On why “be safe, be seen” is nonsense

A commonly spouted mantra on how to make cycling on the UK’s roads safer is “be safe, be seen”. The idea being that if you make yourself visible to motorists, they won’t run you over. Sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? Sadly, it’s completely fallacious, and observations from this morning’s commute provide a good example of why.

Now, I run a couple of cameras on my bike as I’ve had numerous close calls with drivers in the past and have used the camera footage as evidence in a number of successful prosecutions. However, while my own commute in today was comparatively uneventful, I witnessed someone else’s far from smooth ride, and believe this illustrates quite clearly where the source of most blame, and thus what should be the target of most road safety action, actually lies.


Section 182 of the Highway Code: liberally ignored by many UK drivers

Riding to work at around 8:30 this January morning, I found myself cycling behind a young lad, about 14-15, for about a mile – I first saw him near Lidl in Prestwich. He had a hi-vis vest, helmet and lights, and obeyed the rules of the road – he didn’t run red lights or ride on pavements. However, his exemplary behaviour did not guarantee his safety: on the contrary, at the hands of the north Manchester car commuters, he was put in serious danger at least five times in the space of a mile, which I managed to capture on camera and am posting here to illustrate just how careless – callous even – some drivers are around people cycling.

The first incident I witnessed was at the junction of Cavendish Road/Bury New Road. Here a driver cut across the bike lane right in front of our lad in order to turn into Cavendish Road:


Near left-hook 1

Then, as that car moved out of his way – at the very same junction – the next incident: a car turning right out of Cavendish Road encroaching into the bike lane, forcing our valiant young rider to swerve out of the bike lane and into the traffic carriageway:


Near t-bone 1

A couple of hundred yards later, the driver of a blue Audi cut right in front of our friend to turn into Park Street. There is no way the driver would have been unaware of the boy cycling: they simply took a huge and unnecessary risk with his safety:


Near left-hook 2

Slightly further on, at the junction of Park Lane and Bury New Road, a man who was still half asleep almost t-boned our young hero. This guy was simply not looking at the road – especially not for bikes – and also almost did exactly the same to me a couple of seconds later:


Near t-bone 2

Slightly further on again, the driver of a different blue Audi forced their way across his path literally inches away from him, causing him to brake sharply and again putting him at serious risk:


Near left-hook 3

Shortly after this he turned right as I carried on and I thus lost sight of him.

So, in a nutshell, in one short journey a young chap on a bike, doing everything that many non-bike-riders commonly bemoan (helmet/hi-vis/lights/not cycling on the pavement/not running red lights) was endangered by no fewer than five tested, insured, taxed blah blah blah drivers who either weren’t paying due care or simply didn’t give a toss.

And this is something anyone who cycles knows all too well. It doesn’t matter whether you wear all black or dress like a cross between a construction worker and a Christmas tree: it’s not drivers not seeing you that’s the problem, it’s them frankly not caring. In every single one of the incidents described above, the driver ought to have seen the lad and driven carefully to avoid endangering him. So why didn’t they? I’d be genuinely interested in any reasonable and reasoned justifications for such reckless behaviour. (Though I suspect there aren’t any).

And this is why the “be seen” approach is deeply misguided: the only thing I’m in control of is how I conduct myself on the bike, not someone else’s state of sensory alertness. Yet the “be seen” approach specifically demands that: it makes me responsible for whether someone else is watching the road or not. It shifts the blame from the driver to the rider: if I get hit, it’s my fault for not being seen, not the driver’s for not looking. It’s safety advice that says “don’t die” as opposed to “don’t kill”. It’s bullshit.

As I’ve often said to non-cyclers who raise the “if only cyclists wore bright clothes/used lights/wore helmets/didn’t cycle on pavements/didn’t run red lights, then they wouldn’t get knocked off” falsehood: get on a bike, do everything right and see how much respect you get. No one’s ever taken me up on that. I think this morning’s incidents indicate why. I’m just glad laddo lived to ride another day.


