Paul Andrews

Vigilant Velo’s “Little Fellow” reminds drivers to look

In Bicycle advocacy on February 2, 2010 at 2:39 am

Anyone who has ridden for any length of time has fondly wished for some magic trick to get drivers’ attention in risk-prone situations, like getting doored on the driver’s side or right-hooked on the passenger side. I like to scream the scream of the near-dead. Don’t laugh. Screaming really works.

But over at Vigilant Velo, Raymond Galang has come up with something more civilized. Clear 2-inch-round stickers showing the figurine of an approaching rider that, when applied to rear view mirrors and car windows, serve as a helpful reminder to keep an eye out.

Are two better than one?

Vigilant Velo has gotten some good press on two of my favorite blogs, BikePortland.org and Cyclelicio.us, and Galang graciously sent me a few stickers to try out. It’s a snap to install them: One set aimed at the rear-view mirror has bumper-sticker adhesive on it. The other, for windows, is vinyl self-stick.

When first applying them, your natural instinct is to keep them away from the main viewing area of the mirror as much as possible. Galang recommends the inside, closest to the car body. That worked OK but I actually thought it was too unobtrusive. I wound up putting two stickers on the mirror and, to my surprise, found it more noticeable but not distracting while driving. This is because of the mirror’s changing plane of vision. If you focus on the mirror surface, you see the sticker image. If you focus on the traffic behind you, the sticker image blurs out.

This is true except at night of course, when headlamps and street lighting reflect off the mirror’s surface. The VV figurine stands out much more, the caveat being that it’s less needed at night, when cyclists presumably will have lighting that makes them visible. Still, if through some visual technology the VV figurine could be noticeable from all focal planes during daylight hours, it could boost its effectiveness.

Cyclists may be larger than they appear...

It’s important to remember that this is Version 1.0 of VV. Galang is playing around with larger stickers for rear and back-door windows, not just for drivers looking rearward to check traffic but for passersby to see when the car is parked. He’s also considering lettering on the stickers along the lines of “WATCH FOR CYCLISTS” — akin to the “OBJECTS MAY BE LARGER THAN THEY APPEAR” logos on passenger side rear-view mirrors.

Galang said he has found no legal or warranty issues with the stickers. Numerous other stickers are sold for mirror application, most of them jokes on the standard “OBJECTS” lettering.

Vigilant Velo stickers have been available for only a week, but already they’re getting international attention. “I have shipped stickers to Singapore, New Zealand and Australia,” Galang said. Ordering for stickers, which are $2 a set or $18 for 20, is available on the Vigilant Velo site along with instructional information, photos and other details.

In our email exchange, Galang made an intriguing point:

“I’m interested in the dialogue that takes place when someone hands the sticker to that non-cycling friend. In the 20 years I’ve been riding, I had never brought it up with my own parents and in-laws. When I handed them the sticker, that conversation happened. I said to myself, ‘Wow, I could have done that much sooner’!”

Sometimes the ingenious solutions to a problem are the simplest. The Vigilant Velo “little fellow” gets just enough attention, and does so in a subtle enough way, to be the kind of mind-changer cycling needs to persuade drivers to give that little extra heads up that saves life, limb, and bike in a potentially disastrous scenario.

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