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Motion at next Tuesday's AGM takes cue from move by Lothian campaigners Spokes earlier this year...

Cambridge Cycling Campaign will next week debate whether to withdraw backing for events that promote the wearing of cycle helmets and high visibility clothing, with a motion on the issue due to be debated at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday. The proposal follows a move earlier this year by Spokes, the Edinburgh and Lothian cycle campaign, not to promote events requiring participants to wear a helmet.

The motion, proposed by Simon Nuttall, a committee member and adult cycle trainer, and seconded by Heather Coleman, says:

Cambridge Cycling Campaign supports all cyclists as they go about their lawful business on the public road. We note that the law does not require helmets or high visibility clothing. The image of cyclists presented to the public has become so strongly skewed towards riders wearing those items that the legitimacy and status of those who do not wear them is being undermined. In order to help restore the balance the campaign reserves the right to decline to promote events or activities where helmets or high visibility clothing are required or implied.

The background to the motion published on Cambridge Cycling Campaign’ website points out that the image of helmet wearing, lycra clad cyclists seen on TV screens this summer during the Tour de France and Olympic and Paralympic Games does not reflect the reality of people using their bike to go about their daily business.

“It is getting harder to find pictures of ordinary looking cyclists wearing ordinary clothes in central government publications, local government publications and even holiday brochures,” it adds.

“There have been some exceptions such as Transport for London's 'Catch up with the bicycle' campaign, and after a long battle with Cambridgeshire County Council at last we have a photo on the front of the cycle map which is representative of the majority of Cambridge's cyclists.

“The time has come to put down a marker that sends out the message that we want ordinary everyday cyclists to be better represented in the media. The Lothian Cycling Campaign, Spokes, have taken a lead here and decided to stop promoting events in which helmets dominate.”

Councillor Martin Curtis, Cambridgeshire’s Cycling Tsar, told Cambridge News: “Our role is to promote safe cycling, so it would be wrong of us to do anything that didn’t promote the use of high visibility clothing or helmets.”

Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, disagreed, saying: “Cycle safety is best delivered by improved infrastructure, training for drivers and cyclists, and above all, by getting more people cycling.

“Simply insisting people wear helmets and hi-vis is not the answer to the problem, although of course people may well want to wear them.”

Earlier this year in an e-bulletin sent to members, Spokes said: “We are concerned at the creeping growth of semi-compulsion, for example charity bike rides insisting on helmets for young adults and government-funded websites picturing all or nearly all cyclists helmeted, thus creating a climate in which total compulsion could eventually happen.

“Helmet advertisers, promoters and government agencies bombard us with the benefits but, disgracefully, we are never told of the risks – although there is evidence on both sides, and crashes and injuries occur as a result of the risks of helmets.

“Compulsion, or one-sided promotion, is very wrong – even more so as they put people off the healthy choice of getting about by bike. Therefore, Spokes will not, after this [bulletin] issue, publicise charity rides or other events involving helmet compulsion. We call on all other organisations concerned about public health to do the same.

“Helmet manufacturers and sales outlets, in the interest of public safety, should have to make clear on boxes and in sales literature a helmet’s impact design speed (usually around 12mph) and the potential risks as well as benefits.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

43 comments

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gazza_d [465 posts] 3 years ago
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When I drive my car or walk I am not coated in hi-viz or wear a helmet, so why should I be when I ride a bicycle down the same street?

Completely agree with this position.

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Coleman [335 posts] 3 years ago
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Excellent news. Good to see someone fighting against this creeping compulsion.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 3 years ago
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agreed - I often *choose* to wear a helmet - and even the occasional reflective strip on clothing etc. - but we should fight tooth and nail for the right to hope on a bicycle in jeans & t-shirt to nip to the corner shop etc.

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OldRidgeback [2632 posts] 3 years ago
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I wear a helmet when I'm racing or at the skate park because that's when I'm pushing the boundaries, and I have come off from time to time. I have proper helmets for those activities, a full face motocross lid for BMX racing and a skate lid for the skate park, both of which are a world apart from the shell lid pictured in terms of head protection. And I can attest to their worth. This summer I went headfirst over the bars when a bunch of us crashed in a BMX race.