92 Responses

  1. The fundamental drivers of human behaviour are:
    SCARF. Status, Certainty, Relatedness and Fairness.
    I think the hi-vis advise is bad because it makes cyclists look very different, that reduces ‘Relatedness’.
    Many drivers feel that they have spent more money on their car and therefore the have higher status than cyclists. This status threat is why cycle advocacy causes such hostility with so many drivers.
    Bike’s ability to slip through traffic infringes their sense of fairness.
    Finally proposals to put bike lanes in creates the possibility that traffic and all of the above may get worse and that creates a threat to their sense of certainty.
    The problem we have at the moment is that most people in the UK can’t even imagine why you would want to commute by bike.
    I think there is an absolute cassum to cross at the moment. We should just ask people if they would drive that way around their mum, if it was her on that bike?

  2. Alan Salter says:

    Good article, well constructed.

  3. Simon Kerry says:

    Thanks for the entertaining and infomative piece. I have often wondered about this since being knocked off my bike a few years back. It was a bright sunny day, I was wearing a day-glo orange shirt and the motorist ‘didn’t see me’ as he turned in front of me and sent me flying. The only reason he didn’t see me was that he wasn’t looking (at me), but the size of the gap to the car following me.
    I’ve heard from people about road position, ie. Putting yourself in a part of the road where another driver would look to see if another car would be there and I try to do that where possible but it is not always feasible to do that without holding up the traffic behind you and risk their dangerous manoeuvres to get past.
    In the end the driver responsible for my accident had to attend a course to ‘re-educate’ him about road users. Which in fairness is as much as could really be expected.

    • Absolutely, and glad you weren’t seriously hurt. I was also recently knocked off and really had to fight the police to take action against the driver (which I’ll detail in another post at some point). I asked them to send him on an awareness course rather than prosecute him as I thought that would do the most good. Had I been any more seriously injured, though, I would have insisted on charges being brought.

  4. Alison says:

    Completely agree – it makes no difference what you wear. If I forget my lights and ride home after dark in a black coat, I don’t have any more dangerous encounters than in broad daylight wearing high vis.
    The types of near misses mentioned above result from bad and inconsiderate driving and not the fact that someone can’t see you.
    People sometimes cut me up causing me to have to brake sharply and only just avoid them colliding with me, then they wave as if to say thanks, indicating that they think the behaviour is at worst slightly cheeky, not putting my life at risk

    • I know one, too. Thankfully I have my own repertoire of hand gestures at the ready for people who drive that way.

      • Elleye says:

        I’ve often thought it’s a shame there is no hand gesture for ‘sorry’. We all make mistakes and on a few occasions I’ve wished I could apologise to another Road user for something that was clearly my fault.

  5. dickdavid says:

    Great article. I completely agree that car drivers should be responsible for looking and it definitely shouldn’t be the responsibility of the cyclist to make them aware by what they wear.

    However, I feel if you aren’t taking efforts to be seen by those who ARE looking, you raise your risk factor. The same goes for car colors. Dark color cars are more commonly hit than bright color cars – based on DOT and insurance institute statistics.

    I suppose it’s all based on location. The route in this article is full of shit drivers. It’s a bit different where I ride.

    When I ride at night, with my high-vis clothes and lights, I see car drivers making better decisions around me, when passing and turning, compared to the days when I don’t.

    I’ve seen many times in my city, at dusk and dark, lots of riders with no lights or reflective gear that are practically invisible. I see many of them have close calls from car drivers that just don’t see them.

    Wearing protective, high-vis, bright items IS NOT a protective bubble and won’t protect you from everything. It’s just a way to give those who ARE actually watching, a better chance to react sooner. There’s nothing worse than getting hit by somebody who is actually paying attention.

    • Still, we’re obsessing about cyclewear and by doing so absolving drivers of due blame. It’s amazing how many people have raised the “dark clothes/no lights trope” in response to this post. It has no bearing on the point being made here: this kid was doing everything right and was still exposed to an unacceptable level of risk. The question we should be asking is how do we tackle that? In other words: if you wear hi-vis on your bike, you might get killed by an idiot driver; if you don’t wear hi-vis on your bike, you might get killed by an idiot driver. What’s the common denominator there? That’s what we should be talking about.

