HIGH VISIBILITY CLOTHING : the future rolling ahead


Rahul Kumar

-National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bengaluru


Cyclist accounts for more than half of all the road fatalities in India. [A study by Michigan University and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi]. A very huge section of population still consider bicycle whether as a means of transportation or for health purpose. For certain group of individuals especially with not much of economic efficiency consider bicycle as lifeline. An analysis done by NHS group, London in which it stated that the most common contributing factor associated with fatal collision with cyclists were-

  • Failure to look properly 63%

Low visibility/ high beam


  • Careless/ Reckless driving 12%
  • Poor turning or manoeuvring 11%
  • Failure to judge speed 11%
  • Disobeying safety law 4%

Also in Switzerland between year of 1993-2003, 7916 causalities were reported. While in Japan 121,004 cycle accidents were reported. Whereas in India, 1412 cyclist in Tamil Nadu, 2388 in U.P. were reported, out of which 60% of death are either due to low visibility, vehicle travelling in high beam, failure to judge speed of vehicle or vice versa.

There is presence of innovative designed and developed products for particular situations and conditions which increases the visibility level at night. Products like ‘Volvo Life Paint’[1] is a spray paint ; when applied to surface the reflective particles stick together with special adhesive which looks normal under normal condition but illuminate when turns dark.

Another interesting product is ‘Sugoi Zap collection’[2] where each product is made up of special pixel fabric which on whole reflects light and remains normal under normal daylight.


Zap Pixel Jacket



But there is no such product availability in Indian context and there is lack of cycling guidelines in Indian traffic too. Thus there is need of development of high visibility clothing for cyclist in Indian context too.

This paper is the study on need of interactive clothing for cyclists in India; reactive to even very little source of light for increased visibility of cyclist. The study draws on transactional perspective that considers the cyclists as single unit and other vehicle driver as one. The knowledge of reflection and emission of light by various materials would be the basis for enhancing a cyclist’s visibility.


The study was conducted through a series of observation on various factors around the area. Also a pilot study was conducted with “convenience sampling” method where a set of questions were asked to group of people who drive vehicle at night.


The analysis of pilot study and observation resulted that:

  • 9 out of 10 drivers always keep their headlamps on high beam
  • Light availability is very less. Under the radius of 250m approx. 3 streetlights were available
  • 5 out of 4 said that they usually face problem in judging a cyclist on road
  • Percentage visibility is 10%-15% for a cyclist at night.

Observations were carried out on points like:

  • Number of drivers on high beam headlight
  • Amount of light/ Streetlight available.
  • Percentage visibility


Lighting condition In and around H.S.R Layout, Bengaluru at night


Analysis 1

During the observational sessions, 9 out of 10 always keep their headlamps on high beam mode. The drivers concluded that they do not consider changing of light beam as an important act while driving.

Secondly, the reason behind such high number of people having bad driving habits is just because majority comprises of youth (students, I.T officials) who wants to boast about their vehicles. So there is lack of awareness and presence of psychological issues which led to such conclusion.

Analysis 2

There is very less light availability in and around the area. Under the radius of 250 m 2-3 streetlights are there which not enough to lighten up the roads. That is why people concluded that there is always problem in judging a cyclist on road because of very less availability of light.




The design has been done in such a way that the maximum output and benefit can be made out of it. The placement of retrorefrective stripes at such a position which gets exposed maximum to light such as at neck region, cuffs, and front part of the jacket. According to general ergonomic of car, headlights are generally at 45 degree angle which conclude that when a cyclist is approaching a car then its top part will be first exposed to light


                                               Areas where light falls when vehicle coming from behind of cyclist.



Areas where light falls when vehicle coming from front of cyclist.


Table 1: Product Prototype






 image006This prototype is designed so that can be used in daily life. Its fabric composition varies from cotton or poly knit with P.U water resistant coating. Jacket is reversible thus presence of retroreflective fibres doesn’t affect the aesthetic values of jacket.

Retroreflrective fibres are present at collar regions, cuffs, waist line and zipper.



 image007This prototype focuses more on solution for the problem. It got retroreflective fibres near zipper and at shoulder regions in front with LED lighting system over it powered with solar power supported with li ion rechargeable batteries.

Since the light is on the retrorefrective fibres thus there is no need of external light source and which make any pedestrian or cyclist more visible .



 image008A detailed view of design and placement of lights and retrorefrective fibres.


image009Third prototype proposal is more functional in nature. Working on the same concept of the above idea i.e. LED installation on retrorefrective fibres along with retrorefrective coated zippers.


 image010LED are place in pixel form on the back of jacket which is programed in such a way that it forms patterns over the surface. It takes its stimuli from motion sensor and forms patterns.


The picture depicting lifting of left hand to take left turn thus there is formation of arrow pointing toward left side.


This can solve the problems for not only cyclists but also to the police, parking assistance persons and to traffic management system.

Prototype and design specification table




The analysis and findings illustrate a very clear picture that there is presence of multiple issues related, whether it may psychological, awareness or lack of strong guidelines for road traffic system and good street planning. Therefore in designing high visibility clothing the key is in understanding how the knowledge of reflection and emission of light will be relevant in solving out this issue. The idea of introducing high visibility clothing in Indian market would lead to a safer place to live in by overcoming the all multidimensional issues.


  2. thehindu.com [visited on 18th feb 2015]
  3. nh.uk [visited on 18th feb 2015]
  4. timesofindia.indiatimes.com [visited on 18th feb 205]
  5. india.gov.in/official-ministry-road-transportandhighway visited on 17th feb 2015
  6. who.int/en [visited on 17th feb 2015]
  7. tripp.iitd.ernet.in [visited on 19th feb 2015]
  8. indianexpress.in [visited on 19th feb 2015]
  9. Japantimes.com [visited on 19th feb 2015]
  10. papers.sae.org [visited on 19th feb 2015]
  11. volvolifepaint.com [visited on 15th april 2015]
  12. sugoi.com/zapcollection [visited on 15th april 2015]


 -A reasearch by Rahul Kumar

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