Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Pro cyclist-led lights campaign, endorsed by Tadej Pogačar, “feeds into victim-blaming culture”, says road safety expert

The ‘Be Bright Wear a Light’ campaign aims to reduce cyclist fatalities and injuries on the road by “empowering visibility behaviour”

A professional cyclist-led campaign to encourage people on bikes to use lights at all times “feeds into a victim-blaming culture” which places the onus for safety onto the most vulnerable road users, according to a leading road safety campaigner.

The ‘Be Bright Wear a Light’ campaign, launched this week by pro rider Rachel Neylan and endorsed by two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar and former world champion Elisa Balsamo, has been described by Dr Robert Davis, the chair of the chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, as “well-intentioned” but lacking awareness of “what’s required to not being hit by drivers”.

The brainchild of Cofidis rider Neylan, the campaign aims to help cyclists “understand that increased visibility while riding your bike on the road can actually save your life”, and encourages them to change their behaviour and “begin using front and back lights for every ride at all times of the day”.

Earlier this week, the 40-year-old told Cycling Weekly that she felt a “real compulsion” to act after several current and retired pros were killed while riding their bikes in recent months.

> Up-and coming Spanish cyclist killed by hit-and-run lorry driver

In November, the recently-retired Italian classics star Davide Rebellin was killed after being struck by a hit-and-run lorry driver, while just last week 18-year-old Spanish neo-pro Estela Domínguez tragically suffered the same fate while training on the outskirts of Salamanca.

“With the recent year, the string of events, multiple tragedies that we’ve had among the cycling community, I just felt a real compulsion to do something about it,” the 40-year-old said.

“Every time a cyclist gets killed, it’s a knife to the stomach. I can’t watch it happen anymore. I’ve been using lights consistently for the last few years, and I know how much it really makes a difference.”

However, the Australian also noted that she recognises that lights are “not a one-step solution to the entire problem”.

“But the reality is that the roads are getting busier,” she said. “Cities and regional towns are getting busier, every single place where cyclists go, even if it used to be less populated by cars. Especially since Covid we’re seeing a lot more travel, and the roads aren’t safe for cyclists anymore.”

Neylan continued: “When you start using lights, you see that cars give you so much more passing space and you avoid near misses. It can make a huge difference from the front and back. If we can save one life, that’s a win.

“As a community we’ve been through enough tragedy now and it’s time to do something. We’re not saying this is a cure, there are obviously enormous other aspects to this problem, but this is one thing we can control, our own visibility.”

Neylan’s attempt to instil a “culture shift” within the cycling community to use lights at all times has so far been endorsed by a raft of current stars, including double Tour winner Pogačar, Italian champion Balsamo, and 2021 Milan-San Remo winner Jasper Stuyven.

“This is the best safety measure I can take. For the amount of time I spend on the road and minimal investment it takes to use a light it’s a logical part of my daily training now,” Pogačar is quoted as saying on the campaign’s social media channels.

“It feeds into the victim-blaming culture”

However, despite the high-profile endorsements, the campaign has come in for criticism from some cyclists who believe that simply using lights will prove of little consequence in the face of dangerous or distracted drivers.

One of those cyclists, safe cycling campaigner Dr Robert Davis, has described Be Bright Wear a Light’s message as “victim blaming” and evidence of how “racing cyclists can get things exactly wrong” when it comes to everyday cycling and road safety.

Speaking to road.cc, Dr Davis said: “The evidence for drivers being less likely to hit cyclists (or pedestrians) when they wear hi-vis is either minimal or entirely absent. It’s even absent for lights at night with cyclists, although I wouldn’t argue with you that you shouldn’t have them at night. 

“There is certainly no evidence for daytime lights working for cyclists, and comments by what one cyclist (who is already committed to using them) ‘feels’ does not constitute proper evidence.”

> Near Miss of the Day 850: "Lights, reflectors and hi-vis — if they ain't looking they won't see you"

He continued: “Broadly speaking, we have an ‘arms race’ with the most vulnerable and least dangerous to others (walkers and cyclists) being expected to make up for the (illegal) errors of drivers not watching out, which the more vulnerable will not win.

“The problem is that those who take part in such campaigns don’t see that it feeds into the victim-blaming culture which causes the problem in the first place.

“So, we have a major problem with ‘SMIDSY’ [‘Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You’], as Cycling UK have correctly called it – an attitude that if a driver doesn't ‘see’ you because they aren't watching out, it's your fault, and this kind of campaign feeds into it and thereby becomes part of this problem.

“I’m sure that the people behind this campaign don’t want this to happen, but I have to be concerned with the harsh reality of what happens on the roads.

