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A two-part article:
"RISKS AND REWARDS"...why it is
better to take some risks in life....
"Recognition & Safety"...
How to make ourselves more conspicuous/visible.
Any downsides to increased visibility?
Help for oncoming driver's speed of recognition.
Understanding the problems.

Copyright 2015, R. Fleischer

Part 1.  Risks and Rewards....some life's lessons, in a poem:


To laugh is to risk appearing the fool,
To weep is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self.
To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love.
Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom.
Only the person who risks is truly free.

Often attributed to the poet and thinker, Leo Buscaglia,
the real author of this inspirational verse is Janet Rand.


Part 2.  Recognition, Safety, looking into the subject....

Part 2 deals primarily with improving recognition & actions by drivers of ONCOMING vehicles (whether from your front or rear), but also covers how YOU see other vehicles. 

Improving your visibility to others may possibly have a downside.    There is some evidence that if you become TOO conspicuous during daylight hours, drivers of cars might fixate-on-you, & then run right into you.   One military base tested this idea with collected information about just bright reflective jackets.  BUT, at NIGHT, reflective stripes seem to help CONSIDERABLY for safety.  When I have enough solid information on fixation effects, I will put it here.   So far, it appears that high visibility is SAFER for YOU, over-all.

Headlight modulators are treated in their own article:, which is article 24C. That article also contains the legal requirements & laws; as well as technical information regarding light recognition by your brain. I advise you to read it has many things you probably did not know!! ALSO contains information on front, side, and rear lighting, and use of reflector materials, ETC., for all USA Vehicles.  

The rest of this article is to be regarded as a companion article to that above linked article.  The following article has sections that deal with HOW you, and others, recognize and deal with things you 'see'.  This article does not deal with the mechanics of riding a motorcycle, as I assume you already know how to ride. You already know that you need to be 100% awake & 100% sober for the best functioning of your senses/brain. You need proper protective clothing. You need a motorcycle in good condition: good tires, proper inflation, good brakes, etc., and to not to ride beyond your abilities!

To improve YOUR safety, it is not simply a matter of improving your ""visibility"", in the way you may presently think of 'visibility'.   I will get into all this in a way seldom presented, and when you are done reading this article, and the linked articles, you will understand the 'I didn't see him' phenomena ...and a considerable amount on how to deal with it.

THE problem, over-all, is HOW TO speed up the REAL time for REAL recognition, and thus speeding up the time for ACTING upon such recognition. This article discusses making yourself more quickly visible and more quickly recognizable, and increasing the speed of the approaching driver's own reaction(s), which, hopefully, will help avoid a collision.  

It is easy to misunderstand why visibility, recognition, and actions, are mixed-up by most people, particularly, I suppose, by motorcyclists. 

Due to how the human eye works and how the human brain works with the human eye, drivers (AND RIDERS!!) don't see and recognize the same way from central vision compared to peripheral vision; and, drivers in particular, do not recognize objects ...even large ones like a motorcycle with you on it!  ...unless that object IS moving (or APPEARS to be moving).

An article on how the brain interprets things, that may open your eyes (bad pun!) is in BMW Owners News (BMWMOA.ORG) for August, 2015, at page 124.  It is VERY worthwhile reading. That article is particularly good because it ALSO explains YOUR problems in seeing and acting upon dangers. DO YOU KNOW that what YOUR eyes and brain sees and allows YOU to "recognize" ...may well be different if you are looking straight ahead? .... and ... if there is something off to the side a deer? Did you know that the cones and rods in your eye react VERY differently to movement?....and off-center focusing is excellent for MOVEMENT?   You should read that article.   It may explain things differently than I do, that you might find helpful in real life situations.

An example, in case that information did not register:
You are riding.  You naturally tend to stare down the road.  It is certainly a LOT less tiring than moving your head side to side rather constantly; and it is certainly a LOT less tiring than constantly moving your eyes side to side. It is also less tiring than looking slightly and constantly towards one side of the road.  Humans tend to avoid things that are tiring.   You THINK, however, that your peripheral vision really is seeing what is to the side of you, whether just in front of you, or somewhat further down that road.  You get 'surprised' by something.   HOW did that happen?  WHY did that happen?  Is there anything you can consciously do to reduce such surprises?    Statements like "That deer came out of nowhere's"; and, "...came right out of the driveway in front of me..."; and many other statements ...are COMMON.  

