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Met Police denies operation issuing hi-vis to cyclists was ‘victim-blaming’

West Midlands Police officer behind renowned close pass operation among those to criticise the move

The Met Police has defended an operation carried out by its Cycle Safety Team in which hi-vis vests were issued to cyclists. Faced with huge numbers of critical responses on Twitter, Detective Superintendent Andy Cox said that there is ‘some evidence’ that hi-vis can reduce risk and that, ‘if it saves a life then that’s a very good day’s work’.

The initial tweet, showing officers handing out hi-vis vests, was posted by the Met’s Cycle Safety Team yesterday afternoon.

The responses were many and overwhelmingly critical. Most suggested that the wearing of hi-vis by a cyclist would achieve little or nothing. Others suggested that police resources could be more effectively deployed elsewhere.

Several people quoted Chris Boardman’s comment on how best to improve safety for cyclists: “If you think helmets and high-viz clothing are the answer, you're asking the wrong question.”

The co-founder of campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists, Donnachadh McCarthy, was also among those to respond, asking how many 20mph and mobile phone actions had been carried out in the area in the last six months.

Responding to the criticism, Cox tweeted: “I find the tit-for-tat tweets v frustrating. This is not ‘victim blaming’! If a dangerous driver escapes conviction on basis of #Cyclist not in high vis then thats ludicrous!! We do this to save life! If it saves a life then that’s a v good days work! #Cycling #RoadSafety #London.”

He went on to highlight the results of a Danish randomised trial involving 6,793 cyclists

“Wearing of Hi Vis clothing sparks strongly held views,” he wrote. “I believe dangerous drivers must never be excused because the #Cyclist was not wearing Hi Vis. Tho my aim is to maximise #RoadSafety & some evidence suggests Hi Vis helped (Danish trial 2017) #Cycling”

In 2013, a University of Bath and Brunel University study found that no matter what clothing a cyclist wears, around 1-2 per cent of drivers will pass dangerously close. The researchers concluded that there is little a rider can do, by altering their outfit or donning a high-visibility jacket, to prevent the most dangerous overtakes from happening.

Also in 2013, an Australian study drew an important distinction between reflective clothing and hi-vis, highlighting that the former is the best way to be seen in the hours of darkness.

Among the respondents to the second of Cox’s tweets was Mark Hodson, one of the two officers who devised West Midlands Police’s renowned close pass operation.

Hodson said that some of the worst driver behaviour he had encountered while cycling had been on occasions when he had been wearing hi-vis.

A couple of weeks ago, Cox tried to explain why there was more enforcement on motor vehicles than on cyclists, seemingly in response to suggestions the force was unfairly targeting motorists.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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30 comments

Avatar
Podc | 4 years ago
1 like

In my opinion, hi viz only 'works' because it is unusual. If more and more people and objects are covered in hi viz it will cease to be unusual.

In a sea of hi viz, black will stand out. 

Whatever people wear, it still requires people to look and react appropriately and hi viz doesn't help with either.

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sjb2332 | 4 years ago
0 likes

I cycle through Bath every day and the biggest problem (imo) is pedestrians/drivers who simply aren't looking!

All the hiviz in the world ain't gonna help if you're driving/walking along and you're not paying attention to your surroundings - I could be cycling along on fire but if someone walks out in the road and they're not looking then we're still gonna collide... same applies to cars pulling out

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Tom_77 | 4 years ago
4 likes

Hampshire Police's form for reporting close passes asks what you were wearing if you're a cyclist or a horse rider (but not if you're a motorcyclist or a pedestrian). It also asks cyclists if they had their lights on - which seems fair enough, but it doesn't ask you that if you're a driver or a motorcyclist.

 

 

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cycle.london | 4 years ago
2 likes

Replace 'helmet' with 'hi-viz' and 'driver' with 'Met police' .. 

https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/punishment/

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danhopgood | 4 years ago
0 likes

Give the Police a break, for goodness sake.  They have to draw a balance - and the simple fact is most of the time, hi-viz makes it a bit easier for drivers to spot cyclists.  There are too many distracted / lazy drivers out there - sure.  For my self-preservation I want the best possible chance of them seeing me.  Sorry, but all the time society thinks road safety is a low priority - as it currently does - getting the drivers to all behave impeccably aint' going to happpen. 

