Could donning a costume before heading out on two wheels improve the chances you reach your destination safe and sound? According to researchers at the Karl-Franzens Universtitaet Department of Transportation Safety in Austria, the answer is a resounding YES (depending on the costume).
Published in the European journal Transportzeit, Der Einfluss des Kostuems auf Sicherheit beim Radfahren (Influence of Costumes on Safety while Cycling) examines the impact various costumes have on the relative safety of persons riding bicycles on public roadways.
The overall results are unequivocal, stated Principal Investigator Dr. Klaus Meier. "Costumed riders were noticed by motorists at greater distances, resulted in slower passing speed differentials and wider passing distances, all key safety indicators for people on bicycles."
The study focused on 10 different types of costumes, including a chicken suit, panda outfit, traditional Austrian Krampus garb, Waldo costume and video game character Mario getup.
Of the costumes tested, Austrian researchers found that the brightest, largest and/or most popular characters had the greatest positive influence on safety, with the chicken coming out on top, followed closely by Mario and Waldo. Researchers surmise that the latter was particularly effective among motorists who grew up keeping an eye out for the candy striped and blue-jeaned Waldo. However, Dr. Meier stressed that more research needs to be done to prove this and other potential safety benefits, as well as to determine what costumes are most effective in different parts of the world.
According to BikeSGV Safety and Education Director Bob Campbell, the implications of this new research are tremendous, especially in the San Gabriel Valley where safe bicycle infrastructure is limited. "Rather than wait years for protected bike lanes and paths to be implemented, local bicyclists can use this information to improve their safety on any street, at any time, now. This is a low-cost, common-sense and fun response to roadways that were not designed to accommodate bicyclists."
Costume Tips: Dr. Meier and his team recommend utilizing costumes that: