Be safe, be seen, or be unprotected by the justice system

There are regular attempts to get cyclists (and other vulnerable road users) to “take responsibility for their own safety” by dressing in high visibility clothing. I’m not talking about using lights and reflective panels (either on the bike or the body) in gloomy or dark weather, but the frequent push for cyclists to wear fluorescent yellow or orange during the day in normal visibility.

On the face of it, it seems quite reasonable to suggest that cyclists should wear clothing that will make them seen more readily, but even ignoring the fact that the evidence that high-vis reduces cyclist injuries is equivocal at best, there are several problems with this.

Whilst well-meaning, campaigns such as this rather miss the point; that it is the driver’s responsibility to safely control their vehicle, and that means properly observing their environment.

People don’t demand cars are all painted in high-vis, and we expect drivers to not just drive into parked cars. Similarly kerbs, trees, and fences seem to avoid the calls to wear high-vis for their own safety.

New Forest ponies though, have also been caught up in the knee-jerk push to blame victims for their own injuries.

The bottom line is that a competent driver will see hazards in the road no matter what they are wearing, because as per highway code rule 126 they will be driving “at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear”

The message campaigns like this promote is that if a driver hits someone who wasn’t wearing high-vis, it’s not the driver’s fault. The driver couldn’t possibly be expected to see and react to someone on the road unless they were decked out in fluorescent yellow.

Police are also sometimes stopping cyclists for not wearing high-vis clothing.

The consequences of this approach are that now police are sometimes not referring cases to the CPS if the cyclist was not wearing high-vis.

So well done everyone promoting high-visibility clothing. You’ve made it less safe for cyclists.

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