Letter of the week

This one published in The Times, of all places, yesterday.

Sir, It is sad that it should take the serious injury of a Times staff member to trigger a nationwide safety campaign targeting roads, roundabouts and junctions. But cyclists themselves can do more.

Images in the paper this week show cyclists in drab clothing on wet dull days, and drivers in following traffic peering through rain-smeared, possibly misted-up windscreens. Yellow, hi-visibility fluorescent jackets are especially bright on dull days. Even gloves can be bought in vibrant yellow. Yet none of the cyclists shown were wearing this gear. Yesterday’s report had a photograph of another dimly-clad rider, with no eye protection.

Finally and most important, mirrors. No one in their right mind would drive a car or motorcycle without rear-view mirrors. To ride a bicycle in heavy traffic without a right-hand mirror borders on sheer stupidity: pulling out behind a parked car is the classic application — and accident — waiting to happen.

Tom Sheppard
Hitchin, Herts

The images the author refers to are, I believe, these ones, of which the ‘least visible’ cyclists are found in this one –

I’m left scratching my head here, wondering this letter was written in jest or seriousness. I don’t think people write joke letters to The Times, so on the balance of probability I’m assuming the latter.

The author evidently thinks that to compensate for drivers failing to be able to see where they are going because of their ‘rain-smeared’ and ‘misted-up’ windscreens, cyclists should clad themselves in ever more lurid outfits.

I have to agree. It is plainly only right and just that cyclists can and should do more, and more, to compensate for the basic inability of drivers to look where they are piloting their vehicles.

But why stop there, Mr Sheppard? Cyclists are not making themselves audible enough. They are silent, so silent they cannot be heard over the sound of one’s engine, or indeed when one is listening to Radio 3. I propose that all cyclists should be forced to carry a loud, continuous warning system, akin to a siren – although obviously distinct from the type used by the emergency services – that will alert drivers to their presence.

‘Vibrant yellow gloves’, mirrors and ‘eye protection’ are all very well, but what about when one is listening to a particularly rambunctious Beethoven Symphony behind the wheel of one’s vehicle, and simply cannot hear the approaching bicyclists?

I suggest cyclists act now, for their own safety, and ours.

This entry was posted in Road safety, The Times' Cities Safe for Cycling campaign, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Letter of the week

  1. Amoeba says:

    The conclusion is obvious, no-one should be allowed to drive on a cold or wet or even ever sl slightly damp day.

    Some years ago, it was snowing and a woman, driving a car covered in snow had scraped a little hole in the ice and snow on her windscreen to see through. She drove into a Luton van parked by the side of the road. Of course, since she didn’t see it, she didn’t brake and hit it at full speed in a 30 mph limit. She was conscious when extracted, but from the noises she was making, clearly in a lot of pain. It’s lucky that she didn’t hurt any innocent third party.
    While shocked to see it, I felt it might teach her a well-needed lesson.

  2. stayontheroofs says:

    I was out cycling yesterday in the mist and rain, and I – ironically – noticed that black-clad cyclists seem to stand out more than neon ones in such weather. I think the shade of yellow used depends on being in bright sunlight, whereas black really stands out among the monochromatic shades of grey.

    Also, mirrors? Really!? Cyclists have these things called necks, which allow their heads to turn about 90 degrees to the left or right. They also have a more lofty view of the road, and one that’s unmitigated by the sides of their helmets or the pillar in a car.

  3. I fell in the trap.When I ride I seldom do it in my ‘normal’ clothes. When I commute to work or ride to the city I wear my yellow armour.
    That is the trap I fell in. I think of a cyclist the same way this man sees us. As warriors.

    We should remind to them (whoever they are) and to us (cyclists) that we are NOT warriors. We are cyclists. Like in Amsterdam (where no one wears an armour in order to go in the street with their bikes).

    We should all live in a city where everyone DOES not need to be seen to be safe while riding.

  4. Luke says:

    I don’t think this is a minority view. But I have never heard anyone complaining that a lot of “black cabs” are, in fact, black.

