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Study finds that wearing hi-vis can INCREASE chance of collision while cycling

May encourage cyclists to take more exposed positions on the road

Research from the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Nottingham University has found “increased odds of a collision crash” among cyclists who wear reflective clothing.

The transport minister, Jesse Norman, recently said that an upcoming government review may examine evidence on whether cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and reflective clothing.

The Sunday Times reports that the study suggests riders who believe they are more conspicuous may adopt more exposed positions on the road.

The researchers did go on to point out that the results “should be treated with caution” however, as they were based on only 76 accidents.

The Telegraph points to a larger study in Denmark, involving nearly 7,000 cyclists, which found cyclists suffered 47 per cent fewer accidents causing injuries if a bright yellow jacket was worn.

West Midlands Police’s plain clothes cyclists spurn hi-vis

Earlier this month, we reported on a study that recommended riders wear fluorescent leggings.

Researchers found that “a fluorescent yellow jersey did not significantly improve the cyclist’s conspicuity relative to a black jersey. However, when the cyclist paired the fluorescent jersey with fluorescent yellow leggings, participants responded from a distance 3.3x farther than an identical outfit with black leggings.”

They concluded that “highlighting a cyclist’s biological motion can provide powerful conspicuity enhancements. Thus fluorescent leggings can offer a powerful and low-tech tool for enhancing bicyclists’ daytime conspicuity.”

At the same time, 2013 research from the University of Bath and Brunel University found that no matter what clothing a cyclist wears, around 1-2 per cent of drivers will pass dangerously close when overtaking.

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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49 comments

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urbane | 6 years ago
0 likes

If there is that much muck coming off the roads then you should have mudguards anyway to stop a fan/plume muck spray behind and up your back, otherwise are an inconsiderate idiot who has to wash cycle gear a lot more often!

As for "Hi-Viz" it's fugly tastless, even my black coat with reflective patches get some disparaging looks in a shop; I'm seriously considering a new cycle coat with camo reflective areas only visible in the dark.

 

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Psi Squared | 6 years ago
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The problem here is twofold:

1.  Popular media doesn't understand how science works and trots out single studies like this as if they're conclusive evidence (even when the researchers themselves say the evidence isn't conclusive).  Hint: it takes much more than a single study to come a consensus.  It takes many studies done properly that anylyze the same problem in different ways.  It's too bad media just publishes stuff to troll or to fish for readers.  There is almost zero journalistic integretity display by media outlets reporting scientific study results.

2.  The public is largely scientifically illiterate, just like the media.  They largely do not understand the scientific method or how to actually read a scientific report.

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Chris Hayes | 6 years ago
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I had a mate at university who used to dress himself up in all sorts of safety equipment: a helmet (unheard of in the early 90s), reflective wrist and ankle straps, and a reflective sam browne.  He used to get tipped off regularly. My theory at the time was the mere sight of this cycling xmas tree used to distract drivers and draw them to him, like magnets: or he was just an appalling rider who would have been dead without it.  

Now I think illuminous yellow is such a ubiquitous sight, it has no impact at all (that's why I wear illuminous pink, if anything - and very bright day lights)....and that, more crowded roads plus the extra distractions in cars are all factors.  All in all, however, I would say that there are so many variables that it would be difficult for any study to come up with firm conclusions either way.   Total separation would seem to be the answer, but then again I've seen some incredible near misses and one or two pile ups on the cycling super highway too (head-on and at speeds unacheivable of the adjacent roads). 

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ConcordeCX replied to Chris Hayes | 6 years ago
1 like
Chris Hayes wrote:

I had a mate at university who used to dress himself up in all sorts of safety equipment: a helmet (unheard of in the early 90s), reflective wrist and ankle straps, and a reflective sam browne.  He used to get tipped off regularly. My theory at the time was the mere sight of this cycling xmas tree used to distract drivers and draw them to him, like magnets: or he was just an appalling rider who would have been dead without it.  

Now I think illuminous yellow is such a ubiquitous sight, it has no impact at all (that's why I wear illuminous pink, if anything - and very bright day lights)....and that, more crowded roads plus the extra distractions in cars are all factors.  All in all, however, I would say that there are so many variables that it would be difficult for any study to come up with firm conclusions either way.   Total separation would seem to be the answer, but then again I've seen some incredible near misses and one or two pile ups on the cycling super highway too (head-on and at speeds unacheivable of the adjacent roads). 

