Biking to work with a safety vest is a smart move

Consumer Reports compares reflective gear for visibility

Published: May 15, 2015 06:00 AM

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This Uline safety vest ($15) was easiest to see.

Before you set out today on National Bike to Work Day, you'll probably make sure your bicycle has enough air in its tires. And of course, you'll strap on a bike helmet to protect your head. But what should you do to make sure drivers can spot you if you ride when it's dark out?

The Sugoi Zap Versa fluorescent bike jacket ($159) worked well too.

Reflective gear, such as safety vests, jackets, and accessories, can save cyclists’ lives if they make riders stand out at night. Our testers looked at 11 reflective garments and accessories along with a dark shirt used as a control. The mission: to judge how well each could be seen in headlights after dark at 300 feet, the stopping distance for a car going 60 mph in normal road conditions.

SlapLit band ($10) goes into flashing mode when you push a button.

Our panelists dressed up mannequins and staffers, then parked in a car with the headlights on 300 feet away. The bright yellow Uline safety vest, $15 (top), though not so fashionable, popped the most. The Sugoi Zap Versa fluorescent bike jacket, $159 (right), was also easy to spot. Both the Gore Windstopper Soft Shell jacket, $180, and Eastern Mountain Sports Velo bike jersey, $55, could be seen easily from the back, thanks to big reflective elements, but less so from the front.

The Betabrand reflective plaid commuter shirt, $59, was the least visible at 300 feet. Reflective and lit wrist and ankle bands had good visibility. The SlapLit, $10 (right), goes into flashing mode with the push of a button. Wearing one of those accessories alone limits reflectivity to one small area of your body, so we suggest wearing one with a reflective jacket, vest, or shirt for an extra measure of safety.

—Sue Byrne

Check our bike helmet Ratings and find out how to properly fit your bike helmet.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the June 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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