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12-month project involved 3,400 cyclists being asked to wear high-visibility jackets when cycling

Researchers from Aalborg University in Denmark have conducted a study into the safety impact of high visibility clothing for cyclists. Their conclusions were that a brightly-coloured jacket significantly reduces your accident risk while cycling.

The 12-month project involved 6,800 amateur cyclists. After random selection, half the group were given a high-visibility bike jacket and promised to wear it each time they cycled while the other half cycled in their normal clothes. Participants were then asked to report any personal injury incidents they suffered over the course of the year.

The group who were asked to wear the jacket reported 38 per cent fewer incidents with other road users and 48 per cent fewer incidents involving vehicles. In addition to this, 37 per cent of those who were injured in the jacket-wearing group reported that they weren’t wearing the garment when the incident took place.

This reflects an uncertainty factor in the project – namely, the degree to which the test group wore the jacket. Researchers emailed participants once a month to ask whether the jacket was being worn and while the average usage rate over the year was 77 per cent, this varied from 80 per cent at the start of the project to just 30 per cent during the summer.

The jacket itself was designed specifically for the experiment and was a brightly-coloured shell jacket with limited reflecting material on it.

The researchers said of the garment:

“The goal was to create a visible jacket that the cyclists will consider smart and wanted to wear, not to create a jacket that would be considered a piece of safety equipment. The reason for this was that a safety efficient bicycle jacket will only improve traffic safety in practice if it finds a broad usage among the cyclists.”

In 2013, a University of Bath and Brunel University study found that no matter what clothing a cyclist wears, around 1-2 per cent of drivers will pass dangerously close. The researchers concluded that there is little a rider can do, by altering their outfit or donning a high-visibility jacket, to prevent the most dangerous overtakes from happening.

Also in 2013, an Australian study drew an important distinction between reflective clothing and hi-vis, highlighting that the former is the best way to be seen in the hours of darkness.

Rule 59 of the Highway Code states that cyclists should wear “light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light” and “reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.”

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