It's currently winter in the UK, so for my commute to and from work I need lights and reflective surfaces for safety. I've read about local people losing their lives cycling, so I want to make myself as visible and safe as possible. I currently have:



I'm considering buying and fitting electroluminescent wire to my bike frame in order to make myself more visible. Does anyone have any thoughts or first hand experience?

On one hand I consider the brighter and more visible I am, the safer I am. However I'm already got lots of lighting and reflective surfaces on my bike. Also I've made sure that my front facing lights are white, rear facing red and other surfaces reflective. So I worry that el wire could add a non-standard and confusing colour into the mix.

Update: 4th December 2012
I found some el wire for £6 at Suntekstore, so I decided to give it a go! I've also recorded a quick video.

My bike with el wire

  • Great description of how to light up your bike, I have favorited to return later. Dec 10, 2010 at 14:00
  • After having multiple friends get hit by cars as both pedestrians and cyclists, even in broad daylight, riding at night, quite frankly, scares the heck out of me. I try to avoid major roads all together; ride on sidewalks where possible (not like there are many pedestrians on them at night), and take back roads less traveled, even if the ride is longer. For what its worth, I find reflective things that are moving (cranks, legs, wheels, etc) to be more noticeable and identifiable at a short distance at night, and are easier to gauge distance than a single light.
    – rally25rs
    Sep 6, 2011 at 19:07
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    I'm skeptical whether EL wire would add more than simple reflector strips. It's not generally very bright. And it's one more battery to deal with. If you REALLY want to be visible get a xenon strobe light. Sep 6, 2011 at 19:30
  • The links to stuff on Amazon are broken
    – Jason S
    Oct 18, 2011 at 2:21
  • My own experience with EL wire leads me to think it simply isn't bright enough to help much. I like the idea, and there might be other technologies that would be more effective.
    – Adam Rice
    Feb 8, 2019 at 18:22

6 Answers 6


There is some interesting research from the Australasian College of Road Safety. In amongst some decent comparisons of methodologies, they suggest that reflective material on the major joints makes the real difference in having cyclists being identifiable and identified. The thinking, as I understand it, is that lights are just lights and could be on (more or less) anything, but reflective material on ankles and knees introduces motion and makes you look like a cyclist to a viewer's subconscious.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't light yourself up like a Christmas tree, but unusual and unexpected things aren't necessarily going to help you be noticed.


I think the biggest advantage of EL wire is that it would increase your side visibility. Front and real lights aren't that great for that.

On my folder, I have wheel lights installed - with the small wheels on the folder, they make a very distinct pattern, very noticeable to drivers that are otherwise likely to T-bone me.


I have 3M reflective tape on my cranks too. These should be pretty visible, and the motion would clearly indicate that I am a bicycle, not a car.

  • True, but reflective tape requires a light source to be useful. However the newer reflectors get away with very little inbound light. White clip-on spoke reflectors do very well, specially compared to the old yellow ones.
    – Criggie
    Dec 30, 2017 at 21:10

Sorry no idea what the el wire looks like. As a driver the best features especially in town are flashing LEDs front and rear, reflective ankle bands (these work from any angle) and relflectors attached to the bike wheels.

If you have never driven, do remember that just because you can see the car does not mean the car driver can see you. Car drivers are often blinded by other vehicles lights and even some poorly positioned or shielded security lights. Also winter causes windows to steam up and if poorly cleared or grease smeared even street lights can cause problems.

When I cycled regularly in my youth I could reach 25mph on the flat. Car drivers only expect cyclists to travel marginally above walking pace.

Incidentally the only time I was forced off the road was in broad daylight on a straight road wearing everything possible to make me visible. Fortunately I was alert, otherwise I might have been injured. I didn't get the offending driver's number or I would have reported him.


After reading the journal article @Unsliced linked I think the answer is undoubtedly yes. Also interestingly, it's good to learn that the benefit of fluorescent, non-reflective material is apparently little more than wearing all black once the sun sets.

I'll add my 2c: IMO the best luminescence-for-the-buck is the "ansi class 2 vest" - i.e. construction worker vest. They cost $10, are super bright in light and wrap around the the body. Curiously, wearing one often elicits 'extra' space from pedestrians and cars. Maybe because it looks "official"?

  • Safety vests seem to elicit these reactions from drivers, and so, oddly enough, does my helmet light (whether it's on or off). Dec 29, 2010 at 0:01
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    +1 for suggestion ansi class 2 vest, sounds good to have body-wrapping vest, I have had a problem with discount Lidl vest that have small clips to attach. Due to its poor attachements, the side reflecting parts lasted only an year, have to upgrade to some vest with better attachements perhaps some Ansi II vest.
    – user652
    Mar 12, 2011 at 8:14
  • Fluorescent colours appear bright during daylight because they absorb UV from sunlight and re-emit it as light that's visible to our eyes. At night, they don't get that brightness boost but, by being bright colours, they're still a good deal better than black. And the paper backs that up, giving non-reflective fluoro a score of 15%, compared to only 2% for black. Feb 8, 2019 at 12:30
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    In the US at least, I'm encountering more cars with high-color-temp (bluish) headlamps, either HID or LED. Nearly every bike or pedestrian headlamp I encounter is bluish. Common high-vis pigments fluoresce under blue light as well as UV. It would be interesting to revisit the linked research with these new headlamps -- I suspect fluorescent items would fare better now.
    – jeffB
    Feb 8, 2019 at 14:20

Wow, that's about 5x more lighting than I have on my bike! Good for you! I am a big fan of those reflective jackets, they really light up in the car headlights.

I think i agree with you about the confusing color, and some states have laws about what color lighting you can have on your car. Mostly for good reason because drivers get distracted when they see something unusual.

  • Unclear whether the driving being distracted will help or harm you though. Dec 10, 2010 at 13:59
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    Since this doesn't answer the original question directly, it might have been better off as a comment than an answer. By the way, good point about lighting colors. Due to their more vulnerable position, I think cyclists get away with stuff like blinking lights that cars would get pulled over for. Dec 29, 2010 at 0:04

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