

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            JAT in Seattle December 12, 2014 at 11:39 pm

            Fair enough, but I knew a guy in college in Maine who hit a moose. I saw his mother crying; but nobody went to the moose’s funeral.

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          9watts December 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm

          “She was driving at a speed that would allow her to avoid slow traffic, stalled cars, things people expect to find in the road.”

          But you will admit that her chosen speed reflects cultural norms rather than the kind of sentiment that inspires Vision Zero; a perhaps unconscious risk calculus: How fast can I get away with going. Just note how people drive on the freeway in thick fog or when it is raining really hard. Our cultural norms reassure us as drivers that everything’s going to be fine, that nothing unexpected is going to slow us down or get in our way. None of this is helpful to the lit or unlit, reflectorized or unreflectorized child, dog, moose, boulder, adult. Nor is it a moral way to act.

          You wrote: “If you want to deliberately test those assumptions, be prepared to be hit.”

          I don’t think that is fair. You are, perhaps unwittingly, reifying that kind of driving as not just normal—which we know it to be—but as appropriate. Your pragmatism can easily turn into exoneration. And just because juries affirm this sort of behavior tells us nothing about whether it is just or right to drive in those reckless ways, whether as a society we can do better, should do better.

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          • John Liu
            John Liu December 12, 2014 at 8:16 pm

            Can’t really drive 40 mph on the freeway. You’ll get rear ended before long. Like it or not, that’s reality.

            And people who ride ninja, night after night on the road, will eventually, probably, get hit. Again, like it or not, that’s reality.

            In these comments, we spend a lot of time talking about how we think things should be, or how they are in Copenhagen. That’s great, and in 5, 10 and 20 years they will be more and more that way. But if you ride on the street, day or night, rain or shine, every day, and want to keep doing it for 5, 10 and 20 years, then it is best to consider the reality of our roads today.

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              9watts December 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

              “Can’t really drive 40 mph on the freeway.”
              Do you mean under adverse conditions I mentioned above?
              It doesn’t sound like you’ve actually tried this.
              I have—in good weather, too. It works just fine. There’s no iron law of speed here, even though many/most people drive as if there were.

              “And people who ride ninja, night after night on the road, will eventually, probably, get hit. Again, like it or not, that’s reality.”

              No they won’t. And for the same statistical reasons most people get away with texting while driving, or speeding when they can’t see what is in front of them or around the next bend.

              “we spend a lot of time talking about how we think things should be, or how they are in Copenhagen. That’s great, and in 5, 10 and 20 years they will be more and more that way.”

              Not if we keep flogging these tedious, misguided campaigns.

              “But if you ride on the street, day or night, rain or shine, every day, and want to keep doing it for 5, 10 and 20 years, then it is best to consider the reality of our roads today.”

              The reality of our roads is the result of all our little behaviors, overlaid onto our autos-first infrastructure. I don’t think you can separate how we, all of us, conduct ourselves today from where we want things to be. Of course we need to be mindful of the inadequacies, the injustices, the bad judgements by those who trot out one more iteration of this campaign, but that isn’t the same thing as acquiescing to their views of who bears responsibility for avoiding poorly lit colissions.
              Vision Zero, which appeals to me much more than your vision, pulls no punches, identifies the problems, and seeks to root them out, tomorrow.

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              • John Liu
                John Liu December 13, 2014 at 12:32 am

                Can a hospitalized cyclist send his medical bills to Vision Zero?

                A “vision”, of the future, has little relevance to how one should equip and protect oneself, today.

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                9watts December 13, 2014 at 8:57 am

                John Liu –

                I guess we just think differently about this. You are focused exclusively on the short term. I prefer to keep my sights on the larger picture, the reasons we’re having this discussion in the first place. If we don’t then we’ll be fighting over crumbs, losing in court for the rest of our lives.

                Every action we take now has a small effect on the long term prospects: we accede to and thereby reify the unequal terms, the tilted playing field, or we fight back, refuse to play that game.*

                *And, again, we’re talking here about a campaign, not what I or you or anyone else might do biking around town. I have and wear a reflective vest too, use bright lights with rechargeable batteries. But I see those actions as distinct from these campaigns, which misconstrue the problem and shift blame.

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                9watts December 13, 2014 at 9:36 am

                “Can a hospitalized cyclist send his medical bills to Vision Zero?”

                I think you have this backwards. In places where Vision Zero is being implemented cyclists are, for the most part, bicycling not being shoved into ambulances. We need to get out in front of this and stop playing defense.

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              soren December 12, 2014 at 9:45 pm

              “And people who ride ninja, night after night on the road, will eventually, probably, get hit.”

              given the pandemic numbers of ninjas riding around SE portland why is it that PDX is not carpeted with ninja ghost bikes? those ninjas must be really, really lucky!

              “Again, like it or not, that’s reality.”

              Also “physics” (see oregonian comments).

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              gutterbunnybikes December 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

              Try I-5 at about 7-9 am….lots of folks wishing they could go as fast as 40.

              I rode 365 in the mornings between the ages of 12-16 as a paperboy in the early 80’s in the Detroit burbs. My only safety device, a squirt gun filled with ammonia and water for the persistent dogs. Hit once by a guy coasting his car out of his drive way (he was having an affair). Didn’t hurt and the Schwinn Cruiser laughed the collision off. I was Ninja as all get up at a young age, and I was all over the roads in all kinds of traffic.

              Didn’t have a car in my twenties and rode all over Portland in the 90’s. Never got hit once. And mind you still didn’t use any safety gear, and I had no infrastructure. Never hit once and a nearly daily decision of mine at the time was do I lean into that rear view mirror of the parked car, or do I have room in the lane (which in when I learned to take the lane and everything got easier).

              As to your last point.

              More people cross the Hawthorn Bridge on a bike on a busy day than die in bike and car collisions in this entire country over a decade.

              More people cross the Hawthorn Bridge on a bike every three months than are injured on bike (auto and non auto) across this whole country in a year.

              You’re right this isn’t Copenhagen, they don’t have people whining that they aren’t Amsterdam. Your whole attitude is horrible, and you excuses are thin. Your right you should act realistically, but it’s your perception that isn’t very realistic.

              Riding a bicycle is a safe activity with or without helmets, lights, and and what not. And the more that the stats come in the safer it looks (even I was amazed at the accident stats for the shared bike systems).

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              • John Liu
                John Liu December 13, 2014 at 10:30 am

                “Riding a bicycle is a safe activity with or without helmets, lights, and and what not. And the more that the stats come in the safer it looks (even I was amazed at the accident stats for the shared bike systems).”

                If bicycling on Portland streets is categorically a “safe activity”, then why do we need any more bike lanes, cyclepaths, greenways, lower speed limits, driver education, or anything else? Most of the policy and infrastructure discussion on this blog would then be moot.

                Bicycling (in Portland) is pretty safe, to the degree that many of us ride every day, but clearly it can be, and should, be safer. One thing an individual can do to make himself or herself safer, is to be visible through lights, reflective, and if desired, hi-viz clothes. Helmets too.

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                9watts December 13, 2014 at 10:34 am

                “One thing an individual can do to make himself or herself safer, is to be visible through lights, reflective, and if desired, hi-viz clothes.”

                But you are glibly overlooking the fact that studies cited here in this thread seem to find very scant evidence that this is true.

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                gutterbunnybikes December 13, 2014 at 11:09 pm

                Some of us (like myself) don’t think we need any bike specific infrastructure. I feel more comfortable in the lane of traffic than I do on any shoulder with little stickmen in peril images painted on them. Infact statistically bike infrastructure doesn’t improve safety much if at all. But it does improve the public impression of safety which gets more riders on the street.

                That are only two proven things that improve bike safety….more riders (which the improved impression of safety provides), and lowered speed limits. That’s it.

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                soren December 14, 2014 at 9:10 am

                If we want to see more inexperienced, cautious, young, and old people cycling then we need to dramatically improve their “perception of safety” (e.g. comfort level). And while one can insist that riding in the lane in PDX is relatively safe, the vast majority of people are still not comfortable cycling a foot or two away from inattentive caged primates.

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        wsbob December 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm

        “…garbage cans, mail boxes, tree trunks, curbs, …” Paul in The ‘Couve

        All of which, are located off the the road, and none of which are people, walking and biking along or across the road as vulnerable road users.

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    Chris.B December 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I don’t want to promote hi-vis clothing for everyday bicycle city riding. I believe having pedal reflectors, frt. white light, and a rear red light is enough. I have seen video of myself riding from front and back view, my visibility is more than adequate. This is with dark clothing on myself, and the above equipment on the bicycle. I prefer all lights to be solid, and on at all times. I am not a fan of blinking lights.