Problem areas for you, the rider, are from every direction around you ...and about to be around you.

Example: if a driver of a car is fast approaching the rear of your intersection-stopped motorcycle, and you are dressed all in black, and the motorcycle is also in black, the car driver may well 'not see you', and run into you. That seems like common sense ...and IS correct. In fact, it is correct for both bright sunlit daytimes, as well as at night, even if your motorcycle has many rear lights!!    Human beings reactions tend to involve the size of an object, and the expected type of object.

From the above, you may well conclude that making your motorcycle and you, appear larger, is much safer. THAT IS TRUE.  Thus, many commonly wear a bright reflective helment; have bright stripes on their jacket; and have other reflective and illuminated things that enlarge the area seen by car drivers.

MANY a very well lit road barrier or a big truck has been crashed-into on a dark night. That is why the Government specifies the color, reflectivity, type and placement of reflective materials for large trucks.

But, it is NOT a matter of just the reflectiveness and/or color of those reflective tapes/materials. It is many other things.  Many a driver has "not paid attention" to flashing lights on a roadside sign ...or a stopped vehicle.  DAY or NIGHT, this happens.  How could that driver fail to see and react?    There can be several reasons, but just one is that the driver SEES, but the drivers BRAIN does NOT RECOGNIZE.

Police are only too well-aware that drivers may not ""see"", nor ""react"" upon suddenly approaching, or coming upon, a police car at the side of the road, even if that police car is equipped with all sorts of flashing lights of multiple colors!  Authorities know only too well that on a Freeway (another example), they are sitting ducks for being hit, if they are at the driver's door of a vehicle.

Anyone ...whether driving, riding, or walking, has parts of the eye that strongly detect motion, and other parts of the eye that detect color and brightness.  It is very unfortunate that these are quite different depending on what your eye is focused on ...and it is PERIPHERAL vision that can be critical, to detect MOTION.    READ THAT MOA ARTICLE! 

This may be opposite to what common sense is telling you.
The MOA ARTICLE  explains the phenomena.

YOUR red rear brake and YOUR red rear running light may or may not trigger a fast brain response in an approaching driver!!    A very bright red rear light fact a number of them ...may still not trigger that driver's brain quickly, and maybe not any more quickly than just one modest red light.  We'd LIKE to have that triggering brain response happen fast, and thus spur that cage driver into avoidance action.  We all know how to translate speed to distance per second.   If that car is approaching you at some speed, the time of recognition and acting upon it can be very critical.  PARTICULARLY TO MOTORCYCLISTS! 

Various investigations and tests, including by the Federal Government, have, so far, not put-it-all-together for motorcyclists. There is a considerable amount of work that has been done with big trucks, and for cars. The USA Federal Government passed rules/law on headlight modulators and they are specifically authorized for motorcycles ...which DEFINITELY DO CONSIDERABLY help recognition.  But the size of the bike, and the FACT that oncoming drivers do not 'expect' to see a motorcycle, is a problem.  Another problem, rather tied into the others, is that car drivers have a real problem in estimating the closeness of other vehicles ...and, believe it or not ...this effect is for ANY size of 'other' vehicle. 

Drivers ...and riders ...also have a problem in detecting motion, since the peripheral vision is the PRIMARY method of recognition of motion.   Peripheral vision is NOT turning one's head, or rotating ones eyes.    If you are keeping up with what I am saying in this article so far, you should be getting a strong idea that objects in motion are 'seen/recognized/acted-upon' very differently, depending on if you are looking straight at them; or, 'seeing out of the corner of your eye'.      This is a very peculiar property of our eyes and brain.    It is MY conclusion that a goodly percentage of 'accidents' are caused by this phenomena.

The rear and sides of your motorcycle are not specifically addressed by the Federal Government for adding conspicuity/recognition, in anything approaching the way the front is (by allowing very specific types of flashing headlights ...that is, modulators). The modulator effect is well laid-out in my article on this website.  Here, again, is that link:

It is MY conclusion that extra lighting nearly always helps, especially the front headlight being modulated, but the help in other areas of the bike is much less (except for turn signals and flashing brake lights, where it is only somewhat less).  Yes, it is possible that for the specific instance of someone changing lanes and moving into YOU, that flashing side lights might be quite helpful, and slightly for any side lights at all.    This includes reflective materials.

