Color Wars Make Cyclists Look Bad

June 05, 2013

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I was perusing one of the bike forums today when I came across a thread that rears its contentious head almost as often as the "Why do you shave your legs?" topic - what to wear in order to be seen while riding.

My mind immediately flashed back to when Richard and I had our first pop-up-shop in Oriental, North Carolina at Cycle NC in April 2011. A woman approached our tent and suddenly admonished us for making a black jersey. Despite a dearth of facts to back her claims, she emphatically stated that it was not safe to wear black on the road. I listened politely, held my tongue (black is always our best seller in any item we make), and thanked her for her input. She milled around a bit longer while I struck up a conversation with another woman who ultimately bought a black jersey.  I guess our customer was not swayed by the anti-black argument and neither was I.  I remain unconvinced.

Can we all just agree to disagree on the "What to wear in order to be seen" question? Can we all agree that this discussion takes our eyes off the bigger picture - Share The Road. In my mind, it would be a pyrrhic victory to see rider after rider kitted out in neon yellow on roads without dedicated bike lanes. Saying that we should and must wear neon suggests that cycling is inherently unsafe. Moreover, it imparts the message that bicycles should be unexpected fixtures - and unwelcome ones - on our roads.  

It would be devastating to win the color war and not the "3 feet" one.  So let's face it - no one is ever going to agree on what color is best. I've seen data to support black is less visible than yellow and vice versa. I've seen pictures that would make one think the opposite of either side of the argument. In the end, I'd rather wear black when I want to and have flashing lights on my bike (which I do) to help keep me visible.  I'm not saying yellow wouldn't hurt but I'm not saying it's going to help either.

For now, take your argumentative energy and channel it to sending letters to your governmental representatives about bike lanes. Tell them where you need them and want them. Tell them that the lanes should have dividers from the main roads, curbs, and stoplights of their own.

Have you ever been to the Netherlands or Vancouver? Even in our best municipalities, it's amateur hour here in the States.

- Jonathan



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