    I am in the family that all bikes should be sold with basic safety equipment such as lights. This should be requirement for bicycle manufacturers. This could be handled in a variety of ways for the consumer, once the industry creates standards.

    I am a big fan of dynamo lighting, which I have on my dutch style bicycle, that I use each day. I also understand that dynamo is out of the range of some riders budgets. Use the lighting that fits your situation best.

    I would like to see federal standards on lighting brightness output. I like how Germany has set standards.

    You can be seen very clearly with the right gear on your bicycle, without the hi-vis clothing. This still creates a problem. The bicycle safety equipment costs money, and not everyone has the money to buy this equipment. So other community outlets would be helpful, not everyone can walk into a for-profit bicycle shop, and buy whatever they need.

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    ed December 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to read an account of a car crash where it was said “the car was black so reduced visibility was a factor” or “the bumper on the modified pickup truck was much higher than the car it hit, causing extensive damage and injury” No different than accounts saying cyclist wasn’t wearing helmet or reflective clothing and implying culpability, but we can’t expect automotive users to be held accountable for their choices leading to damage and injury. Because those things can’t be helped right? And it’s a motorists right to own a hard to see car or a vehicle with bumper height dangerous to other road users… yep.

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    Brad December 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    LOVE the Bike Loud tweet response! I’m on the side of those offended by this kind of nonsense. Using bright front and rear lights at night is a no-brainer. Dressing in neon orange or yellow… no thanks.

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  • Mike G
    Mike G December 12, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Want to add that lights front and rear work, for both riders, and joggers. I almost hit an unlighted jogger from behind while cycling on the waterfront. Unblinking lights fore and aft help you gauge velocity of everyone your meandering around. Maybe some amount of reflectivity helps, but its not as consistent as a light.

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    geezer December 12, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation safety course a while ago; I remember they stressed “always assume the cars don’t see you.” Those bikes are bigger and more lit up than ours. So anything we can do to help get seen is worth doing.

    The best way to avoid “blame the victim” is don’t become a victim in the first place.

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      Cheif December 12, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      Saying “don’t become a victim in the first place” is just more victim blaming.

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        geezer December 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        If you make it home safe, of what are you a victim?

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          Cheif December 12, 2014 at 7:55 pm

          You could use the same logic for getting cancer.

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            geezer December 12, 2014 at 9:01 pm

            Um, not following your analogy. My question contained no logic, it was a matter of definition — if nothing bad happens to me, then I’m not a victim of anything.

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    pompilot December 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    While I often choose brightly colored clothing when cycling, I always assume that other roadway users cannot see me. Therefore, I want every edge I can get in being seen.

    One of the differences between us, and European cycle commuters is that in many places (such as Italy) motorists are criminally prosecuted if they injure a cyclist or pedestrian. The caveat being, that cyclist or pedestrian had to be shown as acting within the relevant laws. Thus, if hit within a bike lane or posted crosswalk, it will be up to the motorist’s legal counsel to prove that the ‘victim’ was in the wrong. Otherwise, their client will be facing jail time.

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      soren December 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      evidently you are unaware that jaywalking is legal in most of continental europe and the UK. at one time it was also not a crime to walk across a road in the usa too.

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    Cheif December 12, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I’ve been hit by a careless driver while I was wearing a hi vis jacket and running a luxos u, three tail lights and a monkeylectric spoke light, on a bike decked out with reflective tape. Visibility of people on bikes is not the problem. Inattentive drivers are the problem.

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      9watts December 12, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      And for paikala’s sake* can you tell us how the justice system handled this situation?

      * http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/12/think-encouraging-high-vis-gear-115550#comment-5981518

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        Cheif December 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm

        The responding officer would not cite the driver who blew the stop sign because he claimed that if he didn’t witness an infraction he could not do anything about it. The driver claimed not to see me. My attorney is in contact with their insurance company but in the mean time I had to replace a rear wheel and pay for a trip to the er out of pocket.

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          9watts December 12, 2014 at 8:01 pm

          I’m very sorry, but unfortunately I am not surprised.

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    reader December 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    “Franz also said that [Kirke] Johnson always rode with lights and usually had a bright yellow fairing wrapped around his long wheelbase recumbent.” – BikePortland, November 21, 2014

    “The sheriff’s office said inattentiveness was likely a contributing factor in the crash” that killed Johnson. – KATU, November 20, 2014

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    Doug Klotz December 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    PBOT has been promoting that pedestrians should wear light-colored or bright clothing for years. I would like to see survey evidence that shows that this campaign has made any difference at all. Have they surveyed a typical intersection (or 10 of them), year after year, and noted that the percentage of people wearing light clothing has increased? If not, the campaign is not about changing behavior, but about deniability: “we told them to wear light clothing, so it’s not our fault if pedestrians are still being killed.”.

    I would be more suspicious of claiming the pedestrian death count went down in certain years, because that could be attributed to a. less people walking or b. less people driving, or c. improved street lighting, or even d. more crosswalk enforcement.

    I want to see evidence their approach is working, because I don’t see it. As Steph Routh would say: “Show me your campaign to stop Nordstrom’s from selling dark clothing”!

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    Eric December 12, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    I feel the same way as I do with the helmet debate. If you don’t want to wear one, fine, but I do resent when the implication is that if I wear one (or bright clothes) I am making riding a bike more dangerous for everyone.

    I can either dress for how people driving should behave or how they do currently behave.

    My problem with the logic of saying that wearing hi-vis or a helmet makes it more dangerous is I feel like it got the comparisons to other countries backwards. They didn’t become safer because people didn’t wear helmets, they became safer so then people stopped wearing helmets.

    That said, I think in general the campaign should just be directed at everyone and say “focus on the road and the people around it”

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      9watts December 12, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      “I can either dress for how people driving should behave or how they do currently behave.”

      I can either dress as anyone else, such as in a car, might choose to dress, or as I think people driving might prefer me to dress to align with their reflexive ‘I didn’t see him’ defense.

      As several people have noted (and cited studies), wearing high-viz clothing has not been found to have much of an effect on the probabilities of being hit. As Doug Klotz pointed out it may be more about deniability.

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        Eric December 12, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        If we want to agree that we should make our decisions based on what is actually the most effective, that’s fine, but there is also the matter of what is safe and what makes you feel safe. But I also think we can’t always compare bike riders to drivers. Just because it makes sense for one doesn’t mean it should for the other. A person driving is inside and a person biking is outside, it’s two different environments.

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    Peter W December 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I think I agree with Jonathan on this: to outfit oneself with the most expensive, most high tech visibility gear is to gradually contribute to the dangerous habits of increasingly inattentive drivers and fuel an arms race in which the poorest among us will certainly not emerge victorious (let alone alive).

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      Pete December 14, 2014 at 11:19 am

      But to not do so will accomplish what?

      AFA the PSA is concerned I believe the money would be better spent elsewhere, but ignoring the effectiveness of good reflective treatments when riding among cars at night isn’t prudent. Maybe I misunderstand you. Not all reflective treatments are expensive, especially compared to medical bills. Reflective tape on moving parts is affordable, and these were $32 recently: https://www.westernbikeworks.com/product/lit-360-ultra-reflective-road-tire

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    The Odd Duck December 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I once knew a firefighter who work for a private company who told me the dark blue was a macho color. My thought was its also macho to lean how to walk all over again. Here the trip. From the time you are seen to the time you are hit is a very short time. With that been said, my peddle trike is stand out like a bloody British brass band. There is a great web site called “Don’t get hit dot com (http://www.dontgethit.com). That will supply you with just about anything you think of. A year are so ago I bought a reflective shoulder belt for walking as I have a wooden leg. This year I up graded from a white jacket to a yellow jacket. There are driver out there who might have a eyesight issue they might not know about it thanks to a for profit medical system. Its easy to skip over and make a little more profit that fix it, I know I have been there. I am still waiting for Kaiser the McDonalds of medicine to fix the other eye that still has a childhood cataract. So be smart, be seen, ride/drive defensive and live and love and prosper. And Party on dudes!

    From there web site.

    Be sure your bike reflectors and reflective clothing are visible from a safe distance of at least 500 feet. This will give a vehicle time to slow down and brake if needed. Many reflective materials, especially those used for promotional safety products are of inferior quality and do not reflect very well. Most of our products are made with ‘3M Scotchlite’ and ‘Reflexite’ reflective materials which are ANSI compliant, can be seen from all angles and from over 1000 feet away.

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    stephen salter December 12, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    straight up victim blaming. force the least empowered/most vulnerable to change they’re habits to make life easier for the privileged. make drivers buy hi-vis eyeballs, and stop staring at your G.D. phone!

