Can This Bike Safety Fashion Fail Inspire Better Reflective Gear?

Samurai armor-inspired capes: probably not the latest bike fashion statement.

At night, cyclists in dark clothing tend to think they’re about twice as visible to drivers as they actually are. And even though most bike commuters might say they think reflective clothing is a good idea, few actually wear it, in part because of how it looks.


That’s starting to change as designers make more options that look less like construction worker accessories. Some look like normal clothing during the day, like this plaid shirt laced with secret reflective stripes. A Tron-inspired jacket looks like high-end athletic wear, and a transparent jacket filled with flashing lights looks futuristic, not like safety gear.

Still, there are few options that necessarily look right with office clothes or anything dressier than, say, jeans. Designer Sarah Henrichs, former travel editor for Wallpaper, attempted to help fill that gap with a new set of capes, vests, and bands inspired by samurai armor.

“In the cities I’ve cycled around the world, there was always a lack of designed, interesting reflective clothing,” she says. “There’s nothing for design-conscious people to be able to wear what they would normally wear, and then just have something to protect them when they’re on the road.”

The only problem: The lobster bib-like accessories don’t seem like something that a style-conscious cyclist would actually want to wear.

The idea is clever–each waterproof cape or vest folds up to fit in a pocket without wrinkling, and, unlike a jacket, wouldn’t cover up everything else someone has on (or make them sweat). But it’s hard to argue that this really looks that much better than the traditional orange safety vest.

It also might not work as well as some other options. At least one study found that reflective clothing has to move to show up well on dark streets–something covering an ankle or knee will flash as legs pedal up and down, but a simple vest is less likely to show up from a long distance. In fact, wearing reflective vests might actually make cyclists take more risks, since they overestimate how well they’ll be seen.


This might not be a solution for getting more cyclists safely on city streets, but it could be inspiration: What’s a genuinely good-looking, lightweight reflective bike accessory that could fit in a pocket?

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.