When I see people dressed like that I wonder why they bother going out, they must be so scared, and I see it as adopting a victim position.

The most effective lighting/reflectives seem to me (and there may even be some science to back this up) to be pedal reflectors and strips of reflective material on each calf. They move, which is always a good way to be seen, against the direction of other moving things on the road, and in a way that is unmistakeably 'cyclist'.

 

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Pigpen | 6 years ago
1 like

I am guessing they were hit due to a driver not paying attention, not for what they were wearing.

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burtthebike | 6 years ago
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This may be the same effect seen with many other "safety" interventions; risk compensation. 

We all have a level of risk that we are willing to accept, and by donning something we are told will make us safer, we change that perception of risk, and take more risks.  This is one reason helmets don't actually reduce risk.

If the safety benefit offered by the equipment is much less than assumed, then the extra risk taking overcomes that limited benefit, and risk can rise with safety equipment, not fall.  In this case, assuming that you are clearly visible because you're wearing hi-viz is likely to increase risk taking and to negate any benefits, so given that so many drivers are not paying attention and are not really looking, it isn't surprising that there is no detectable benefit.

Like almost all interventions which armour the victims rather than preventing the cause, hi-viz is probably not beneficial overall.

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davel replied to burtthebike | 6 years ago
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burtthebike wrote:

This may be the same effect seen with many other "safety" interventions; risk compensation. 

We all have a level of risk that we are willing to accept, and by donning something we are told will make us safer, we change that perception of risk, and take more risks.  This is one reason helmets don't actually reduce risk.

If the safety benefit offered by the equipment is much less than assumed, then the extra risk taking overcomes that limited benefit, and risk can rise with safety equipment, not fall.  In this case, assuming that you are clearly visible because you're wearing hi-viz is likely to increase risk taking and to negate any benefits, so given that so many drivers are not paying attention and are not really looking, it isn't surprising that there is no detectable benefit.

Like almost all interventions which armour the victims rather than preventing the cause, hi-viz is probably not beneficial overall.

Other actors' offset behaviours are difficult to measure, but probably come into play, too -

eg. Ian Walker's study that suggested drivers pass helmeted cyclists more closely, through an assumption that they're safer, or more competent, or merely a subconscious acknowledgement of them wearing PPE.

Personally (this is my own bias - zero evidence for it) the idea that 'everything' should be lit up for the driver and easy to spot disgusts me. As a cyclist, you don't want to be invisible - but how many actually are, vs how many just can't be seen quickly enough by a driver doing 40 in a 30 with a steamed-up windscreen?

I'm concerned about the emphasis on other road users' visibility becoming another ingredient in the lulling of drivers into a false sense of security. Driving should be hard. You should have to be alert and aware that you're using complex skills. It shouldn't be something that you do subconsciously while rummaging for your keys and arguing with the radio.

I drive more miles than I ride, and I'd much rather we have environments where hazards are likely to jump out at drivers, as opposed to one where more vulnerable users need to behave as temporary inconveniences, covered in beacons like a skip outside the front of a house.

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Nigel Jennings | 6 years ago
2 likes

I haven’t got access to the full article, but in the linked summary this introductory highlight is heavily cautioned:

There was no evidence of a reduced risk of a crash associated with use of conspicuity aids and some evidence of an increased risk, but this may reflect biases and residual confounding.

(My emphasis)

Don’t read too much into it then.

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LJS | 6 years ago
2 likes

I don’t have access to the article but can anybody shed light on the sample?  Is it possible that the respondents wearing high vis clothing do so because they are generally riding in conditions with a higher risk of collision, but the additional risk is not fully mitigated by the high vis?

wrt to the assumption of visibility that in my experience doesn’t seem to be an obvious link, I see a lot of people in all black (I still find this weird on a commute in low light London, personal opinion) riding in a confident behaviour that implies assumed visibility.  Also I find some in high vis obviously cautious and riding very conservatively.

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cyclisto | 6 years ago
1 like

I am pretty convinced that this study is bs, high viz obviously makes you easier to be seen.

So make it mandatory? Sure, when all new cars are mandatory to be painted in banana yellow.

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Bluebug replied to cyclisto | 6 years ago
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cyclisto wrote:

I am pretty convinced that this study is bs, high viz obviously makes you easier to be seen. So make it mandatory? Sure, when all new cars are mandatory to be painted in banana yellow.

