The days are progressively getting shorter, and so more and more cyclists will be biking in light conditions that definitely aren't optimal. Most cyclists are good about trying to wear clothing and accessories that are highly reflective and easy to see in the dark, but according to a new peer-reviewed study (page 56), cyclists might not actually be as visible as they think they are, which can increase danger.
Here's the abstract of the paper:
"Visibility limitations make cycling at night particularly dangerous. We previously reported cyclists’ perceptions of their own visibility at night and identified clothing configurations that made them feel visible. In this study we sought to determine whether these self-perceptions reflect actual visibility when wearing these clothing configurations. In a closed-road driving environment, cyclists wore black clothing, a fluorescent vest, a reflective vest, or a reflective vest plus ankle and knee reflectors. Drivers recognised more cyclists wearing the reflective vest plus reflectors (90%) than the reflective vest alone (50%), fluorescent vest (15%) or black clothing (2%). Older drivers recognized the cyclists less often than younger drivers (51% vs 27%). The findings suggest that reflective ankle and knee markings are particularly valuable at night, while fluorescent clothing is not. Cyclists wearing fluorescent clothing may be at particular risk if they incorrectly believe themselves to be conspicuous to drivers at night. "
The danger is of course that if you think you can easily be seen, you might make decisions that you wouldn't be making if you knew that you were hard to see, putting yourself in hazardous situations.
The best way to avoid this is to go the xmas tree route and have all kinds of reflectors along with bright clothing and LED lights. Or if you don't want to go that far, at least do some tests at night with someone else; have them wear what you would wear and bike around a bit. That way you'll know exactly how visible that is, and you'll better be able to calibrate your judgement when biking in the dark.
From Planet Green