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Mandatory hi-vis for cyclists a “timely proposal” coming up to Christmas, say councillors

“They have to have a bit of respect for our laws here,” said a Limerick councillor, while another claimed that it is wrong to “put the blame on motorists”

With Christmas coming up, councillors in Limerick have welcomed a mandatory hi-vis proposal for all cyclists in Ireland as "timely", calling for cyclists to "respect the laws". However, they were quickly shut down by the Green councillors, saying that "preaching about hi-vis is victim blaming".

At a meeting of the Limerick City and County Council, Independent councillor Fergus Kilcoyne of City West proposed that hi-vis jackets, vests, and lights be made compulsory for all riders of bikes and scooters in Ireland.

He also asked the council to write to the relevant departments in the Irish Government to request that this be made into law. 

Cllr Kilcoyne said that he has been contacted by delivery drivers and postal workers who have experienced issues with cyclists in the early hours due to low visibility and the darker mornings. He also accused of cyclists listening to headphones and not having awareness of the roads when cycling, a topic which was recently discussed with much fervour in one of our live blogs.

> Wearing earphones while cycling — is it allowed? What does the Highway Code say?

He said: "Some of these cyclists are wearing headphones. They can’t hear what is coming behind them and electric cars can’t be heard, so they need to be more proactive in their care of cycling... They have to have a bit of respect for our laws here as well."

Fianna Fáil councillor Catherine Slattery seconded his proposal, considering it a "timely motion", especially coming up to Christmas.

Along with things like mandatory helmets and bike registrations, making hi-vis clothing mandatory has been a go-to proposal for a while from many who believe that the majority, if not the sole onus of safety when riding a bicycle lies on the cyclist.

> “I would find it more logical to wear a life jacket”: Cyclist told to wear hi-vis and a helmet… to take their bike on a ferry

Last month, Oxford's police were in the middle of a debate after they issued "lights and hi-vis rucksack instead of a fine" to cyclists so they could "get home safely and legally". And in February, Good Morning Britain, ITV's breakfast show asked social media users this year whether cyclists should have to wear a "hi-vis uniform" to be able to cycle, and the results were a confounding 85 per cent 'yes'.

Just weeks before this, Police Scotland was at the centre of a "victim blaming" row after a chief inspector urged pedestrians to wear "reflective or fluorescent" clothing after six people walking were killed after being hit by other road users in just 13 days.

Such comments were also heard at the Limerick council meeting from Finn Gael councillor Michael Sheahan, who claimed that to put the blame on motorists is "wrong", reports Limerick Post.

He said: "Only yesterday evening I saw a family of four – two adults, two children – in total black gear walking along the road, and only that the dog had a reflective band I wouldn’t have known they were there."

"As far as I can see, the Green Party have bikes and buses on their mind and that’s it. The rest of us don’t matter. The taxpayers who are paying to keep our roads functioning properly, they don’t count at all."

However, the councillors were quickly shut down by the Green councillor Seán Hartigan, who said that while cyclists do have a responsibility to have lights on their bikes, mandatory hi-vis wear "will do nothing to prevent injuries to cyclists".

He was referring to the long-term Italian study in which researchers looked at whether legislation demanding that cyclists wear hi-vis had any impact on safety, and found that it did not.

> Mandatory hi-vis had no influence on number of cyclists involved in collisions according to Italian study

Results of the 15-year-long study revealed that mandatory high-visibility clothing did not influence the total number of cyclists involved in road collisions, nor did it affect the number of collisions involving cyclists as a proportion of all vehicle collisions.

Cllr Hartigan said: "A debate about mandatory hi-vis clothing is simply a distraction from the need to enforce road traffic laws. We know from international road safety literature that hi-vis is not the issue in road safety terms, but rather distracted driving or failure by the driver to properly scan the horizon for all travel modes.

"Preaching about hi-vis is victim blaming and a distraction from the principle need to stop distracted and inattentive driving,” he declared, hitting out that putting the onus on cyclists to wear high-vis clothing “shirks the duty of the Gardaí to enforce the law when it comes to speeding."

The City East representative proposed a counter motion to write to the Minister responsible for Road Safety, Jack Chambers, and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, asking for increased penalty points to motorists for speeding, too close overtaking of cyclists, parking in cycle lanes, and other behaviours which impact the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Supporting his proposal, Green Party colleague Saša Novak Uí Chonchúir agreed that lights, as they are mandatory, should be on every single bike, but didn't back the case for hi-vis.

She said: "If we are asking for cyclists or pedestrians to wear hi-vis, I think we should also call for all cars to be painted in bright pink, bright yellow, bright orange, and bright green."