All cars built from 2011 have to have day running headlights  for precisely the reason it makes them easier to see.  (Some idiots then drive with broken brake lights.)

Also one of my high viz coats  with reflective bits is pink while other cyclists rid in high viz orange, high viz  green and high viz  blue. 

So asking for cars to be painted banana yellow is simply silly.

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cyclisto replied to Bluebug | 6 years ago
1 like
Bluebug wrote:
cyclisto wrote:

I am pretty convinced that this study is bs, high viz obviously makes you easier to be seen. So make it mandatory? Sure, when all new cars are mandatory to be painted in banana yellow.

All cars built from 2011 have to have day running headlights  for precisely the reason it makes them easier to see.  (Some idiots then drive with broken brake lights.)

Also one of my high viz coats  with reflective bits is pink while other cyclists rid in high viz orange, high viz  green and high viz  blue. 

So asking for cars to be painted banana yellow is simply silly.

You are right mate, let's paint them all pink!

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Jharrison5 | 6 years ago
1 like

Has anyone done a meta analysis?

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BehindTheBikesheds replied to Jharrison5 | 6 years ago
1 like
Jharrison5 wrote:

Has anyone done a meta analysis?

The problem is that most acedemics don't even understand everything they need to when it comes to these things, many overlook or simply don't get why other things have a massively import part to play in results.

They even fall into the traps that have being identified as skewing meta-analysis studies in any case. Jake Olivier, he of the meta analysis that said that helmets will save 70% of injuries and pretty much dismissed Elvik et al as  loons and made out the Thompson, Rivara  & Thompson debunked paper as sound, even displayed the very bias/flawed approach to meta-analysis in his latest bullshit paper, flying in the face of his own advice a few years earlier regarding such, his paper which was flawed to high heaven was also sponsored by Australian state money.

Even TRL (traffic research Laboratory) as was, made massive flaws when looking at the effects of cycle helmets and came to conclusions that made no sense whatsoever, contradicting their own evidence.

Also have a read of this http://www.bmj.com/content/332/7543/725?sort_by=field_highwire_a_epubdat...

John Franklin makes to mention regarding meta-analysis "I am also surprised that it is deemed acceptable for meta analyses to be dominated by an analyst's own work, such as is the case with the Cochrane Review on helmet effectiveness which has influence much beyond its scientific merit. Given the implications for possible accusations of bias, prejudice and vested interest, I am amazed that anyone would want to work under such conditions. In any event, the outcomes of such analyses are no more robust just because they are based on more than one piece of flawed research. The public has the right to expect the higher professional standards of rigour and independence to be found in other areas of scientific endeavour."

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burtthebike replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
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BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

John Franklin makes to mention regarding meta-analysis "I am also surprised that it is deemed acceptable for meta analyses to be dominated by an analyst's own work, such as is the case with the Cochrane Review on helmet effectiveness which has influence much beyond its scientific merit. Given the implications for possible accusations of bias, prejudice and vested interest, I am amazed that anyone would want to work under such conditions. In any event, the outcomes of such analyses are no more robust just because they are based on more than one piece of flawed research. The public has the right to expect the higher professional standards of rigour and independence to be found in other areas of scientific endeavour."

That Cochrane review broke all of the rules for such reviews by using the analysts' own work, by excluding any research which they didn't agree with and by having analysts who were blatantly biased.  Cochrane reviews used to be seen as the gold standard for research, but this piece of garbage has significantly dented that reputation, and it isn't worth the paper it was printed on.

The history of helmet promotion is littered with such apparently incredible and inexplicable phenomena.

Meta analysis can be a useful tool, but it can also be used to prove what the analysts want, purely by selecting only research which agrees with them; hence the Cochrane Review rules.

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BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
3 likes

Of all places Australian researchers also came to the conclusion that hi-vis is bollocks.
I agree, reducing the level of responsibility and pushung the onus onto victims to stay safe never has and never will work. You progressively lower the level as seen all the whilst with the way motorists drive and are no longer convicted/apportioned blame when they harm others because it was thefault of the victim for not wearing x/y/z or not being in the 'right' place according to the now accepted rules.
Hi-vis and helmets makes a rod for our backs and we have been seeing the fallout from this over the last 25years.
It's truly sickening and will never get better until people wake the fuck up to this retarded way of thinking and ministers in power get a grasp as to why people are still dying/being harmed and that medical and technology intervention is not enough nor will it resolve the root cause of why incidents and from that harm occurs!

