In cycling friendly cities, how do near-sighted cyclists who need glasses manage to bike to work or school in the rain?

When I say cycling friendly cities, I'm referring to cities such as Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen which have plenty of bike lanes for people of all ages and abilities. Plenty of cyclists in Amsterdam cycle in the rain. Even in Vancouver, bike traffic can greatly decrease.

When glasses get wet, it can be very hard to see which makes it dangerous to cycle. It can also fog. Unlike windshields of cars, glasses almost never have wipers and defoggers unless they're novelty products or custom modifications.

Depending on the severity of the myopia, not wearing glasses can make it too hard to see which is also dangerous. I had pupil dilator eye drops and remembered that it was hard to see the white lane markings.

Is it possible that in cycling friendly cities:

  • Myopia rates are low
  • Contact lenses are used
  • Laser eye surgeries are used
  • Fairings are used
  • Having poor vision isn't that dangerous given the high quality cycling infrastructure
  • Glasses tend to have more advanced coatings so they're more rain friendly
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    I wear glasses all the time, even when cycling in the rain. I've never had a major problem with visibility. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 2:12
  • 2
    Unlike @GregHewgill if I'm still wearing sunglasses when rain comes in, my vision is affected very quickly, and wiping only makes it worse. It's interesting that in many of these cities, helmets are by no means universal, so it can't be the helmet keeping the rain off. Low speed may be a factor though.
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 8:05
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    I'm not from a really cycling-friendly city, and I can't answer the general question. But here's what I do: In light rain, I tend to ignore the rain, but in heavier rain I simply wear a baseball cap which keep my glasses mostly dry. Of course, this option assumes that you are comfortable riding without a helmet.
    – anderas
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 8:36
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    Just a small side note that its advisable to wear lenses at all times when on the bike regardless of if you are short sighted or not. Wearing lenses (either clear or sunglasses) has saved me from being hit in the eye (and therefore possibly saved my vision) by stones kicked up from cars three times so far
    – Andy P
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 13:00
  • 2
    They wear their glasses. How do you think people walk in the rain that have glasses?
    – Gary E
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 19:04

4 Answers 4


I'm very short-sighted and couldn't cycle at all without my glasses on. I don't find any particular problem cycling in the rain, and I don't see how the cycling-friendliness or otherwise of the city would make any difference to that.

Yes, rain on my glasses degrades my vision a bit, but I've never found it problematic. Wearing a cap helps a bit. People say it keeps rain off your glasses but it doesn't; what it actually does is shade your glasses so that the light of the sky during the day or street lights at night doesn't bounce around so much in the raindrops, causing a bunch of glare.

Considering your possibilities:

  • Myopia rates are low

Why would they be? Especially given that people move freely between cities. Doubly so in the UK, where the main cycling cities include Oxford and Cambridge, which have huge transient populations of students.

  • Contact lenses are used
  • Laser eye surgeries are used

In cities where lots of people cycle, they're doing it purely for transport and they tend not to do anything special for cycling (e.g., they cycle in whatever clothes they want to wear at their destination). Such people will wear contacts if they want to wear contacts, and have laser eye surgery if they want to have laser eye surgery but it seems unlikely that cycling will be a significant issue in that.

  • Fairings are used

Not sure what you mean.

  • Having poor vision isn't that dangerous given the high quality cycling infrastructure

There are plenty of people whose vision is bad enough that they can't cycle without corrective lenses, regardless of how good the infrastructure is. For example, I'm sitting about 5m from a row of parked bicycles visible through my office window. If I look over the top of my glasses, I literally can't identify what those blobs are. Even knowing that really they're bikes doesn't help me.

  • Glasses tend to have more advanced coatings so they're more rain friendly

I've bought glasses in cities where lots of people cycle and cities where few people do; there was no difference.

  • 1
    Actually I have contacts specifically so I can continue my outdoor activities unimpeded by the problems with glasses. Cycling is a main contributor to that. It's terrible to have a metal (or plastic for that matter) heat sink on your face at -20F. I have a friend that used to wear glasses (in interior Alaska) and gave up and paid the money for contacts, because it was too difficult to ride in the cold with glasses. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 18:52
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    @DeletedUser OK but the question is about "cycling-friendly cities" and I don't think you can claim that -20F is "cycling-friendly". Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 19:01
  • Fairbanks is likely the winter cycling capital of the world and has consistently produced distance winter champions. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 20:20
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    @DeletedUser Because winter in Fairbanks encourages people to cycle as far away as possible! *rimshot* Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 20:24
  • If I misplace my glasses overnight, I can't see well enough to find them. Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 1:53

I have to wear glasses at all times, and I do cycle in all kinds of weather. Including rainy nights. The following is the rationalization of what I experience (I do know a bit about physics):

When you have rain on your glasses, the raindrops are totally out-of-focus, and there is usually quite an amount of glass surface that's not currently covered by raindrops. This is due to the fact that those drops are roughly round, and don't touch each other, consequently, there must be some uncovered space in between. Wherever a drop rolls away due to shaking, gravity or contraction, it leaves a patch of dry glass behind.

