Now Mandatory On Your CyclewayMaking high-viz clothing mandatory is among the recommendations of a coroner who looked into the high-profile death of a Wellington cyclist.

Cycle Action Auckland considers mandatory high-viz clothing to be an inappropriate response. While we do not doubt that high viz clothing, especially during night time periods, adds a lot to cyclist visiblity, and thus safety, it seems to us that making it mandatory further (and incorrectly) classifies cycling as a dangerous activity that special preparations should be needed for.

The coroner doesn’t seem to have made any exemptions in his recommendation, such as limiting high viz to riding on higher-speed roads (such as, say, requiring it along rural state highways only), or only requiring it during night times. Riding to your neighbourhood shop would presumably require high viz, just as trundling along the most bucolic of our NZ Cycle Trails.

Lets take that thought a bit further though. If high-viz clothing is appropriate to make mandatory for cyclists, then why not for pedestrians? Seeing as the most common claim from motorists hitting a pedestrian seems to be “I didn’t see him!” Why not ban black cars, who are shown to be highly over-represented in crashes?

Civilised countries don’t expect their residents to clothe themselves in metaporical armour when going outside, engaged in simple trips to work, play or visiting friends. The overwhelming majority of cyclists know quite well what is dangerous, and they expect the rest of society to treat them with care – rather than force them into “one size fits all” policies that could hamper all efforts to increase cycling – which is the best prescription for safer cycling.

Update: We either missed this, or it was added to the Herald article later – but the victim in the coroner’s case WAS wearing some fluoro and had working lights on. So why even make the recommendation? This is getting worse the longer one looks at it.

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20 responses to “Dangerising cycling?

  1. Excuse language, but fuck that, no way I’m gunna mandatorily wear hi-viz. The coroner clearly doesn’t cycle, and instead drives. He’s blaming *me*, me?! for his lack of driving skills? Lazy sod.

  2. Chris, I’m old enough to remember having this reaction about helmets. And sad to say I gave up cycling about then too.

  3. Hi viz didn’t seem to help in this instance “At the time of the crash, Mr Fitzgerald was wearing reflective stripes on his clothing and backpack, and both front and rear lights were working.”

  4. Spot on Max – the coroner’s wide of the mark here. However his comments on changes to road rules to ensure vehicles provide a metre clearance (prefer 1.5m) and better education have merit

  5. hmm Helmets are required, but i see people every day without them. i don’t think Hi viz will help in all cases, but do wear a fluro bag cover in dark days, overcast, winter, rain. and general low viz. at night my lights should be enough, they hurt to be close to

  6. This is more daft than the helmet law making us wear helmets of dubious benefit at all times.

    I agree it is silly cycling in dark clothing and colours such as green but hi viz???? What exactly is the definition of Hi viz anyway? I wouldn’t buy a green car because the colour is dangerous( from personal experience of owning one) but that is my choice. Why don’t cars have yellow visibility panels on the bonnets the same as trains do?

    By the way don’t ride a green bike, the colour is unlucky and you will crash more…………..

    The world is getting crazier by the day.

    1. “I agree it is silly cycling in dark clothing and colours such as green but hi viz???? What exactly is the definition of Hi viz anyway?”

      If we ever get a law, don’t worry, they will also do a definition…

      “The world is getting crazier by the day.”

      Well, this is a coroner’s recommendation. They often get ignored totally (coroners themselves have complained of that!). So there’s no plan so far by anyone in charge to make mandatory wearing of high viz reality. May it stay that way.

      1. This recommendation has just given motorists who mow down cyclists an “excuse card”. But it would only work if the cyclist was not wearing hi-viz.

        So no law is needed now. Thanks to this publicity, hi-viz will become the “best defensive practice”, even on a trip to the local dairy.

        I am having very negative feelings about the coronial service just right now.

  7. The compulsion to wear hi-vis is wrong, at least without equity across road users.
    I quite happily wear it of my own accord, but until drivers are required to unlock their car by breath test, wear helmets and fire retardant suits, cyclists don’t need any more compulsory apparel laws.
    I wear hi-vis so as not to give anyone an excuse, as that is all the protection it can offer.
    I ride cycle lanes if they are going my way and are safe to use. If not, they are just diversions or death-funnels.
    Anyone care to print a run of ‘Excuse Proof’ or ‘Anti-SMIDSY’ tabards?

  8. Yes, as the Herald article says, the cyclist WAS wearing hi-viz clothing, with reflective stripes. So it didn’t make a difference in this case. I don’t think that is surprising.. in my experience, driving, hi-viz isn’t really noticeable from a distance, especially in daylight. At night, it is only useful at all if it’s reflective. Have a look next time you’re in a car. I wouldn’t go so far as to say white makes no difference from black but it’s marginal. The main utility of hi-viz isin low-speed scenarios.. loading bays, warehouses, worksites.

