Stay Visible, Stay Safe

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

By Cori Michibata and John Leonardis

My day job is a 9 to 5 that has me sitting behind a desk 40 hours a week. This means that on most days, dawn and dusk runs are the only chances I get to stretch my legs out in the fresh air. Of the people whose runs are also limited to these hours, I wonder how many of them have prioritized the use of visibility gear on these runs. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of throwing on a neon shirt for visibility and calling it a day before heading out the door for my run. 

But think about what kind of motorists are on the roads during dawn and dusk hours. Maybe they’re still waiting for their morning coffee to jolt them awake as they drive to work. Or they’re driving home after an exhausting overnight shift. They could be coming from happy hour drinks with coworkers. Maybe they’re on autopilot, already mentally preparing for the chores and obligations to be addressed that evening.

More pedestrian accidents occur in the dawn and dusk hours of the day; in fact, there are more pedestrian deaths between 6PM and 9PM than any other time of the day. When visibility is low and motorists are tired and distracted, shouldn’t we do everything possible to stack the decks in our favor? 

Not all visibility gear is created equal.

Take my neon shirt, for example. It’s a good start; the fluorescent pink pops against my surroundings when I head out on my after-work run at 5:30PM. But the sun sets shortly after I start my run, and the safety benefit of my neon attire is neutralized in the low light long before I’m ready for my run to be over.

Simply put, the more obnoxious your visibility gear is, the safer you can be. Imagine you’re behind the wheel after dark, sharing the road with a runner or cyclist wearing a tube light vest blinking four different colors, plus a headlamp and maybe a shoe light. You’re probably thinking, WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING? You slow down to get a better look and realize it’s a person. Now imagine that same person wearing a 6-lumen clip-on blinking light. You’ll probably just keep driving and wonder, Was that a light I just saw? If the runner steps into the road or the cyclist swerves to avoid a pothole, that’s where tragedy strikes.

Visibility gear like the neon attire and small clip-on lights are a good start. But what else could we be doing to increase our chances of being noticed by motorists?

See and be seen.

We can break down visibility gear into three categories: lighting to see, lighting to be seen, and reflective gear. 

Lighting to see

So far we’ve focused on how crucial it is to make ourselves visible to motorists, but we can’t forget how important it is for us as pedestrians to have a clear view of our path in low lighting! There is a wide variety of headlamps, waist lights, and handheld flashlights ranging in brightness and battery life, and designed specifically with runners and walkers in mind.

Here are some of our picks:

Lighting to be seen

Clip-on lights are an easy addition to your running attire. They range in brightness, but they all have several strobe patterns that should make you stand out to motorists as an irregularity in their field of view. If a vest is more your style, there are several options available with light-up features. Some have a blinking light on the front and back, while others will pulse different colors for a fun and vibrant way to stay visible! There are even headlamps and flashlights with a blinking rear-facing light that allows these accessories to multitask as lighting to see and be seen.

Here are some of our picks:

Reflective gear

Reflective vests are available in a variety of styles that mainly differ in fit and the amount of neon color visible. Wristbands, ankle bands, and stickers are helpful because they show reflectivity in motion, setting you apart from other reflective surfaces like signs or traffic cones.

Here are some of our picks:

Stay safe!

Until recently, I had never considered exactly what my responsibility is to ensure my safety as a road runner. It took someone laying out this exact information for me to realize that investing in good visibility gear and actually wearing it on my runs should be just as much a priority as stretching properly or finding the right pair of shoes. If you’ve made it to the end of this blog entry, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll be clad in visibility gear the next time I see you out on the road!


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

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