Some ‘expert advice’ in response to a letter in the current CTC “Cycle” magazine caught my attention: and rather got my dander up. CTC member David Watson wrote in lamenting the organisation’s unwillingness to recommend cyclists wear bright clothing and the current fashion for very dark cycle apparel.
In response, Cherry Allan comments that CTC would be happy to recommend wearing hi-viz or ‘day-glow’ clothing if there was any evidence it made cycling safer: as they have found none, they are not willing to do so. Several comments are made to support this stance, but none of them throw much light on matters.
Firstly, hi-viz is not to be recommended because it might lull wearers into a false sense of security. Well, yes it might, but equally so might a dozen other factors or inclinations. Is there any evidence that this is the case? I thought we were taking an evidence-based approach? No evidence is advanced for this proposition. Quite why someone concerned enough about their safety to wear hi-vis clothing would then assume wearing it made them safe I cannot imagine. In my experience the wary stay wary.
Next comes the statement that cyclists have been killed or injured while wearing hi-vis clothing. I don’t think this is an argument of any kind. For all we know the unfortunate cyclists might have failed to take a corner at speed with no other party involved: or the drivers concerned were colour-blind, or for that matter, blind drunk.
In relation to both of these points, nobody is saying that having hi-viz will guarantee your safety: only that it might make you easier to see. Defensive cycling and vigilance are still a big part of staying safe.
The ‘expert’ goes on to say that suggesting people should consider wearing hi-vis is somehow, ‘pandering’ to the lobby that seeks to blame cyclists or suggest they have somehow contributed to their accidents and injuries by not wearing protective gear or conspicuous clothes. This is a big red herring in this debate. The issue is whether these items contribute to personal safety or not. CTC is confusing its purposes here: taking a sensible attitude to conspicuity ought not to be seen as somehow reducing the effectiveness or potency of their campaign for other measures to make cycling safer. The one campaign is in no way dependent the other.
The CTC spokesperson ends by saying that their policy is informed always by the best available evidence and repeats they have found no evidence of hi-viz kit contributes to safety and they want to take an evidence-based approach to all issues. The trouble is, there is, as they say, no evidence to hand either way on this issue, so what are we to do?
Well, in the absence of evidence, surely it’s not a bad thing to fall back on common sense? If drivers see you, they are less likely to hit you, always assuming they are not doing so intentionally. If in doubt, play it safe: err on the side of common sense and caution. Be bright and be seen. What’s the down side? I just cannot see one.
Certainly we two will continue to sport our hi-viz waistcoats. They are second nature to us now and we don them as routinely as we do our helmets. We feel naked without them. Even in bright and sunny climes, where we are often almost unique exceptions. The only down side is that all our tour photos show us wearing the same gear!
Or maybe there is something I am missing?