This article from the Canberra Times refers to a recent study by the University of Bath and Brunel University that tested the extent to which cyclist clothing affected how close drivers of cars overtook cyclists.
One of the research team, Dr Ian Garrard from Brunel University, used an ultrasonic distance sensor to record how close each vehicle passed during his daily commute in Berkshire and outer London. Each day, he chose one of seven outfits at random, ranging from tight lycra racing cyclist clothes (signalling high experience) to a hi-viz vest with “novice cyclist” printed on the back (signalling low experience).
The conclusion of the study was that clothing had little effect on the small number of vehicles that passed at an unsafe distance. This was despite some of the vests worn having writing that suggested the person cycling was associated with the Police. The only outfit that seemed to show any appreciable increase in passing distance was a vest that stated a camera was recording.
You may recall that the Coroner recently recommended that hi-viz be compulsory for cyclists, despite the person whose death he was commenting on was actually wearing hi-viz when killed.
The part that resonates most with me was this statement by one of the researchers:
This means the solution to stopping cyclists being hurt by overtaking vehicles has to lie outside the cyclist. We can’t make cycling safer by telling cyclists what they should wear. Rather, we should be creating safer spaces for cycling – perhaps by building high-quality separate cycle paths, by encouraging gentler roads with less stop-start traffic, or by making drivers more aware of how it feels to cycle on our roads and the consequences of impatient overtaking.
This is exactly right and the approach that has allowed Dutch and Danish road users to be twice as safe.