Cyclists in dark clothing stopped by Hampshire police - and given free hi-viz gear

CTC says initiative sends wrong message and efforts would be better spent focusing on law-breaking motorists

by Simon_MacMichael   December 7, 2009  

Hi-viz cyclist.JPG

Police in Gosport, Hampshire, have warned cyclists to make themselves more visible to other road users after an increase in the number of cyclists injured on the Hampshire town’s roads.

According to a report in Portsmouth local paper The News, officers have targeted bike riders wearing dark clothing on some of the town’s busiest roads, including the approach road to the ferry that links Gosport to Portsmouth, issuing safety advice to cyclists handing out high-visibility vests, wristbands and rucksack covers.

The paper added that within the last three years, there have been 161 reported accidents involving injury to cyclists in Gosport during the last three years, 35 of them serious.

During last week’s operation police stopped 182 cyclists, including those riding with lights as required by law, which does not lay down any requirements to wear high-visibility clothing.

Neil Miller, corporate communications officer for Hampshire Constabulary told road.cc: "This operation was conducted to help cyclists stay safe while riding in the community. Free hi-visibility equipment and cycle safety advice was given out to those wearing dark clothing to make them more visible to traffic and to decrease the chances of being involved in an accident. 

He added: "Hampshire Constabulary is committed to keeping cyclists safe and this kind of pro-active campaign is a good example of this commitment."

While it’s reassuring that the police have the interests of bike riders at heart, the move could be interpreted as trying to impose high-visibility equipment on cyclists – although Mr Miller acknowledges that the police have no powers to do that – while taking some of the burden of vigilance away from motorists.

Cyclists’ organisation CTC believes that to ensure that roads are a safe environment for cyclists, police forces must give priority to enforcing existing road traffic legislation against motorists who break the law.

Earlier this year, it launched its Stop SMIDSY campaign, which urges cyclists to report instances of bad driving, taking its name from the acronym for the common excuse from motorists after a near-miss – or worse – with a cyclist, “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you.”

Speaking to road.cc, Debra Rolfe, Campaigns Co-ordinator at CTC, said: “It’s curious the police are stopping cyclists for not breaking the law when there are so many motorists who break the law every day, and I think a much better use of police resources could focus on drivers breaking the law.

“There’s quite a bit of evidence that when motorists break the law, it tends to have much greater consequences than when cyclists do. Stop SMIDSY is about addressing the need for motorists to drive better, to look where they are going and to look out for cyclists.”

Ms Rolfe added: “I think one problem about the police taking this tack is that it makes it look like cycling is not an everyday activity, that it’s an activity that requires a great deal of specialised equpment, and that discourages people from cycling.

“CTC’s Safety In Numbers research has demonstrated that the more cyclists there are, the safer it is for each individual cyclist,” she continued, “and one of the reasons that we think that happens is that motorists look out for cyclists more.

“So maybe instead of focusing on cyclists wearing high-visibility clothing, the police could focus on encouraging people to cycle and encouraging motorists to look out for cyclists.”
 

27 user comments

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Not a bad idea IMO - Cyclists who don't drive might not realise that cycling around in black means they can't be seen. B)

And as for the last line - "encouraging motorists to look out for cyclists"... not always possible if they have no lights and / or are dressed in black.

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posted by jobysp [145 posts]
7th December 2009 - 16:29

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I do feel sorry for the police some times - they just can't win. Whilst I agree that drivers need to take more care, the CTC sound a bit daft to say it's not about cyclist's visibility whilst banging on about a campaign called "Stop 'Sorry Mate I Didn't See You". Surely a high-viz jacket would Help Them See You?

I could do with a new high-viz jacket, so maybe I'll ride down to Hampshire.

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posted by cleanthes [6 posts]
7th December 2009 - 16:33

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I was gonna say, might be worth a quick trip south to pick up some new gear

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posted by AndyyK [40 posts]
7th December 2009 - 16:34

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Maybe someone on here could do it for us all - just keep riding past and giving different details?

