Blog: Reflecting on being visible with straps, sprays and lights


Being visible at night, especially if you’re a pedestrian or cyclist, is a big deal. I’ve been obsessed with this since a couple of close calls. People die because they are not visible.

This is particularly important in the fall and winter, when night comes earlier and we’re out and about wearing dark heavy coats that make us nearly invisible, and motorists are struggling to see through the darkness and the glare of headlights.

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I’ve settled on several approaches to make myself less invisible. And I’ve been a bit of a pest trying to get family, friends and colleagues to join me in my obsession.

A lot of this is common sense. The foundation is reflectiveness, so that you “light up” when headlights shine on you, plus wearing lighter-coloured clothing.

Among the things I’ve been doing:

• Wearing light-coloured jackets with reflective patches.
• Using a bag that has reflective strips built in, or attaching a reflective strap to bags that don’t have that feature. These straps, often with Velcro, are available at running-gear stores and bicycle shops.
• Wearing reflective straps on wrists or ankles.
• Wearing shoes with reflective patches.
• Using a flashlight, or wearing a small light.
• Wearing a headlamp. I restrict this to when I’m walking in the pitch black of the Galloping Goose, to minimize ridicule. There’s also the problem of shining a bright light into the eyes of people you encounter.
• Using a light-coloured umbrella; mine is an ugly light green.
• Installing better lights on my bicycle.

Something new in the arsenal: I’ve been experimenting with reflective sprays. If your clothing is not reflective, and incorporating reflective straps just isn’t your look — that Halloween costume needs to be just so, for example — a reflective spray might be an option.

One of the sprays I tried says on the can that the reflective material will come off in the wash, and a sprayed patch is invisible until a light shines on it. You get reflective safety without changing the look of your garment, unless a light shines on it in the dark. All this appears to be true. The temporary nature of the spray also means the reflectiveness might shed away in a heavy rain.

A few things I’ve discovered about applying the reflective spray: You need to do the spraying on a calm day outside, or in a well ventilated space indoors where it doesn’t matter if the spray gets onto other things. I did my spraying by spreading garments on a sawhorse in my carport. The spray was quite forceful and splattered a bit. There’s no precision in the spraying. You hit a general area.

The result was acceptable. I’ve tried the spray along the hem and on the cuffs of a water-resistant jacket, and at the cuffs of a pair of pants. You can check the reflectiveness by taking a flash photo.

I’ve spotted the reflective sprays for sale at Canadian Tire, Lowe’s, and a Volvo dealership. I bought the kind designed for textiles, that washes off. There’s another version that’s permanent.

About those close calls. I was walking downtown wearing dark clothing, stepped into a crosswalk that wasn’t well lit and was almost struck by a car. Months later, when I was driving, a pedestrian in dark clothing walked into street and I spotted the person just in time, braking heavily inches from impact.

So, I’ve become a much more reflective person. 
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My previous blog posts are here.

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