Where does this end? The increasingly weird logic of road safety

Road.cc are reporting the arrival of a new bicycle helmet, the ‘Angel’ (so named, presumably, because it makes a cyclist more virtuous?) Here it is, in all its glory.

Below the story is a comment, which I can only assume was posted in all seriousness, from ‘MichaelS’ –

Great idea. As an assertive rider myself – with over 30 years commuting experience – I say you still need to be as visible as possible. Not that it will guarantee the idiots will see you – most of em too busy reading/composing text messages, chatting on mobile phones or simply not looking for a cyclist.

You’ll never know whether it will save your life or not because nobody will ever stop and say ‘do you know, if you hadn’t had that helmet with flashing lights I wouldn’t have seen you….’

There is a superficially attractive logic in operation here, but it hides a deeper problem – if you are intent on ‘making yourself as visible as possible’ to motorists, why simply stop at a helmet with a halo of flashing lights on it? Why not strap an enormous pylon with neon tubes to your back – that will really get a driver’s attention. Or a giant strobing sign saying ‘please don’t drive into me’?

Or – what happens when a great number cyclists are wearing ‘Angel’ helmets, or when the majority of pedestrians feel compelled to wear high-visibility vests? Woe betide the poor individual who ventures out of his front door in ordinary clothing – he or she is consequently at a much greater risk of being mown down (and quite probably being blamed for their lack of ‘safety equipment’).

The logic of this approach to ‘road safety’ – that the most vulnerable road users should continually escalate their visibility in the face of the increasing inattentiveness of drivers (the most protected road users, and the most potentially dangerous) – quite obviously chooses not to address the root problem, and at the same time selectively imposes a ‘solution’ on a particular subset of road users, the cyclists.

For instance, how often do you see adverts exhorting motorists to make their cars more visible by the application of day-glo strips? Or – how plausible would it be for a motorist to excuse himself after a collision with another vehicle, by claiming that the vehicle was covered in a dark shade of paint? People are simply expected to see cars, of whatever colour, with or without any neon strips attached to them.

Yet a cyclist, while smaller, is no harder to spot. Why should cycling be made more difficult and onerous, to compensate for the poor habits of people who should simply be paying more attention when operating a potentially lethal mode of transport?

This entry was posted in Helmets, Road safety, Transport policy. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Where does this end? The increasingly weird logic of road safety

  1. Kim says:

    There is now an entire industry build on this
    blame the victim approach to road safety, why cyclist are so gullible as to fall for it is another question. It shows the power of marketing, I suppose.

    • stabiliser says:

      Dear God, those adverts are appalling. “Always wear flourescent clothing”, even during the day!?

      The ‘game’ that claims that “a car couldn’t see me” if I am not wearing a dayglo outfit.

      I also notice in the cartoon, ‘the child who crossed on the bend’, it is claimed that ‘a car cannot dodge what it cannot see.’ Well, no – a car should not be going so fast that it cannot stop in the distance it can see.

      I have to wonder at the mentality of the people who have commissioned and constructed that advert.

  2. livinginabox says:

    I couldn’t see the helmet (only place-holder seen), seems rather ironic.

  3. Sadly we haven’t cottoned on yet:

    Trying to increase SAFETY without dealing with the cause of the danger results in an “arms race”. Apparently car drivers can no longer see speed limit signs unless they (a) are painted on the road too, (b) have a bright yellow fluorescent background, and (c) are backed up with a speed camera. Cyclists and pedestrians are now required to wear High-Viz at all times, a recent development in the world of the motor car. I expect that car drivers will be expected to wear High-Viz while driving soon too, as some lorry drivers already seem to be. The more we fight to make things more visible, the less drivers have to look, and the more dangerous everything gets.

    We must start to reduce DANGER instead. This is very easily done, at very little inconvenience to anyone: reduce motor traffic speeds. The UK has urban speed limits 60% faster than the rest of Europe (30 mph versus 30 kmh or 18.75 mph)? Are our people better drivers? Are our pedestrians more visible? No, we have the worst death rates for vulnerable road users, even though we have fewer vulnerable people on the roads, that’s what.

  4. Donk says:

    I read the DFT stuff in january, I was not happy, I emailed them, their response started
    “It is a fact of life that some drivers drive to fast for the conditions of the road, or are distracted. Our aim is to alert children to the dangers on the road and to change their behaviour, so they will be safer”
    To paraphrase
    Some idiots break the law but instead of bothering them we’ll concern ourselves with telling the victims to change THEIR behaviour.
    I wrote a response, including some figures on the amount of peole killed by cars every year and the scary amount of people who hit by cars whilst not actually being on the road themselves, I mean how the hell do you modify your behaviour to prevent a car mounting the pavement and mowing you down? no reply from dft on that one.

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