I have somewhat mentioned recognizing movement by peripheral vision.  This is a particular phenomena about movement and recognizing things that you may want to look into, and the lighting products now available that have a very strange effect on drivers who are not focused on YOU.  Something in a drivers peripheral vision will be recognized by the brain when that something is moving ...or flickering, like a very special type of lighting product that only appears to be flickering if you are NOT looking directly at it!  REALLY!    Read the BMW MOA article, then look at website, carefully and slowly, because it is easy to think it is just another flashing light product.  

Recognizing a potential problem works both ways. This article is mostly about trying to help the speed of recognition and actions by drivers approaching or near us ...and possibly some distance from us. The same sort of things that affect drivers also affect us, as bikers. How quickly do we 'see' and act upon a situation? In fact, how quickly do we act upon seeing a rock in the road in front of us? Did you know that many motorcyclists will STARE DIRECTLY at something, take NO avoidance action, and, essentially, almost seem to aim at that obstacle? That sort of thing can happen with oncoming car traffic ...and YOU, the biker, "becomes" the target.   Have you ever ridden your bike and 'suddenly' you see/recognize something in the road?  Do you chalk that up to the speed you were going (does NOT have to be fast!)?   What about an animal 'suddenly' appearing?

I do not get into the drivers peripheral vision ...and yours ...much deeper here.  The rest is mostly on practical information on how to make yourself visible AND RECOGNIZABLE, & QUICKLY, when someone IS looking in your direction; OR, when their peripheral vision responds to reflective items, or movement.   Please do not fail to understand the difference.

We humans need a certain amount of TIME to process information from our senses.  We humans were not designed, or, better said (?) evolved (?) to handle speed, beyond our own running ability ...or, maybe a bit more, in animal comparison terms. 

Speeding up the TIME to See, Process, and to ACT, is very important for us, but especially for motorcyclists ...and that INCLUDES approaching drivers, from our front, or from our rear.

I will give an example of simple recognition, that every one of us probably looks-for, at least for when we are riding our bikes ...I hope every motorcyclist already knows about this one. This particular example of recognition deals with MOVEMENT, and the movement in this example is usually nearly straight ahead, but can be somewhat or more peripheral:
      If you are at an intersection, or approaching it, and there is an oncoming car that will be starting-up from that intersection ...but has not, yet; that is, the car has stopped, perhaps for a red signal light.  YOU will find that YOUR "recognition" of the fact the approaching vehicle is MOVING at all, is much faster if YOUR vision is NOT concentrated on "that car" ...but, rather, concentrated on the car driver's-side front WHEEL.    If the car is stopped, watching the driver's front wheel hubcap is typically the way to see if the car has moved yet.   Another effect is if you are looking off-center and seeing that car, you are more likely to recognize the whole car has started to move.

Explaining this:
Most wheels have 'features' that, when the wheel is moving hardly at all or more, will quickly, via your eyes, message your brain, and your brain understands quickly that the vehicle must be moving. This is a much faster recognition than trying to watch for any movement of the whole vehicle, or its hood or front area. It also helps that the angle is usually such that movement is faster recognized.    All sorts of recognition factors also can get involved. Even sound, brightness of the day/night, etc.  
Truly experienced motorcyclists watch the oncoming driver's front wheel, because ANY movement of the car is recognized much faster, via its wheels!  This effect is most often used at intersections, where the oncoming car is stopped for a stop-light or stop-sign.  But, it also happens if the car is 90 degrees from you at that intersection ...and may happen differently, from peripheral vision by both of you, as you have already learned herein. If you are not using this technique, try it a dozen times may be surprised!

There are other aspects to seeing and recognizing. Recognition & estimate of DISTANCE is vastly reduced at NIGHT for ALL people.  Pedestrians and Motorists ...including YOU, of course ...not just that oncoming driver from your front or rear.

Various types of effects are comparable others' recognizing YOUR vehicle when they are not especially trying to recognize it ...after all, they may not be expecting a motorcycle, so are not concentrated in looking for one ...and, even if they 'see it', their brain may not be acting on it, as they suddenly turn left in front of you.   NOTE that another phenomena is ALSO happening, if that driver is looking and focused straight at you ....THEN he is not using his peripheral vision ...which is FASTER at recognizing movement!