The result of this is, that your eyes can see the right image in each direction (using the clear parts of the surface), plus a heavily and unevenly blurred one (light scattered wildly by the raindrops). Our brains can do a fantastic job at a) telling the blur apart from the sharp image, and b) ignoring the blur. Thus, as long as the sharp image is bright enough compared to the blurred one, you don't have much trouble seeing everything you need.

That is not to say that rain is not dangerous for spectacled cyclists: Vision is impaired, even though we are generally able to compensate. And even the compensation breaks down when you are cycling in a rainy night and have cars coming towards you, turning the entire scene into a blinding glare of head-lights. This is dangerous. In these situations, you won't be able to see a gaping construction hole in your way.

So, again, it's our brains that either save us, or don't. Either we know what we've seen, and only rely on that, or we forget and risk catastrophe. Riding carefully with glasses can be safe, but you need to remember at all times your limitations, and must react accordingly when you loose vision of what's ahead of you.

  • Thanks for mentioning the problem at night with other's headlights. Frankly I'm baffled by those saying they don't really have problems in rain. Depending on the type of rain and type of surrounding light, I've more than once found myself in situations where it was actually safer for me to put off my glasses and ride with heavily out-of-focus vision than to leave them on and try to guess what's behind all the stars created by the raindrops on my glasses.
    – stijn
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 8:54
  • Your glasses' coating must still be good. Is it possible that those who can hardly see with wet glasses have old pairs with worn water repellent coating or glasses without a special coating?
    – Brian
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 6:06
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    @Han-Lin I don't think my glasses have any water repellent coating, and I still see enough in the rain at daytime. My problems only start in the night with the headlights glaring. The point about parts of the glass remaining dry is purely physical: You cannot pack round droplets of a certain minimum size on a surface without touching and fill the entire surface. Gaps will remain. And those gaps are the parts that provide you with sharp vision. Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 8:31
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    The really dangerous thing about cycling at night in the rain is that car drivers have much worse visibility of you.
    – nekomatic
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 15:06
  • @nekomatic Excellent point, those 2-ton tanks are quite dangerous when their pilots are blind... On the other hand, the behavior of the average car drivers is so blissfully ignorant of the laws that protect bikers, that you always have to assume the worst anyway. For a large part, it's your own eyes that save you from those tanks... Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 15:57

I've worn glasses for 30+ years now. My normal techniques are:

  1. Keep wearing the glasses - don't be tempted to ride without. A user with a low prescription might get away with it, but you want your eyesight as good as possible while on the roadway. At about +13, I can't even walk around reliably without my glasses.

  2. Move the head a lot to look around, not just moving the eyes. When riding we have to look around and be situationally aware. A good way to look "around" water on the lenses is to turn your head 5-10 degrees frequently, and your brain "stitches" imagery together to help perceive the entire scene.

    • This is also a good way to help other road users to see you - by looking directly at them with a full face stare until you see them looking back.
  3. Keep the glasses closer to the face while riding. This makes it harder to focus on water drops.

  4. Conversely, if you're riding hard on a cold day, then stopping at the lights can make your lenses fog up. So when stopped for a traffic control, after you have a foot down and a stable still position, then lower the nosepads down your nose a little. 5-8 mm is plenty. This allows cool air to get around the lens, and stops your hot sweaty body air from fogging up the cold surfaces. Just before the lights change, use one finger to push the bridge back up your nose into a riding position as you get ready to push off.

  5. I almost always wear a separate cycling cap under the helmet, for the visor/brim. This helps keep rain off the lenses, as well as reducing sun strike. The average helmet may have an integrated visor which can act as a rain shield too.

  6. Lastly, if you wear cycling gloves there should be a slightly thicker material on the outside of the thumb. This is for snot-wiping, but can also work well to quickly wipe the outside of the lens. I use the bit from the tip to the first knuckle on the thumb, and I do one lens at a time and then the gopro cover.

If you do choose to put repellent chemicals on your glasses, be careful that they don't damage any optical coatings, and that you give enough time for any volatiles to off-gas before wearing. I remember using superglue on a nosepad once, and it stung my eyes even many hours later. Moist-squishy eyeballs are a sponge for vapours.


Tricks to Keep Glasses from Fogging Up this Winter Use anti-fog wipes. Clean your glasses with a small dab of shaving foam. Rub a small amount of pure white bar soap on your lenses, then buff off. Apply anti-fog paste or spray. Use rain repellent on glasses. Clean them with your saliva. Choose glasses that sit away from your face to circulate air. wear a cap with a bill

  • 1
    The saliva thing actually works (a bit). I am very short-sighted, annual rainfall in my hometown is ~1400 mm (55 inches) - usually accompanied by strong wind to blow it in your face. On a 'normal' wet day, I just ride our cycle-unfriendly roads and occasionally wipe/smear the rain drops off my glasses with a finger. But on a really wet day I have been reduced to licking them 'clean' in order to get even limited visual clarity.
    – Penguino
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 20:42

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