Autumn has well and truly arrived this week, the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in. Although the hottest UK November day was recorded in mid Wales for the rest of us weather warnings have been issued as dense fog continues to cause disruption across the UK.
I made it out on the bike for a spin on Sunday, wearing cycling kit that has reflectives placed on it, but also with the lights fixed to my bike switched “on” so I was more visible. But the number of motorists and cyclists who thought it safe to travel without lights on at all amazed me when visibility in places was down to less than 100 yards.
As a cyclist I am all too aware of how vulnerable I can be on the roads, especially quiet country lanes as the traffic can come past at very high speed so I want to be able to see and be seen. But this made me think, just at the time Mr Loophole, Nick Freeman, renews his calls for bicycles to carry identification plates and that cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and hi-vis clothing, what is best for me when out cycling, should I wear “hi-vis”??
Well it turns out that there is no hard and fast rule as to what clothing will make me more visible to other road users. Hi-vis is a vexed subject for cyclists anyway and only use of helmets (yes I do wear one) and traffic light jumping cause more arguments.
A little bit of research shows that the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), had been looking into the way motorcyclists can increase their visibility and help to avoid so-called Smidsy (“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) collisions. Their research suggested that a fluorescent jacket did make riders more visible but it should be noted that these riders were against relatively uniform backdrops rather than a moving landscape. Other studies have suggested that motorbikes and riders were more visible when there was a greater colour contrast between the background and the rider’s clothes.
Reports would suggest there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, there might be a number of options available to make a me as a cyclist more visible, from a bit of “hi-vis” to some reflectives (which are often found on winter clothing anyway) to good lighting both front and rear.
Last Christmas a fellow cyclist had fed some fairy lights through his helmet and would use that as an added extra to make him more visible. It seemed to work and when out in poor light, he stood out like a beacon.
So a combination of these options seems to be the most sensible. It’s logical really, so “be safe & be seen”. But as with any road user, there will always be some who are unable to see what is in front of them, hence the sheer number of road traffic collisions which do happen.