In today's crop of poor and unsafe drivers we have a relatively new problem.  In the past, this problem was lumped under Driver's Inattention.  In the past, "Distractions" were also lumped into this.  That could mean a driver momentarily bent down to pick up something off the floor of the car; or reached to one side for a piece of paper; or turned around somewhat to deal with noisy children, ETC. ...LOTS OF 'ETC'.   Today, we have driver's having LONGER periods of INattention, by such as TEXTING.  That is a VERY serious problem.  Another problem is that of driver's (and a few motorcyclists!) talking on cell phones, whether or not they are holding them.  ANYthing that requires the brain to pay attention to something other than the road and area surrounding the driver, etc., is going to DETRACT FROM RECOGNITION AND RESPONSE.     SAME FOR YOU AND YOUR RIDING!

Besides helping to bring attention to such problems, helping to pass stricter laws, etc., the best that motorcyclists (in particular) can do is to be quickly visible and quickly recognizable, as best possible.   The science of Recognition and Avoidance is fairly well-established now.

As you can see from all the above discussion items, many things are at play at the same time, and can be synergistic the wrong direction ...for your safety!

ONE of the things you can do to improve your visibility (and, yes, weaving back and forth in your lane DOES help the oncoming driver to see/recognize you, this is NOT an old wives tale ...) is to INcrease your actual visibility, by using reflective clothing or add-on reflective tapes, besides using lights/lamps (and, if legal, flickering or flashing those lamps, and this category includes small lamps as well as the already legal in all States headlights: headlamp modulators).  SOME things you can do help only marginally....but, collectively, things do make a larger difference.  These things work best by making the vehicle seem larger.  Thus, two running lights at the rear work much better if spread widely apart. It helps even more to have lights (or reflective materials) higher-up; such as reflective stripes on your jacket and a brightly reflective helmet (especially of a color that attracts attention quicker).

Some reflective materials (I am using reflective materials for this example because they are always brought up in discussions of 'visibility') ...will show up movement MUCH faster than others, due to the TYPE of reflections. Color? Shape? Moving colors/shapes (perhaps from angular prismatic effects) ...etc.

We already know that some colors affect humans much faster, light level being the same.  One of these is a sort-of lime-green-yellow.  Said another way, humans have more actual sensitivity to low light levels of those colors.  

By convention, GREEN means GO; RED means STOP; Yellow means CAUTION.  BUT ....we do not have stop lights, etc.,  that are lime-green-yellow; although that color would be much better for RECOGNITION that there IS A LIGHT.  That is also NOT THE SAME, as you have learned here, as understanding the meaning of the light, nor its color ...that FOLLOWS, with the brain hopefully reacting very very quickly and translating that to physical action.  There may be  historical reasons, but that is my take on this particular subject.

My original intention was to do real testing of reflective items for bikers, including prismatic and diamond type surfaces on reflective materials, including materials that glow, etc. ...and other things ...and to, somehow, devise a means of measuring recognition time, and maybe reaction time ...for both conditions of knowing an event might occur, and not knowing that an event might occur. The goal was to make recommendations for improved safety for motorcyclists, by utilizing specific types of reflective materials, possibly in specific patterns, colors, etc.  Eventually I probably would have added lighting products to my article. I very specifically wanted to compare my results with Government testing reports (cars, trucks, and the VERY FEW available studies on bikes), and see if I could make suggestions that would make a considerable difference in our safety, as bikers.   I would be unable to test all types of materials and conditions, but hopefully would come up with some definitive ideas.

I did a LOT of thinking about how to measure recognition time.  I did research on the subject, of course.  I also understood the phenomena of recognition time, and had wondered if, by means of size, shape, color, reflectivity, ETC!! ....shortening recognition time would always result in shortened reaction time, and if not, how to improve that.

I did testing with lamps, front and rear, colors, and read a lot on the subject.  The wider the lamps, and the more lamps are both high and low in placement, the better the recognition.  I'm not going to get into this deeper right now.

Materials, testing, etc.

