Cyclists – the answer to the question “What shall I wear to ride today?” is HIGH VIS. It’s always high vis.

relishCarrying a bottle of Special Edition TdY Henderson’s Relish doesn’t count as high vis, but it’s an extremely good start. [photo credit @rjwalker]

I’ve been a cycling commuter in the past, I live in a city where that is entirely the best option for local travel, but now I drive. Because I work 30 miles away from home.

So I know that “cyclists” are not a homogeneous group and neither are drivers. As a regular cyclist, I wore a helmet, had lights, front and rear, the usual reflector on the wheels that bikes come with, a coat with a reflective strip and, when I remembered, a Sam Browne. However, I saw many cyclists who wore some or none of those, I saw one knocked off his bike as he was using his phone and called an ambulance for him, I saw drunk cyclists, pavement cyclists, red light runners and many, many safe and considerate cyclists too.

Having spent several years driving to work along rural back lanes, A roads, B roads and the occasional motorway, here’s what I would use if I were to go back to regular cycling:

  • high visibility coat, yellow or orange, with reflective strips
  • helmet
  • helmet light
  • lights, front and rear (constant)
  • lights, front and rear (flashing)
  • legwear with reflective stripes down the side
  • reflective cycle clips

What I wouldn’t wear is black lycra, or if I did I’d then put lots of high vis over the top of it.

And that goes for runners too.

We’re all road users and have responsibilities as such. Mine as a driver is to drive attentively, safely, with a roadworthy vehicle, within the law and following the Highway Code.

Part of the Highway Code is VISIBILITY, “help other road users to see you”

Rule 59 (for cyclists) – “Clothing. You should wear

  • light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light
  • reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.”

The same advice pertains for motorcyclists, all road users in fact.

I know that a lot of drivers perform dangerous overtakes, pass far too close to cyclists who may be further out in the road than some drivers think they should be due to the high levels of skiddy, tyre-puncturing crap that collects in the gutters (not to mention potholes and drain covers). I know that a lot of cyclists do wear high vis, in all weathers at all times of day. I see those cyclists far earlier than the black lycra lot, so I know to expect oncoming traffic over the central lines one way or another; I can take action to pass them safely or to allow others to pass safely.

But I am terrified of the “serious” cyclists I see, out solo or in pairs, on high end road bikes, training day in day out for road races, incredibly fit cyclists taking on hills that knacker me just looking at them. Good on them, keeping fit and healthy. Taking their exercise very seriously.  But why don’t they take their safety seriously? Even white cycling tops aren’t bright enough, it has to be high vis, it just has to be. I feel like I’m doing what I can to keep these cyclists safe, but they’re not doing all they can.

There is evidence that some pedestrians over-estimate their ability to be seen (Interventions for increasing pedestrian and cyclist visibility for the prevention of death and injuries from the Cochrane Injuries Group (2006) ) and perhaps the same is true of cyclists. Why take that risk?

If one of my nearest and dearest, or even a casual acquaintance, was a cyclist and I knew they went out in dawn or dusk, in dark clothing, in Winter and on roads that other people use, for driving on for instance, I’d have some strong words. I’ve seen so many examples of this; bloody fit people with calf muscles like taut ropes but with no attempt made to make themselves visible to other road users.

I really think whatever fashion or fabric performance issues these cyclists have with high vis, I’m sure they’d look far worse in traction, or the wrong way up in a hedge, or smeared all over the road. And I’m sure their family would agree. So, sort yourselves out. HIGH VISIBLITY CLOTHING; get it and wear it. Before you ruin everyone’s day.

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