Your Eyes: Bright Light, Darkness and Fluorescent Clothing

Fluorescent Clothes

You may ask yourself: how does fluorescent clothing actually work? Well, one part of it has to do with your eyes and how we perceive different colors and shades at different times of the day.

Let’s start with our eyes: They react differently to various light levels, as they have different cells that can process different kinds of light. Our eyes use cone cells in bright light, while rod cells are better for seeing in the dark. The cone cells have a sensitivity to color, while the rod cells are affected by light.

Our eyes actually feature more rods than cones, yet it’s the placement that affects how the eye reacts. Cones are centered in the middle of the eye, while the rods are spread further out from the center. The rods and cones actually work together when the light starts to change, primarily around sunset, to help create a proper balance.

There’s a drastic difference in how the eye accepts light, allowing the transfer from rods to cones in a matter of minutes, while it takes approximately 30 minutes to go from cones to rods. It often takes a bit more time for your eyes to adjust from brightness into darkness, than the other way around.

If you’re a cyclist, you want to make sure that you’re visible, not just to other cyclists, but also pedestrians, and especially drivers. Of course you want to wear something bright, but certain colors have a different effect on how we see others and also how we are seen. Our eyes react differently to certain types of colors, with some being far more visible than most.

How Fluorescent Clothing Actually Works

Fluorescent clothes are made of material that features fluorescent dyes. The sun plays an important role here, as its ultraviolet rays, once they interact with these specific colors or dyes, gives them a glowing appearance. This helps to enhance the material’s high visibility, especially during the daytime providing the greatest contrast with a variety of backgrounds. Some cycling jerseys feature reflective strips, for riding at night. Testing indicates they only work when directly in a vehicle’s headlights so they’re only visible for only a few hundred feet in front of the vehicle providing very little warning for the driver. If you must ride at night use powerful LED/laser lights front and back. Some new lights are exceptionally bright.  Don’t compromise; buy the brightest lights you can afford. Even better: try to arrange your affairs so you no longer need to ride at night.

High visibility of fluorescent clothing often stands out in poor lighting situations, such as twilight, rain and fog. Even though fluorescent clothes do not glow in the dark, by having the sun interact with this kind of material, it allows it to stand out in bad weather.

The Importance of Color in Fluorescent Clothing

There are different colors used in many types of fluorescent clothes. Yellow and orange are clearly the most popular, as you often see them worn by road crews, crossing guards, police, the Coast Guard, etc. Compared to regular colors, fluorescent colors utilize greater amounts of the visible spectrum as well as lower wavelengths. Conventional colors often reflect up to 90% of a color in the spectrum, while fluorescent colors are able to reflect up to 300%. Fluorescent colors overall have a better wavelength, which makes them easier to see in the daytime.

Other colors like pink, green and red are also popular in fluorescent clothing, but yellow, orange and even light green have the best reflective properties and they stand out in inclement weather, twilight, and have greater visibility based on interaction with the sun.

Blue can be a difficult color for the human eye to see, as it doesn’t produce light when compared to other fluorescent colors. If you were cycling in a wooded area while wearing blue, you’d have a greater risk of not being seen, as the light wouldn’t enhance the color. Yellow or orange high vis fluorescent clothing will stand out and make you more visible to oncoming riders and drivers.

Into the Light: How Fluorescent Clothes Help in Cycling Apparel

It’s important while cycling to wear fluorescent clothes, especially during the day, as the sun’s ultraviolet rays work with the colors to give them a sheen or glow. Of course, you may think that something so bright will look silly on you, but wouldn’t you rather be visible? Bicycle safety starts with being seen.

So, if you haven’t fully considered fluorescent clothing, a See Me Wear cycling jersey will stand right out and give you greater visibility throughout the day in foggy or rainy weather, dusk and dawn, heavily shaded areas, such as an underpass, a wooded bicycle trail, or on tree lined streets where shade can sometimes be plentiful.

Our eyes take a while to adjust in different levels of darkness, but See Me Wear will help you be more visible, regardless of where you ride.

Confirming the value of fluorescent clothing, Bicycling Magazine, the largest cycling enthusiast magazine in the world, looked at the visibility issue in the December 2010, issue, p.34, and concluded, “When cyclists wear fluorescent clothing, a driver’s perception distance (when the driver first spots something on the road) increases from 400 feet to 2,200 feet during the day.” That’s a substantial difference that could save your life.

Click here to learn more about high visibility clothing and its benefits for cyclists.

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