Now, the streets of Amsterdam are teeming with bicycles and everyone there, except the tourists, has finely developed multimodal traffic skills. A disco bicycle would get slightly more attention than the average set of wheels. On the streets of Atlanta, bicycles are much less common and traffic skills are rudimentary. Most people rely on strict instructions from signals and signage along with vaguely threatening vehicle language (as opposed to body language). So around here, I tailor my appearance to be highly visible and highly respectable.
I've noticed that motorists are vastly more courteous if I am dressed up. This includes business clothes or fashionable casual outfits. I'm certainly not a fashion hound, but I have my own style and I don't like to look sloppy. I have also noticed that the number of rude or aggressive drivers decreases from rare to nonexistent if I don't wear a helmet (which I usually don't these days. I don't want to kick off the great debate, so I will leave it at that). So I always try to dress nicely when I go out.
This is as casual as I get...note the festive bow
Anyway, from looking at other cyclists while I pedal or drive around, I have formed my own theories about visibility. I believe that the most important factors for a motorist to see and "understand" a bicyclist on the road are shape, contrast, and color in that order. By "understand" I mean that the motorist identifies the object ahead of them as a person operating a bicycle, so they can act accordingly. This is important, and different from simply noticing an object which may or may not require reaction on their part.
Ergo, I opt for classic cuts in solid colors, including some bright colors where possible. I think this gives me a recognizable human silhouette. My upright riding position not only feels safer but also adds to the human-ness of my appearance, from behind and at intersections. When I compare this with images of hunched-over riders covered with logos, I feel like there is a big difference in visibility. Of course, in the scientist world, it doesn't mean anything until we've conducted at least 30 studies and done a meta-analysis. Thoughts?
Perhaps in line with my philosophy, there is talk of having a Bling Ride around here.