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.