Little Things get you Noticed

A couple months ago my daughter drove past me as I was pedaling home in the dark. When I walked into the house she told me that she had seen me, so I took the opportunity to do a little research.

Me: “Could you see me fairly well?”
Miss T: “Yeah.”

Me: “How far away did you notice me?”
Miss T: “Pretty far.” – which turned out to be around 500 feet.

The next question was the one I was leading up to. At the time I had on a jacket with reflective stripes and reflective ankle straps and was running a rear blinky.

“What did you notice first?” Her answer took me by surprise. “Your ankle straps.” Seriously, these things were a stocking stuffer that my wife got me a couple Christmases ago so I’d stop using the small bungee cords I swiped from her. I liked the Velcro straps but never really thought about them as being particularly attention grabbing.

Turns out they were an impulse present that she added on to an order from Amazon. I believe these are the Reflective Ankle Straps in question. They will only set you back 8 or 9 bucks, but the point is — every little bit helps when you’re trying to be seen.

When I originally posted this on my personal blog, fellow KC area commuter and CBB’er Noah made a rather keen observation:

“I’ve heard of this phenomenon several times by other motorists and cyclists. Peripheral vision can’t determine color very well but is extremely sensitive to both motion and contrast.”

“Ankle straps activate both because they go up and down.”

The Old Bag” commented:

“I was on the last leg of my commute during that not-dark/not-light time of the AM when a coworker passed by in his car. He later said the lights I had were great-n-all, but what really grabbed his attention were 3 neon yellow streamers (18″x3” or so) tied to my backpack flapping in the breeze. “Whoa”, I think, was his official response.

When drivers are thinking about everything but what’s on the side of the road, grabbing attention through movement can make all the difference.”

What other little things do you do to get noticed?

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0 thoughts on “Little Things get you Noticed”

  1. Colin says:

    I haven’t done this, but I’ve heard the best attention-getting device is to use reflective tape on your rims. Cut the tape in strips and apply them to the inside of the rim (not where your brake pads touch of course) to create a couple of unbroken (except for the spokes) sections about 20cm long at opposite ends of the wheel.

    Moving, spinning, flashing…attracting attention from all directions.

  2. Saiful says:

    Hi.. Good to know there is a growing commuter community in the KC area. There aren’t many when I was in KC a decade ago.

  3. In the UK it’s a legal requirement to have reflectors on your pedals. Of course, trying to comply with that with clipless pedals is pretty tough . . . but I’ve just checked and two out of three of my pairs of cycling shoes have reflective tape on their heels. So now I know what that’s there for!

  4. Gavin says:

    Nite-Ize and several others do glowing reflective arm/leg bands like this. Very effective.

    I bought a “Twinkler” brand version.

  5. Angel says:

    I think that’s the same reason car dealerships use those flags and things that move in the wind to get your attention so that you will look in the direction of their lot. I know I’ve been stuck at a light and can’t help but notice those movements out of the corner of my eye.

  6. redcliffs says:

    Like the wheel suggestion Colin had, your crankarms and (slightly less effectively, I suppose) on your seat stays are two other good locations for reflective tape. But I agree, I think reflective tape in motion is probably one of the best things you can use. On a related note (and maybe this has been discussed here in the past), when I bought a new headlight recently, the folks I bought it from mentioned that there is some evidence that flashing lights attract drivers, especially drunk ones, which would suggest that lights are perhaps both less effective for being noticed than we thought and not ideal for that purpose from a safety perspective. For me, that’s definitely a new way of looking at the problem — get lights for seeing where you are going and reflectors for being seen.

  7. Quinn says:

    Reflective tape is your friend.
    I put reflective tape on my helmet, and Black reflective tape that reflect White, from, on various part of my bike, I also use 2 wheel reflectors to give a “strobe effect”
    And of course the required head and tail lights.

  8. Ghost Rider says:

    The reflective-tape-on-the-wheels trick is a great one…

    One of the things I really like to stand out is the Down Low Glow:

    You will attract attention like nobody’s business — especially if you get an unusual color like blue or pink that stands out from all the amber and red lights on the road.

    Blinking multi-color Christmas lights year-round seem to be a great trick, too. I notice that pedestrians, in particular, cannot wait to make a comment about how visible I am!!!