But I rarely bother with a helmet when I'm riding here or there. And I do live in London, which is rather busy.

I'm not keen on this creeping compulsion for cycle helmet use, despite the complete lack of data showing how these ineffective and flimsy devices provide overall safety benefits.

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sorebones [139 posts] 3 years ago
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Totally agree with the position the Cambridge Cycling Campaign are laying out. I personally always wear a helmet and sometimes a hi-viz jacket. But I agree that making these items the 'norm' is dangerous as it implies that those that do not are at fault in an accident.

How many times in accident reports does the clothing of the cyclist now get mentioned, as though failure to wear a hi-viz vest must have contributed to the incident? We never hear a reporter mention whether the driver had his headlights on or was listing to music etc

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OldRidgeback [2632 posts] 3 years ago
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sorebones wrote:

Totally agree with the position the Cambridge Cycling Campaign are laying out. I personally always wear a helmet and sometimes a hi-viz jacket. But I agree that making these items the 'norm' is dangerous as it implies that those that do not are at fault in an accident.

How many times in accident reports does the clothing of the cyclist now get mentioned, as though failure to wear a hi-viz vest must have contributed to the incident? We never hear a reporter mention whether the driver had his headlights on or was listing to music etc

Quite - or for that matter whether the driver was a smoker or even smoking at the time - there is statistical data showing smokers have a higher incidence of crashes.

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Kim [231 posts] 3 years ago
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Cllr Curtis shows a marked ignorance of the nature of cycling in places where it is a normal means of transport, the Netherlands of instance, there no one bothers with lids and viz. Why, because the roads have been made safe by restricting motorists, where they are mixed with cyclists and put on separate roads where they can't be mixed with cyclists. We should do the same here...

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Stumps [3354 posts] 3 years ago
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It should be individuals choice and no seperate company / organisation should say either way.

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chatty31 [78 posts] 3 years ago
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Seriously guys, its a no brainer wearing helmets saves lives.
Personally I have had three bad crashes which would have resulted in far worse injuries had I not been wearing a helmet.
I guess its upto you but can you remember when seat belts were optional and all the fuss about them being compulsary .Now most people wear them without a second thought.

Be safe, if not for you then for your family and friends.

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mornic [5 posts] 3 years ago
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This post was sent to a lorry driver,you can guess what had happened....

Sorry to hear that Mervin, both for the pedestrian, their family, and for yourself, it is something which you unfortunately have to live with now.. You would have had time to react had a hi-viz been in use, as you would have been alerted in good time to the fact that there was someone ahead of you. It's happening too often now, and just the fact that there are very sharp reactions from drivers at the last minute, is all that is keeping some of them alive!! But it will always be the drivers fault, which is totally unfair.. Rob and my son have both had this "nightmare" situation happen to them, (just by some miracle it was not a statistic event though) and we have it all the time on the country roads round here.. Am I harsh in wondering if it should be compulsory??? a tiny thing like a hi-viz jacket when on open roads.. surely it can only be for everyone's benefit..

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JohnS [198 posts] 3 years ago
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So chatty and mornic didn't read the story or the Cambridge CC motion?

You no more need a helmet or hi-viz to ride on the road than you need them to cross the road on foot.

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dave atkinson [6250 posts] 3 years ago
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mornic wrote:

a tiny thing like a hi-viz jacket when on open roads.. surely it can only be for everyone's benefit..

a tiny thing like driving at an appropriate speed and looking where you're going? surely that can only be for everyone's benefit.

faliure to look properly is cited as a major cause of bike/vehicle collisions. that's failure to *look*, not failure to *see*

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OldRidgeback [2632 posts] 3 years ago
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chatty31 wrote:

Seriously guys, its a no brainer wearing helmets saves lives.
Personally I have had three bad crashes which would have resulted in far worse injuries had I not been wearing a helmet.
I guess its upto you but can you remember when seat belts were optional and all the fuss about them being compulsary .Now most people wear them without a second thought.