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posted by jobysp [145 posts]
7th December 2009 - 16:37

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It seems every time I hear the CTC comment on something they are trying to find a negative to defend or attack (in order to justify their existence?). To be fair, I have only come across snippets like this one (could be their fully-reasoned view is more balanced), but this is what the non-cycling public will be hearing too. Quite apart from representing me, I feel they provide ammo to those who see us as a separate species.

If I was stopped I'd feel happy to get some free safety goodies, and contrite at not already having enough of them. I've yet to see one cyclist sufficiently lit up in the dark whilst driving this Autumn/Winter - you really can't have enough fluoro and lights - perhaps we are all (I include myself) a little too self-conscious? Its us who will get hurt, not the car driver, after all.

If the CTC wanted to do something for me, they'd run positive campaigns encouraging cyclists to light up, and ride courteously for those who give us a bad rep, whilst providing advice to drivers how to avoid cutting us up, judging our speed correctly etc, just like the motorbike Think Bike campaigns (they could do worse than join forces occasionally).

It isn't a war, and most of us drive too (increasingly vice versa also, which is pleasing), so let's stop behaving like a segregated group of victims, and educate each other and other people instead. Nice one constables!

posted by andyn [7 posts]
7th December 2009 - 17:08

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Having seen on 3 occasions so far this year car drivers drive straight into cyclists that were wearing hi-viz and had a decent compliment of lighting on their bikes, I've decided it makes very little difference what I wear. Far more use would be enforcing laws on mobile phone usage and banning those new distractions, sat-nav screens. Oh, and teaching drivers to actually see rather than just looking.

posted by BigSteev [8 posts]
7th December 2009 - 17:39

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BigSteev - remind me never to cycle near your vicinity Big Grin

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posted by jobysp [145 posts]
7th December 2009 - 19:22

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Bravo. I want to commend the Police in Gosport, Hampshire for stepping up to the plate and demonstrating their concern for the safety of UK cyclists. What disappoints and concerns me, once again, is the response from the UK's CTC and its spokesperson, Debra Rolfe. If the research is right and we can expect higher levels of safety with greater numbers of cyclists on the roads, then we must expect lower levels of safety until we reach that point. And as we move forward in our pursuit of greater numbers we should make every effort to insure the safety of cyclists. Does warning cyclists to make themselves more visible to other road users enhance the safety of those cyclists? Of course it does. Should police be involved in this kind of activity? Of course they should. Why? Because it's not about who's breaking laws, but rather it's about saving lives and preventing injuries. That's a job we hope all police departments carry out.

Look, Ms. Rolfe is dead wrong. Cycling is not a normal everyday activity. The normalization of cycling is a goal that neither we here in the USA nor you in the UK are anywhere near. It is foolish and deadly to think that cyclists should act normal and dress normal and not dress to be seen...that is the first rule of safe cycling...visibility. The police get this and the CTC should be standing right beside them helping to warn cyclists to be more visible. To be seen. To be vigilant for our safety.

All of this reminds me of Blaise Pascal's "Wager" where he said the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. The same can be said for wearing clothes that make you visible to motorists. What have you got to lose by wearing clothing that makes you visible to other road users? And what might you stand to lose if you don't?

Thank God you have police that care about you. Well done guys and shame on Ms. Rolfe and the CTC for not seeing the good being done.

Joe Mizereck
joe@3feetplease.com
joe@roadguardian.com
USA

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posted by joemizereck [17 posts]
8th December 2009 - 14:55

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Joe,

While I can understand that the CTC could do better (see andyn's comment) I don't think your argument is any better. While being more visible, particularly at night and in the winter months, is a good aim, why are Hampshire Police not distributing information to drivers too?

