On becoming a Christmas tree on two wheels

CC 2011 Holiday Lights display night lo res

Be safe, be seen! has always seemed to me sensible advice for road users, whether cyclists, pedestrians or motorists.

Pedestrians who step out in their shiny hi-viz and it always seem to me that they walk a bit more confidently, even self righteously, declaring their status as responsible citizens and road users. Joggers too seem happy to clothe themselves in fluorescent jackets as they trot the highways and byways. Since the seventies those who could afford scandinavian cars have distinguished themselves on the road by having their sidelights on, something which brought on hot flashes from other motorists until it dawned that those drivers of Volvos and Saabs had no choice in the matter of sidelights – once you turned the key the lights were always on.

“Swedish design you know”, whisper the owners, off to do shopping in, probably, IKEA.

The RSA advice is for cyclists always to wear hi-viz and always to wear a helmet.

In conversation with other cycling enthusiasts I have heard some of them rail against the notion of having to wear hi-viz or other bright clothing. “Motorists should be looking out for cyclists and we should not have to go around dressed up like Christmas trees.  (I have it on good authority that the person who first used that Christmas tree simile, perhaps in a casual, throwaway fashion, now squirms every time they hear it).

The resistance-to-being-seen attitude tends, understandably, to lessen support from drivers who may not be cyclists themselves. They see cyclists as wanting the best of both worlds; quick to point out that they are legally the driver of a vehicle, but when it suits them, quick to break red lights and quick to ride on the footpath. And when cyclists are criticised for such behaviour the zealots chant “Oh but you have to ask what forces cyclists to mount the pavement rather than say on the road?” and “I’ll think you’ll find that the driver of the two ton car” is a lot more likely to kill or injure than an innocent cyclist navigating across a junction when the light is not in his favour”. And so it goes, ad, mind-numbing nauseam.

If the Swedes build their cars with lights always on, and if the RSA can tell motorists to drive with lights on for greater visibility of them by other road users, it doesn’t seem illogical to me that there could be a safety advantage for me in dressing in clothing with hi-viz incorporated and if daytime conditions warrant it, using a couple of flashing LEDs, white light to the front  and red to the rear to ensure that I am visible to all other road users.

We know that people spend lots of time looking at screens and learn to scan for the important bits of information. Finding the important bits is made easier when the key words are highlighted.  If the scanning habit is transferred to non-screen activities (and I believe this happens) then those who are driving vehicles will tend to notice what stands out.Christmas-bike

Wearing hi-viz and flashing LEDs, in addition to prominent positioning on the road, are some of the ways of drawing the reader’s -sorry, driver’s eye, to what is important on the page, sorry, road. And, not to put too fine a point on it, that could be me.

It’s all abo11181455-christmas-tree-made-from-bicyclesut the big picture, now isn’t it?