Posts Tagged ‘cardiff’

Hi-vis Nation

May 8, 2011

Cycling and more specific cyclists’ roles and behaviour have been a hot topics of discussion in the UK over the last month. Highlights in this discussion are the revolting comments on a Daily Mail article, the Safe Our Cyclist campaign by The Independent and the AA ‘Cycle Safety Day’.

In my experience of cycling on both the continent and the island, I can say there is a cultural and infrastructural problem in the UK. For example, the flat where I live counts 10 bike racks over to 70 car spaces. Moreover, the five-story building does not have a ground floor any more … I can only find a “Car Park Level”. You can see you already have to be a bit rebel to get on a bike in this kind of place, but to really get somewhere, you have to be an outlaw! The reason for this is that only cars can trigger the gates. This leaves cyclist with the only option for ‘escaping’ or ‘entering the UK road network’ is via cycling on the pavement.

There are so many aspects of the cyclist-driver relationship I could go off in a rant, but maybe the AA ‘Cycle Safety Day’ could be the most relevant.

First, I don’t see why cycle safety should be a one-day concern, but let’s move on. The timing of their action demonstrates they totally miss the point. On the warmest and brightest day, they were handing out hi-vis and helmets. Are these attributes important to make cycling safer that day? The importance of helmets can be discussed (see video below) but I see their enforcement to move towards a hi-vis nation redundant and alienating.

The safety of cyclist in traffic should be paramount and I agree visibility of the cyclist is key in this. However hi-vis nation is not the right strategy for a multitude of reasons:

  • Hi-vis makes sense in dark and rainy winter weather. If drivers still can’t see cyclist during the day, they have a serious problem with their eyesight.
  • Cyclist should cycle in the primary position to be visible, communicate intentions and be able to anticipate to driver-errors. Wearing hi-vis would licence drivers to abolish cyclist’s primary position by intimidate them to the gutter.
  • I associate hi-vis with danger. When I am a cycling in a normal manner, I can’t see how I am a danger towards someone.
  • Hi-vis are not fashionable, they look like radioactive bin-bags! When there are probably 10.000 types of black to get your car painted in, hi-vis only comes in yellow and orange.