Is spray-on reflectivity from Volvo really a boon for cyclists?
At TreeHugger we love where innovation and sustainability intersect. So it stands to reason that spray-on, wash-off reflective paint is a positive. It's certainly cool.
And Volvo's tag line for the new LifePaint is catchy, "The best way to survive a crash is not to crash." I mean, who can argue with that?
Volvo says the water-based LifePaint is not toxic, and can be applied to surfaces of clothing, bicycles, helmets, and gear. It stands to reason that the paint is just as good for pedestrians, who in many cases are more vulnerable in traffic even than bicyclists. LifePaint is transparent in the daytime – when not under the glow of light – and eventually washes off with effects dissipating after about ten days.
Volvo seems to be using its safety focus - it has an internal goal that by 2020 no new Volvo will kill or seriously injure people - to amplify publicity and awareness of the LifePaint product. It's a branding tool.
“Though designed for safer cycling, LifePaint can be applied to any fabric — clothes, shoes, pushchairs, children’s backpacks — even dog leads and collars,” says Grey London, a U.K.-based creative agency that invented the LifePaint concept along with the Swedish manufacturer Albedo100.
Albedo100 already makes four reflective spray-on paints - there is even one that is sprayed on reindeer antlers to make them visible to Finnish drivers.
According to Albedo100, the reflective paint consists of a clear adhesive (of a similar type to that used in band-aids or plasters), hollow microscopic reflective spheres, and a propellant of a butane and propane mix.
Volvo is planning to pilot the paint in London and will even be giving it away for free to selected cyclists.
There is only one downside, and it is this: when we rush to make bicycle helmets, and in this case reflective bicycle paint a sort of mandatory requirement for cyclists (mandatory bike helmet legislation is springing up everywhere, and mandatory reflective gear is a current bill moving through the Oregon legislature) we tend to exacerbate the 'blame the victim' mentality of our current cars-first infrastructure. Instead of changing our views about what is good for all road users, and fixing some of the safety issues about our roads, we scapegoat cyclists and thus slow down a shift to a more sustainable mobility.
Let's hope Volvo continues to push for infrastructure changes and mindset expanding rather than just trying to sell more cars.