A commuter cyclist had a lucky escape when he rode into a white bollard positioned on a white line on a bike path that forms part of his regular commute. In the natural world blending into the background is known as cryptic colouration, or camouflage to most of us.
It’s a useful defence mechanism for creatures seeking to foil predators but not such a good idea when it comes to street furniture which most of us want to avoid, especially when travelling at speed.
That seemingly self-evident truth appears to have escaped South Gloucestershire Council who recently erected cast iron bollards on a well-established cycle path and painted them the same colour as the solid white line on which they are positioned, the Bristol Evening Post reports.
The result was as inevitable as it was painful for cyclist Ian Redmond from Stroud who smashed into one of the newly-installed posts, having failed to spot it on his regular commute. Although not badly injured, Ian felt his accident was the result of a badly executed, health and safety over-reaction by the Council to a perceived problem.
"I've cycled that route to and from Parkway station hundreds of times over the years, and am used to carefully avoiding pedestrians, but came a cropper over this totally unnecessary hazard,” he said.
"The new bollards are solid cast iron and painted white, and so in any conditions of limited visibility, they are almost perfectly camouflaged against the white line separating the cycle-way from the footpath.
"As a biologist, I am familiar with cryptic colouration, which works well for Arctic hares and polar bears, but I'd never considered it a suitable characteristic for traffic bollards."
He feels in addition to the colour, the choice of material for the bollards is misguided, as is the whole idea of installing them at all.
"This winter, people will be cycling this way in fog, rain, sleet and – worst of all – snow,” Ian told the Evening Post.
"They will often be weaving around gaggles of commuters, maybe in the dark – clearly it is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident.
"I urge the council to remove these bollards, which serve no useful purpose.
"But if they must have them, surely they should be clearly visible in all weathers and ideally made of a flexible material – traffic bollards on roads are designed to minimise damage to cars – why don't cyclists get the same consideration?"
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson told the Evening Post: "The bollards were installed in response to requests from passengers travelling between the Ministry of Defence and Parkway and Abbeywood stations, to help safely separate cyclists and pedestrians who use this path.
"It is planned to add high-visibility reflective plates to either side of the bollards, plus two contrasting colour bands, to help them stand out even more clearly. These additional measures will be added as soon as possible."
Let's hope they hurry up: a white bollard on a snowy white cycle path is going to take some spotting… like a hungry polar bear waiting for its prey.