Why is it that it's always the cyclists that are the target for campaigns? We have read recently newspaper columnists fulminating against RLJers, iPod wearers and pavement cyclists, and even judges want us off the roads or suggesting that not wearing a helmet makes a cyclist partly to blame for injury. It's our fault just for being there! People want to promote Bikeability, training and awareness for cyclists yet sod all effort is made to educate drivers.

This all reinforces the mistaken idea that the road is purely for motorised traffic and cyclists should hop off and get with the peds on the cyclepath/pavement (walking on the latter, of course). Or dress in fluorescent garb from head to toe to ensure we don't cause someone to drive into us. I'm not going to lie down and admit defeat just because cycling isn't "normalised", as you call it (though there are parts of the country where it is normal and accepted as such). We may be marginalised but we're not defeated.

I agree cyclists should endeavour to make themselves visible (I am disappointed at the swathes of cycling gear that are available only in black, grey or dark colours). Cyclists should also ride safely and defensively. But most importantly drivers should be considerate of others on the road. That means I shouldn't see them talking on mobiles while driving, they shouldn't cut me up in traffic or overtake towards me forcing me into the verge; they shouldn't park on double yellow lines or zig-zags outside a school (these two observed this morning) just because there's no plod standing there to book them. All these are illegal and/or dangerous moves that threaten more vulnerable road users. Would me wearing hi-viz stop any of these happening? Not on your nelly. So while Hampshire fuzz were trying they fall a long way short of top marks from me.

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posted by Simon E [1765 posts]
9th December 2009 - 14:46

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Simon, you and I are on the same page. We both understand that there is a lot of work to do, at all levels and on all parts...motorists, pedestrians, and authorities. And we all have roles to play in making cycling safer. I share your frustration with all of the forms of inattentive motorist behavior that pose great threats to cyclists' lives. But, we cannot fault any of the players for trying to do what they can to make a difference. Certainly, I too would be concerned if the only thing the police did was to try and change the behavior of cyclists. That would be wrong. But, let me tell you this, if we stopped always thinking of ourseleves as poor old victims and recognized the great opportunites presented by actions such as the Hampshire police work on behalf of cyclists, we might develop more productive relationships with others that could help us make greater progress.

Simon, I am all about saving lives. Ask my wife, ask my children, ask my friends. And when I see people and organizations making the effort to save cyclists' live...I cheer them. And I hope that by cheering them on I just might help them become more sensitive, more involved, more committed to making a difference, more open to looking at other ways to help.

The police cannot do it all, nor should we expect them to. But, when they do something right, something that just might end up preventing some cyclist from being hurt and taken from their family, I'm there for them and with them. And maybe this support will open doors to other efforts that can save lives.

Thanks Simon,
Joe

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posted by joemizereck [17 posts]
9th December 2009 - 16:05

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Joe,

I understand your point of view. No-one can argue against moves to improve safety for anyone on the roads.

However, I don't appreciate the apparently exclusive focus of police and other bodies on persuading cyclists that they are the ones who need to change to improve road safety. It's an unbalanced approach and I can't see that it can make much difference to the statistics and certainly not to the behaviour of drivers towards cyclist (which in my view threatens cyclists and pedestrians far more than the absence of hi-viz cycle clothing).

Look at the argument in favour of more open shared spaces like Oxford Circus. This appears to improve safety by making drivers more aware of other road users - not merely the other big metal boxes. In London work is being done to educate HGV drivers about cyclists as well as advising the latter not to scythe up the inside of a lorry that may well turn left with little or no warning.

I know quite a few people who would like to ride their bikes more but won't ride on the roads because they are too frightened. Providing them with lights and hi-viz won't change this one bit. It can feel unsafe sometimes, but statistically it is not. But statistics will never overcome fear. If they don't ride then their kids don't ride - it's a vicious circle.

Since police and other governmental resources are not limitless we should persuade them to target their efforts where they will be most effective. As you will have gathered by now, in my opinion that is not what is being done in Gosport. I think it is somewhat misguided, though not without good intention. But there's more to saving lives than good intentions.

