ABCs for VRUs

July 28, 2022

By Bob Najduk
Director of Electronics
Trek Bicycle

My entire life, I have been trying to get people to stay active. From a young age, I would organize basketball games in the middle of the street near Detroit.  And I carried that through to grad school at Western Michigan University, earning a master’s degree in sports management and serving as a graduate assistant for intramural sports.  To this day, I joke with friends that “Yes, I have an advanced college degree in getting people to play sports.” 

Fast forward 15 years and I now work at Trek Bicycle Company, where one of our missions is to change the world by getting more people on bikes. And again, I find myself trying to get more people out playing, on bikes this time, and I am doing it as the Electronics Product Director, through technology that can make riding safer and give riders more confidence while riding.

You see, safety while riding a bike is one of the top reasons people give for why they don’t ride. So how do we change this narrative and give VRUs (vulnerable road users) the confidence to get out there and ride?

While we do work closely with groups like the VRUSC (Vulnerable Road User Safety Consortium) a collaboration between the auto and cycling industries and help push for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies like blind spot monitoring, driver monitoring systems (DMS), and automatic emergency braking (AEB) that will save a lot of lives, the responsibility does not solely fall on the automobile industry.  There are steps we can take as riders to make us better seen, safer, and have more confidence on the road.  And I am proud to develop products that help riders be better seen when riding for safer, more confident rides.  

Here are some of the key things a rider can do to be better seen and more confident while riding.

A: Always on
Always on means a VRU has their lights always on, day or night. Lights with a disruptive flash pattern can help increase a rider’s conspicuity during the day. Data from a Clemson University conspicuity research study in 2017 showed that having daytime running lights while cycling can increase a cyclist’s chance of being seen and noticed by 240%. While lights are prevalent in the cycling industry, they can be used on other VRUs like scooters, and even pedestrians can mount them to a hat or belt, too.

B: Biomotion
Biomotion refers to the idea of placing lights, reflective or fluorescent materials on parts of the body that are in motion. We humans are really good at identifying objects in motion. By pairing lights, reflective or fluorescent materials on parts of the body in motion (like a foot) you can become instantly more identifiable as a walker or cyclist. 

C: Contrast
Contrast refers to the usage of fluorescent and reflective clothing so it is easier for a VRU to be seen. Fluorescents work great for daytime because they don’t naturally appear in nature. Fluorescents can be 200-300% more visible than darker colors. However, fluorescents don’t work well at night because they rely on ultraviolet light for their color. When it’s dark outside, reflective material is ideal because it can reflect the lights of automobiles or other light produced at night. 

There are so many benefits to riding bikes. It can improve your physical and mental health, help with the fight against climate change, lower your gas bill, and most importantly, it’s a super fun lifetime sport! The ABCs of awareness is an easy guide to help all VRUs stay safe and confident so that we can all go outside and play.

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