Be safe, if not for you then for your family and friends.

Are you sure about that? Would you be willing for the sake of scientific experimentation to repeat the crashes not weaing a helmet so as to be able to compare the results?

Saet belts do save lives. But there is no strong data showing that those flimsy plastic things called cycle helmets actually have a beneficial overall effect with regard to cycle safety.

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felixcat [478 posts] 3 years ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

Saet belts do save lives.

I'm afraid they cost lives. The casualty rate for cyclists and pedestrians went UP when seat belts were made compulsory.

http://www.john-adams.co.uk/category/seat-belts/

They did not save lives either. Have a read of this website. I know taking on board new data and ideas is painful, but be open minded and give it a chance.

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Lungsofa74yearold [285 posts] 3 years ago
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Could someone explain the potential risks - this is news to me?

Having been over the bars a couple of times and split my helmet in half once (without it it would have been my skull), I don't have a problem with wearing one - as someone above said its just like seat belts.

As we don't live in the ideal world, this motion seems a tad academic. Personally, I find I'm using high viz and lights more and more (thank heaven for high powered LEDs), even in the day time as I'm fed up with people not seeing me, cutting me up etc.

Last thing - as a driver, I'm fed up with nearly running over ninja cyclists - dark coloured hoody, trousers, no lights, on and off pavements, crashing lights etc. these guys are clearly living the 'no safety gear or hi viz dream' - it all just depends on the rest of us to facilitate this by being super vigilant.  39

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felixcat [478 posts] 3 years ago
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pastaman wrote:

Could someone explain the potential risks - this is news to me?

In countries where mandatory helmet laws have produced a large increase in helmet wearing (in Oz, from memory, from 35% to well over 90%) the effect on cyclist casualty rates is undetectable. If helmets do protect then SOMETHING is negating the protection. My own guess is risk compensation, but this is very difficult to show. What is your explanation? Have a read of the website I link to above.
Why is it that motorists take risks with our lives? Might it be because they are safer in any collision than we are? Perhaps our estimate of our safety affects our behaviour.

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burtthebike [355 posts] 3 years ago
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Brilliant, thank you Cambridge Cycling Campaign. I just wonder if your ban would cover the BBC, which has been running a propaganda campaign about cycle helmets, in complete contravention of their charter, for the past thirty years.

For the record, for all you people who have written above promoting cycle helmets as being effective and saving lives, nowhere with a massive rise in helmet wearing can show any reduction in risk to cyclists. That's right, after more than twenty years of helmet laws and propaganda campaigns, it is impossible to show that they are effective, and all robust research shows that they aren't. The evidence which shows that they are effective is unreliable and has been disproved on peer review.

Cycle helmet laws and promotion have only two effects: a large drop in the number of cyclists and obscene profits for the helmet manufacturers, there is no safety benefit. Because cycling confers such huge health benefits (regular cyclists live longer and are fitter and healthier than the general population) and the people deterred from riding lose those benefits, the effects of propaganda and laws is large and completely negative. The countries with helmet laws are the most obese on earth, which may be just a coincidence, or not.

Check out cyclehelmets.org for a few facts.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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Just got back from a couple of days in Hamburg.*
I saw thousands and thousands of cyclists.
I saw two people wearing helmets - one was about 4 years old, the other was a rather mental looking bike courier.
I didnt see one person wearing hi viz.
The traffic in Hamburg is very very busy and chaotic - worse than the UK - and the bike handling 'skills' of most Hamburgers leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all this there didnt seem to be piles of dead cyclists stacked up by the side of the road.
I hate this 'creeping compulsion',as someone nicely put it, in the UK.

