It’s a good time to ride a bike, especially in England. Bike-sharing abounds in London town. By this time next year, the North-South Cycle Superhighway should be open for business. And Volvo just announced LifePaint, a new spray-on visibility enhancer for cyclists that promises to reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with roadside bike rides.
Volvo’s retro-reflective temporary paint is only available on a trial basis in the UK. It’s not exactly glow-in-the-dark spray, but it works much like the safety tape and the reflective panels sewn into biking and jogging jackets.
The spray-on reflective paint appears to be a simple rebranding of Albedo100’s Invisible Bright product. LifePaint is a branding partnership between Volvo, creative agency Grey London, and, of course, Albedo100. In other words, it’s possible to get a similar (if not identical) product here in the US. It’s just not branded as LifePaint.
According to the Volvo LifePaint and Albedo100 websites, this spray-on product is designed to be applied to textiles and shoes—everything except leather, and it reportedly has a bit of trouble sticking to nylon and plastic. The paint washes out with laundry detergent. There’s an adhesive mixed in that could irritate sensitive skin, and you’re supposed to spray it from a distance to make sure it comes out of clothing after one wash.
A FAQ on the Albedo100 site says the paint is rainproof as long as it’s applied to dry fabric. It’s laundry detergent, not water, that breaks the bond between the paint’s adhesives and your clothing.
Once the paint is applied, it’s purportedly invisible in daylight unless you shine a bright light directly at it. It’s designed to reflect light back towards its source like reflective safety tape. At night, car headlights will ping off the paint and make anything covered with it look like a glowing blob. It’s easy to see a glowing blob.
If you’re wondering why, if LifePaint is intended for fabrics, there’s a brightly glowing bike in its promotional materials, that’s probably a little bit of misdirection on Volvo’s part. Albedo100 also has more permanent solutions in its stable, including “Permanent Metallic,” which is designed to be sprayed onto bikes, signs, and stenciled patterns. That could be what’s lighting up the bike, rather than LifePaint itself.
For what it’s worth, there another water-soluble version of the paint called “Horse and Pets” that you can spray right onto horses, dogs, cats, and other critters that keep running into the road—or that you want to invite to your next rave.
It’s not clear if LifePaint will ever come to the US, but a 4.6oz can of the Albedo100 Invisible Bright, Horse and Pets, or Permanent Metallic spray goes for $19 stateside, while a 2.3oz can of the Invisible Bright sells for $14. Not the cheapest can of spray paint, but more affordable and versatile than buying a similarly glowing Mission Bicycle Co. Lumen.