  5. fonant says:

    The more ordinary people wear high-viz, the less emergency workers and police wearing high-viz will stand out. The ever-increasing arms race of visibility could have pretty nasty consequences for people who really DO need to be noticed more than the general population.

    • Downfader says:

      I rode/walked past the scene of a collision on Friday, it did strike me that the Police weren’t immediately noticeable on the high street as it was populated by cyclists, joggers, workmen and others all sporting the colour.

  6. Don says:

    While I take your point, I think the letter writer does also have a point that fonant hints at above. No-one in the emergency services would consider placing themselves in harms way on the road (as they sometimes have a duty to do) without properly designed hi-viz clothing. The principle that hi-viz makes one more visible to others is clearly obvious, if you’ll pardon the pun. One cannot therefore criticise cyclists for using the same equipment.

    Where I think the situation is totally skewed however, is in that cyclists should have to consider wearing this stuff at all. Why should we have to place ourselves in a dangerous environment every time we venture out on the bike? Why should we have to mix with much heavier, faster vehicles which are completely incompatible with our safety? If I have to cycle on a major road I want my own seperated lane. If its a minor road in a residential area I want the cars to be travelling at much closer to my own speed and no faster, so we can mix more safely.

    There is nothing wrong with wearing high-viz on our roads as they are, but I think we should eliminate the need altogether.

  7. Eye protection? That’s a new one to add to cycling bingo card.

  8. PaulM says:

    It’s a difficult one isn”t it? I see Don’s point – we shouldn’t HAVE to dress up like a canary, any more than we expect pedestrians to do, but from a purely personal perspective it would be little consolation to us in hospital, or to our loved ones around our graves, to say that the motorist should have been looking harder and (s)he would have seen us. A similar argument could be made for helmets.

    Personally, I avoid high vis or brightly coloured gear altogether. I wouldn’t wear them off a bike – too middle-aged for that – so I’m not going to wear them on. I want to look as normal as possible, partly to deflect the perception of other-ness that the road warriior gear would create. I wear a helmet in winter, partly because the roads are more slippery and partly because it holds my high-intensity headlight, but in summer I go bare-headed.

    I am probably more at risk from inattention, but I would argue less at risk from aggression, of which there is plenty on London streets.

  9. There is little that hasn’t.t thought of yet http://www.thehornit.com 🙂

  10. Downfader says:

    The reason why motor vehicles have mirrors?

    Because its hard to see around the pillars and past the 3 other seats. Nothing to do with the driver but the design of the vehicle. As for eye protection – all very well if you’re doing serious speed, but for granny/wifey down to the shops she’s hardly going to be riding flat out.

  11. Don says:

    “Eye protection? That’s a new one to add to cycling bingo card.”

    The eye protection comment made me think that the letter writer must be a cyclist. Who else would consider it worthy of comment? Personally, I never ride without, after getting various insects and bits of grit in my eyes!

    Having argued that hi-viz is a logical choice, I must admit I now find myself more in agreement with Paul M in terms of not wanting to look like a ‘road-warrior’. I still wear hi-viz on most days, but it is starting to grate and I am looking for more subtle alternatives.

    • Downfader says:

      Just wear bright colours, matey!

      During the warmer weather I tend to wear bright red, yellow or other colours, its not specifically day glow in colour but does stand out.

  12. Norm says:

    THIS is what we really need:

  13. Not that long ago we had a similar issue that was brought to light in regards to motorcycle riders. The public were complaining about the noise these cyclists made, they are very loud when large groups go anywhere. Anyhow I guess I should mention this all played out in the newspaper with letters to the editor, so ya. A biker wrote back to say that they maintained a loud noise intentionally to be noticed on the roads while among motorists. So my cheeky sister in law wrote back her response saying that if the bikers really wanted to be noticed on the road they should wear neon pink. I think there were no further replies, or at least none mentioned in the newspaper after that. Indeed ultimate responsibility for safety always rests with the one in the most danger, in this case the guy on the bike. Anyhow great blog, very much enjoyed.

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