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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45 comments

Avatar
Muddy Ford | 3 months ago
5 likes

So the driver will not smash into me if I don't wear headphones? There are some seriously thick people that get voted into councils. It is also obvious that this clueless clot has never ridden a bike outside of a gym, because if they had they would realise that if there is even a slight breeze crosswind you cannot hear vehicles from behind anyway

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tootsie323 | 4 months ago
7 likes

Some councillors (whilst on the fizz?)

Said cyclists must wear hi-viz

“It’s unfair on the toads

Who pay taxes for roads…”

A statement like that takes the pizz.

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timtak | 4 months ago
0 likes

I wear high viz top and bottom (icon), with 8cm reflective garters on my ankles and wrists (photo), usually a reflective bib, and lights.

Strangely, to my mind, I can't buy high viz cycling pants, so I modify high viz yoga pants.

I would not make these things compulsory, but I like and recommend them.

I wish there were fewer ninja pedestrians and stealth cars. Some high viz and reflective clothing for walkers, and less silver (read road-colour-grey) and other low-visibility car colours would help.

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Ben Graham | 4 months ago
3 likes

Enforcing existing requirements for displaying lights at night would make more sense. We should encourage riders to make themselves visible through choice (which does not necessarily mean 'high viz'); road position and solid colours that contrast with the background are just as important. Like wearing of helmets, empowerment of choice and judgement are paramount.

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wtjs replied to Ben Graham | 3 months ago
3 likes

Enforcing existing requirements for displaying lights at night vehicle drivers not close-passing cyclists, vehicle drivers not going through red traffic lights and vehicle drivers obeying the MUST regulations concerning MOTs and insurance would make more sense

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spragger | 4 months ago
4 likes

Thank goodness someone put these Limerick authoritarians straight.
You can have every jacket,1MW of led lights but if the driver is looking at the mobile phone, not looking forward, on drugs, addled by drink, it makes zero difference.
As for ear buds, I can hear a car coming but if it's coming from behind and drives into me I can do sod all about it.

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Hirsute | 4 months ago
5 likes
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Daclu Trelub | 4 months ago
1 like

It's Limerick politicians, what else would you expect to come out of them but mindless bullshit?

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Lozcan | 4 months ago
0 likes

Wearing Proviz at night makes me feel a lot safer, vehicles slow and give you far more space

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hawkinspeter replied to Lozcan | 4 months ago
5 likes

Lozcan wrote:

Wearing Proviz at night makes me feel a lot safer, vehicles slow and give you far more space

There's a lot to be said for good reflectives (ProViz use tiny little beads which provides a very wide angle of bright reflection) as they don't need batteries or any maintenance. However, making Hi-Vis materials mandatory is a bad idea as it doesn't distinguish between reflectives (good at night) and flourescents (useless at night) and it doesn't address the important issues that would improve traffic safety (e.g. driver attentiveness).

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kingleo | 4 months ago
9 likes

All pedestrians should be made to wear hi-viz bibs with large ID numbers on them - so they can be identified and caught when they rob shops.

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JN35000 | 4 months ago
10 likes

When I'm driving at night, I have no problems spotting unlit 'obstacles' in time to take appropriate action: pedestrians, wheelie bins, cars parked facing oncoming traffic, tree trunks, moving cars with the lights off, etc., whatever their colour happens to be. I suggest that any driver who does have a problem, should either get their eyesight tested as a matter of urgency or slow down to a safe speed for the road conditions.

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schneil | 4 months ago
5 likes

I wish before demanding laws be changed, these councillors looked at the facts and research.
1. First and foremost vehicles (including bikes) should be appropriately lit at night with white front and red rear light(s). Even with the most powerful streetlights are only designed to illuminate the road surface to a grey background. Objects such as vehicles & pedestrians are seen as black silhouettes against this, so the vehicle's lights give important identifying visual information.
2. Fluorescent colours do not work at night. Fluorescent materials glow because their dye absorbs short wavelength light such as UV (from the sun) and emitting light at a lower wavelength, like yellow. Streetlights don't emit enough light for fluorescent colours to be visible.
3. Reflectives are only really useful if they are in a position that gives biological motion. So on a cyclist on the feet or lower legs.
So TLDR my fluorescent yellow jacket is useless at night. I'll put my trust in my lights, which are legally required anyway. There we go no laws need changing.

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Hirsute replied to schneil | 4 months ago
9 likes

Not sure you are right about 3

//bikerumor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Proviz_Reflect360-_performance-high-visibility-reflective-rain-jacket_night-riding-womens-600x400.jpg)

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reechuud replied to schneil | 3 months ago
0 likes

Are you are forgetting the 'grey' strips on a fluorescent waistcoat are highly relective and part of the CE safety spec?

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Das | 4 months ago
8 likes

"They can’t hear what is coming behind them and electric cars can’t be heard"
That must be one of the best Oxymorons I've heard in a long time.