One needs to start someplace.  I obtained some high quality diamond reflective tape samples, of the prismatic type and a few pieces of other reflective types and some types of fluorescent tapes.  ALL these were in various 'colors', such as a sort-of lime-yellow, yellow-orange, white, red, and silver.  I also obtain some materials that appeared to be very dark, almost or actually black, which appeared to be whitish reflected materials when a car's headlights shown on them.  These particular materials are already popular with motorcyclists, for such as on the rear of saddlebags.

Initial tests were conducted at night, and then in bright sun, and again when illuminated by incandescent lamps (clear lens), and again when illuminated by 'white' LED lamps.  I used both quite minimal light from various angles, including angling the reflective materials. Later, as an added test sequence, I used headlights with those annoying blue tinted bulbs.  It did not take long before I found that manufacturer's claims were not well-founded (being polite here) in many instances. I decided I had to make my best judgment about the various materials available, and obtain modest quantities, and install and test them.

I took the opportunity (my main helmet was old and needed replacing) by purchasing a very high quality helmet with a color very specifically supposed to have "THE" most increased recognition: a lime-green-yellow color.  In order to get a baseline, and some information about height effects and basic recognition and even of basic reaction; I very specifically tested that helmet on:
(1)  A black motorcycle with no special lighting.
(2)  A large sidecar rig, with a lot of special lighting (MINE!).
(3)  A WHITE motorcycle with almost no special lighting.
(4)  Several motorcycles of assorted colors and sizes (bags? no bags? ...windshields or not...etc...etc).
(5)  A convertible sports car (yes, I really did this!)
(6)  Sitting or standing alongside a road, just myself, wearing that helmet and also tested with a white helmet, with no vehicle near me.  I tested for SEEING by others (that were to see if I existed), at various distances.  I did this by slightly hiding myself in a quite modest way, and tested angularly too.  This was a fun day of testing!   What made it take up almost a full day was that, to obtain good data, I did NOT tell people exactly where I was going to be, what I was going to be wearing, etc.   This did complicate things more than I expected, after all, I had to tell them something about what I wanted them to 'see'.
(7)  One testing series not yet done, and not sure I want to talk about it yet.

As you can imagine, just basic testing in those 7 categories took a LONG time, after all, one has to eat, sleep, and have a life.  I also wanted to repeat testing using actual lights, placed at various heights and widths.

I have absolutely confirmed the government findings.

Another round of testing began in Spring of 2015:

Initial testing was with three types of reflective (and some reflective AND fluorescent materials), at front, sides, and rear, of a motorcycle sidecar rig, said materials being of two types:
(1) A high quality diamond patterned 3M material, in silver, yellow, lime green, ...etc. 
(2) Similar, but United States Coast Guard approved and registered materials.  These various 'tapes' are of different sizes, colors, and shapes, and were placed in such a way to help with gathering reports from approaching drivers (and drivers to rear and sides), as to which attracted their attention first, besides the typical photoelectric measurements, for which a wide spectrum photoelectric measuring instrument was borrowed from the local college.

Simultaneous or similar tests, under the same conditions, likely at the same time slot of same day, same areas, were also run on a small motorcycle, that was selected purposely to have very little size-presence by itself without reflective materials (the bike was variously ridden with its own bright color paint covered, and uncovered). 

Tests were run with the various materials covered and uncovered.  An attempt was made to talk to drivers that were NOT expecting to see me.  At least a few tests were run with truly massive amounts of borrowed reflective material, to see if effects were greatly improved OR NOT  by such large amounts, compared to small amounts, such as short 1" reflective stripes. Stripes were made and tested in not only vertical and horizontal application, but an attempt was made to see if grossly ugly, on a artistic basis of application, would be helpful.

Testing continues, and now and then will be done to compare the before and after effect of the type of tapes that are nearly invisible until headlights shine upon them.  These types of tapes are quite popular.  Testing will hardly be only at night.  In fact, a large amount of testing has been ...and will continue to be done ...during bright sunny daytimes.

An attempt will be made to do testing on rainy nights (and dark days in city ALSO), where reflections from most anything, including wet windshield glass, etc., could greatly affect recognition time ...and ...identification.  This testing has not yet begun.