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ConcordeCX replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
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BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Of all places Australian researchers also came to the conclusion that hi-vis is bollocks. !

that's because they're gonna drive over you anyway.

 

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daturaman replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
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BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Hi-vis and helmets makes a rod for our backs and we have been seeing the fallout from this over the last 25years.
It's truly sickening and will never get better until people wake the fuck up to this retarded way of thinking and ministers in power get a grasp as to why people are still dying/being harmed and that medical and technology intervention is not enough nor will it resolve the root cause of why incidents and from that harm occurs!

Just a slightly melodramatic statement.

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m4road | 6 years ago
2 likes

Everytime I see a cyclist dressed in hi vis from head to toe and even worse with a massive front light shining into people's eyes and blinding oncoming cyclists I'm very cautious of them and keep my distance as much as possible, I often see that they don't indicate and don't look behind them when turning and they often behave erratically, I suspect it's lack of experience and lack of imagination. It's astonishing how some people seem to think that dressing up and lighting up like a high vis christmas tree gives them a right to act irresponsibly on the road. In contrast very experienced and very good cyclist wear little to no hi vis and they ride really well, i.e. they are predicatable,  self assured and don't pose a danger to themselves or others.

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Powder_13 replied to m4road | 6 years ago
3 likes
m4road wrote:

Everytime I see a cyclist dressed in hi vis from head to toe and even worse with a massive front light shining into people's eyes and blinding oncoming cyclists I'm very cautious of them and keep my distance as much as possible, I often see that they don't indicate and don't look behind them when turning and they often behave erratically, I suspect it's lack of experience and lack of imagination. It's astonishing how some people seem to think that dressing up and lighting up like a high vis christmas tree gives them a right to act irresponsibly on the road. In contrast very experienced and very good cyclist wear little to no hi vis and they ride really well, i.e. they are predicatable,  self assured and don't pose a danger to themselves or others.

There is good and bad in all walks of life, drivers and cyclists included. It's always the bad ones that let down the rest who are competent and make a genuine effort to do the right and sensible thing.
Yup, like your post.

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Yorkshire wallet replied to m4road | 6 years ago
6 likes
m4road wrote:

Everytime I see a cyclist dressed in hi vis from head to toe and even worse with a massive front light shining into people's eyes and blinding oncoming cyclists I'm very cautious of them and keep my distance as much as possible, I often see that they don't indicate and don't look behind them when turning and they often behave erratically, I suspect it's lack of experience and lack of imagination. It's astonishing how some people seem to think that dressing up and lighting up like a high vis christmas tree gives them a right to act irresponsibly on the road. In contrast very experienced and very good cyclist wear little to no hi vis and they ride really well, i.e. they are predicatable,  self assured and don't pose a danger to themselves or others.

Good trolling, sir. Good trolling.

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hawkinspeter replied to m4road | 6 years ago
5 likes
m4road wrote:

Everytime I see a cyclist dressed in hi vis from head to toe and even worse with a massive front light shining into people's eyes and blinding oncoming cyclists I'm very cautious of them and keep my distance as much as possible, I often see that they don't indicate and don't look behind them when turning and they often behave erratically, I suspect it's lack of experience and lack of imagination. It's astonishing how some people seem to think that dressing up and lighting up like a high vis christmas tree gives them a right to act irresponsibly on the road. In contrast very experienced and very good cyclist wear little to no hi vis and they ride really well, i.e. they are predicatable,  self assured and don't pose a danger to themselves or others.

How incredibly insightful of you. I don't know why we bother having scientific investifations and statistical analysis when we could just short cut all of that nonsense and ask you instead.

Are you a government advisor perchance?

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m4road replied to hawkinspeter | 6 years ago
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hawkinspeter wrote:

How incredibly insightful of you. I don't know why we bother having scientific investifations and statistical analysis when we could just short cut all of that nonsense and ask you instead.

Are you a government advisor perchance?