“And people who haven’t familiarised themselves with the ideological anti-cyclist bias of ‘road safety’ ideology won’t understand just how negative this kind of approach is.”

This anti-cyclist bias, Davis has argued in the past, manifests itself in the “red herring” of stressing the importance of culturally-defined safety measures such as lights, which he claims “can act as a diversion from what needs to be done for real road safety”.

> "Don't give it air time. Don't answer stupid questions": Chris Boardman shuts down cycling registration 'debate' 

That the campaign stems from professional riders, whose experience of riding their bike can sometimes be worlds apart from the average commuter cyclist, only exacerbates this problem, Davis argues.

“Racing cyclists are often very bad judges of what’s good for cyclists (especially ‘ordinary’ everyday utility cyclists) from Jacques Anquetil onwards,” he says.

“If they’re committed to supporting everyday cycling and prepared to consider all the evidence they can change – the perfect example being Chris Boardman, to some extent Sarah Storey, and hopefully Ed Clancy.

“I’m afraid Pogačar is wonderful as a racing cyclist, and the campaigners are no doubt well intentioned, but they don’t get it when it comes to what’s required to not being hit by drivers.

“And no, before you suggest that ‘other measures can be used as well’, this kind of approach reinforces victim blaming and impedes any positive measures, of which there are few if any.”

> Police ask pedestrians to wear hi-vis following spate of road deaths in Scotland 

Davis’ comments come in the same week that Police Scotland found itself at the centre of its own victim-blaming row after a chief inspector urged pedestrians to wear “reflective or fluorescent” clothing following the deaths of six pedestrians on the country’s roads in just 13 days.

Ch Insp Lorraine Napier argued that in light of the incidents, officers should encourage all road users to keep safe, first asking pedestrians to stay visible. And in response to a request for comment from road.cc, Police Scotland confirmed the force had “nothing to add”.

“Pedestrians are considered vulnerable road users and, in winter, particularly when it is dark, pedestrians should wear reflective or fluorescent clothing,” she said.

“I would also urge pedestrians to be mindful of their surroundings and to ensure they are not putting themselves at risk.”

Napier’s comments prompted several accusations of victim blaming, with one Twitter user asking: “How have we got to a point where pedestrians are being advised to wear reflective or fluorescent clothes, in case they need to cross a road?”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

Add new comment

163 comments

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
1 like

"Your suggestion that daytime lights would only result in a temporary road safety improvement..."

Sounds like it's time for a cite-off! Or at least - we're at a "I think it does / I know it doesn't" point where studies rather than analogy might be appropriate?

Is there such research?

Unusually as these things seem to go the "lights all the time on everyone" campaign has at least linked some research. I've not read yet - again "Australia cycle research" does raise a "I'll be checking this first" flag with me. On the other side it sounds like the chair of the RDRF (as explained in his article) has located some data which could be used to investigate this for the UK. Obviously would need more than him doing a "back of envelope" job though.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

"Your suggestion that daytime lights would only result in a temporary road safety improvement..."

Sounds like it's time for a cite-off! Or at least - we're at a "I think it does / I know it doesn't" point where studies rather than analogy might be appropriate?

Is there such research?

Unusually as these things seem to go the "lights all the time on everyone" campaign has at least linked some research. I've not read yet - again "Australia cycle research" does raise a "I'll be checking this first" flag with me. On the other side it sounds like the chair of the RDRF (as explained in his article) has located some data which could be used to investigate this for the UK. Obviously would need more than him doing a "back of envelope" job though.

Seriously, What's the point of them linking research? The likes of Eburt just dismiss it as propaganda from 'big helmet' or in this case, 'big bike lights'.

And then again, what would professional cyclists know, eh? Not like they spend any time in the saddle.

Eburt should just go without lights and a helmet and shut the f up, rather than making things up.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
5 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

And then again, what would professional cyclists know, eh? Not like they spend any time in the saddle.

I'd be happy to learn about going faster from a pro, or tips on bike handling in a bunch, descending, or training *. I'd certainly *listen* to their views on road safety but I wouldn't automatically give those views more weight than any regular bike rider. Any more than I'd seek out Mo Farrah about safe street design for pedestrians.

However I'd give credence to e.g. Chris Boardman because in addition to his professional cycling he's spent quite a lot of time understanding street design for cycling (and walking) for the general public. Both for safety AND what people consider convenient. Plus in his case he has experience of working with the organisations needed (councils, government bodies).

* with my current abilities and inclinations most of that would be wasting their time though.

Avatar
Simon E replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
6 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Gee, correcting your made up tales is turning into a full-time job.

What makes you so sure you're in the right? 