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posted by Simon E [1765 posts]
9th December 2009 - 17:19

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The point surely is that the police aren't doing something right. They should be stopping cyclists who don't have lights and motorists who drive without due care and attention - they should not be stopping cyclists that do have lights and are not breaking the law. Effectively they are blaming the victims of bad driving rather than tackling the bad driving itself.

Stopping legal cyclists in is just a cop out (sorry about the pun) for not tackling the far more difficult task of modifying driver behaviour. The CTC is, in this case, spot-on.

I'm with Big Steev dressing like a Belisha beacon seems to make very little difference in my experience a bit more hammering home of the message that a two ton metal box is a potentially lethal weapon and that it only takes a moment's inattention to kill someone would be a much better use of police time and resources.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4110 posts]
9th December 2009 - 17:39

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Simon and Tony. please read this again, "This operation was conducted to help cyclists stay safe while riding in the community. Free hi-visibility equipment and cycle safety advice was given out to those wearing dark clothing to make them more visible to traffic and to decrease the chances of being involved in an accident." Good God, I would love every police department here in the USA to be so genuinely engaged in looking out for the safety of cyclists. No tickets were issued. Cyclists were educated and given FREE hi-viz equipment. Yes, even cyclists with required lights were stopped. And why not help them become even more visible?

Gentlemen, this police department deserves our gratitude for being proactive...for caring...for doing their jobs. Is that all there is they can do? Of course not. I know it. You know it. And I believe they know it. And if they are this engaged, I doubt they're going to stop there. And if you think so strongly that they really think it's all about the cyclists, then talk to them and work with them. Help them do what needs to be done to educate motorists and to change their behaviors. But please, don't take away the good that was accomplished by them going out to help those 182 cyclists. If their efforts end up keeping only one of those cyclists from being harmed, then it was worth all the time and energy invested.

Thanks guys,
Joe

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posted by joemizereck [17 posts]
9th December 2009 - 18:27

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I too am in full agreement with both Tony and the CTC's position on this.

The police chose to use their sparse resources to stop law abiding cyclists, which I know I wouldn't appreciate, with the pretext of making cyclists safe from the car drivers who are, in so many circumstances, not abiding by the law when they cause injury to cyclists.

These are the same police that Joe hopes will uphold his 3 feet passing law, but will most likely ask cyclist to cycle closer to the kerb in order to make the gap bigger for the transgressing drivers.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [644 posts]
9th December 2009 - 19:41

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DaSy wrote:
... but will most likely ask cyclists to cycle closer to the kerb in order to make the gap bigger for the transgressing drivers.

my thoughts exactly.

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
9th December 2009 - 20:26

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posted by Simon E [1765 posts]
10th December 2009 - 12:22

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DaSy wrote:
but will most likely ask cyclist to cycle closer to the kerb in order to make the gap bigger for the transgressing drivers.

I'm not sure they could get us any closer to the kerb in some parts of Oxford. On the plus side, those yellow lines mean there shouldn't be any parked cars in the way...

Cycle Lane FAIL.JPG
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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7453 posts]
10th December 2009 - 12:41

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I always ignore those lanes in Oxford, and just bowl along in the normal carriageway at the proper distance from the kerb, and this ends up winding up drivers who think I should be doing 25mph in the gutter because it is marked.
It's another example of lip service being paid to cyclists needs, that actually makes our lives harder. Still it's worth the battle to get an espresso and panini in Zappi's cafe.

I love cycling in Oxford, for that feeling that you are the fastest rider in the world, lots of students milling along at 10mph to roar past.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [644 posts]
10th December 2009 - 12:56

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Need to get myself down to Zappi's soon - good excuse to practise the old Italian too Big Grin

Must admit St Giles is always nice for whizzing past people.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7453 posts]
10th December 2009 - 13:01

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I can't say I'm a perticular fan of the police with regard to their attitude to cyclists. I had a ridiculous conversation with one regarding me stopping at lights 2 metres infront of the white line.