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    Jonathan R December 13, 2014 at 7:16 am

    The Army taught me to use Composite Risk Management. You can follow along with ATP 5-19, at http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/atp5_19.pdf

    The five steps of Risk Management are:
    Identify hazards,
    Assess the hazards,
    Develop controls and make risk decisions
    Implement controls
    Supervise and evaluate

    The Army’s goal is mission accomplishment. Same thing for civilians on a bicycle: we just want to get where we’re going, safely.

    So, assuming mission is nighttime bicycling trip, some of the hazards are: collision with motor vehicles, poor road conditions (including ice, snowbanks, potholes), collisions with pedestrians, mechanical failure of bicycle.

    The Army has a risk assessment matrix, with frequency along the x-axis and severity along the y-axis.

    Assess hazards: MV collision is occasional and critical, high risk; poor road conditions are occasional and moderate, medium risk; collisions with pedestrians are seldom and critical, medium risk; mechanical failure is seldom and moderate, low risk.

    Develop controls: Use off-road paths to avoid MV traffic; be predictable to MV traffic; increase visibility to MV traffic by wearing bright clothes and using lights and reflectors (check batteries before trip!); allow extra travel time (to keep from stressing out); avoid arterial roads with speeding MVs.

    Maybe that gets MV collision down to unlikely and critical, or low-risk. As for road conditions and collisions with pedestrians, I leave that to you. For mechanical failure, ensure that your bicycle is in good working order, with good brakes, batteries in lights, and trued wheels.

    So implement your controls, and complete the mission. When you get home, consider adding other controls. Maybe avoiding left turns in traffic and using Copenhagen (two-step) left turns. Maybe getting a louder bell to warn pedestrians you’re coming. Maybe using your bike with disc brakes on really wet days.

    From the risk-management perspective, wearing more high-visibility clothes is just one possible control against motor vehicle collisions. There are others. You get to choose which ones you want to employ, because it’s your safety at stake.

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      9watts December 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Good stuff, Jonathan R,
      but the Army’s focus, perhaps justifiably, is on the present-conditions. Since I emphatically refuse to concede that biking around town is akin to fighting a war, my preference is to keep not just the present-conditions but also the system-that-needs-to-change in mind. By following the Army’s approach we may be acting prudently in the short run but appeasing the aggressor (carhead) in the long run, making it less likely that we’ll see the cultural changes we need (Vision Zero?) anytime soon.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu December 13, 2014 at 10:37 am

        Explain why a cyclist choosing to wear a helmet or a yellow jacket, or have a light, makes “vision zero” (whatever that really is – so far, seems like mostly a slogan) less achievable?

        Do you think when ODOT, PBOT, city council etc are deciding whether to fund a bike lane project, for example, someone stands up and says “I notice that many cyclists wear helmets. Therefore, this bike lane is not necessary.”

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          9watts December 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

          “Explain why a cyclist choosing to wear a helmet or a yellow jacket, or have a light, makes ‘vision zero’ less achievable?”

          First off, I have tried to make clear in my comments—as did Bill Walters just today—that a cyclist choosing X or Y is not at issue here; it is the campaign exhorting her to take responsibility for not being hit that we are debating here. But taking your question to mean the campaign rather than the individual choice I’d offer the following:
          Vision Zero, as commonly understood, requires that all players (in our case ODOT, PBOT, transit agencies, BTA, legislature, etc.) are all reading from the same book. Fooling around with these misbegotten campaign exhortations directed *only* at the vulnerable traffic participants hews to an understanding of the problem that is anathema to what Vision Zero stands for. We can’t have it both ways. ODOT (or Trimet, or PBOT, or the Bike Gallery) can’t keep berating those not in cars to dress up funny, to BE LIT as their safety campaign, *and* embrace this entirely different way of approaching the same problem. An approach, it is worth emphasizing, that has no truck with pedestrian behavior, or dress. Go ahead; I challenge you to find a single mention of pedestrian or cyclist behavior by those who are seeking to implement Vision Zero, even in the US. Vision Zero is so radically different an approach to this subject that there is very little overlap between what we still fool around with here, and what the Swedes and many others have now adopted.

          Cyclists can and should and will choose whatever garb they wish. But that has nothing to do with whether it is prudent for agencies of any stripe to spend public funds on this sort of one-sided campaign.

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        Jonathan R December 13, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        I don’t think I made my point clear. CRM offers you a system to evaluate and mitigate risks, so you can avoid being blamed for not wearing high-vis clothing, if you choose not to do so. Or not wearing a helmet. Instead you can say, “I did my composite risk assessment, and it worked out that wearing a reflective vest didn’t make much of a difference.”

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      John Landolfe December 15, 2014 at 10:05 am

      “From the risk-management perspective, wearing more high-visibility clothes is just one possible control against motor vehicle collisions. There are others. You get to choose which ones you want to employ, because it’s your safety at stake.”

      Dude, in a more perfect society those three sentences would deflate every argument among people who use bikes ever and forever amen.

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    Barbara December 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

    No matter how well lit one is can still get hit and I was while waiting at a stop light. The ad while I formative implies it totally up to the walker rider to be seen and if not it’s their fault none on the driver. Is the causal walker leaving work in a dark trench jut getting to his parked car required to and necessary to have reflective gear?
    We never talk about or require anything of the driver and never enforce what we currently have.
    One reason I’m not so keen on street tax, should be spending much more on enforcement than safety. Spent money on putting in 20 mph speed signs but they are universally ignored. Crappy roads keep the drivers speed down.
    How about some ads with the difference of and accident or encounter at the speed or that speed.

    ine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/atp5_19.pdf
    The five steps of Risk Management are:
    Identify hazards,
    Assess the hazards,<ate
    The Army’s goal is mission accomplishment. Same thing for civilians on a bicycle: we just want to get where we’re going, safely.
    So, assuming mission is nighttime bicycling trip, some of the hazards are: collision with motor vehicles, poor road conditions (including ice, snowbanks, potholes), collisions with pedestrians, mechanical failure of bicycle.
    The Army has a risk assessment matrix, with frequency along the x-axis and severity along the y-axis.
    Assess hazards: MV collision is occasional and critical, high risk; poor road conditions are occasional and moderate, medium risk; collisions with pedestrians are seldom and critical, medium risk; mechanical failure is seldom and moderate, low risk.
    Develop controls: Use off-road paths to avoid MV traffic; be predictable to MV traffic; increase visibility to MV traffic by wearing bright clothes and using lights and reflectors (check batteries before trip!); allow extra travel time (to keep from stressing out); avoid arterial roads with speeding MVs.
    Maybe that gets MV collision down to unlikely and critical, or low-risk. As for road conditions and collisions with pedestrians, I leave that to you. For mechanical failure, ensure that your bicycle is in good working order, with good brakes, batteries in lights, and trued wheels.
    So implement your controls, and complete the mission. When you get home, consider adding other controls. Maybe avoiding left turns in traffic and using Copenhagen (two-step) left turns. Maybe getting a louder bell to warn pedestrians you’re coming. Maybe using your bike with disc brakes on really wet days.
    From the risk-management perspective, wearing more high-visibility clothes is just one possible control against motor vehicle collisions. There are others. You get to choose which ones you want to employ, because it’s your safety at stake.
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    jeff bernards December 13, 2014 at 8:41 am

    I organized a group of 10 riders, Death Valley to San Diego. I asked everyone to have an orange vest (& mirror!) sometimes the mirage effect of the desert makes it hard to see, bright orange? Can be seen for miles. My friend from Arizona, didn’t get the message. But he stated that he could see the orange vests for quite a distance. We happen to be in a goodwill store and they had an orange vest, he bought it. We all rode 700 miles with no problems.
    Your going to be sharing the road, with cars 90% of the time, for the foreseeable future. You need to practice defensive riding, to insure your safe arrival. Mirror, helmets, bright clothes, lights, bell or horn, and not just 2 or 3 of these, but ALL of them. I’ve ridden a bike around the world twice, I know what I’m talking about. Victim blaming? Save it I’ve heard it.

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      soren December 13, 2014 at 9:23 am

      riding on a highway in the middle of a desert is far more risky than cycling in central portland. your comment is akin to comparing hiking a glacier with walking to a coffee shop.

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    Jen December 13, 2014 at 8:41 am

    I personally like the idea of being seen and have lights and reflectors on my bike, but I also notice all of the stop signs and red lights I’ve seen car drivers run, the buildings that car drivers run into, and the other cars that people driving cars drive into. Obviously being brightly colored, reflective, and well lit don’t help in many situations.

    I’ve also been told my entire life that as a woman I need to dress for my own safety. If I didn’t dress modestly, it would be understandable if I were to be raped or molested. After all, if I didn’t want that to happen, why would I so provocatively be showing my shoulders, clavicle, elbows, knees, cleavage. My gut reaction to the his-vis campaign is the same as to the “dress modestly” campaign. Some common sense is great. Sure, cover up (or brighten up) a bit, but avoid people who preach heavily about either end of the spectrum .

