A simple plan to make bikes more visible and increase awareness

Too often, drivers just don’t see us.

For some reason, cyclists riding in a safe and legal manner seem to fly below the conscious awareness of many drivers, to the point that we’re almost invisible. And it doesn’t help that so many drivers are hopelessly distracted behind the wheel.

Unless, of course, a rider happens to break the law — or do something that drivers, or even police officers, may mistakenly think is against the law — in which case, we become all too visible.

Which explains why so many people think that all cyclists run red lights and stop signs, because those are the only ones they notice, rather the ones waiting patiently for the light to change.

So the question is, how do we get the attention of drivers, and get them to notice the cyclists sharing the road with them every day?

On a personal level, I try to be as visible as possible by wearing bright colors and positioning myself where I can be clearly seen, both in the lane and at intersections. And using gestures — no, not that one — and eye contact to ensure that oncoming drivers see me.

Long Beach has tried to approach the problem through improved infrastructure, first with sharrows and now, by installing Southern California’s first bike box. Both not only show cyclists where they should position themselves on the road, but call drivers’ attention to the presence of cyclists and our right to the lane.

Meanwhile, L.A. still hasn’t painted a single sharrow — at least, not a legal one — despite working on it for over five years. But no, seriously, why would any Angeleno cyclist think nothing ever gets done around here, when the city averages a whopping 4.5 miles of new bike lanes a year?

Local cyclist Todd Mumford has another idea.

After getting hit in a left hook collision on his way home from work last summer, Todd began wondering how cyclists could increase visibility and make drivers more aware of us on the streets. And came up with a simple suggestion that could actually have a huge impact — and for once, one that doesn’t involve a car hitting one of us.

His idea, which he calls the See Us Ride Project, is to distribute the same eye-catching bike jersey or t-shirt to cyclists all across the city, using corporate sponsorship to underwrite the costs so they could be available free or, more likely, for a minimal cost.

Each shirt would have an identical saying printed on it, which would make the point that we’re here and need to be seen. He hasn’t worked out just what that should be yet, though he says — and I agree — that it should go beyond the usual “Share the Road” or “Three Feet, Please” messages.

Todd suggests something along the lines of See Us Ride. However, I prefer another thought he had, I Am Not A Target — which not only sends a clear message, but also opens up sponsorship and distribution possibilities with a certain massive retailer.

Then rather than ride together as a group, which would only be seen by a relative handful of people, he suggests that we encourage as many individual cyclists as possible to wear that shirt everywhere they ride for a full week — whether riding to work, on a group ride or just out for a relaxing afternoon on two wheels.

So that everywhere drivers look, they couldn’t help but notice it. And us.

The only change I would make to his idea would be to condense that week into a single day for maximum impact. And to urge every cyclist in town to ride somewhere, anywhere, on that day, wearing that shirt.

I think it’s a great idea. In fact, I’ve already forwarded his email to executives with the LACBC, C.I.C.L.E. and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Because it will take a lot more than Todd’s hard work to pull off something like this.

Then again, maybe some of our newly bike friendly City Council members would like to show their support for the cycling community by taking this on as a community project.

Of course, there’s also no reason this has to be limited to an L.A. effort, either. With the right sponsorship — say, Bikes Belong or Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong, maybe a corporation like Nike, Reebok or yes, Target, or even Lance’s new bike team — this could easily spread across the U.S.

It never hurts to dream big.

All it will take is for some organization to pick up the ball and run with it. Todd Mumford has already done the hard work.

The rest is just details.


L.A. Streetsblog votes for the city’s Liveable Streets Person of the Year. Bike Talk! airs live on Pacifica Radio as I post this; visit the link later to download a podcast of the show. LAist notes that LADOT has failed to provide copies of the proposed bike lane at local libraries, despite promises. LACBC offers a guide to bike parking. Bike friendly Travelin’ Local offers a year end review. Tucson Bike Lawyer points out the difference between police response in Canada and the U.S. The Dept. of D.I.Y. spreads to Portland cross walks. Baltimore gets new shared lanes for bikes and buses. Virginia cyclists want more protection. Licensing bikes and cyclists raises it’s ugly head in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. Another pro cyclist tests positive for a banned substance. Irish bike law begins to catch up with current roadway reality. Israel considers revoking last year’s mandatory helmet law. Yogyakarta, Indonesia turns the streets over to cyclists on New Years Eve. Britain’s government rejects a commonsense plan to protect urban cyclists from large trucks. Finally, personal injury attorney Doug Landau offers his new book, 10 Mistakes That Can Derail Your Bike Injury Case, as a paperback or free download — if you can get the link to work.


  1. disgruntled says:

    I think the only thing you can put on the back of a bike jersey that is liable to make you visible to drivers is the word ‘police’. But there are probably laws against that.

    I saw a nice bag once that had a reflective arrow on it – mimicking the road sign here for ‘keep right’. I thought it was a good idea to have something like that on your back as the driver would tend to register and automatically obey the sign, without necessarily noticing the cyclist. But I never found out where it came from

  2. Digital Dame says:

    I’m not so sure about the idea of imprinting cyclist shirts with a big fat target. You know some smartass redneck is going to say “Sure you are,” as he pulls out a .22 to make the point. At the very least it seems like an invitation to have stuff lobbed at you as you ride.

    I would like to see some kind of public service announcements on tv, 30-second spots illustrating right and wrong ways to ride, and pointing up the rights of cyclists. Everyone watches tv (well, most people do), and since drivers are too poor to pay attention on the road, that might reach a larger audience.

  3. SoapBoxLA says:

    West Hollywood has had Bike Boxes on Santa Monica Boulevard for years. Long Beach has a better publicist!

    • bikinginla says:

      I don’t remember seeing that last time I rode through there. Guess I’ll have to do the Tour de WeHo and check it out.

  4. hugh says:

    This idea will fail. First, you won’t get backing to pay for the number of shirts you need. Second, getting cyclists to act in unison is like herding cats — you won’t be able to get everyone to wear the same thing on the same day, period. Third, no one wants to wear the same dorky shirt (with corporate logos?) for an entire week.

    Have you thought about putting your energy into riding together on the last Friday of the month? That has worked in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Budapest and countless other cities worldwide to raise awareness of cyclists. Of course, people will tell you it’s bad for the cause, and motorists will get angry. But you will get the results you want.

    Critical Mass! It’s easy. It’s effective. It changes the world.

  5. Cathern says:

    Hi there friends, nice paragraph and good urging commented here, I am truly enjoying by these.

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