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Police should focus on bad driving, not handing out hi-viz gear to cyclists, says CTC

National cyclists' organisation weighs in following police operation in New Forest...

CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, has said that police forces should focus on combating poor driving instead of stopping law-abiding cyclists to hand out high-visibility gear to them.

As reported on this week, police in Hampshire have been giving reflective tabards and other hi-viz equipment to cyclists in the New Forest, but CTC campaigns director Roger Geffen insists that this is not the correct way to go about increasing their safety, according to a report in the Bournemouth Echo.

“Whilst we would obviously not recommend wearing dark colours at night on an unlit road, the limited evidence on the effect of fluorescent clothing is that it makes at best only a marginal difference to cyclists’ safety,” Mr Geffen explained.

“In any case, cycling is not a particularly ‘dangerous’ activity; you are less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking.

“Handing out hi-viz vests to cyclists may earn the police a few headlines, but will do little if anything to improve their safety, and is if anything more likely to put people off cycling altogether, by exaggerating the risks involved.

“That in turn could actually worsen safety for the remaining cyclists, as cycling gets less safe the fewer cyclists there are.”

He concluded: “The police should spend their time tackling the root causes of the hazards cyclists face, notably bad driving.”

However, Julian Hewitt of the Hampshire Police’s Safer Roads Partnership, disagreed, claiming that there had been a rise in accidents involving cyclists in Hampshire and that most incidents took place at roundabouts and junctions.

“Many of these collisions will be motorists emerging or crossing into the path of cyclists,” he stated.

“It would therefore seem to be a sensible precaution for cyclists to wear high visibility clothing that makes them more visible to motorists.

“Wearing safe clothing is no more likely to put people off cycling than fitting seat belts and air bags to cars would put people off driving.

“Most cyclists will feel more confident if they know that motorists are more aware of their presence and that is why they have been so keen to take up our offer of free reflective clothing,” Mr Hewitt added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Tony Farrelly | 12 years ago

…or maybe the police could use their time better by making even the appearance of enforcing 20mph residential speed limits where they exist

thehairs1970 | 12 years ago

What the police do causes no harm. We wouldn't be disappointed if they stopped 'law-abiding' lorry drivers to talk to them about the dangers they pose to cyclists, to therefore complain about what they are doing to cyclists is two faced. What the police do need to do is stop any road users (including cyclists) who flout laws, ride dangerously and without courtesy or consideration. And I know someone will say that the danger cyclists pose to others is minimal but that is not the point. Very few motorists, and most cyclists are also motorists, believe their actions will be dangerous. We, that's ALL road users, need to stop this us and them attitude. Until we do, there will be no chance of having safer roads for all.

workhard | 13 years ago

Well done the CTC, guarantees my membership renewal for next year.

giff77 | 13 years ago

Thank you CTC for the voice of reason! Again I say it - light coloured clothing/reflective materials is only advisory in the Highway Code (i sound like a broken record now!) Yes it makes sense to wear it, but sadly many motorists take no notice whatsoever. Only today on my commute home I had a car come onto the roundabout in front of me, a bus pass me well within the recommended 3 feet, a car force its way past me when I was in the middle of a road calming measure and a car cut me up to make a left turn!!  13 maybe it was the weather maybe not, but I was wearing my usual flourescent yellow gear, hump cover and lit up front and rear with regulation lights plus blinkies and yet all those safety precautions did not give the drivers concerned the warning to give me room! I also note that in the Highway Code pedestrians are also advised to wear light clothing and reflective materials when out in the hours of darkness, will Mr Hewitt and his colleagues be dishing out freebies to pedestrians that are not lit up in Hampshire?  19

The only thing that the action of the Hampshire will serve is to give the impression that you are breaking the law by not wearing such gear! I remember seeing one of the other posters in the original article saying that his name was taken - why if only freebies were being doled out  39

Well I'm off to wash my flourescent gear for tomorrow to ensure that the drivers can't see me  4

cat1commuter | 13 years ago

Well said CTC! I'm always happy that my membership money is well used conveying sound arguments from the cycling community to the press, government and other authorities.

shay cycles | 13 years ago

All road users should be actively looking for each other.

A preponderance of hi-viz clothing simply means that the other road users will tend to look less carefully - a big increase in the use of hi-viz may well make the roads less safe (as Roger says there isn't any real evidence either way)

adscrim | 13 years ago

Making cycling part of the driving test is never going to happen because it discriminates against those unable to ride a bike. What needs to happen is for drivers to take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel of a car. The nation has removed the link between breaking traffic laws and any kind of criminality. Repercussion for breaking the laws are not an efficient deterrent so most road users carry on their merry way not paying attention, changing radio stations, on the phone, running red lights, speeding...and so on.
How you get the link back is beyond me. I believe that punishment should be sufficient as to force people into taking more care. Make them scared of getting it wrong. Take this absurd and extreme example. If I placed two of your loved ones 6 metres apart and asked you to fire a handgun at a target between them, would you turn off your phone and the radio?
No electable politician is ever going to try though. The Car is King and in this instance at least, the Monarchy is still all powerful.

rokapotamus | 13 years ago

I wear hi viz clothing. Even wearing hi viz, people in cars have been unable to see me. The reason for this is that most drivers don't think to look out for cyclists.

In other European countries where more people cycle and drive, there isn't such a great need to wear bright clothing as drivers are aware of cyclists.

I do drive myself, and believe that the answer is to educate people while learing to drive. Perhaps to make cycling as part of the driving test. If drivers are more aware of cycling then we will be more likely to be seen.

Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

…but not as miniscule as the harm done by cyclists + part of the point here is that the police are stopping riders who are complying with the law because they aren't decked out in fluoro yellow - which is the equivalent of stopping the drivers of roadworthy, taxed, and MoT'd dark-coloured cars.

Rob Simmonds | 13 years ago

The time and resources that the police put into operations like this are miniscule compared with their efforts to deal with errant motorists. Complaining about it is spookily similar to the traditional motorists complaint of 'stop hassling us and catch real criminals'...

thereverent | 13 years ago

“The police should spend their time tackling the root causes of the hazards cyclists face, notably bad driving.”
Absolutely. I wear hi-viz when commuting and still get drivers not seeing me, and doing something dangerous.
I think the handouts are mainly about getting some coverage in the local paper.

Having said that if the Met Police wanted to give me a new Hi-Viz rucksack cover I wouldn't say no.

stevboss | 13 years ago

“Many of these collisions will be motorists emerging or crossing into the path of cyclists...”

- precisely why the police should spend their time 'tackling the root causes of the hazards cyclists face, notably bad driving' - like failing to look and/or stop at roundabouts and junctions.

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