The importance of being seen for cyclists

Cyclist with helmet and high visiblity waistcoat checks over their shoulder for safety.

Published 31 March 2023
Last updated 24 August 2023

In this blog we discuss how cyclists can stay safe and be seen by other road users.

I’m going to start this blog with a couple of questions: have you ever been out on your bike at dusk without lights and reflectors? Have you ever been driving and seen a cyclist riding without wearing bright clothes or using any kind of light?

It’s OK, we’re not going to ask for emails, texts, or, if you’re really old like me, answers on a postcard! But as you’ll see, there’s a serious reason why I asked...

Clothing is important

If you’ve read our recent blog on cyclists you’ll know that they are vulnerable. They do not have anything to protect them in the event of a collision and they can easily fall victim to potholes and difficult weather conditions. This is just one of many good reasons why motorists should always drive with safety in mind.

But cyclists need to make sure that they have done everything they can to make themselves visible, too. According to government data, “contributory factors” attached to vehicles involved in fatal or serious collisions with cyclists include riders “wearing dark clothing.”

All of which sounds very posh, but it’s just a way of saying that if you blend into the background, you’re increasing the risk of not being seen.

To put it into perspective, have a think about this. Between 2015 and 2020, there were 588 cases of cyclists involved in collisions because other road users could not see them clearly.

Visibility and The Highway Code

Fortunately, The Highway Code can help us out.

Rule 59 says: Light-coloured or fluorescent clothing can help other road users to see you in daylight and poor light, while reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) can increase your visibility in the dark.

Meanwhile, Rule 60 says that at night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights. It also says that your bike MUST be fitted with a red rear reflector. And these things aren’t nice to have or optional. It’s the law and if you ignore it, you could find yourself in trouble with police or, worse, in trouble with the police *and* involved in a nasty incident.

Visibility tips for cyclists

Before you go out in any conditions, make sure other road users can see you. So:

  • Check your lights are working
  • Check your reflectors are clean
  • Make sure you’re wearing clothes that increase your visibility to other road users – particularly in the Autumn and the Winter

You should also:

  • Check your brakes are working
  • Check your bike is in good general mechanical order

Finally, it’s important that you ride to be seen. The vast majority of drivers show good judgement when they encounter cyclists, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always know you’re there. Rural roads, blind bends, blind spots at junctions and roundabouts can have the effect of “hiding” you. The key is to ride sensibly and scan for hazards, and make your intentions clear to other road users as early as you can. This is especially important in difficult conditions when the distances between moving objects is harder to judge.

Still in the dark?

Hopefully this post has inspired you to think about what you can do to stay safe and be seen. Of course, there’s much more to learn about this and many other topics in road safety, so if you want the gen on safe driving, wing over to our shop and pick up a copy of Driving – the essential skills. Meanwhile if you’re a cyclist we’ve got you covered too. Cyclecraft has great advice for every stage of your riding life. Finally, if you fancy reading other blogs about safe cycling, check out some of our previous posts.

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