I don't think this is as clear-cut as one thing is right and the other is wrong. But if you like arguing for the hell of it instead of understanding or solving problems then by all means carry on.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
4 likes
Simon E wrote:

What makes you so sure you're in the right? 

I don't think this is as clear-cut as one thing is right and the other is wrong. But if you like arguing for the hell of it instead of understanding or solving problems then by all means carry on.

I reckon they could start an argument in an empty room

Avatar
Hirsute replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
6 likes

And still manage to misrepresent what was said.

Avatar
Rich_cb replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
5 likes

No they couldn't.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
3 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

No they couldn't.

Is this the five minute argument or the full half hour?

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:
Simon E wrote:

What makes you so sure you're in the right? 

I don't think this is as clear-cut as one thing is right and the other is wrong. But if you like arguing for the hell of it instead of understanding or solving problems then by all means carry on.

I reckon they could start an argument in an empty room

I bet people at trump rallies think they're as intelligent as you lot think you are. Similar amount of logic going on too.

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
0 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:
Simon E wrote:

What makes you so sure you're in the right? 

Welcome to road.cc, have they called you a troll yet for. It towing the line and accepted narrative?

I don't think this is as clear-cut as one thing is right and the other is wrong. But if you like arguing for the hell of it instead of understanding or solving problems then by all means carry on.

I reckon they could start an argument in an empty room

I bet people at trump rallies think they're as intelligent as you lot think you are. Similar amount of logic going on too.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
2 likes
Simon E wrote:

What makes you so sure you're in the right? 

I don't think this is as clear-cut as one thing is right and the other is wrong. But if you like arguing for the hell of it instead of understanding or solving problems then by all means carry on.

Would you like my career history? A list of my professional qualifications? A list of SaRS lectures I've attended? A list of safety assessments I've written?

I'm not arguing, I'm correcting misinformation; there's a difference.

Avatar
Simon E replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
3 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Would you like my career history? A list of my professional qualifications? A list of SaRS lectures I've attended? A list of safety assessments I've written? I'm not arguing, I'm correcting misinformation; there's a difference.

If you're offering then by all means go ahead. A poster's knowledge cannot be assumed from a few argumentative posts on road.cc. I treat baseless 'helmet saved my life' claims, talk of something as 'well it's common sense, innit' and anything pushed by manufacturers as noise and/or misinformation. Pro cyclists are merely pawns in a game.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
0 likes

Pawns in a game? Don't let your tin foil hat get a hole in it, will you.

Avatar
qwerty360 replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
4 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Pawns in a game? Don't let your tin foil hat get a hole in it, will you.

 

See Chris Boardman.

Professional riders don't have the time to be experts on what makes cycling safer - to be successful professional riders they are generally far too busy training to reasearch the topic and any 'experts' they have access to are likely related to sponsors etc (who have a financial interest in selling helmets).

The one known to have gone from professional rider to professional advisor for safe cycling (a job where doing the research is part of it rather than completely unrelated to success) flipped their viewpoint from everyone should wear helmets to helmets are almost irrelevent to safety...

Avatar
Simon E replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
3 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Pawns in a game? Don't let your tin foil hat get a hole in it, will you.

Thanks for not supplying any credentials or information to back up your argument. All you've provided is a condescending tone with a portion of sarcasm. Worse than useless.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
2 likes
Simon E wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Pawns in a game? Don't let your tin foil hat get a hole in it, will you.

All you've provided is a condescending tone with a portion of sarcasm. Worse than useless.

Par for the course from them.

Avatar
AidanR replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
1 like
Simon E wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Pawns in a game? Don't let your tin foil hat get a hole in it, will you.

Thanks for not supplying any credentials or information to back up your argument. All you've provided is a condescending tone with a portion of sarcasm. Worse than useless.

It seems to me that ShutTheFrontDawes has clearly demonstrated an in depth knowledge of professional health and safety and thoroughly rebutted eburtthebike's argument. If you genuinely think that all he's provided "is a condescending tone with a portion of sarcasm" then I suggest that you re-read his posts with an open mind.

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
3 likes

It seems to me that "ShutTheFrontDawes has clearly demonstrated an in depth knowledge of professional health and safety and thoroughly rebutted eburtthebike's argument."

No he hasn't.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
3 likes

They certainly haven't in previous discussions of roadcraft and dismissed posters here as 'arm chair experts'.

Avatar
AidanR replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
2 likes
hirsute wrote:

They certainly haven't in previous discussions of roadcraft and dismissed posters here as 'arm chair experts'.