A method to measure/calculate response time has been worked out and needs to be tested.  Besides the initial testing, more formal both day and night tests are planned. Day tests will be in bright sunlight, and not just at shadowless midday. I am especially interested in tests at dusk AND night tests in-city with a typical city type of street lighting illumination, and lots of stores and other lighting, so that the motorcycle would be more likely to NOT be seen amidst the light clutter. Tests will also be run on very dark black roads, with NO lighting.  Testing will be done, as best I can, using 0 degrees, 45 degrees, 90 degrees, and close to the limit for peripheral vision.  Much has already been accomplished.  Much is not yet done.


I did find some things that I did NOT expect.  Some of these things I have been unable to find discussed in literature.   Photographs of 'seeming' reflective amounts and associated brightness, under standard conditions of these products, MAY WELL NOT be truly informative, and MAY WELL confuse the really needed information:  results of recognition and action time.  That is, I expected calibrated light level photography to be of value, and show real amounts of light reflection, etc.  This was found to be NOT SO straightforward.   This complicated first thoughts about how to COMPARE materials.

I then made a couple of tests to see if photographs and human thoughts of levels of brightness had anything to do with each other, and was further surprised.   I also found that light levels recognition or estimations, are on a par with SOUND levels, which ARE well-reported in the literature.  Humans respond logarithmically!!!   Example: a doubling of actual levels is NOT recognized as a doubling takes much more to recognize a doubling.   But, humans, as with tone changes, easily recognize very short intervals of ANY slight change in levels.   This means that human responses to MOVEMENT OF EVEN SMALL LEVELS of light, sound, etc., are easily recognized.   Whether or not changes would be recognized on the road by deer ...light changes that is, is unknown to me ...certainly Deer Whistles are PROVEN to NOT work, not at all article on testing deer response, done by experts, is on this site:

Just for fun, and my usual level of high curiosity,  I made up a bit of electronics that duplicated the 3 or 4 Hz changes in a headlight modulator, but for SOUND.  I found this very easily done, with a powerful amplifier and some oscillators and a simple combining circuit.   Had some fun ...and made some interesting conclusions.  It is relatively easy for me, having a well-equipped electronics shop, to do such fun things.  I decided to test some things on customers who happened to be here in the following weeks.  One of these things was to play ordinary music through my shop speakers, but to modify the music, regularly and irregularly.  Irregularly here meant that I played the music 'modulated' by very tiny amounts of pitch changes.  THAT was VERY MUCH noticed by customers, who actually, almost all, mentioned that whatever radio station I was listening to, had faulty speed on their records or tape recorders.  I next tried this 'modulation' at a very low level ...fewer folks noticed, as expected.   Eventually tiring of this with my customers, I changed tactics.  I tried various rates from about 1 Hz to about 10 Hz on shop lighting, at very low amplitude.  I found brains are MUCH disturbed by about 4 hz (hmmm...that is what the government says to use for headlight modulators...). My final test was to use the most annoying speeds, depth, ETC! ...all, together.   I shall have to relate the circumstances, and reactions, later-on.

There is NO doubt in MY mind NOW, that the yellowish lime green tapes and helmets create earlier recognition.

What was NOT expected, and tests were repeated over and over, is that lime-green, and to a slightly lesser extent, orange helmets, DID make a very considerable difference in recognition, day or night, in ANY conditions.  The effect was CONSIDERABLY LARGER than if my motorcycle or my sidecar rig had quite a few various types of reflective materials of various colors and types, applied angularly, vertically, and horizontally some distance from each other ...all as expected.   Being perverse, I did further testing with black jeans and black jacket ...and the sidecar and the bike are painted in a rather dark color, appearing black at night.  I then wore a white helmet, a black helmet, and a lime-green-yellow helmet.   The brighter and more reflective items, high-up, did attract more attention, but not hugely.  After some testing, I proved that it was just the HEIGHT of the helmet, that ESPECIALLY attracted attention ...IF ...IF! ...there was some sort of reflection.  This tended to fit in with the government testing of reflective stripes in higher areas of big trucks.  You might want to re-read these sentences in red ...and think about what this really means.  ONE conclusion, that of several, might be that an unexpected height of 'something' .....& possibly an "unusual something" .....attracted attention.

So far, the recognition of the light scattered from most of the reflective type tapes seems about the same, but not quite.  This was even though the actual reflectivity (measured!) was quite considerably different.

