Dark clothing on dark streets: fashion needs to be more reflective

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Black, dark grey, dark blue, dark brown. They are the fashionable colours for coats. In the winter darkness, they make people wearing them invisible, which is dangerous.

Walking along one of our region’s many no-sidewalk streets in a dark jacket at night with cars whizzing by is asking for trouble. Yet, hordes of us do it.

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Bicycling home in the dark this winter, I’ve had some close encounters with pedestrians in dark coats. My bicycle light eventually picks them up, and I manage to avoid a collision because I’m going relatively slow. Avoiding a collision with a faster-moving car would be tougher.

There’s an easy solution. People should wear coats with built-in reflective patches or wear a reflective sash over the coat.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op sells reflective sashes in three colours for $9.75 each.

But, as I was told by a couple of people: “No way in hell am I going to wear a stupid reflective sash.” And, “That looks stupid. Real dorky.” I’ve got one of the sashes, and I’ve even dared to wear it while walking in public, though admittedly only in the dark. I take it off in well-lit areas because it does indeed look dorky.

Pretending I know a bit about fashion, I’ve looked around for fashionable jackets with reflective patches, and there are not many to be found. Most stylish dark jackets are just dark. The ones that have reflective patches seem to be embarassed about it. I found one with reflective strips on the cuffs that can be covered up with a strap.

Here’s a request for fashion designers: make your jackets safer by incorporating three reflective dots onto the fronts and backs of your dark, hip, snazzy jackets. Your fashion vision will not be corrupted.

Not all fashionable people are dispensing with safety. On a downtown street one night last week, I saw a fashionably dressed woman who was in black from head to toe, but she was also wearing a small orange safety vest. A well-tailored, shaped safety vest that was not dorky at all. Maybe she did some customizing. Maybe there’s a market for non-dorky safety vests.

[A reader suggests using a flashlight if you're out at night and you insist on wearing dark clothing. Many flashlight models are stylish and small.]

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