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Spangly Shiny replied to Das | 4 months ago
0 likes

Sorry, where is this oxymoron? I always understood an oxymoron to be a figure of speech containing contradictory words, such as deafening silence, organised chaos or even military intelligence. I can't see one in that sentence.

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festina | 4 months ago
5 likes

Cyclists are wrong for wearing headphones as they can't hear the cars around them but all cars are built with in car entertainment systems that play can loud music and have other distracting features.

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Rendel Harris replied to festina | 4 months ago
11 likes

festina wrote:

Cyclists are wrong for wearing headphones as they can't hear the cars around them but all cars are built with in car entertainment systems that play can loud music and have other distracting features.

...and if a car driver bumps into a cyclist they didn't notice because they were distracted or sense impaired they might get 3 points and a couple of hundred quid fine (though most likely they'll get nothing); if a cyclist collides with a car they haven't noticed because they're distracted or sense impaired they might get killed. Whataboutery ain't much good in the grave.

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AidanR replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
6 likes

This isn't a matter of whataboutery, it's about hypocrisy and victim blaming. It's about the idea that a cyclist is somehow to blame that they couldn't hear the car behind them that struck them, as if somehow if they'd heard it coming they could have leapt out of the way.

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Brauchsel replied to AidanR | 4 months ago
2 likes

AidanR wrote:

as if somehow if they'd heard it coming they could have leapt out of the way.

There are very many times that I've decided not to make a manoeuvre because the sound of the vehicle behind me has made me edgy that it's coming too fast, being driven by an idiot etc. It's also an extra sense-check for the visual shoulder-check, as I can't claim that my looking back is 100% conscious and thought-through. 

If and when someone decides to plough straight through me, being able to hear it won't help any more than being able to see it. But there are plenty of other potential collisions which cyclists (although we shouldn't have to) can take steps to avoid. Having as many of the senses as you possess focused on the environment you're riding in seems an obvious precaution to me. 

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Rendel Harris replied to AidanR | 4 months ago
3 likes

AidanR wrote:

This isn't a matter of whataboutery, it's about hypocrisy and victim blaming. It's about the idea that a cyclist is somehow to blame that they couldn't hear the car behind them that struck them, as if somehow if they'd heard it coming they could have leapt out of the way.

With these idiots (Limerick council), yes it is. But I do think we've got to get out of the habit as cyclists of saying "car drivers don't do X, Y and Z so why should we?" Let's think about what makes us safer and do it regardless of whether car drivers do it, it's our lives on the line. For me (and of course I know from recent discussions on here many disagree) voluntarily choosing to deprive myself of a valuable sense when riding is foolish and I won't do it just because car drivers do.

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AidanR replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
6 likes

There are two different contexts here:

1) Personal choice. I too do not use earphones when cycling.
2) Public policy / campaigns.

This falls into the latter category. We need to focus on what causes road danger, not unproven ways that vulnerable road users might possibly maybe avoid it. It increases the perception that cycling is dangerous and that cyclists don't belong on roads, which puts people off cycling and increases antagonism from drivers.

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Rendel Harris replied to AidanR | 4 months ago
1 like

That was indeed exactly what I was trying to say, no it doesn't need a public campaign or legislating, but equally just because some eejits decide it does we shouldn't have a kneejerk "Well I'm going to do the opposite" either.

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wycombewheeler replied to festina | 4 months ago
5 likes

festina wrote:

Cyclists are wrong for wearing headphones as they can't hear the cars around them but all cars are built with in car entertainment systems that play can loud music and have other distracting features.

not forgetting even the guy arguing against headphones immediately cast doubt on their efficacy.

"cyclists need to be able to hear" but "electric cars don' make any sound"

So perhaps the best approach for cyclists is to 

  • ride a predictable line
  • look with their eyes before changing lane or direction

works for electric cars, cyclists with headphones and even deaf cyclists

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Das replied to wycombewheeler | 4 months ago
5 likes

Coming to the next County Limerick Council meeting, banning deaf cyclists because they can't hear electric cars.....

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sheridan replied to Das | 4 months ago
3 likes

Limerick Council should also ban motorists from driving around with the windows closed and radio/music on.

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Stephankernow | 4 months ago
2 likes

Ive worn HV and have dynamo and battery lights for my protection for 40 years,My decision !
Speaking for myself its commonsense.

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ubercurmudgeon | 4 months ago
21 likes

There once was a councillor from Limerick
Whose anti-cyclist banter was the same old schtick
He said cyclists should be seen
So their clothing must sheen
But they'll keep handing out driving licences to any old prick

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brooksby | 4 months ago
3 likes

Quote:

"Some of these cyclists are wearing headphones. They can’t hear what is coming behind them and electric cars can’t be heard, so they need to be more proactive in their care of cycling... 

Does anyone else remember, a few years ago there was a big debate about whether electric cars should have a sound effect system precisely so they can't sneak up in people...

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