This past weekend, we showed you what reflective running gear should look like in the dark, and how to see if something is actually reflective rather than just bright.
Exquisitely sensitive to human motion, our brains are highly adept at making sense of bright spots on a moving body. The brain interprets a dozen strategically placed strips of light on our arms and legs as a body in motion. Those signals — like constellations come to life — can be light from reflective tape on our moving ankles, amber reflectors on bicycle pedals, armbands on swinging wrists and elbows, or stripes on pumping knees.
Scientists call it “biological motion,” and studies have shown that even infants can perceive a human being on the move.
So can drivers.
“You want that driver to know exactly what direction you’re traveling in and predict where you will be when you arrive,” said Rick Tyrrell, professor of psychology at Clemson University. “Biological motion helps a driver predict the future.”
Survival guide for nighttime runners and cyclists
Scientists who study vision say a few interventions can help keep commuters and exercisers safe on winter nights.
1. Light up your joints: Add reflective stripes on your ankles, knees, wrists, elbows. Put together, they spell biological motion and tell drivers you are a moving person, not a stationary object.
2. Mix it up: Reflective gear works only when lights shine directly on it. Use reflectors on many sides: bicycle spokes, running shoes, gloves.
3. Don’t put all your faith in lights: Flashing lights are better than nothing but not sufficient by themselves.
4. Assume drivers just can’t see you: Make eye contact whenever you can, especially at intersections.
Stay safe not only this month, but all winter long! Check back with us next week for our favorite winter accessories – including clip on lights, reflective vests, and much more.