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hawkinspeter replied to danhopgood | 4 years ago
4 likes

The thing is that cyclists can choose to wear hi-viz if they think that'll improve their safety. Meanwhile it is only the police that can prosecute/fine drivers for careless/dangerous driving and it seems like the MET do everything they can to avoid doing that part of their job.

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matthewn5 replied to danhopgood | 4 years ago
2 likes
danhopgood wrote:

the simple fact is most of the time, hi-viz makes it a bit easier for drivers to spot cyclists

No, it really doesn't.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140518300045
 

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TriTaxMan | 4 years ago
2 likes

From my experience Hi-Vis makes absolutely no difference to whether you can be seen by a car.

Take my example, on a cycle to work, waiting to turn right at this junction 

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@55.0800904,-3.6275129,3a,75y,125.63h,71.6t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sKRKfAFcYgw-l9vMH-Nl4nQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 

Stopped on my side of the road, with Provis Reflect 360 jacket on, and 300 lumen front light on, I spotted a driver coming (about 5 seconds they were in my field of vision) and despite my Hi-Vis and me being stopped they still managed to run into me. 

Submitted video footage to the police - and they pretty much went - were you injured?  because I said no they said they would refer it to their Sgt for review as to whether it warranted prosecution.

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TriTaxMan replied to TriTaxMan | 4 years ago
0 likes

The link went funny.... this junction

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eburtthebike | 4 years ago
2 likes

On the back of the jackets "Look twice for Bikes".  Oh the irony.

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Philh68 | 4 years ago
4 likes

I usually wear hi-viz, just so you can see the self doubt on a driver’s face when they give the SMIDSY excuse kiss

I actually feel like I’m blending in, because so many people do wear it in their employment nowadays. Even disability carers do. I do think it being so commonplace has reduced its effectiveness. I’ve had hi-biz jerseys since the late 80’s, but it makes no difference to driver behaviour now.

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Hirsute | 4 years ago
3 likes

The thing I do not like about this approach is that it seems to be reverse nudge theory. It's shifting the onus to cyclists (the most vulnerable) and away from drivers. Whereas there should be nudges to get drivers to pay attention, to look properly, to understand the restrictions on vision from internal pillars and how to overcome them.
It just seems that this route gives drivers an excuse rather than insuring that they discharge their responsibilities.
I think everyone should have lights. For one thing, I want to know there is something ahead beyond the range of my lights or vision (depending on transport mode).

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AlsoSomniloquism | 4 years ago
6 likes

The comments that get me are "I believe a dangerous drivers must never be excused because the cyclist was not wearing hi-viz". Whilst I don't agree that the Police should be handing them out, I think the fact that the above can and does get used to get drivers off serious offences is the bigger crime here. And that is down to the Way the police record these instances, the prosecution, the judges and the juries allowing it as a legitimate defence tactic. 

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Awavey replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 4 years ago
0 likes

but that was the question I had, where has the lack of hi-viz been used and successfully got a driver off from a driving offence ?

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Luca Patrono replied to Awavey | 4 years ago
2 likes

Think it's more likely that what should be "dangerous" driving is reduced to "careless" driving because, supposedly, failing to see a cyclist not wearing high viz is something that people who only drive can empathise with.

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Yorkshie Whippet | 4 years ago
3 likes

What I'd like to know is, what will the "safety" groups suggest once all cyclists are head to toe in day glo/reflective, alongside retina burning lights becomes normal and drivers still close pass/hit cyclists?

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eburtthebike replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 4 years ago
5 likes
Yorkshie Whippet wrote:

What I'd like to know is, what will the "safety" groups suggest once all cyclists are head to toe in day glo/reflective, alongside retina burning lights becomes normal and drivers still close pass/hit cyclists?

They'll do what the helmet promoting groups did: claim that the cyclists aren't wearing them right.

