Notice the dark background… Most environments are much busier than this. Even with the reflective gear it can be very difficult to see a pedestrian at night. (Image from myprrun.com)

Ever since daylight savings kicked in my commute home from work has been in the dark. Lately I’ve been noticing, at the last minute, a significant number of people out and about… running… walking… and on their bikes. 

Some of these individuals were doing everything they were supposed to be doing. They had lights, they were wearing bright colored clothing, and the clothing had reflective areas or the person was wearing a reflective vest. However, some of the people I saw were wearing dark colored clothing and were doing nothing to improve their chances of being seen.

What did I learn from these observations?

I learned no one is safe no matter what they do. 

One runner was almost hit by a vehicle pulling out of a driveway… and it was definitely the runners fault. She was wearing a dark top, dark pants, and had a headlamp on. What got her in trouble was running full bore into the path of traffic without looking. I assume she thought the headlamp was doing it’s job and that the approaching vehicle was aware of her presence. But, that was apparently not true, and it almost ended in very poor fashion. 

If you search Google for images of reflective running gear you’ll get all kinds of results. Most of the images are product images illustrating the effectiveness of said product. If you look closely, most of these images utilize a scene with a clean, dark, background. In reality, most of us live in populated places and often there are many other distracting things around… other vehicle lights, house lights, road lights, building lights, reflective things, etc… Do lights and hi-vis products make you more visible? Of course they do! But is it enough? Do they guarantee you’ll stand out from everything else and be seen by each and every driver that threatens to end your life?

In my experience, staying safe while running in low light is just as much about how you engage with your environment as it is about doing everything possible to be visible. 

So… If you’re going to head out when there isn’t a lot of light please consider the following suggestions:

  1. Wear bright colored clothing. Also, try to pick clothing that has a shiny surface and isn’t matte. 
  2. Wear something reflective. Anything sparkly works.
  3. Get a light. A headlamp is ok, but a handheld light is better. A headlamp and a handheld is best. Pro Tip: Point the headlamp as far down as possible so it lights up your body. Illuminating your body will help increase your volume making you easier to see. This works especially well if you are wearing bright clothing and something reflective. We like handheld lights because they better illuminate surface features of the road or trail so you are less likely to trip, and you can more easily direct light where necessary… Say at an approaching car. 

Also remember these few truths:

  • You aren’t as visible as you think you are.
  • Drivers are not typically looking for runners, or any kind of pedestrian.  
  • Even if you have the right of way, you will always lose a fight with a car… 100% of the time. 
  • You are ultimately responsible for your own safety. Never assume you’ve been seen. Always assume anyone in a car has been sent to kill you. 

Train Smart. Run Well. Do Good… And Be Safe!