    On the other hand, I ALWAYS have a good, bright back light on at all times. I know I can be seen from a long way, way more than stopping distance. You could probably have a meaningful argument about whether lights should be a legal requirement, even in the daytime.

    Then again, the article reported the coroner as saying there should also be a legal requirement to leave a 1 m gap from a cyclist. That would possibly be hard to police, but at least it recognises the responsibility of the driver. I this case, the truck driver was severely criticised and found to be at fault.

    There was of course a third party in the accident, namely whoever was responsible for building and/or maintaining the drain grating that was obviously so deep that the cyclist had to swerve around it. There are dozens of these around Auckland even on otherwise nice new flat tarsealed roads.. Every one of them creates an unseen pinch point.

    1. Exactly. Like the many sunken drain grates on Tamaki Drive, which the safety audit after Jane Bishop’s death identified as a hazard, and still were never fixed…

    2. Thanks, Tim. You cover the issues well. Clearly hi-viz was not relevant as a cause in this crash.
      I also agree with the discussion that coroners need to be taken cycling to understand the significance and widespread extent of poor design and lack of maintenance of cycling infrastructure.
      I hear the coroner referred also to obligating cyclists to use cycle lanes where they exist. Clearly he was not aware of the poor maintenance of cycle lane markings and need for more regular sweeping to remove glass and litter.
      We are due any day to get the coroner’s enquiry of about 6 other fatal cycle crashes across the country. We made a submission highlighting these widespread causative issues. Fingers crossed.

      1. Uncross them. If this ruling is anything to go by, you’ll be slashing your tyres when he releases the next lot of findings.

      2. Not due yet; they haven’t gone to the South Island yet. I have plenty of evidence to give him! (including why hi-vis made no difference to the likelihood of cyclists being seen by motorists)

    3. Tim, you have a good point about the visibility of Hi Viz clothing when cycling, particularly on drop handlebar type bikes. The common vests you wear over clothing can not be seen from the front at all when leaning over the bars. Then if the rider has a back pack from the rear as either. The HV clothing must have sleeves for a cyclist to be seen and that is all you see, the sleeves!

      Modern cycle lights are on a different planet to those of twenty years ago but very few tail lights I have seen except in dull weather can be seen until about twenty metres from the cyclist so I do not recommend feeling safer if a tail light is on on a sunny day!

      Could you please advise the type of tail light you have, it sounds better than most.

      1. Fair point about not feeling safer.. it’s all relative I guess. Well I normally use two tail lights for starters, in case one battery runs out. I just lost my best ever tail light, a Moon Sport LED which had great range and spread ..and a very useful USB charger. The other one is a CatEye, older and therefore not so good but with 10 LEDs in a barrel shape. I’ll replace the Moon asap.. I got it and a Moon headlight from Echelon Cyclery, Barry’s Point Road. NOT the cheapest lights.. But very bright!

        A long time ago I had a rear view mirror that was the best accessory ever for making me feel safe but I lost that bike and never replaced the mirror. Vanity really. The LEDs look much cooler.

        1. IMHO, if they havent seen you without a tail light, chances are they are never going to see you with one. Most of the tail lights are useless. I have a 1200 lumens cree light on the front, and I have to point it at the road to prevent road rage (it blinds people – but they cant say they didnt see me). Its a pity we cant have tail lights as bright.

          As a motorcyclist as well, I am very aware of “controlling traffic” – it is a lot easier to do on an 1100cc sports bike.. You control the traffic by putting yourself into positions that are “safe” – and mitigate the risks around you. Unfortunately one of the biggest risks on a bicycle is people passing you from behind.

          I ride a “roadie”, and I use the “Italian Cycle Mirror” – its not super great but its not an eye-sore and it does allow you to see easily who is close by the right shoulder:

          I did a bit of a review here:

          1. That’s a decent looking mirror and a good review, thanks Geoff. Too bad I have MTB handlebars. Totally agree, “ride on the high side”‘ control the road.. what I hate in Auckland is the varying lane widths.

          2. Thanks Tim.

            Yep.. a great example is on Gt Sth road going north in Penrose. At the intersection of Gt Sth and Station Rd, you come along.. nice and wide.. go around a corner up a hill and have to cut across 2 lanes of left turning traffic in order to go straight ahead, go through some lights, but the road has narrowed to car width, then about 5m after the intersection the road slowly widens again. From the time you start rising to the bottom of the hill you are fighting with cars for lane space. At least on my roadie, on the down side I can go faster than cars, if I can squeeze through to the front. Its a stupid piece of road and used by lots of people.
            I’ve considered crossing the railways lines and going onto station road and rejoining Gt Sth to avoid it. But it takes too long, and crossing the overbridge is annoying with pedestrians on it

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