While we've reported on numerous instances of cyclists being asked to wear high-vis by various authorities in the past, clothing choice is sometimes shown to be futile when it comes to some drivers – and now, a pro cyclist representing Great Britain has told of how he suffered a broken back after being hit by a speeding driver, despite donning an outfit that could barely be any brighter.
Bob Donaldson was on a training ride in Whaley Bridge in the Peak District and was on his way home. As he was heading down a hill, a driver was pulling into his driveway and, being in a car, wrongly assumed that he would make it quicker than the cyclist, and continued to drive. Unfortunately Bob had nowhere to go, crashing right into the bonnet, and was thrown across the car on the road.
“It was a straight hill, the driver could’ve seen me… should’ve seen me. He thought that he could beat me to the drive and pulled right across my path. I had nowhere to go,” Bob told road.cc.
The 20-year old, who rides for the Trinity Racing team, was on his Specialized Tarmac SL7, which also snapped by the head tube. Fortunately, there were four training police officers across the road who helped him up and called an ambulance.
After a CT scan at the hospital, he found out that he had a broken transverse process on four lumbar vertebrae, delegating him to six weeks of bed rest.
This comes at a time when the pro cycling season has already started, with Bob’s first race coming up halfway through March in Portugal, which he won’t be able to participate in anymore.
“It’s so depressing to have such an important period off the bike really,” said Bob. “I don’t see the point, you can wear whatever you want, some people are going to drive stupidly anyway.”
The outfit that Bob was wearing is the UK-based Trinity Racing’s kit for 2023, the team that has produced elite riders like Tom Pidcock and Ben Turner. The kit has been touted as bold and wild; surely bright enough to stand out on the road. However, the notion that cyclists wearing hi-visibility clothing are more likely to be seen and avoid getting hit by drivers has been called into question several times in academic studies.
Even though the UK’s Highway Code suggests that cyclists “should” wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing, a study at Bath and Brunel University showed that such practices have little or no effect on pedestrians’ or cyclists' safety, or on the behaviour of people driving.
Recently, pedestrians in Scotland were asked to wear hi-vis by the police after six people were killed after being hit on the road within just 13 days. Even a recent pro cyclist-led campaign of asking cyclists to use a light was criticised by the chair of Road Danger Reduction Forum for feeding into a culture of "victim blaming".
In 2020, the Metropolitan Police denied that an operation handing out hi-vis vests to cyclists in the London constituted victim-blaming. Meanwhile in November 2021 Northern Ireland's road policing unit said that "nobody wants to play spot the cyclist" and recommended hi-vis clothing, prompting Surrey's police force to reply denouncing the advice on social media.
Chris Boardman, the Commissioner for Active Travel England, has also lamented that cyclists have to take precautionary measures just to ride safely on roads.
Bob Donaldson, frustrated with this culture, posted a photo of his broken bike and his bright kit, with the text: “Can stand out as much as you want, doesn’t matter to some drivers”.
Thanks for the messages, broken transverse process on 4 lumbar vertebrae basically broken my back - could’ve been worse!
— Bob Donaldson (@bobdonaldsonn) February 18, 2023
He said that luckily, the crash happened right by the driver’s house, so there was nowhere they could go: “The police are involved, I’m sure in due course we’ll get something sorted,” he said. Bob is at home right now, although with little to no movement possible.
The pro cyclist broke through on the competitive road cycling in 2019, and 2022 was a quite successful year for Bob, ranking fourth in the general classification of Tour d’Eure-et-Loir. Here’s to wishing him a speedy recovery and hoping we see him get back on track (and the road) soon.
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.