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West Mercia force hands out high-vis accessories

Police in Evesham, Worcestershire have been tackling cycling safety by warning riders of the dangers of wearing dark clothes, and handing out high-vis accessories.

More than 30 riders were stopped in a ‘Be Safe Be Seen’ exercise conducted by the Safer Roads Partnership and West Mercia Police.

Uniformed officers stopped cyclists wearing dark clothing or who didn't have lights during the morning and evening rush hours on January 6 and 26.

Riders were offered safety advice and high-vis products safety advice about the importance of keeping themselves visible and high-vis cycling products to help keep them safe on the roads, such as flashing armbands, high-vis rucksack covers and lights.

Anna Higgins, communications manager at the Safer Roads Partnership said: “Our ‘Be Safe Be Seen’ cycle safety initiatives are a proactive way of raising awareness about the need for cyclists to make themselves as visible as possible on the roads.

"We’ve run a number of similar initiatives across Warwickshire and West Mercia over the past few months and have engaged with over 350 cyclists.

"Unfortunately some of the cyclists we spoke to just didn’t recognise the dangers involved in not being visible. A couple of cyclists we spoke to during the early morning initiative had lights or high-vis gear at home, but didn’t feel that they needed them, even though it was still very dark at that time."

It's not the first time police have pushed the message that high-vis clothing equals safety on the roads, even though the research on the subject is equivocal at best.

In 2009, cycling charity CTC was critical of Hampshire Constabulary for stopping riders who were wearing dark clothing.

A CTC spokesman said at that time: “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."

Research findings on the efficacy of high-vis are inconclusive.

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.

At the end of 2014, a Danish study concluded that high-vis jackets worn by cyclists appeared to reduce incidents leading to injury, though that study also found that there were fewer reported incidents of solo crashes among the high-vis wearers.

That study was also criticised for being funded by the jacket manufacturer.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.