I'm not saying he's a saint. But let's look at the arguments put forward on this thread, rather than playing the man. eburtthebike made claims about how professional health and safety works which was incorrect. I don't see why it's so hard to acknowledge that.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
1 like
AidanR][quote=hirsute wrote:

eburtthebike made claims about how professional health and safety works which was incorrect. I don't see why it's so hard to acknowledge that.

Perhaps you could provide details of what I said that was wrong about "professional" H&S?

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
1 like
eburtthebike]<p>[quote=AidanR wrote:
hirsute wrote:

eburtthebike made claims about how professional health and safety works which was incorrect. I don't see why it's so hard to acknowledge that.

Perhaps you could provide details of what I said that was wrong about "professional" H&S?

Jesus wept. I already have.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes
hirsute wrote:

They certainly haven't in previous discussions of roadcraft and dismissed posters here as 'arm chair experts'.

In your book, professional cyclists know nothing about cycling, so it stands to reason that someone that demonstrates a knowledge of a subject should be ignored or even ridiculed, so long as you disagree with them of course.

Following your twisted logic, if someone says something you agree with however, even if they demonstrate a complete ignorance of the subject matter, such as Eburt has done on numerous occasions, they should be listened to and respected.

I'm happy to be put in the group of people you show distain for. I'm in company with people who show knowledge and experience of their field, and for whom I have I respect.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
1 like
AidanR wrote:
Simon E wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Pawns in a game? Don't let your tin foil hat get a hole in it, will you.

Thanks for not supplying any credentials or information to back up your argument. All you've provided is a condescending tone with a portion of sarcasm. Worse than useless.

It seems to me that ShutTheFrontDawes has clearly demonstrated an in depth knowledge of professional health and safety and thoroughly rebutted eburtthebike's argument. If you genuinely think that all he's provided "is a condescending tone with a portion of sarcasm" then I suggest that you re-read his posts with an open mind.

Thank you. I appreciate you saying that.

Avatar
Simon E replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
3 likes
AidanR wrote:

It seems to me that ShutTheFrontDawes has clearly demonstrated an in depth knowledge of professional health and safety and thoroughly rebutted eburtthebike's argument.

I've looked through the discussion and can't find anything remotely like this. But I definitely saw the condescending post.

I'm sure that professional H&S experience is extremely useful but we are talking about the possible benefits of cyclists using daytime lights. I'm not convinced that it's a simple 'yes or no'.

Honda hard-wired some their motorcycle models for always-on headlights in 2004 (others have surely done the same but I've not kept up with that market) but I don't know if doing so has shown a real-world reduction in collision stats.

Avatar
AidanR replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
1 like

I agree that it's not necessarily a simple "yes". As others have said, increased visibility only works if drivers are looking and if they care.

But I think the lack of a "no" case is simple. What is the downside in running daytime lights?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
3 likes
AidanR wrote:

I agree that it's not necessarily a simple "yes". As others have said, increased visibility only works if drivers are looking and if they care.

But I think the lack of a "no" case is simple. What is the downside in running daytime lights?

The main downside is penalising cyclists that aren't using them and it's also reinforcing the message that cycling is dangerous. It also adds a barrier to new cyclists and could increase the abuse from motorists.

I don't mind cyclists pushing this message so much, but if this were treated as the main thrust of a road danger campaign then they'd be missing the elephants on the roads.

I would guess that pro cyclists have been involved in more road incidents due to inattentive drivers (e.g. phone use) than due to not running daytime lights.

Avatar
AidanR replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

I agree that this absolutely should not be the main thrust of a general road danger campaign. It's a long way down the list. But the things that are high on that list are outside of my control when I'm out on the bike; using lights is not.

Out of interest, why do you think that cyclists not using daytime lights are penalised?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
2 likes
AidanR wrote:

I agree that this absolutely should not be the main thrust of a general road danger campaign. It's a long way down the list. But the things that are high on that list are outside of my control when I'm out on the bike; using lights is not.

Out of interest, why do you think that cyclists not using daytime lights are penalised?

They're not currently, but I can imagine that insurance companies would be happy to declare no daytime lights as contributory negligence.

I use the light on my Fly6 (rear) during the day, but not my Fly12 (front) light as I don't see the point.

Avatar
Simon E replied to AidanR | 1 year ago
3 likes
AidanR wrote:

What is the downside in running daytime lights?

So you are happy to ride in a hi-viz jumpsuit plastered with reflectives, a helmet, cameras fore & aft (or the 360 on your hat), PassPixi stickers, indicators on stalks, 3 rear lights. Even though those things probably won't really make any difference. Meanwhile many people are not happy to do those things and no-one addresses the real problem.

Pages

Latest Comments