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    drew December 13, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Wow, I didn’t think the value of bright clothing was a matter of debate.

    In my ninja riding days, I had a lot of close calls. in my current habit of bright lights and hi vis, I can’t recall any notable close calls. I get a wider berth. Whats not to like?

    There was a war for the public right-of-way 100 years ago and the petroleum and motor vehicle concerns won. They still win. I don’t think this will change anytime soon.

    Driver licenses are given to children; the vision impaired and demented are able to keep driving. I like to dress for the occasion! Dynamo lights, reflective leg bands, class 3 ODOT highway worker vest.

    The class 3 vest is what highway workers wear when working on freeways. If they can’t see me, they can’t see highway workers. A jury box would frown on a motorist who couldn’t see a highway worker. They may have less sympathy about the ninja bike rider.

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      9watts December 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

      “A jury box would frown on a motorist who couldn’t see a highway worker.”

      Wanda Cortese appreciates your sentiment, but to my knowledge no jury ever got a chance to deliberate about why she all but killed Christeen Osborn who was wearing dayglo in broad daylight on a straight stretch of Hwy 101not so many years ago with her automobile.

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      Bill Walters December 13, 2014 at 11:12 am

      Actually, the debate framed in the original post was not about the value of such clothing but about public agencies and the content of their outreach campaigns. The gist: Why not do outreach campaigns that more authentically target the root of the problem?

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    NE Portland Rider December 13, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I appreciate the concern that drivers need to improve their skills. But until all drivers are amazing and never make mistakes, I’d rather error on the side of being highly visible. None of these arguments matter if you’ve been hit because you’ve stuck to your guns to dress how you want and not give in to the man.

    I have a bright taillight (awesome one from PDW), bright flashing headlight, and if I’m commuting, I wear a yellow biking jacket with reflective strips. I also wear a helmet. Is any of that really fashionable? Nope. But I’m riding a bike on busy roads that I share with cars in bad weather. Its not about fashion. Its about defensive riding. FYI – I dress how ever I want if I’m taking a Saturday jaunt to the market and its nice outside. But I always wear a helmet and use the lights.

    Two thoughts on the drivers:
    1 – I’m a driver. I drive quite often but I try to bike even more often. I know as a driver how hard it is to see pedestrians and bicyclists when the weather is bad. Since I’m a biker I’m really careful and give way. But I’m often surprised by pedestrians and bikers I didn’t see. It scares me.

    2 – Comparing the US to Copenhagen. Showing 2 pictures of the different biking crowds doesn’t do much justice. You’d need to know a lot more than that to do a comparison. Is there a critical mass of bikers so bikers aren’t somewhat random? Do young kids (aka bad drivers) there get licenses and drive at night? Do they have a lot of SUVs (aka urban assault vehicles) on their roads? In general do they have a lot of drivers who aren’t bicyclists? And finally its the chicken and the egg – what comes first, better drivers or lackadaisical bicyclists? I’d rather not die in the interim.

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    Dan Kaufman December 13, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I was horrified by how many trees and branches that fell the other night were not wearing any reflective gear at all. How on earth can a motor vehicle operator be expected to avoid these reckless pieces of foliage when they are sitting in the road like that and practically invisible!?

    It is well past time we demand reflective gear on all trees!

    /sarcasm

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      J_R December 14, 2014 at 9:01 am

      I did recognize the sarcasm, but you do realize that LOTS of downed tree branches were hit and run over in the roads on Thursday night. The difference is that most branches were not big enough to cause any damage to the cars and none of the branches filed reports indicating they were hit.

      On Friday morning you could see broken tree branches all over the roads that had been repeatedly run over by autos so your analogy is not all that useful.

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    Ted Buehler December 13, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Just a data point —

    I’ve been car-free for a year. This week I rented a car for a week to get some errands done, and to experience life from the inside of a windshield for a change.

    I was driving south on Rodney last night, stopping at the stop sign at Shaver. Moderate rain. The rental car, like all new cars, has obstructed visibility in the front corners. Steeply slanted struts to hold up the roof and big rear-view mirrors make for huge front corner blind spots, especially the right side. To see if there are any small, slow-moving objects to the right (like bikes and peds) near the right-front of the vehicle, you need to move your head and shoulders around quite a bit.

    At the stop sign I waited for an approaching car from the left, then proceeded across the intersection. Just as I started, a bicyclist entered the intersection in front of me, eastbound on Shaver (the far side of the intersection). She had a headlight (not flashing, kinda dim), but I hadn’t been able to pick it out between the rain, parked cars, and jumbo blind spot. I was able to stop with plenty of room to spare, but I’m sure she didn’t appreciate having me start across the intersection at the same time as she was entering it with the right-of-way.

    So, regardless of whether Tri-Met and PBOT *should* be promoting bright winter gear or addressing bicycle and pedestrian safety in another way which may be more effective, it’s a fact that a single, dim, steady headlight simply isn’t enough to ensure that a bicyclist can be seen in ordinary December driving conditions by ordinary drivers in post-2005 automobiles in Portland, OR.

    &, for the record, my normal mode of transportation is a bike with a single, dim steady headlight.

    FWIW.
    Ted Buehler

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      9watts December 14, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Yes. A pragmatic suggestion, to be sure, but note the way your pragmatism shifts responsibility. It is not my responsibility as a member of traffic who eschews the car to make up for limitations that derive from how cars are designed and how they are driven. In Germany the inference from experiences such as yours was to develop more powerful headlights for cars not to exhort people walking and biking to change their behavior.

      http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/12/think-encouraging-high-vis-gear-115550#comment-5981871

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      Pete December 14, 2014 at 10:49 am

      This is exactly how my wife was nearly hit recently – and a very valid point. We immediately invested in tires with reflective sidewalls, and we tested them by taking turns behind the wheel and riding around our neighborhood blocks. My pair is on order now, and they look silly on my bike but I highly recommend them (moreso than the clothing), and my friend has reflective tape on his crank arms that we’ll try out.

      As a frequent (and cautious) driver I’ve had a few close calls with cyclists in the dark – my worst fear is hitting a fellow rider – but I tend to think those are the bike riders you wouldn’t generally see reading bike blogs (or paying attention to PSAs)… like the wrong way riders I see ignoring the painted arrows and blatant signage.

      Very good comment, thanks Ted.

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    A.H. December 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Until “I didn’t see them” stops being an acceptable excuse for drivers to hit cyclists, I’m going to be doing all I can to get lit up like a goddamn second sun coming down the middle of the road at night. Rear light, handlebar light, helmet light, hi-vis jacket, reflective tape, whatever. Just about anyone can get a license in this country and say the words “couldn’t see ’em” to a cop; I say, don’t give this an excuse to stick around as the norm.

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    GlenK December 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I looked into the question of hi-vis clothing here in New Zealand when the Coroner investigating a series of cycle fatalities mused out loud about the merits of making it mandatory. In my analysis of those fatals where the clothing was recorded (admittedly only a sample of ~50 so far), I found that there was NO significant difference in the likelihood that the motorist saw the rider before the crash. See http://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/9718 for this analysis (and other factors of fatal bike crashes). My take on this finding is that it isn’t a case of motorists not seeing the rider but often a case of them not LOOKING for them in the first place, regardless of what they were wearing.

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      9watts December 13, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks for the reminder, GlenK. This seems highly pertinent to the conversation, yet several people here persist in studiously ignoring these findings.

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    CaptainKarma December 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I had no idea I was being judged so critically and vehemently about what I wear, don’t wear, how fast or straight I ride, what color my clothes are, whether I take the lane or not, ad infinitum. I wad told this was a nonjudgmental town. Maybe I need to take a break from bp I guess, cuz its making me feel more guilty than the Oregonian.

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    chris December 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Sensible PDX bikers, (I mean victims) have been wearing reflective clothing for years.

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      jeff bernards December 14, 2014 at 11:52 am

      lame comment

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    El Biciclero December 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    I would like to think that agencies who make safety recommendations are attempting to get the best bang for their buck by target their message toward a) the place they feel information is most lacking, and b) an audience that is likely to be receptive. This approach would maximize the “effectiveness” of the message.

    There are probably a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists who don’t realize how hard they can be to see for drivers who aren’t actively looking, this is where the lack of knowledge is perceived to be. Also, who would be more receptive to a safety message than the population that has the most to lose by not following the advice in the message? In the education economy, these messages targeted to vulnerable users probably are the most “effective” at changing behavior of the target audience: “dress funny or die!”