I do this to give me space and time when the lights turn green and give a few vital seconds before the traffic sets off.

At the time I was working as a courier in London. This policeman threatened to book me for jumping the lights. Just madness.

On a different note I just wrote a post about cycling safety and the lessons I learnt as a courier which others may be interested in. The link is

http://100milebike.com/2009/12/17-cycling-safety-tips-to-keep-you-alive-...

posted by Century Training [5 posts]
13th December 2009 - 3:55

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Hey Luke, that is a really well observed list, and pretty much encapsulates the way I ride, but has taken me about 20 years to learn!

Those really are the fundamentals of staying safe and alive in traffic. I'm sure that it could save a lot of riders from pain if they read and absorb even half the list...good work.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [644 posts]
13th December 2009 - 8:53

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DaSy wrote:
Hey Luke, that is a really well observed list, and pretty much encapsulates the way I ride, but has taken me about 20 years to learn!

Those really are the fundamentals of staying safe and alive in traffic. I'm sure that it could save a lot of riders from pain if they read and absorb even half the list...good work.

Hey DaSy - Thanks man - I really appreciate your kind words about the post. I saw and still see everyday in London the most crazy and stupid riding by cyclists.

Sometimes the positions they put their bikes in on the road send shivers down my spine.

If I can help just one of those people to think and take a little bit more care then the effort of writing the article will have been worth it.

posted by Century Training [5 posts]
13th December 2009 - 11:07

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cleanthes wrote:
I do feel sorry for the police some times - they just can't win. Whilst I agree that drivers need to take more care, the CTC sound a bit daft to say it's not about cyclist's visibility whilst banging on about a campaign called "Stop 'Sorry Mate I Didn't See You". Surely a high-viz jacket would Help Them See You?

I could do with a new high-viz jacket, so maybe I'll ride down to Hampshire.

You're missing the point: it is not that they didn't SEE, it's that they didn't LOOK.

We don't impose a requirement that all cars have dayglo yellow strips around them like the emergency service vehicles - we expect motorists to be able to see them, and generally they do, because they look, because hitting another car is messy and expensive and quite possibly injurious to the driver/owner of the car, whereas a cyclist is nice and squishy and probably won't scratch your paintwork too badly, and of course the blood will wash off.

A bit colourful? Perhaps, but the point is that the driver has a legal and moral responsibility to use his/her vehicle in a manner which does not cause harm, and the police should be enforcing that oligation, not blaming the victims.

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
21st September 2012 - 11:06

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Maybe the police could do something about driving whilst using a mobile phone, which has to be the number one cause of accidents.

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [59 posts]
30th November 2012 - 10:09

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I give up, i honestly do. When the Police dont do anything they are useless, when they do they are wasting their resources.

Every day we stop thousands of drivers due to bad driving, motoring offences and the likes of mobile phones etc etc resulting in court appearances, tickets and written warnings. None of this is mentioned and now the CTC want a bit of air time and call Hampshires attempts to try and help a few cyclists misguided.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2400 posts]
30th November 2012 - 10:21

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davidtcycle wrote:
Maybe the police could do something about driving whilst using a mobile phone, which has to be the number one cause of accidents.

Nope, its people driving beyond their capabilities, simple. Whether thats on wet roads, busy roads or going to fast or not looking properly.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2400 posts]
30th November 2012 - 10:25

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I noticed a cyclist the other night overtaking a bus which was dropping off pasengers. A dark, rainy night. Cyclist gave a clear hand signal to following traffic that he was moving out to pass the bus.

Unfortunately he was wearing black sleeves and black gloves with no obvious reflective patches. Doubt if anyone noticed his signal.

posted by fignon [3 posts]
30th November 2012 - 11:17

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