Volvo dealers throughout the UK are now stocking the Swedish vehicle manufacturer’s controversial Life Paint, condemned by cycling campaigners when it was trialled earlier this year – although that did not stop thousands of cyclists snapping up free samples in double-quick time.
The trial took place through six bike shops in London in March, with stocks of samples running out within 24 hours amid huge demand. One of the participating shops, Peloton & Co in Spitalfields, said that it had received requests for samples from as far afield as Australia and the US.
Among the Volvo dealers now selling Life Paint is Sentinel Volvo, located on the Seven Sisters Road in North London, which will be holding an open day next month to showcase the product.
The transparent paint, which can be washed off clothes, helmets, backpacks or anything else it is sprayed onto (although it is unsuitable for smooth surfaces, such as bicycle frames), illuminates the wearer by reflecting light back to its source, such as a car’s headlights.
It was developed by Sweden-based start-up Albedo 100, which has now signed a partnership with Volvo for the latter to distribute it through its dealers – ones participating in the UK are shown on this map.
Volvo has worked on a number of innovations designed to improve the safety of vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, for example its Intellisafe detection system.
But cycling campaigners said when it was trialled earlier this year that with Life Paint, Volvo seemed to be seeking to shift the onus for preventing collisions onto them and accused the company of blaming victims.
Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at the London Cycling Campaign, noted when it was piloted that the product and associated marketing drive was “a slick idea,” but questioned whether it would make the streets safer for cyclists.
“We don’t think so,” she said. “Collisions aren’t caused by cyclists not wearing reflective paint.
"The video tells us that cyclists need to make themselves visible, but neglects to mention that drivers who are not paying attention can and do hit anyone, whatever they are wearing.
“The money spent on this campaign – and on the product itself – could be much better spent on concrete measures to reduce road danger, by improving street design and tackling driver behaviour – not giving drivers a reason to take less care."
Meanwhile Michael Colville-Andersen, CEO of urban design consultancy Copenhagenize, launched an online petition calling for Life Paint to be sprayed onto Volvo vehicles.
He said the campaign was “classic smoke-screening from the automobile industry,” adding that “Life Paint is simply a way to shift the focus from a failed product that is under fire and place it on the vulnerable traffic users. Pure victim blaming."
But Nikki Rooke, head of corporate communications, events and sponsorship at Volvo Cars UK said in response to critics: "It’s about making the invisible, visible.
“By applying Life Paint, cyclists can make themselves more visible and therefore be better protected in vulnerable situations."
And Jamie Osman, manager of Peloton & Co, which ran out of the 500 cans it had been given in less than two days, emphasised that the response from customers had been overwhelming and enthusiastic.
"I don't think anyone was prepared for how big it was,” he said.
"We have had lots of people posting on our Twitter page and Facebook after they have sprayed it on their clothes and helmets, saying it is fantastic, a great thing to have as prevention. Everyone I have seen say it has been nothing but a good idea."
"There is a lot of talk on blogs about shifting blame but there's always going to be people that aren't happy."
Sentinel Volvo will be holding its open day from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 14 November, and says: “In this family-friendly event, guests are invited to try out the Life Paint by spraying their clothes, cycling kits, children’s backpacks and anything else that will help increase their visibility in the dark (please do not bring bicycles).
“Guests can then see the Life Paint in action at the dark booth, take photos and share their ideas on how to use Life Paint in very creative ways.”
Registration is required and you can sign up here.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.