Visibility of motorcycle and motorcyclist


Our own DirectGov site tells us a little on visibility:

“Many road accidents involving motorcyclists occur because another road user didn’t see them. Using some form of visibility aid will help others to see you. Remember you need to be visible from the side as well as the front and back.

Wearing fluorescent orange or yellow clothing in daylight will improve your chances of being seen.

Other methods you could use to help other road users to see you in daylight include:

  • wearing a white helmet
  • wearing brightly coloured clothing
  • riding with your headlamp on dipped beam

To improve visibility in the dark you need to wear reflective material. They work by reflecting the light from headlamps of other vehicles. This makes you much more visible from a long distance away.”

They could work a little harder than that we think.

One obvious way to avoid being hit is to stay out of the blind spots of other vehicles and give you enough room to react. Ways to do so include:

  • Making sure you can see the drivers of the cars around you; if you can see them (through eye contact or in their mirrors), chances are you’re in their line of sight… but please do not assume anything.
  • Having a safety buffer around you, which means leaving enough distance ahead of you, and giving yourself space to manoeuvre away from trouble.
  • Avoid lingering in the blind spots created by the A-pillars and C-pillars of cars; those are the front 3/4 and rear 3/4 angle views out of the driver seat. Passing can be a dangerous manoeuvre, so be especially aware when overtaking a car or another rider.
  • If you’re riding with a group, be sure to leave a safe distance around you, and ride in a staggered formation for maximum visibility.
  • Black motorcycles look cool, but they tend to visually blend into their surroundings. Riding a more brightly coloured bike- whether it’s white, yellow, or even red- will increase the odds that you’ll register in the peripheral vision of other vehicle drivers.
  • The rider is a big part of a motorcycle’s visual presence, and wearing bright or reflective safety gear is an easy way to stand out.
  • Choose light coloured gear, and try to find jackets and pants that are treated with a reflective finish. Some clothing now comes with a reflective finish that’s only visible at night, adding an element of style to safety gear.
  • Motorcycles are setup to run their headlights at all times, but if you’re not in danger of blinding oncoming traffic, flipping your high beams on will add an extra level of visibility.
  • Studies have shown that it’s easier to estimate the speed of a vehicle when it has two lights spaced apart, since the perspective shift helps with depth perception.
  • Using or installing running lights not only makes your bike more visible, it helps oncoming traffic estimate your speed, potentially saving you from unsafe left turns.
  • There’s a fine line between noise pollution and self-preservation, but if all else fails you might want to make your presence known by blowing your horn. Though loud car stereos or other distractions can prevent motorists from noticing the sound of your horn, the split second decision to press the horn button can make the difference between becoming a victim and avoiding an accident.
  • If you don’t have reflective gear but want to take a more proactive approach to being seen, buy reflective tape and apply it to anything from your helmet to your rear box.
  • Remember those hand signals you learned for bicycle riding? Extending or flexing your arm is an effective way to raise your visual profile in addition to using your turn signals. Just be sure you’re able to effectively control your vehicle while doing so, and never take your hands off the handlebars when the turn is underway.
  • If you’re being followed too closely by a car and aren’t able to maintain an effective safety cushion around you, there’s nothing wrong with lightly tapping your brakes to activate the brake lights. If that doesn’t help the tailgater lay off, do your best to safely exit the lane and find a safer spot to ride.


Headlight modulators are electronic components that enable lights to pulse or flicker in intensity, and while they’ve been known to annoy fellow riders and motorists, they can improve visibility. The law in the US and Canada means that modulation is not allowed once light levels drop, and a steady beam must be shown. Is the problem in this country that other drivers will think you are giving way? We would like to know your thoughts.


We came across a study from New Zealand produced in the British Medical Journal in January 2004. It is now a little old, but still valuable. The conclusion was that low visibility may increase the risk of motorcycle crash related injury. Increasing the use of reflective or fluorescent clothing, white or light coloured helmets, and daytime headlights are simple, cheap interventions that could considerably reduce motorcycle crash related injury and death.

White or light coloured motorcycle helmets!

We also think the Suzuki GSX stands out in its white and blue. Not to everyone’s taste, but visible. We have said it before but you may have to give up a bit of cool in return for being seen.

Our European Government is to look at standards for amber indicator lights on motorcycles. The work of the International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association can be seen here.

There is lots to think about, but the more you think and do the better your visibility.

Take care and be seen.