The importance of bike side visibility

The importance of bike side visibility

Introduction

Did you know that over 70% of bike accidents involving a car are side-on accidents?

From all the areas on the road, junctions and especially roundabouts are the most dangerous for cyclists. Did you also know that only a very small minority of cyclists invest in side lighting or visibility? The kind of visibility that would help them avoid getting into those same side-on accidents?

Crazy right? We were shocked too when we discovered this during our research to build the perfect rear bike light. When it comes to bike lights and bike safety, there’s clearly a large mismatch between the actual risks and causes of road collisions on the one hand, and the lighting used by the average cyclists on the other.

Before we cover how you can set up the right kind of side visibility for your bike, let’s deep dive on why side visibility really matters.

The numbers don’t lie 

We already know that 70% of bike accidents are side-on accidents, which typically happen at junctions and roundabouts. According to a study by the European Commission (2011, UK), cyclists are 3 times more likely to get into car colission accidents at roundabouts than on junctions:
bike side visibility statistics

Roundabouts, while genius inventions from a city-planning and traffic management point-of-view, should clearly be met with extra caution when riding your bike. 

Why are junctions and roundabouts so dangerous? The increased risk of accident is driven by several reasons:  

  1. They are typically situated in urban areas with more than average traffic density, thus increasing the chance of a car & bike collision.
  2. They force the cyclists to be angled perpendicular to the cars either waiting to cross the junction or join the roundabout, increasing the chance for a side-on collision.
  3. The large amount of visual impulses, distracting lights, combined with the fact that cyclists almost never have side visibility, make cyclists virtually invisible at night for cars.

 

Maxime, one of our founders only recently avoided a collision with a cyclist: “Some time ago, I nearly hit a cyclist on a roundabout as he passed in front of my car” he said. “As his front light was pointed away from me, there was nothing on the side of his bike “yelling” for my attention”. “It took my headlights to find him again by which time it was nearly too late.” 

We believe this testimonial does a good job of showcasing why side visibility on your bike really matters, especially in urban settings. We could even argue, it's a key factor. Indeed, many lights focus on the narrow rearward or forward facing beam. Yet being involved in a collision at these angles is fairly rare. Side-on accidents are much more common, so that’s where we need to make sure at least part of the light is going. In fact, having a light at just the front and back of one’s bike leaves 72% of the cyclist unlit. 72%! 

Front- and rear lighting are a no-brainer when it comes to bike lighting, while setting up your bike with side lighting is almost always an afterthought. Yet, looking at the statistics, we should really look at things from a different angle (pun intended). 

Invest in side visibility for your bike, now. Want to know your options? Read on!

RIDR Light’s side casing 

At RIDR, we are well aware of the importance of side lighting and made sure that our RIDR Light offered just that. Next to the strong rear light, we made sure to integrate two other lights to provide your with side visibility:

  • Laser lines: the key feature of the RIDR Light, our diamond shaped laser lines establish strong visibility from the rear, and side. Read more about in our article here.

bike side visibility laser lines

  • Side casing & lighting: to maximise the side visibility, we’ve made sure to integrate a Side Laser light strip. The open casing improves visibility to give a 180° angle view for oncoming cars.

bike side visibility side light

 

Alternatives 

On top of a rear bike light with side visibility, we recommend investing in additional accessories that up your side visibility. A few popular ones we recommend: 

  • Reflective wheel stripes - these will do wonders for your side-visibility. You can get them at any number of online shops or your local bike shop of course! 

bike reflective wheel strips

  • Reflective tape - applying reflective tape on the front and rear forks will also up our side-visibility considerably. If you want to go all the way, have a look at the gentlemen below. They’ve gone and taped their whole bike!  

bike side visibility reflective tape

Conclusion

The message is simple: invest in side visibility if you want to decrease your chances of being in a road accident. There are quite a few options out there to do so, but start off with a rear bike light with some side visibility options - just like our RIDR Light - and invest in additional visibility such as reflective wheel stripes. 

This combination will drastically increase your overall visibility and by extension your feeling of safety! Happy riding.