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mustgettaller | 4 years ago
2 likes

I prefer normal colours (decently bright red etc.) to high viz during the day, and properly reflective stuff at night (I have a long dark commute on country roads).

I also have  dynamo lights which are always on - useful when riding country roads where I'm going in and out of deeply shaded regions.

High viz is not always effective. I encountered some horse riders last summer when driving on a wooded country lane, all wearing yellow/green high viz. The high viz actually camouflaged them in the prevailing light conditions and made them hard to spot. Non high-viz but other brightly coloured clothing would have worked better. I politely told them this.

All the above doesn't counter the fact that drivers have to actually be looking and paying attention.

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Spangly Shiny | 4 years ago
4 likes

Well hi viz did not work for me. A couple of Sundays ago I was riding through Silkstone and despite me wearing a hi viz jacket, luminous green helmet and flashing daytime running lights a ped walked straight out in front of me, bringing me down. Of course me being a cyclist, I was naturally to blame for riding too fast (about 20 mph) according to one female witness who then went on to berate me for not having indicators. Go figure. Anyhoo no damage to the bike (Ti is sooo durable) but I am sporting the mother of all bruises on my jacksie.

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Rik Mayals unde... replied to Spangly Shiny | 4 years ago
3 likes

Was the pedestrian by any chance walking with their head stuck in a phone, or wearing huge headphones? Has to be one or the other. 

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Rich_cb | 4 years ago
2 likes

Hi Vis does make cyclists safer. The large scale randomised controlled trial referenced in the article showed this fairly conclusively.

Despite this it still only partially compensates for some of the poor driving we encounter.

The police have the power to make cyclists safer by removing poor drivers from the road, the time they allocate to handing out Hi Vis could be better spent doing just that.

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matthewn5 replied to Rich_cb | 4 years ago
1 like
Rich_cb wrote:

Hi Vis does make cyclists safer

No, it really doesn't. The introduction of a mandatory hi vis law in Italy had no effect at all on the rate of bicycle crashes.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140518300045

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 4 years ago
0 likes

I don't have a problem with this. I support this initiative by the police. I wear reflective jackets and I use lights. It doesn't stop the idiots from hooting, cutting me up, telling me to get out the effing road (nothing will and the Police could and should spend more energy on these road users. And the majority of road users are not like that ) When I'm cycling around and in the distance I can just about make out a ninja cyclist all in black i do think that a little bit of 'hi viz' or lights would enhance their visibility.

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Hirsute | 4 years ago
10 likes

https://road.cc/content/news/271191-hit-and-run-driver-who-killed-cyclis...

Perhaps cars should be banned if it saves one life.

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Rik Mayals unde... | 4 years ago
11 likes

How about training motorists to actually look where they are going. After all, they make black cars don;'t they? And the motorists can see them. Perhaps the police could fund a smartphone app which enabled drivers to see where they are going whilst they are staring at the phone in their lap.

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Yorkshie Whippet replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 4 years ago
3 likes

Most car drivers do look where they are going. Just nowhere else. They want to turn left, look left. Passing cyclist, pull alongside, once they are out of sight of the windscreen turn in.

How many cyclist are hit from behind compared to close passes and pull outs?

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eburtthebike | 4 years ago
8 likes

It is clear that some police officers are concerned about the safety of cyclists, but that they take the windscreen perspective of the driver i.e. it is the cyclists' fault for not being visible enough.  All the evidence that I've seen disproves this, but, like helmets, the evidence is either not known, or is ignored.

If Detective Superintendent Andy Cox really wants to make cyclists safe, he'll be concentrating all his resources into the cause of the risks to them; drivers, not wasting those resources on futile measures to protect the victims.

 

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hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
12 likes

So, why don't they carry this approach through to other areas of police work? They could start handing out stab-proof vests to gang members.

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ktache | 4 years ago
18 likes

I think CyclingMikey aka Bike Gandalf's reply was the best.

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NZ Vegan Rider replied to ktache | 4 years ago
1 like

Why are those vehicles bright green / white? Because bright colours are more easily seen. Sadly in this case a driver didn't notice the other vehicle!

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