A cyclist wearing a reflective vest helps the driver to be more aware of them, to be more careful and to leave a greater safety distance

Should we be wearing a reflective vest when riding a bike? If a cyclist takes this safety precaution the driver will be more aware of their presence on the road and will drive more carefully and will leave a greater distance between themselves and the cyclist. On the other hand, when a cyclist is not wearing this vest, the driver pays less attention to the cyclist and will be less careful when overtaking them. This was the main conclusion drawn from the report entitledAttention while driving: cyclists invisible to drivers, which was presented today in Madrid by Fundación MAPFRE and Bosch España.

The report is the result of a survey of 1031 drivers who had overtaken a cyclist on a street and were asked if they were aware of the cyclist during their route. If they were indeed aware of the cyclist’s presence they were then asked if they had perceived any type of risk. The report also gathers together the results of an in-depth analysis of 15 drivers from 20 to 57 years old, who were monitored to see if they were aware of the presence of cyclists and in order to analyze their behavior at the wheel, their driving style and any errors they may have made.


Thanks to this data it has been demonstrated that when a cyclist is wearing a reflective vest there is a 6% increase in driver concentration and the driver’s “unconscious awareness of the cyclist” increases to 39%, which represents a 12 point increase in comparison with cyclists not wearing a vest. This is “a surprising and worryingly low figure”, stated Jesús Monclús, Fundación MAPFRE Accident Prevention and Road Safety Director, who addressed the fact that “we have to learn to look and see cyclists who share the roads with other motorists”.

When those surveyed were asked if they recalled having seen a cyclist with a reflective vest, 35% verbally confirmed that they had been “fully aware of the cyclist’s presence”, while 65% said they had not. Only 8% verbally recognized they had perceived a risk in overtaking them, faced with 92% who said they perceived no risk. This underscores the fact that drivers who interact with cyclists with a reflective vest on are more careful than those who interact with cyclists who are not wearing one and they increase their safety distance with regard to the cyclist. However, they also pay more attention to the cyclist and their recollection of other elements not relating to the cyclist decreases.

In the case of a cyclist without a reflective vest, only 23% of car drivers recognized that they recalled the presence of a cyclist without a vest and admitted that they paid more attention to other elements such as a roundabout or pedestrians. Therefore, Only 4 in a 100 people perceived the risk in the situation. The report clearly shows that when drivers interact with a cyclist who is not wearing a reflective vest they recognize the danger of the cyclist’s low visibility and the consequences this could bring, mainly that of running them over.


Given the lack of perception that drivers have of cyclists and increasing bicycle use as a method of urban transport, Bosch has developed an automated emergency braking system with an in-built cyclist detector.

During the event, a vehicle equipped with this system showed how it works, how it prevents a serious accident and how it enables the vehicle to come to a stop automatically. During the test, Fundación MAPFRE and Bosch España carried out a simulation with cyclist dummies that traveled in front of a vehicle in order to demonstrate how effective the ADAS system is, which has a stereo video camera which detects an imminent collision. The electromechanical braking system iBooster from Bosch initiates full braking force in only 190 milliseconds, less time than it takes to blink twice. The automatic emergency braking works up to speeds of 60 km/h and can reduce impact speed by 40 km/h, thus preventing accidents with cyclists on urban and intercity roads. When driving at a speed of between 60 and 80 km/h, the system will give an acoustic warning to the driver of an imminent risk, so he or she can react if they have not seen the cyclist. The system is activated even if the cyclist is traveling at a right angle to the vehicle, such as at an intersection, for example, or if the cyclist is traveling in the same direction as the car.

Lorenzo Jiménez, press officer at Bosch España, pointed out at the event that “if all cars were equipped with this system we could prevent 43% of accidents with personal injuries involving bicycles and other cars, or at least reduce their severity”. This expert from Bosch also emphasized that this system can greatly contribute to reducing road accident rates for cyclists as a result of distractions, fatigue or poor visibility, which are some of the most common factors involved in these types of accidents.


“Promoting this fantastic vehicle safety system is essential to reducing the road accident rates of cyclists”, stated Jesus Monclús, who asserted that “this should be carried out by means of awareness programs for drivers and car buyers and through attractive tax breaks”. He also discussed the need to “encourage car drivers to go on a bike route through the city in order to “get them on a bike and to experience, albeit as safely as possible, the risks that cyclists face on a daily basis”. “Such routes, he pointed out, could be promoted by city councils, driving schools and even companies as part of their workplace road safety programs”. He also addressed the need to reduce vehicle speed in residential zones and places frequented by cyclists, since “at lower speeds drivers have more time to react in the event of something unexpected happening and to avoid a crash”.

This road safety expert at Fundación MAPFRE also reminded us of the importance of using an “approved and correctly fastened helmet”, as this “prevents two out of three serious head and brain injuries, the main causes of death in many cyclists involved in a crash”. He also stressed that bicycles should be equipped with a bell and a front and rear light (in order to cycle in low-light conditions) and recommended that cyclists wear reflective high visibility clothing (both during the day and at night) and that they get off their bikes to walk across a crosswalk.


José Luís Zárraga, chief superintendent of the Traffic Reports Unit, who also took part in this event, referred to the road accident rates of Madrid cyclists. He underlined that using a bicycle “is another element of traffic in Madrid”, and also pointed out the gradual phasing out of “incorrect conduct by cyclists”, the 4.4% reduction in accidents involving cyclists in 2018 compared with the previous year; and the “effort” being made to integrate bicycles into city traffic, thanks to the work carried out by both public and private entities.


Cyclists, just like pedestrians and motorcyclists, continue to be a vulnerable group when traveling in cities and on the roads. In 2017, bicycle riders were involved in 8065 accidents in which 78 cyclists died (4.2%% of the 1830 total fatalities of that year), 694 were hospitalized with their injuries and 7035 were injured but not hospitalized. The majority of these accidents occurred on urban roads (72%). That same year, 4 cyclists under 15 years old died. Cyclists complain about the lack of safety for them on the roads and believe that cars do not slow down even when overtaking them and do not keep a safe safe distance from them, which are two common offenses that cause numerous injuries.

You can download the whole report here


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