    In contrast, I think there is a sense that messages targeted at drivers will not be taken to heart because a driver has very little to lose by not following the advice. Unfortunately many grown-ups, like children, only modify their behavior when harm comes to them, either through financial loss, legal sanctions or actual bodily harm. For drivers, neither legal sanctions nor bodily harm are likely (any financial loss of having your vehicle repaired is likely minimal) if they run over a VRU, so messages targeted at drivers are the equivalent of “come on, guys, be nice! Pay attention—you might hurt somebody!”, which has slightly less punch than “dress funny or die!” Since we don’t think drivers will listen, we don’t really send messages their way—it would be a waste of time.

    Unfortunately, this messaging tendency has the side effect of letting drivers off the hook to an even greater extent than they already are. By focusing on VRUs, drivers can essentially stand there and say “Yeah! Dress funny or die!” and adopt an attitude that getting yourself run over will be your own fault if you weren’t lit up all glowy.

    On the law enforcement side, “effectiveness” is had by targeting the most egregious offenders, of which we have deemed drunk drivers to be chief. Until we apply the same level of law and enforcement to all reckless driving behavior: phone use, speeding (especially at night), turn signal neglect, failure to yield, etc., driver behavior will not change.

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      wsbob December 13, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      “…There are probably a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists who don’t realize how hard they can be to see for drivers who aren’t actively looking, this is where the lack of knowledge is perceived to be. …” El Biciclero

      There are many situations and conditions in which vulnerable road users are very difficult to see, even by people driving that are actively on the lookout for vulnerable road users.

      This on the part of people walking, biking, or otherwise using the street not in a motor vehicle, apparently is also an area where lack of knowledge is thought to exist, by agencies conducting safety campaigns encouraging the use of hi-vis and other visibility gear.

      You close your comment with a repeat of your frequently expressed view that punitive approaches targeting people that drive, will be more effective in achieving safety on the road for vulnerable road users. At best, even if such measures were to be supported and implemented, that approach would likely would be a long shot at achieving greater safety for vulnerable road users.

      It’s much quicker and more effective to have vulnerable road users become hip to situations and conditions where their use of visibility gear can immensely help road users more easily see them on the road, avoiding close calls an collisions.

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        El Biciclero December 13, 2014 at 8:47 pm

        I can only assume you are agreeing with me, since you seem to be repeating what I said…

        One clarification, though: I tried to avoid drawing any conclusions about level of safety as a result of messaging or enforcement. My only point was that behavior is not likely to change until negative consequences are experienced or assured. Those consequences take the form of getting run over for pedestrians and cyclists, but don’t really exist much for motorists (unless they are drunk or flee). Stronger laws and greater enforcement could provide the consequences necessary to influence driver behavior.

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          wsbob December 13, 2014 at 11:07 pm

          I didn’t repeat what you said. I offered the opposite realistic situation, which is that many people driving are actively looking for vulnerable road users. This is not just a ‘one classification applies to all’ situation.

          “…Stronger laws and greater enforcement could provide the consequences necessary to influence driver behavior.” bic

          Possibly, but I doubt it, at least not very soon. Lots of variables here, one of which is whether there’s much chance that in the U.S. or closer to home, any time in the near future, some kind of law strengthening you may or may not have an idea of substance about, would be made into law.

          At best, chances of that happening, likely would be years away. In the meantime, if they don’t have some already, people could go to the store, tomorrow, and get some visibility gear that could vastly improve their visibility on dark, shadowy sections of the road and street, to people driving.

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            Bill Walters December 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

            Bob, you did literally repeat what he “said,” as you nearly always begin your comments with a lengthy quote from the comment you’re responding to — almost as if you don’t perceive or understand the threading function of the comments section.

            Granted, the threads aren’t foolproof. But through that technique of yours, even apart from your tone and content, you brand yourself as someone who is maybe less than fully aware of his surroundings and serves, at best, as an unreliable narrator. FWIW.

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              wsbob December 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

              Nope. Read again what I wrote, and what Bic wrote. In his initial comment, he emphasizes people driving, and that “…aren’t actively looking…”.

              In my response to that comment, I offer the opposite view, emphasizing people that are actively looking for vulnerable road users, and that nevertheless often have great difficulty seeing them because of situations and conditions in which people as vulnerable road users, have not used measures to enhance their visibility to people driving.

              Some people commenting to bikeportland, seek to keep up a constant harangue against people that drive, attempting to maintain that all of the problems of the world on the road, people biking face, are generally due to people driving and generally ‘not paying attention to people biking.

              The most unfortunate result of which, is that particular harangue may unfortunately be deluding some people that bike, into believing that doing something so simple and economical as equipping their bike and themselves, will do nothing to improve their visibility to people driving motor vehicles.

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                caesar December 14, 2014 at 12:54 pm

                Yes!

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                El Biciclero December 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm

                Well, not quite the opposite, but more of the same. My point was that we seem to think that VRUs don’t know how invisible they are. They can’t know whether a driver is “actively looking” or not; I think all we can say is that many assume that VRU’s don’t know how to “be seen”—by anyone. The fact remains, however, that drivers have a responsibility to actively LOOK for VRU’s on the road, and to drive at a speed that makes that possible. Speeding on a narrow road at night, especially if it is rainy, should be prima facie evidence of careless driving. Drivers should be paranoid that the future broker of world peace is going to leap onto the road in front of them at any moment. But drivers have no incentive to pay such attention, so many (not all) don’t.

                The only incentive drivers have to modify their behavior is, as I said, threat of harm of some kind. Since that likely won’t take the form of bodily harm if a Beemer hits a Bianchi, then the only other threat we can possibly make is legal consequences. You seem to oppose increased responsibility on the part of drivers on grounds of futility, or that it is “no fair”, because you view it as foisting a cyclist’s responsibility to not get run over onto drivers who are doing their darnedest to carry out an impossible task: driving safely.

                Really, my only point was that when it comes to “public service” messaging like this, there seems to be a perception, as you yourself exemplify, that talking to drivers is pointless, so let’s focus on those that are under the biggest threat, and so supposedly have the highest level of motivation to listen. Are such messages effective at changing behavior? Is high-viz/reflective clothing effective at keeping me safe on my bike? Who knows? But the understandable focus on aiming messages at VRUs does send a subtle message to drivers that they only need to be as careful as would be needed to see high-viz reflective gear, nothing less. It gives them an excuse for “not seeing” anyone who wasn’t lit up.

                By the way, I’m all for visibility…of my bike at night. Just like any other vehicle. I would tell anyone contemplating riding at night, if you can only choose one of either wearing a helmet or using good lights to be safe, choose the lights.

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                9watts December 14, 2014 at 5:29 pm

                some excellent points, there, El Biciclero.
                Even though we’ve been over this particular territory at considerable length quite a few times already—before this week’s rehash—I always learn new insights, new ways of thinking about this topic.
                A true pleasure, this bikeportland conversation that just keeps going.

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                wsbob December 18, 2014 at 9:56 am

                “…But the understandable focus on aiming messages at VRUs does send a subtle message to drivers that they only need to be as careful as would be needed to see high-viz reflective gear, nothing less. …” bic

                That’s not the message, subtle or otherwise, being sent to people that drive by way of safety campaigns directed towards people as vulnerable road users. Some people that drive, may contradictorily choose, as you seen to want to do, interpret the safety campaigns as implying this to them, but that’s by no means the message being sent. It’s ridiculous to presume or assume such a message as you suggest, is being sent.

                The message such safety campaigns seek to deliver simply, covers a number of areas of importance.

                Such as, importance of awareness of each other as road users, and relative visibility of each road user to each other.

                Emphasis on the fact that in road situations where motor vehicle use is common, and people using the road for travel by means other than motor vehicle are present there as well, the person not traveling by car, is the vulnerable road user.

                Practical, affordable means vulnerable road users can use to enhance their visibility in sometimes frequently occurring, low visibility road situations, to people driving.

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                9watts December 19, 2014 at 8:00 am

                “That’s not the message, subtle or otherwise, being sent to people that drive by way of safety campaigns directed towards people as vulnerable road users.”

                I’m not surprised you would disagree with that, wsbob, but your huffing and puffing (to quote a phrase) is not the same as showing how what El Biciclero said is inaccurate. I happen to think it is right on the money.

                The passage you quoted:
                “…But the understandable focus on aiming messages at VRUs does send a subtle message to drivers that they only need to be as careful as would be needed to see high-viz reflective gear, nothing less. …”

                You yourself said, upthread, that in the presence of cars it is dangerous for bikes. Is it comparably dangerous for bikes in the presence of other bikes? No. Is it comparably dangerous for bikes in the presence of pedestrians or skateboarders or somnambulists? No. So, we agree about the source of the danger. Now, given that Trimet has focused its efforts here solely on the bystanders, as it were, what message does that send to people in cars, people whose behaviors have not been highlighted? Which class of people is being assigned a new, extralegal responsibility (and more importantly, why)?