*i can say the same thing about Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen and countless other European cities

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antigee [346 posts] 3 years ago
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well yesterday i was driving and following a commuting cyclist who was wearing a helmet (i'm in oz so he had to be), a fluoro jacket, flashing bright rear and front light - though it was daylight many main rd commuters here, like in UK use lights) moving at about 25-30mph in 2 lanes of traffic - he was taking a safe position in middle of lane as crossed a busy junction - but a car pulled out of the side road straight at him - brakes covered and a check behind he successfully avoided the bonnet whilst i had to brake hard as car was half across lane

point - simple the driver was looking for and only focussed on a gap in the traffic - saw what they were looking for but not the highly viz cyclist.

it is all about driver skills and awareness of other road users - not what you are wearing - i wear a high viz vest on some busy roads in the hope some drivers may see me who otherwise wouldn't but there are still plenty that don't

hi viz doesn't fix the not looking / didn't expect cyclist to be there problem

not sure what will - other than challenging the "right to drive" culture - eg compulsory hazards awareness testing/license renewal - say every 3years?

how about making the driver in any accident involving hospital treatment for a ped or cyclist have to automatically give up license for 30days - why not ? most of the reasons given for hitting a pedestrian or cyclist are crap - "came from nowhere" "just stepped out" "blind bend" "sun in my eyes" "busy dual carriage didn't expect a cyclist to be there" etc etc

here in Victoria sadly the state have just declined to make car dooring a mandatory points offence - despite it being a real big problem and fairly easy to identify who is to blame - unless of course the victime isn't wearing hi viz then it becomes the cyclists fault?

long rant but it is an issue and its all about sharing road space without forcing pedestrians and cyclists to be the ones who have to be inconvenienced further

....final one - school kids in high viz...from our local paper

"Just recently a primary school student was hit by a car, solely because the driver couldn't see the child," Sen-Constable Pethick said."

http://progress-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/kew-cop-urges-kids-u...

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Paul M [360 posts] 3 years ago
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Sure motorists should be forced to take more care, through training and penalties etc, but a more effective solution is to take away the danger - the USA has a much higher murder rate despite the death penalty, probably because in many states anyone can buy a gun.

Banning the sale of cars is perhaps an extreme step now, but separating bikes from cars with decent infratstructure, with a kerb or barrier and not just a white line, would make the most difference.

Truth is that our politicians and media are totally in thrall to the auto industry - the biggest advertising spender on earth, plus a hevay duty lobbyist. To the auto industry, ANY alternative to cars and road transport is a threat, and maintaining the hegemony of the car over poublic transport and the bicycle is critical - even conceding that a modest proportion of journeys eg <3 miles or city commutes would be better served by alternatives is anathema - this would curtail (not stop) the rampant growth of the industry, and never ending growth is the lifeblood of any private company.

Under these circs we can expect that even the Beeb will be pro-car and will spout crap designed to make cycling look like an extreme sport, because this guarantess that it will not gain mass appeal. Politicians are no better - they know the truth but dare not say it because they depend on the auto industry for financial support. Local politicians are much worse - many of them are frankly too stupid to get it, althouygh mercifully they are also not going to get a nomination for national politics.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 3 years ago
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Wear or don't wear, it's a choice.

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adriank999 [77 posts] 3 years ago
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Unfortunately not every car driver is perfect and some are downright selfish/dangerous so it seems to me that in the interest of self-preservation Hi Viz is necessary. Let’s face it mixing slow bikes with cars travelling faster is a recipe for disaster if anything goes wrong.

Not on my bike but waiting for a bus in Bristol the other night saw at least 4 cyclists without lights and wearing dark clothing in just the space of 15 minutes. Are they just stupid or do they have a death wish ?

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felixcat [478 posts] 3 years ago
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Helmets for drivers and passengers

http://www.drivingwithoutdying.com/

Around 2000 people die annually on UK roads. The majority of these are car drivers, many of whom suffer head injuries. Clearly the air bag isn’t enough protection, so we hope drivers will consider wearing a motoring helmet on London’s drive to work day and every time they get in a car.

