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Volvo Life Paint

Volvo Lifepaint
Andy Waterman
6 May 2015

Give your bike a glow in the dark makeover, but for whose benefit?

As the news circulated that giant Swedish car manufacturer Volvo had developed a glow-in-the-dark spray paint to make cyclists more visible to drivers, one would have been forgiven for thinking it was a belated April Fool’s prank. Alas it wasn’t the case. The paint appears invisible during the day, but glows brightly under the glare of car headlights, can be applied to any material without affecting its colour or texture, and will last for around a week. So you can spray your bike, your clothes, even your helmet. We assume you can probably do your skin too, but it’s not recommended.

Once it had sunk in this was a real product – at the time of writing, being given away – it was revealed that eight London bike shops and one in Kent were distributing 2,000 free cans as a trial. The feedback from this launch will determine if the paint is made commercially available later in the year.

Volvo Cars life paint

Despite flying off the shelves the response to the product has been mixed. Some (mainly motorists) were happy for yet another way cyclists can make themselves more visible (to them), and others, mainly from the online cycling community, see it as yet another example of victim blaming and taking the onus for safety away from the car driver (with Eben Weiss of Bike Snob NYC fame being particularly vociferous here: The Washington Post).

We’re not going to go into a huge debate about this sort of thing here (or helmets!) but we’ve had a few interesting discussions around the office. The big question being whether it’s our job, as cyclists, to do everything we can to be seen, or whether it’s the drivers’ jobs, as drivers, to do everything they can to look for us. 

Despite the naysayers, Life Paint appears to have gone down well with many cyclists. Outside of the debate as to whether taking extra steps to avoid accidents is the responsibility of cyclists or that of other road users in bigger, more lethal forms of transport, we at can’t see ourselves turning any of our beloved machines into a two-wheeled glow sticks. Still, spraying a message to drive more responsibly on the bonnet of a Volvo XC70 is something we can get behind. And, don’t worry; the paint will be gone in a week.

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