An Opinion Piece on Hi-viz

As most readers will know I am a horse rider and a cyclist, and a big fan of both. This post could be considered contentious as I am aware that there are many opposing views on these ideas but lately I have been feeling the need to put mine across.

Firstly, there are big differences (obviously) between horse riding and cycling but one area where it is the same, certainly in the area I am, is that you will often have to ride on the road. I sat the British Horse Society’s Riding and Road Safety exam last year and I felt that I learnt a lot, all of which I try to apply on the roads whether I am riding a horse or a bike. I feel that while there isn’t a lot I can do about people such as the man last week who decided to turn left into me while I was cycling to work or the person who decided to reverse at me really quickly to try and get out before me – hint to this person that will not work and will result in me having to swerve onto the other side of the road as you literally reverse into me(again while I was on a bike) anything I can do to give me the best possible chance of being spotted and paid attention to can only be a good thing. That’s why I wear a hi-viz vest while cycling around town, it isn’t much but I also now try and ensure I’m not dressed entirely in black. I feel that part also applies to runners, with hindsight I now know why a group of runners ran into me once – they literally could not see me.

Hi-viz clothing is often also reflective which can really help with visibility at night or when drivers, in particular, have their lights on. This reflective aspect can increase your visibility greatly at night when on the road on your bike (I know that more horse riders try to avoid riding or leading on the roads at night). It can help you be seen 3 seconds earlier and while that doesn’t seem long, it is long enough to allow someone to react.*

Hi-viz, reflective gear will not stop accidents, by their very nature accidents will happen. The wearing or lack of wearing of hi-viz should never be used as a reason to apportion blame each incident is different and should be treated as such. What these items can do is increase my chances of being seen by other road users prior to them being beside me.

There are so many different road users out there now and with the increase of cycling I have seen in Edinburgh alone suggests to me that it is common sense to try and stand out more, to be seen more. I accept that it is often the contrast that attracts the eye, meaning that brightly coloured tops can be effective during the day but lack the reflective nature that many hi-viz items also offer. I think if you can find items that double up and can be used as part of your everyday wardrobe such as Meg at thedoublelifeofmrsm has with this lovely Seasalt jacket (which I have coveted on and off for about a year 🙂 ) then that is brilliant and to be aware that it does not have to be a specialist, expensive cycling/horse riding jacket. That is unless you want one, that is entirely your call. I have a hi-viz, reflective tabard from a running shop that I use both on my bike and the horse because it is lightweight and can be thrown in any bag/pocket, I also use reflective badges on my rucksack and have a hi-viz hat band on my riding helmet with uber-cool optional flashing lights. I can actually use the hat band on my cycle helmet as well which is something I am considering. I am using these examples to try and show that all manner of items are available and there is sure to be one that you like/don’t find too horrendous. I just don’t agree that you can’t wear hi-viz alongside everyday clothing, I don’t believe it is a huge barrier to getting more people into cycling.

So folks that’s my feelings on hi-viz, this post is really a response to a Jeremy Clarkson column (that I refuse to link to on the grounds that he only writes for shock/argument value and he isn’t getting any more hits from me – apologies for the side rant) and also a response to the British Cycling recommendation that the advice that cyclists should wear hi-viz be removed from the Highway Code.**

The British Horse Society have also written an excellent article on general road safety, including a bit on hi-viz, in their latest magazine that I would highly recommend.

*From the British Horse Society website for reporting accidents

**The British Cycling recommendation report that discusses the removal of rule 59 from the Highway Code

This blog post about hi-viz on The Hay Net is really good and well worth a read.

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7 thoughts on “An Opinion Piece on Hi-viz”

    1. 🙂 One of my mates does exactly the same and contrast with another rider who wears all hi-viz pink while she and her horse wears all yellow – people tend to stop them to ask about it!

  1. Go lady!
    I grew up in the lowlands where we just cycled in our work clothes/school uniforms. No helmets either back then. Cycling was not fashion (or eco) statement or a gender issue there; it was just what people did to get from A to B. Moving to the UK made me more cautious -I have a fluorescent sash and now a yellow coat too- and I am all for anything that makes people feel more confident on a bike.

    I think the two most effective things people can do for their health and the environment is to a/ grow some of their own food and b/ regularly swap motorised transport for cycling/walking.

    1. I think that if cycling became the norm here then hi-viz would probably cease to be as important for cyclists as it currently is, I remember just cycling around on the country roads where I grew up without thinking about hi-viz or a helmet but now I wouldn’t cycle without – especially in town. Horse riding wise I feel riders should always wear hi-viz as other road users have to be very aware when passing horses and isn’t something many people often come across, I have had people sound their car horn at me while I was on a horse – just to let me know they were there, I ended up explaining why that isn’t a great idea. ☺

      Wholeheartedly agree with you on your point about the two most effective things people can do for their health and the environment, plus being outside is wonderful!

  2. I feel really strongly about this. While I haven’t always worn hi-viz whilst riding out on sunny days, I have always made sure that my clothes are bright (have a body warmer and jacket which are scarlet red that I always wore). If I was ever in any doubt, I would wear hi-viz.

    As for cyclists, I am not one, but I get so frustrated with them (and runners aren’t exempt from this either!) where they all wear dark colours on a dark day. As a driver, there are so many things to look out for without having to play “spot the almost invisible cyclist/runner”.

    As a motorbiker, hailing from a family of bikers, we never go out without our headlights on (bikers are only 1/3rd the width of most cars, so anything to be seen!), and it’s all about non-black helmets and leathers. If possible, the bike itself is also non-black. I am blue and yellow 🙂

    You may be able to tell, this gets my goat! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment, the motorbike aspect of it is really interesting to note too. Yup I am happy to admit that I have failed monumentally as a runner in the past, happily running about in black like a ninja and wondering why people couldn’t spot me at night or on a dark day – no longer! As a cyclist I try to be as visible as possible, I just feel it is only fair to my fellow road users whoever they may be.

  3. Good post 🙂 I found out only a couple of weeks ago that, in some cases, not wearing hi-vis can invalidate your horse/rider insurance! I was aware that many policies (if not all) are invalid if you’re not wearing a hat which is up to standard and properly fitted (meaning, the strap is done up), but I didn’t know about hi-vis, and I think that’s something everyone should be aware of. I can’t believe that is British Cycling’s recommendation, I’m shocked! And let’s not get started about people not wearing helmets, I’m still annoyed that it’s legal to ride a horse on the road without a helmet in the UK 😦

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