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                dr2chase December 19, 2014 at 11:39 am

                “Which class of people is being assigned a new, extralegal responsibility (and more importantly, why)?”

                Bicyclists and pedestrians, obviously, and the reason is that since they have demonstrated already their higher level of social responsibility (sorry car-lovers, objective metrics rule here), it’s expected that they can handle this one, too. No good deed goes unpunished.

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                wsbob December 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm

                dr2chase at:

                http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/12/think-encouraging-high-vis-gear-115550#comment-6016038

                Use of hi-vis by people walking, biking, skateboarding, not traveling in motor vehicles, is simply, well justified assumption of their personal responsibility to look after their own skin in road situations where conditions pose a risk of their not being visually detectable by people driving.

                But certainly, stand your ground and shirk that responsibility if you think it’s an imposition you cannot and should not bear, even if there’s a chance that assuming it could save you from injury or death.

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                9watts December 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm

                wsbob,
                do you appreciate the difference between wearing high viz oneself, and the message that is conveyed by having a public entity choose to focus on this as a matter of public safety (when they could be focusing on 132 other things)?

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                dr2chase December 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

                Wsbob, you misunderstand me. Because I know that an important fraction of drivers insist on not obeying the basic speed law (by driving at a speed that prevents them from responding from law-abiding pedestrians in crosswalks and law-abiding cyclists in the road), I conclude that of course drivers are less responsible than cyclists and pedestrians. The numbers speak for themselves — drivers are roughly 15x more deadly to pedestrians than cyclists (pedestrians are at least as “careless” in the presence of bicycle traffic as they are in presence of auto traffic). And they are in the majority, and (having grown up in the South) I am well aware that the majority is capable of tolerating and even establish a immoral status quo (in particular, one far more immoral than mere careless driving). So my expectations for drivers are low, and my expectations for change are low.

                People who make choices that are objectively responsible, well, they get more responsibility piled on them. Ergo, pedestrians and cyclists must look out for themselves. Why would you expect the 15x-more-deadly crowd to suddenly clean up their act? (And I’m not counting all the other ways driving is antisocial, I’m just looking at pedestrian deaths.)

                Did you think I was snarking? What I wrote is exactly my logic — my mental model of a driver is cross between a nearsighted rhino and a toddler. Of course I expect to take my own steps to enhance my own safety, and I do. Read my posts above, daytime running lights, with safety references and helpful instructions for anyone else who wants bright cheap reliable lights (my bike, in particular, has two headlights, one spot, one spread, two daylights of slightly different reddish colors at different spots on the bike, and numerous bits of reflective tape scattered around on the back, front, and sides).

                I think the only difference between you and me on this issue is that you apparently like the status quo, and I don’t. I’ll take it into account, but I’ll bloody well not be nice about it.

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                Bill Walters December 19, 2014 at 5:29 pm

                Bob may by now have earned the title of “uncle,” with an apologetic nod to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

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                wsbob December 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm

                dr2chase at: http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/12/think-encouraging-high-vis-gear-115550#comment-6017838

                2chase, I don’t particularly like the status quo…that is people as road users not traveling by motor vehicle, being vulnerable road users relative to people that drive motor vehicles. As well, I find no constructive gain to be had in disregarding basic safety measures people as vulnerable road users can use to help increase their visibility on the road to people driving. Or encouraging others to do the same.

                Yes, I suppose your brief comment that I earlier responded to, does, whether or not that’s what you really intended it to, sound as though you were snarking on people that drive. Just more of the animosity released by various people commenting to bikeportland stories, generally upon people that drive.

                Other than blowing off steam, that kind of talk does no real constructive good, and perpetuates ‘us against them’ type conflicts. Emphasis on the vast majority of people driving, that are making great efforts to do their part in looking out for the welfare of people using the road as vulnerable road users, is bound to bring about far better results.

                Bill Walters at: http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/12/think-encouraging-high-vis-gear-115550#comment-6017924

                Bill, I read your remark, and figure you must have been enjoying yourself by trying to be clever and a bit indirect in responding to my comment by referencing a literary figure of the past, but name calling is still name calling, any way you shake, and I’d appreciate you not do that in future. I believe you can direct your mind to more constructive thoughts that could really help people in creating better condition for walking and biking. Try it.

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                9watts February 8, 2015 at 6:27 pm

                dr2chase: “I conclude that of course drivers are less responsible than cyclists and pedestrians.”

                Interesting statistics from NYC:
                “New York’s speed cameras can only be placed in school zones”
                “The cameras are only active during certain times on school days.”
                “Violations are issued when drivers are more than 10 mph over the posted limit.”
                “[Last year] About 445,000 speed-related summonses were issued from all the cameras.”
                http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/01/speed_camera_ticket_revenue_2014.html#incart_related_stories

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    Aaron December 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I made a Tron bike.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bB87KnP07IU

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      David Lewis December 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Please don’t take this personally, but your TRON bike has the absolute worst kind of useless lights imaginable, I’m sorry to say. Pedestrians won’t see you, and probably not other bicyclists either. Just like the light got lost in your camera light, an automobile’s headlights will drown it out too.

      If you had fenders (who don’t you?), they would be a more ideal place for the retroreflective tape, since they have profiles which are visible from both the rear and the side.

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    Opus the Poet December 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    The thing that makes pedestrians and cyclists visible to drivers is legislation that takes the car away from a driver that hits a vulnerable road user, or makes them 100% responsible for the wreck if they can show any fault on the driver. Countries that have either of those laws in place have very low cyclist and pedestrian injury rates, countries like the US where the vulnerable user has to show they did everything right plus wearing glow in the dark clown suits have pedestrians and cyclists making up 16% of road fatalities.

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      9watts December 13, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      Yes! 1,000 times!
      What can we do to get you and dr2chase to run things in the transportation accountability dept.?

      Thank you both for saying this so well.

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        dr2chase December 15, 2014 at 8:29 am

        Thanks for the plug, but from what I’ve read on Dutch cycling blogs the change in legal/civil responsibility (it’s not as simple as heavier vehicle always pays) is nice but neither necessary nor sufficient. It helps a little; David Hembrow’s assertion is that both improved infrastructure and cycling share uptick came first in the Netherlands.

        And legal consequences don’t have the same bite as moose consequences. “Brake for moose: it could save your life” is a real live bumper sticker in New England. (After all, if the law worked that well, we’d be safe on the roads already, right?)

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          soren December 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

          “It helps a little; David Hembrow’s assertion is that both improved infrastructure and cycling share uptick came first in the Netherlands.”

          cycling mode share in the netherlands started recovering in the 80s, well before the dutch multi-billion euro infrastructure build-out almost tripled separated infrastructure miles.

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      Pete December 14, 2014 at 10:22 am

      Thumbsup++

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    Doug Klotz December 14, 2014 at 12:06 am

    As I said earlier, I’m not sure that the current campaigns are cost effective, or even effective at all in

    1. getting pedestrians to wear light clothing. PBOT et. al. has presented no evidence that this is happening.
    and
    2. in reducing pedestrian fatalities. No evidence here, either.

    What they are apparently effective in is giving motorists an excuse for not slowing down enough so they are able to see pedestrians (at every crosswalk). (Although they somehow manage to see the equally dark-colored tree branches.)

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      J_R December 14, 2014 at 8:55 am

      No. The tree branches WERE hit on the road the other night, those hits were simply not reported by the branches or the drivers. And unlike a cyclist, the tree branches were not big enough (with a few exceptions) to cause any damage to the autos.

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        doug klotz December 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

        I was not aware of the size of the branches. But in general drivers seem to be able to see person-sized dark objects, like a tire, in the road. Admittedly, when they do, they often swerve suddenly to avoid it, not the ideal technique around people.

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    The Odd Duck December 14, 2014 at 1:59 am

    Lets cut through all the balderdash, if the state want you to wear a helmet, the state will pass laws to that affect, along with a lights on law, visibly law and so on and so on. So as a group of professional bicycle victims need to get you act together, right now you have a lot of leeway as far as riding styles goes remembering the pendulum can swing the other way and you will see new a creative law pass to protect you from yourself. As an example back in the 70’s when I was riding a motorcycle from California through Oregon I had a discussion with a Oregon state trooper about headlights law that Oregon had. BTW Oregon had motorcycle helmet laws long before California did.

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      Pete December 14, 2014 at 10:20 am

      True dat – especially if the insurance lobby had something to say about it!