  9. Jerome says:

    have a “flash flag” that mounts to my rack and sticks out over a foot on a spring, so it waves around wildly – since adding it, have way less close passes – it’s fluorescent for the daytime, and has reflective strips for the night – also run plenty of lights and a reflective triangle on my backpack – check out photos at…

    and find stuff like this at…

  10. Mase says:

    I’m a big fan of reflective tape (and lights to see and be seen). Here’s a photo of my adorned bike (with notes):

    Adorned Bike

  11. Justin says:

    Another reason why Schwalbe tires are the only I’ll buy from now on. On top of all of the radness they add in a sweetass reflective stripe! I love it, and definitely is useful at night, even after the bike’s been in some mud.

    Another thought I’ve had is wrapping one or two spokes in reflective tape. I might try that tonight and see how it goes.

  12. Girl Jen says:

    I wear ‘leg’ bands on all my appendages. If I can’t find one or two of them because my lovely daughter misplaces them (she is 12 months old and already knows how to put them on her legs), I make sure to have one on my right leg and one on my “turn signal” (left arm).

  13. Siouxgeonz says:

    The motion thing is huge. How many blinking lights are out there?

    My Christmas lights get lots of comments, too, and at a buck fifty after Christmas they’re pretty economical. Last week a perky kiddo walking her bike with her dad said “Look at that person’s backpack!” – and people have often thought it was some kind of special backpack, not just a string of LEDs wrapped around the assorted loops thereupon.

    Lane position is the other “little thing” that gets me seen.

  14. VeganCommuter says:

    Thanks for the info Ghost Rider. I’m definitely going to order one of the Down Low Glows!

  15. JiMCi says:

    Self-adhesive reflective tape: can’t misplace them, forget them home, no batteries required!

  16. FrankieJ says:

    One thing I have found that works really good are flashers on top of my helmet and on my backpack. It also helps to use a good headlight.

  17. nat says:

    See and .

    There’s nothing wrong with reflectors. But they absolutely do *not* replace lights. In particular, reflectors pointed sideways (like tire sidewalls) are basically useless. Because a reflector requires (1) light to be shining on it and (2) the light source and the observer to be at appropriate angles for it to do any good. And, as a practical matter, “appropriate angles” usually reduces to the light source and the observer both being perpendicular to the surface of the reflector, and relatively close to one another. So, if a reflector on your side is seen by a motorist, there are two possibilities: they’re far enough away that by the time they get to you, you won’t be there, or they’re so close that by the time they see you it’s too late to do anything about it. Because they only see you when you’re directly in front of them, moving across the front of them.

    On the other hand, there’s a reason reflectors are a good addition to blinking rear lights, in particular: the human eye has difficulty judging the movement of blinking lightsources, and has difficulty judging the distance to monochromatic lightsources. Since pretty much all the blinkies you can get are LEDs, they’re all monochromatic. So you’ve got a double whammy on your ability to judge how quickly you’re approaching a cyclist if the only thing you can see is a blinkie. And it’s not just a little tougher, it can really screw with your perceptions: i once nearly hit a fellow cyclist because he had a red blinkie on the front of his bike as his only lightsource, and i literally couldn’t tell that we were coming at each other at (15+20=)~35mph, rather than me gaining on him at (20-15=)5mph, until i was almost on top of him, and trying to “pass him on the left”–i.e., swerving fully into the same lane [of a narrow bike path] that he was in.

  18. nat says:

    hrmph, it ate my URLs. Let me try this again:

    And in case that still didn’t work, they’re links to the reflectors articles on Sheldon Brown’s and John Allen’s websites, which should be enough info to find them yourself.

  19. Quinn says:


    2 words for you- Reflective Tape- The “effective angle” is Greatly reduced when the reflector can contour with the tube.

    Oh and the more lights you have, the worse your night vision is.
    Why do you need to be seen, when there is no one around?

    Also if you talk to anyone that is color blind, they will tell you that they can see reflectors a lot easier than blinkies.

    Have you ever put a blinky infront of, or over lapped a blinky and a reflector? Surprise, it enhances the blinky.

  20. LosFelizRider says:

    I mail-ordered a “Down Low Glow” from a company in Berkeley Calif. It’s a light tube powered by a separate rechargeable battery. The tube lights come in different “hues” (colors). Mine is their “Cool Ice Blue”.

    Google “down low glow” and you’ll hit the company’s site and blog.

    The glow tubes get you REALLY noticed at night when riding.

    Ride on.

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