SOBS – Imitation is a sincere form of flattery

A buddy of mine pinged me a GoogleFind at the weekend, saying I might want to take a look. It was a link to an advanced group’s newsletter from late 2013. I looked and read:

“Meeting Report – Understanding the causes of SMIDSY collisions”

The article went on to explain that the only aim of the talk was to ensure that the listeners got an unbiased insight into the causes of the ‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You’ crash, and some suggestions on how to prevent them in the future.

I read on to discover “motion camouflage”, “looming”, “the central sharp focus” of vision, “door pillars” and vehicles on “converging paths” all getting a mention.

Sound familiar?

I thought so, and the more I read, the more familiar it got.

There’s a word about using colours that create “contrast” and although the final message about hi-vis and day riding lights seems to have been somewhat scrambled, there was also one final suggestion to “move the motorcycle laterally”.

As you may well have realised, it’s much the same content as I deliver on my ‘Science Of Being Seen’ presentation.

SOBS was originally created for Kent Fire and Rescue Service as the third module of the ‘Biker Down’ courses. From Kent, Biker Down was was rapidly picked up by other FRS services and has spread across the UK (and further afield too – I’ve recently been talking to the organiser of Biker Down North America!).

Personally, I took an interest in SMIDY collisions as soon as I trained as a bike instructor in 1995. I had to tell CBT trainees that they were supposed to follow the standard advice to wear hi-vis clothing and use day-riding lights (DRLs), but in my personal experience as a courier both were ineffective, something confirmed by taking a look at ‘before and after’ historical accident statistics.

So the contrasting message “don’t rely on conspicuity aids” was a topic included in my very first advanced course run in 1997 and I’ve been writing about the issue on bike forums since at least 2001. On my website, you can still find the free riding tip originally penned in 2002 that looked at the likely causes of SMIDSYs and the problems riders create for themselves by over-relying on hi-vis and DRLs. It’s been regularly updated and formed the basis for SOBS when I created the presentation over the winter of 2011/12.

I spotted the newsletter date – almost two years after I first delivered SOBS in early 2012. And almost a year after the Kent Biker Down team – myself included – were honoured with an award at 2012 Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety awards.

During those two years – 2012 and 2013 – we were inundated with people wanting to take the course. We were running Biker Down every couple of weeks.

And as word got around about the course, particularly after the Road Safety Award, we also had numerous visits from rider groups, some based well outside the Kent area.

Of course, it’s not impossible that the author came up with a very similar presentation – after all, all the information is in the public domain. For example, there’s a very well-constructed video from FortNine on the topic on YouTube.

Science Of Being Seen (SOBS) was originally
created in 2012 for Kent Fire and Rescue as
Module 3 of the pilot Biker Down course. As a
team we were awarded a Prince Michael of Kent
International Road Safety Award at the end of
2012. Most of the Biker Down teams in the UK
use a ‘slimmed down’ version of SOBS.

It’s the fullest version with up-to-date research.
Get a 40 minute talk with time for questions!
Contact me today: info[at]

Screenshot of live online presentation of Science Of Being Seen SOBS

But frankly, whilst much of that information has been out there for many years it’s often in fields unconnected with motorcycling. That’s where my research-based Masters degree in the sciences came in handy.

And my research background helped with the deeper investigative work which become possible once scientific papers became more widely available on the internet. Nevertheless, it needed quite a bit of personal enthusiasm to dig it out and pull it together.

So as far as I know, the original SOBS presentation was the first attempt to put conspicuity issues together into one coherent explanation which covered:

  • the reasons drivers fail to spot bikes
  • the reasons that hi-vis and DRLs are not a complete solution
  • the need for riders to think about whether or not their clothing and lighting creates a colour contrast with the background
  • the need for a pro-active response to the SMIDSY threat including slowing down and lateral movement

Having said all that, the whole point of SOBS is educational. I provided it to KFRS, and by the end of 2013, a version of my presentation was already being offered freely to other FRS’s.


I want the messages in the presentation to be spread as far and wide as possible to benefit riders, and I have absolutely no interest in locking it down for my own gain. The charge for presentations and the price of my published book of the presentation are to help fund my time involved in research and writing, plus hosting the Science Of Being Seen website. You can make a small donation using the button below if you wish – it all helps.

Buy Me a Coffee at

So the information is out there for everyone, for free. Nevertheless, if SOBS really WAS the inspiration for the presentation, a ‘based on…’ credit would have been nice.

Want to ride better? Then start with a
CRASH COURSE – choose from THREE
one-hour sessions looking at the most
common bike crashes:

* collisions at junctions
* cornering spills
* overtaking incidents

Learn what goes wrong, how to stay out
of trouble where you can and how to get
out of trouble when you can’t.

– the ONLY way to be a SAFER BIKER!


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