Why should it be acceptable only for cyclists to wear helmets and not us drivers. Ensure you and any passengers especially young ones wear this additional protection, even on short trips. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

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Stumps [3354 posts] 3 years ago
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Helmets should be individuals choice, however i think hi viz during the evening and nights is a no brainer.

The way some people drive at least if they can see you lit up in their headlights its worth something.

A simple hi-viz vest, about 4.99 from hardwear shops, and a light clipped onto it is sufficient.

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therevokid [953 posts] 3 years ago
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and HANS devices ....

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JohnS [198 posts] 3 years ago
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Beaufort wrote:

Wear or don't wear, it's a choice.

Sadly, it's becoming less and less of a choice, with huge pressure from media, advertisements, road "safety" pressure groups, cheating insurance companies, moronic magistrates and the general public, all of whom think they know all about cycling even if they haven't got on a bike since they were eight, all telling us we're terribly irresponsible if we don't take to the roads dressed for war.

Good luck to Cambridge CC trying to reverse this insidious and evil pressure, ultimately aimed at stopping people riding bikes.

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Paul99 [25 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm not getting into the helmet debate again, but one thing that is unfortunately not mentioned here is that Charity bike rides have to have insurance to operate, and those insurance companies are the ones who usually dictate the mandatory helmet rules, so not promoting the rides because of that seems a bit like shooting the messenger.

Followign on from this, we now live in an ambulance-chasing personal-injury lawyers' paradise (I am a lawyer - not a PI one though, and I detest all these ambulance-chasers) where people so often use the "health & Safety" excuse for ridiculous rules - the problem being, that there are plenty of people out there who will launch spurious claims for personal injury and accidents against ride organisers for not stipulating helmets as mandatory if someone is injured - accusing them of negligence. And the way things work, the isnurance policies won't pay out if helmets weren't mandatory as they'll exclude that from the policy, leaving the charities to foot the bill of a personal injury claim.

Sadly, there is no such thing as personal responsibility any more and people are always looking for someone to blame...anyone but themselves. There really is no such thing as and "accident" in the world of personal injury claims!

And before anyone says it, PI lawyers do play a valuable part in protecting those with genuine claims and i know i'd want one on my side if someone hit me when riding and caused me potentially life-changing injuries - it's just it's gone WAY too far now.

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Yorkshie Whippet [541 posts] 3 years ago
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Here goes my tuppence worth.

Helmets should be a choice. I wear one in case I fall off not get knocked off. Making them compulsary will not work, erm speed limits, mobiles and driving, stopping at red lights...........

As for hi-vis, yes it's better than black at night. But it does not stop the driver looking down at the phone, changing a cd or generally not looking where they are going, from running you down.

Let's be honest here, if the blinding/flashing light does not signal your presence at night, a reflect stripe ain't going to do much. As for daytime, well what did the driver not see, the coloured helmet, jersey, frame or the coloured stripe on the tyre?

Maybe smashing a prospective driver's face on the bonnet and saying that's what it's like when a cyclist is hit. Maybe the same for every bike owner. Or heaven forbid, striping cars of all safety feature and fitting a six inch spike on the steering wheel will solve.

Perversily enough making somethings safer, makes them more dangerous as people push the limits further.

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Simon E [2775 posts] 3 years ago
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adriank999 wrote:

Unfortunately not every car driver is perfect and some are downright selfish/dangerous so it seems to me that in the interest of self-preservation Hi Viz is necessary.

Hi-viz is not necessary and it doesn't work most of the time (including at night). It may help in dull, murky conditions. It is also not a solution. For cyclists some decent lights and a few reflectives do a better job.

Like the "you'd be stupid not to" helmet lemmings, you probably won't be listening. Don't assume.

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mornic [5 posts] 3 years ago
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ok, so its not law, but here is what the highway code states...

Clothing.
You should wear a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened
appropriate clothes for cycling. Avoid clothes which may get tangled in the chain, or in a wheel or may obscure your lights
light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light
reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.

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