10/29/2015:  Finished testing reflective effects when streets were very wet from rain, using both cement and asphalt roads.  All materials were OK, and there was minimal (although noticeable) problems with driver's to the rear in seeing and recognizing the motorcycle, even though the street itself might be reflective.  Did not test further, but it appears (PUN INTENDED!) that recognition happened faster, due to the multiplying/spreading effect of the rear lights of the bike, AND, some reflective effects of the tapes used ...but that the reflections onto the wet street made things worse, not better.  Blending-in was my conclusion.

2016:  The particular helmet colors help considerably.  So do reflective clothing, and reflective tapes, with ONLY a slight edge to the tapes being assorted in placement (angles, horizontal and vertical too).  Extra rear lights help, so long as the braking light is VERY BRIGHT and VERY DISTINGUISHABLE.  Diamond pattern reflective-fluorescent tapes probably are best.   Widely separated lights and reflective items, plus same at some height, were quite effective.   Height of the helmet is a fairly big factor!  COLOR of the helmet is an additional BIG FACTOR.

Fall to early Winter, 2016:  I did some testing on temporary changes to my own sidecar rig.  I used colored film to change the appearance of the front lighting, to find out the effect on oncoming drivers.  First was the change to quite mild yellowish-green, hardly noticeable to me, the driver of the sidecar rig, during the dusk period.  The film was placed only on the headlight, which was the stock H4, stock lens and stock reflector, that emitted the normal 'white' light without the film.  This affected both Lo and Hi beams, of course.   After testing, that film was removed, and taped over the front light on the sidecar, a standard small base multiple LED plug-in type, quite small, approximately an inch in size.  Originally, the front sidecar light was a small 1156, etc., type lamp, incandescent, and the lamp had been changed to a small aftermarket plug-in LED type.  In other words, a small running identification lamp, NOT a real headlight by any means, as it did not really add illumination to the road for ME, the driver.  When finished with those tests (both of which improved recognition), at the suggestion of a friend, I taped a small LED lamp onto the top of my most visible helmet, a yellowish-greenish type, which was my standard touring helmet.   The LED faced forward, and had a specified 120 degree wide beam.  This improved recognition by a huge amount, surprising me.  More detailed testing needs to be done in other conditions, such as bright sunlight with conflicting other lights, etc., in the natural daytime environment.   Results are tentative very positive for a change in frontal color, and especially for a helmet light, even one that is quite small.   I need to do testing for rear lighting too.   I'd also like to experiment with helmet lamp colors.

SOME of the many sources for products I am/have tested:
Solas; 3M company 3150-A, gray/white 14 mil adhesive tape.
3M Diamond grade florescent adhesive tapes, useful day and night, and best is lime green-yellow.  $$.
3M 983 series, heavy duty.  983-23; 1FYG; yellow, not fluoescent; 983-71 school bus yellow.
     680-71 yellow; 680-81 lemon-yellow; 680-14 orange
      High Intensity Prismatic series, in lime-yellow
      DG series
Non-reflective red and white.

USCGFP types

Note:  fluorescent is useful in the daytime, and reflective for nighttime. Combining the two is fun.



Technical References:

Read this one first:

More nerdy:

Valuable:, which is my article 24C. The article contains the legal requirements & laws for headlight modulators;
as well as technical information regarding light recognition by your brain. I advise you to read it has many things you probably did not know!!

Lighting changes for motorcyclists may improve safety:

Part 2 of this article is still in constant process.  I add to it as I obtain enough information including from testing.

05/01/2015:  First update.  Updated how I will generally do the tests, installed initial tapes, very preliminary daytime results, UN-instrumented.
08/24/2015:  2nd update....included the BMWMOA information.
10/14/2015:  Add a few accumulated notes.
10/29/2015:  More testing and comments and tentative conclusions.
11/17/2015:  Add note in red to introductory remarks.
03/20/2016:  Updated; including check on past work on metacodes, left justification, layout.
10/17/2016:  Metas, scripts, H.L., HTML cleanup, newer style breaks, improve clarity, add some more testing results.
11/26/2016:  Add minor comments in the reference link area to the hdlite article.
December, 2016:  Add comments from recent testing regarding lighting changes.  Add article link 01/11/2017.
02/23/2017:  Split into two parts, adding part 1.


Copyright 2015, R. Fleischer

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Last check/edit: Thursday, February 23, 2017