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    dr2chase December 14, 2014 at 6:43 am

    It occurred to me, there HAS been some research into the effectiveness of high-viz clothing, and the measured outcome was “not very effective”: http://opus.bath.ac.uk/37890/1/Walker_2013.pdf
    This was measuring passing distance, not crashes, but they recorded passes to within 50cm which is darn close. It’s especially interesting that despite the alleged necessity of high-viz clothing to be seen in time or at all, that there was some effect tied to lettering on top of the high-viz. I’ve noticed a similar effect in crosswalks, where *I* was apparently not visible, but the tiny key in my outstretched hand was surprisingly visible.

    It’s also worth considering the social and convenience aspect of some of these recommended behaviors for cyclists and pedestrians. People do not like to stand out from the crowd (usually — there are always exceptions, I think there is a non-trivial overlap between that bunch and the brave-N-fearless 1%). The social aspect also affects driver behavior — see the paper above for some apparent effects, as well as a study in Florida (also referenced in the paper above) suggesting that wearing racing kit will result in closer passes (similarly for helmets in Walker’s earlier study). For convenience, note that people will dodge the tiniest inconveniences — look at all the micro-labor-saving features built into modern automobiles. Look at how people driving on curved roads statistically cannot be bothered to keep their cars off the paint at the edges of the curve. 4 wheels, power steering, too hard, really?

    Note also that an early summary of cycling safety research ( OECD, “Cycling, Health and Safety” — paywalled PDF or you can read it online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789282105955-en ) doesn’t yield any results for high-viz clothing, and of all the laws, policies, and research summarized there, only Germany has an official policy of promoting high-viz clothing (and not to go all Godwin, but that’s been tried before in Germany and it did not end well).

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      Trikeguy December 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

      If you want more passing distance, ride 3 wheels.

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    TOM December 14, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Mick Jagger had this figured out ..way back in the 60’s.

    “So, if you’re out tonight, don’t forget, if you’re on your bike, wear white.
    Amen”

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rollingstones/somethinghappenedtomeyesterday.html

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    Tom December 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    European-style “stricter liability” laws would create the most ‘visibility’. If a motorist knows they will not be responsible no matter what, then many will not bother looking.

    Motorists know they will be held responsible for hitting other cars though, so what they do look for is taillights, break-lights and headlights, since this is necessary to avoid other cars. They are not watching out for the color or paint brightness of other cars, but the lights. That is why I use a ‘See and Sense’ daytime taillight. I don’t use it on paths, or group ride situations, but when alone I don’t see the problem. These are slower flashing lights, not seizure inducing ones, and brightness is similar to car taillights. They have an accelerometer that senses when you are slowing to stop, or turning, and increases the brightness during this time. Thus they convey useful information, like car break lights do, and useful information will likely get more attention.

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    ThisOtherGuyHere December 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    You can argue about the validity and style of day-glow radioactive reflective neon wear, and matching accessories, until the cows come home. You can also blame this side over that side and point and sneer, but the point most seem to miss is this: We are all sharing the space between the buildings. Whether on foot, two wheels, or four-or-more, we need to stop considering the lawsuits we can bring down on ourselves/each other and start caring about the other human beings out there. It is time we worked together.

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    David Lewis December 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I cry inside every time I see a bicyclist wearing neon outdoor gear on a bike that has tiny dim blinking lights and no reflectors.

    A blinking light is OFF half the time, and that might be when an automobile operator was looking your way!

    Duh.

    The handlebars are the wrong place for a headlight, as is the helmet. A focused beam pointed at the road from a low point on the bike, like the fork crown, will allow the bicyclist to better see obstacles because it casts a shadow. The lower the light, the more likely it will be doing its job while also being closer to level with the ground and therefore also announcing your presence to those in front of you. The best battery headlight I have ever used is the B&M Ixon IQ, with the fork crown adapter. I have been flashed by drivers who thought I was a motorcycle with his hi-beams on! It is easy to remove and a dynamo can be connected to keep the batteries charged. Pair it with a B&M Toplight Line taillight, which has a built-in reflector. One battery has lasted me four years.

    Reflective sidewalls, reflective pedals, focused steady beam headlight on the fork crown, steady bright taillight on the cargo rack or fender, and a LOUD BELL. Augment that with extruded spoke reflectors, maybe some reflective tape on the fenders, and you’re done. If you ride clipless and don’t have Shimano PD-T780 pedals (every bike I own has them), then you should have reflective heels on your shoes.

    I ride in street clothes 100% of the time.

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    April December 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I’m a fan nod reflective stuff–on my bicycle. Reflective sidewall tires, reflective bits in pedals, those reflective stickers are cute and I’ve also considered the ones that go on spokes, and my panniers all have reflective bits.

    That said, almost none of my clothes have any because I rarely wear bicycle-specific stuff. And I LOATHE fluorescent colors and refuse to wear them.

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    Beth December 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    When we can get all cars to travel at 20 mph anywhere in the city limits; when fewer peoe drive and more people walk and bike; and when I feel truly safe riding my bike at night, I will stop using flective gear.But for now, we live in a car-centric landscape — and that won’t change anytime soon. So to survive on my bike at nit, I ride with care — and dress for visibility. For the time being, I feel I don’t have another choice.

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    chet palter December 14, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    there will eventually be something more high-vis than reflective gear, and one day it will be be recommended that cyclists wear that instead of reflective gear.
    if you can replace a safety measure with a sign that says “watch out for me,” then it might be time to educate those who are supposed to be watching out.

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    Dan December 15, 2014 at 8:01 am

    My neighborhood has a lot of runners early in the morning. Some of them wear reflective clothing and/or carry flashlights, and to them I say ‘thank you’ for making it easier to see them. The others are dressed like ninjas, and to them I say ‘thank you’ for encouraging me to drive slower and more carefully.

    Both groups, just by being out there, are making my neighborhood safer for others.

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    invisiblebikes December 15, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I think there is a BIG point being overlooked here…

    The reality is that many if not the majority of motorist on Pedestrian incidents happen because the motorist truly did not see the Pedestrian. Yes it is the motorist responsibility (and they should be held accountable) and yes it is also the motoring infrastructure that needs to drastically be improved, But that is all after the fact.

    We’re talking prevention to promote change here!

    a large percentage of pedestrian and bicyclists incidents caused by motorists would and could be avoided if they could SEE us.
    Having bright colors on helps in dark under lit streets, also when its raining it is much harder for a motorist to see anything else without head lights.
    So naturally bikes with hi-powered front and rear lights will be seen sooner and most likely avoid incident with a motorist.

    Its just plain common sense that part of making changes to our motoring laws and infrastructure is to lead by example, prevention and safety in numbers. If more bicycle riders and pedestrians wear bright colors or use safety lights then it would be reasonable to assume more people (motorists) would notice us and realize they need to make changes to protect everyone and not just themselves!

    Camouflage works well in the jungle to protect us From predators, but blending in with our surroundings in a city or neighborhood only makes us more vulnerable to the “distracted unpredictable predators” (motorists)

    Hiding in plain sight on your bike is dangerous and irresponsible, expecting the majority (motoring public) to change “just like that!” is just plain ignorant. Changes like these take a long time and usually only happen when we lead by example!

    Look at the history of the seat belt law, and how long it took for the majority of drivers to just wear a seat belt! There are still idiots out there that refuse to wear a seat belt… even though it is ridiculously common knowledge that seat belts increase the likelihood of surviving a crash by 100Xs!

    The real issue is people don’t change on their own, they need to be lead to change, shown the high road… made to understand and downright beaten over the head by it before they’ll wake up and Change! Until we do, we need to do what ever it takes to stay alive!

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      Bill Walters December 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Agreed: Through their outreach campaigns, public agencies ought to puruse that long process of changing people’s in-car behavior.

      But instead, public agencies wuss out; they direct their outreach at the more vulnerable modes. This only kicks the can down the road but positions agencies to claim they addressed the issue.

      Meanwhile, for the duration of the can-kicking: Of course use lights and reflectors according to existing law, and go as far beyond that as you care to. But do realize that such agencies are doing you no favors.

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        Bill Walters December 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        Er, “pursue.”

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    Bald One December 15, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Add rainwater to automobile windows at night and it changes the visibility equation a lot. Get inside a car when it’s raining and drive around at night. Everyone should try it. It teaches you who can and can’t be seen based on what they are wearing and lights they have and where and in what type of street situation . Cyclists and peds have fantastic visibility (ability to see others) compared with drivers behind the glass covered in rain lit up by other car headlights. Many older drivers have troubles seeing at night as well as day, so add this to your safety equation. And it’s dark before 5pm. Always beware and don’t assume people can see you just because you see them.

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      9watts December 15, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Agreed.
      But the crux here is what we want our transit-agency-who-are-about-to-unroll-another-campaign to do in light of this problem. Your scenario beautifully illustrates that the problem resides with cooped up, car-bound people who struggle under plenty of realistic scenarios to see what is happening around them from within their conveyance. As a pedestrian is this really my problem?!