 

I'm not a goverment advisor nor do I wish to offend or upset any gentle men and women in hi-vis attire, just sharing my personal and anectodal experience which confirms the results of this scientic investigation: inexperienced cyclists in newly bought hi-vis jackets on a shiny new, colourful, cheap, often single speed bike bought from Halfords can sometimes cycle badly. Like this guy couple of weeks ago who was about to turn right moved into the right hand lane and just as I was about to pass him on his left he changed lanes and went left again and stopped without looking, without indicating and I had to swerve and brake to avoid crashing into him. This was in good dry conditions, I would have ended up on the ground or crashing into him if it wasn't. 

Don't get me wrong I'm not against hi-vis or this guy, I prefer him doing this on a bike rather than a car but to me a hi-vis jacket is an indication that such a person is probably inexperienced and I should be careful for my and his/her own benefit. 

I think there was another study which found that wearing hi-vis didn't make any difference how closely drivers pass, as far as I remember only a fake "police" jacket made any difference.  My point is that hi-vis is only a marginal part of a puzzle which is safe and considerate behaviour on the road and not the only solution. To those bad drivers who cut you off or drive past you too closely at high speed have seen you well in advance, wearing hi-vis doesn't make a difference unfortunately otherwise I would be wearing the one I bought when I was starting to commute to work.

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Bluebug replied to m4road | 6 years ago
1 like
m4road wrote:

I think there was another study which found that wearing hi-vis didn't make any difference how closely drivers pass, as far as I remember only a fake "police" jacket made any difference. 

I read that study as well however it didn't state the colour of the high viz.

I also read another study that stated cyclists in pink were given more room as drivers automatically presume they are female.   So I tried it out and found it was true. 

However reflective gear seems more effective which is a normal colour until headlights beams go no it.

 

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
1 like

So hi-viz turns you into an idiot who adopts bad road position. Best keep it away from pedestrians then.

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fukawitribe replied to Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
1 like
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

So hi-viz turns you into an idiot who adopts bad road position. Best keep it away from pedestrians then.

No, a 'more exposed' position - presumably more in the lane that tucked to the side of the road.. which would be what cyclists are often advised to do for their own safety .

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Powder_13 | 6 years ago
3 likes

I always ride with a flashing light, regardless of the time of day. As a result, I'm not sure if hi viz or reflective would be any more effective. What I do know is that a lot of drivers pass far too closely, and the chances are they have seen me nearly every time.
What we need is less of the vitriol and abuse and more curtesy and respect. Drivers of all sorts of vehicles have become so intolerable of anyone else using "their" precious roads.
Ultimately, it's peoples lives that are at stake here, a mindset change is required before any good will happen.

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Simboid | 6 years ago
3 likes

Makes sense to me.

I have more of a tendancy to assume drivers can see me in hi-viz when in fact I should be remembering that lots of them either don't look or just use peripheral vision at junctions.

That's led to being pulled out on lots when I would otherwise have been more cautious and defensive.

I'm pretty sure all this cumpulsory hi-viz and helmets talk is just vindictiveness from hateful drivers who alternate between this and irrelevant and nasty comments about lycra, I still get plenty of near misses.

Maybe I should just blare out as many front and back lumens as possible all the time, however offensive that might be.

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jstone1 | 6 years ago
2 likes

@yourealwaysbe - nice to be able to read the study links...

Danish one indeed reports fewer self-reported accidents for hi-vis wearers (43 vs 83 from approx 3400 in each group). But, also seems to imply that 13 hi-vis group needed doc/hospital treatment vs 16 of the control group. Could hi-vis use just mean fewer but more severe accidents and the impact on the health service about the same regardless of what you're wearing? I.E.:

Hi-vis = 1 in 79 incident rate and of those 30% in hospital.
Control = 1 in 40 incident rate and of those 19% in hospital.

Also, no risk-exposure metric - the study didn't record how far into the ride each accident was (or how much participants were riding through the year). Quite a difference in risk perception if all accidents were within 100m of starting ride or after 160km.

Perhaps Strava needs a "I had a <insert-type-of-incident> here" button and "this is what I was wearing" !

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ClubSmed | 6 years ago
1 like

Hi-Vis clothing is not the same as Reflective clothing! Although they can be found co-existing in the same garment, they are completely different elements.

Headline wrote:

Study finds that wearing hi-vis can INCREASE chance of collision while cycling

Article Content wrote:

Research from the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Nottingham University has found “increased odds of a collision crash” among cyclists who wear reflective clothing.

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