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      dr2chase December 15, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Don’t forget, the vast majority of bicycle riders are also licensed car drivers; I’m sure that most of us have driven in the rain.

      At least in my case, it has occurred to me that when my ability to see is impaired, I must continue to obey the basic speed law, which suggests that I should be prepared for utterly law-abiding ninja pedestrians to step off the curb at any places where it is legally allowed. Furthermore, kids playing in the rain might step off the curb where it is not legally allowed, because they are kids. And if I find that this makes driving stressful, how is that their problem, not my problem? They have a legal right not to be smashed by an automobile — as the guy driving the automobile, it’s my problem to not to smash them.

      Is this not obvious? Is there something that is more important than not hitting pedestrians and cyclists? Against what are you trading off their safety?

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        Trikeguy December 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

        You’re exactly who I wear the higher visibility stuff for – the guy who’s trying to look for me and can use a little help in low visibility conditions. I consider it simply a courtesy to the vast majority of drivers who are making at least some kind of effort out there.

        I’m not under any illusions that anything I wear or put on my bike will magically grab a texter’s attention from their little device. That’s what *my* eyes and ears are for.

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    Joe December 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    I’m starting to see more ppl that seem to be way too high viz if you ask me,
    i’m more in the lines of urban gear not a traffic cone 🙁

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      wsbob December 17, 2014 at 12:16 am

      “I’m starting to see more ppl that seem to be way too high viz …” Joe

      Joe, in what type of lighting and street conditions are you seeing people’s use of hi-vis, that seems excessive?

      People’s rides often take them through a wide range of lighting conditions. Some points on the ride, the lighting may be great, like that for the guy wearing the orange suit in the picture at the top of this story when the photo was taken.

      They may then ride along a few blocks, a mile, whatever, maybe into conditions very different, to low, or flat light, with lots of shadows. There, the hi-vis gear can make lots of sense.

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    Grimmfan December 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    My vision started to get blurry after reading the 50th comment, so I’m not sure if anyone else has posted this info:

    Although I like reflective gear, and usually wear some sort when riding in dark conditions, I don’t like to wait for vehicle lights to hit ME…I’d rather be seen before I’m in the direct beam of someone’s headlights.

    To further my visibility, I bought a Tracer360 from noxgear.com earlier this year, which I had intended on using exclusively for running. Then I realized, with adjustments, it can fit over any jacket and/or backpack and would be perfect for riding in the dark.

    When wearing this light/vest combo, I’ve actually been asked to STOP by motorists, pedestrians, and other riders who want to know more about the product and where they could buy one.

    Although I have NFI in this product, I wish I did!

    Also, referring to Jonathan’s photo of Copenhagen vs. Portland…I’ve lived and cycled in Amsterdam, and to compare the two (in so many different categories) is just a fool’s game (no offense intended!). Protected and dedicated bike lanes aside, it’s the culture of cycling and how much of a role it plays in society that sets apart PDX and the European centers of cycling. Cycling in AMS is so tightly woven into the fabric of Dutch society, you might say auto drivers there look for bicycles first, pedestrians second, trams third, and other autos last! For nighttime riding in AMS, a decent generator light and hightened awareness will get you around the city very safely.

    Be safe out there.

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    Pete December 16, 2014 at 8:02 am

    The more I think about this, the more I wonder if PBOT has ever launched a similar campaign urging drivers to use their turn signals.

    I hope one of us wins that kit though… 😉

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    KristenT December 17, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I wish the various DOTs and Transit Authorities would do more to encourage DRIVERS to be aware and to take their responsibilities seriously.

    I wear hi-vis when I walk, because I’m usually walking at 0 dark 30 in the morning. I also have the brightest headlamp I can afford, and I just knit myself a hat using reflective yarn (mostly because I could, and it’s a dorky hat and I love it). I do this because most of the streets surrounding my house do not have sidewalks, shoulders, or bike lanes (hey, City of Tigard, I’m looking at you, man) and the only place to walk is in the roadway on a 35mph speedway. In the interest of self preservation, I look like a mega-reflective, Christmas-tree wearing, dorkus maximus. And I don’t care.

    I also wear hi-vis when I ride because see prior street comment, and it makes my family feel better about my activities. They don’t worry about me as much, and I don’t have to hear them complain so much. That’s my selfish reason, anyway.

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      El Biciclero December 18, 2014 at 9:49 am

      Encouraging drivers to take their responsibilities more seriously would be just that, encouragement—but not motivation. It could “send a message”, or declare an official position, which would be valuable in itself, but would likely fall on deaf ears. Pedestrians and cyclists have motivation to wear hi-viz because they could die or be seriously injured if they don’t (or even if they do). In my observation, messages are most often targeted at drivers when there are some consequences that can be attached, e.g., “Click it or ticket“, or one I’ve seen more recently “Doobie … DUI“. Televised drunk driving PSAs always show lots of red and blue flashing lights and strongly warn drivers of the legal trouble they will find themselves in if they get caught driving drunk. All of those messages tell drivers “Do this (or fail to do this) and there will be consequences“. The message of “Hey, drivers, watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists!” has no consequences attached if the message is not taken to heart; it’s just a suggestion. Only a change in attitude and enforcement practice will enable messages to drivers like “Hit a pedestrian…become a pedestrian—permanently”, or “Run over a bicyclist? Welcome to the joy of a car-free lifestyle.”

      I hear you on the family front. Most of the “safety” gear I wear is for peace of mind for them. There are still things I don’t tell my wife or parents about—things that happen on my commute, or routes I take, or methods I use for navigating traffic—because even though I do everything as safely as I know how, I realize that some practices (esp. taking the lane at non-intuitive times, or moving across two 40-mph lanes to make a left turn) will not be understood by someone that hasn’t done extensive riding in traffic.

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      wsbob December 18, 2014 at 10:17 am

      “…I just knit myself a hat using reflective yarn (mostly because I could, and it’s a dorky hat and I love it). …” Kristen

      Whoa! Double thumbs up! Very crafty to think of using the reflective yarn for a hat. I’m glad to read of the other hi-vis accessories you’re also using for the kind of road situations you deal with, walking or biking.

      People developing a habit of knowing to use good judgment to consider whether the stuff can be helpful, in road situations into which they intend to travel, can avoid their looking like a brilliantly lit up dork, if they really think that’s what hi-vis makes them look like, and if they care one way or another.

      I’ve never much worn knit caps. One reason, is store bought always tends to be too small, and tight on my head, which I don’t like. Carhart makes a very bright hi-vis green knit watch cap, available at Fred’s. Probably too tight for anyone having over a seven and a half hat size. Could be other people in your family, or friends, needing a maximum size hat, that would really dig receiving one of your reflective yarn, hand knit hats. Merry Christmas!

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    DoctorKennyG December 17, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Everyday clothes for me, but a yellow riding jacket, mostly to keep the rain off me.

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    9watts December 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Lots of different ways to think about this:

    High viz clothing should// should not be the focus of a public outreach campaign

    High viz clothing is effective// is not effective at preventing car-on-person crashes

    High viz clothing is sensible// is not sensible

    All participants in traffic, regardless of mode, share responsibility for not being hit// the responsibility is proportional to the speed and damage potential of the ‘vehicle.’

    Vision Zero supersedes this high-viz-focused nonsense// high-viz campaigns are a pragmatic, short term fix

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    Dianasaurus November 10, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Good article and discussion. Thank you.

    Had an old Dutch commuter bike that had front and back generator lights – grooves in the tire is how it worked, no wires; was awesomely bright but, at stops or lights, no pedaling == no lights. Great design otherwise and loved not having to put lights on or take them off.

    Sure Vision Zero is great, but so is personal responsibility. Too many bright orange wearing DOT construction workers get hit in flagged work zones, high vis obviously doesn’t work. I don’t trust drivers to see me no matter how visible I am.

    I get aggressively yelled at around the river esplanade for my bike light being too bright, yelled at by drivers for it not being bright enough, yelled at by other cyclists who think it is too bright … gets exhausting. My old nite ryder light used to only have 45 minutes of charge which didn’t always last long enough.

    There are a lot of dark rural roads with bad sides which they call bike lanes but we know it is just the side of the road, and no sidewalk nor much of a shoulder, often no street lights. I see kids often walking these roads at night all in black and even on my slow moving bike they can be hard to see – been attacked by dogs and deer (ran at me not attacked per se but they can hurt) so I get wary about these blobs and what they might be as I really can’t see them and don’t see how it would be possible for a faster moving vehicle driver to see any better and more likely they’d see worse. I try to be visible unless I’m trying to be invisible and blend into the shadows and that goes for my gear and also how I ride in traffic.

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