      • dickdavid says:

        True. Ultimately, what a person is wearing shouldn’t be a factor if they are hit by a negligent car driver. The blame should go wholly on them. No excuses.

        I get and agree with your point. I’m NOT stating that high vis is better for IDIOT drivers. I completely agree that it is not, and it’s clear by your example.

        I’m stating that having high vis IS better for those who are attentive drivers – who also use the roads. You can’t deny that lights and bright clothes are better than dark ninja clothing. My fear is that in this justified rant about blame and fault, folks might get the impression that high-vis is useless. When in many cases, it’s not.

        I’m not taking about absolving idiot drivers by wearing high-vis. I’m talking about making right choices as vulnerable users of the road. Blame is one thing, but each person has to watch out for themselves.

        • I’m not saying it’s useless, I’m saying that its effect on overall safety is marginal compared to other factors that, at a policy level, should be priorities. This lad’s hi-vis vest afforded him no protection at all. People saw him and simply didn’t give a toss. You also know that to be true. And that being so, I don’t think in all good conscience we can ascribe any real safety benefit to hi-vis. Attentive drivers will see you anyhow. Idiot ones won’t, or won’t care. Hi-vis only really works on the small grey area between those, and I personally consider its effect to be so marginal as to be personal preference. If it gives you the confidence to cycle, go for it. But that’s about as much as we can say. Also, at no point have I said not to use lights at night: many, many people cycle perfectly legally at night in non-specialist clothes but with lights, and drivers need to know to look out for them. The “dark clothes/no lights” cliché is irrelevant to the point here, which is wear what you want, obey all the rules and you will still be harassed. In a nutshell, if we’re going to discuss what makes cycling safe, let’s move away from yellow vests and start addressing the real issues.

      • Harvey says:

        I’m not sure I agree completely. Surely wearing a hi-viz improves his chances of not being hit?

        If he wasn’t wearing one, then potentially he would have had more than the 5 near misses you saw, and possibly one of them wouldn’t have been a near-miss but a ‘hit’ (heaven forbid).

        I’m not saying it’s all the cyclists responsibility at all, but likewise it’s not 100% the car driver’s responsibility.

        Being able to be seen is the cyclist’s responsibility and not driving like an idiot and endangering cyclists is the driver’s, but maybe this is stating the obvious.

        I do have to question the person who commented on the fact they used to wear dark clothing without lights.

        Did they mean in the daytime or at night? If at night then they took unprecedented levels of unnecessary and irresponsible risk, not to mention breaking the law, but it doesn’t state that explicitly so it’s hard to know for sure.

  6. Very well put! I hope this young lad learns from his experience before he is hit. When I am cycling I find I have to assume drivers will do the things you have observed on your commute and I try to be ready to take evasive action. But even the most experienced of us can be caught out. When I am driving I can give drivers more credit. For example if I am approaching (in my car) a facing car about to make a right hand turn there is little chance that he or she will turn in front of me. If I am cycling there is a good chance that I will be ignored or not seen no matter what I am wearing. If I am riding with a car close behind me in this situation I feel safe because the driver who is about to turn will be looking at the car and waiting for it to pass.

    • So what you take from this is that it’s the child’s fault?

      • Codezombie says:

        Of course its the drivers fault, but when you throw your leg over a bike, you have to take every action physical and mental to defend yourself against the SMIDSYs out there. You have to, You should ride accepting that you are deliberately placing yourself on the road as a vulnerable road user, and ride appropriately to that acceptance.

        You cannot legislate against numpties, so defensive riding, high vis, and decent gear (I can personally recommend a decent air bag system, saved my neck literally)

        I mean it would nice if we could wave a wand and all the SIMDSY suddenly started to be nice attentive drivers. But I don’t believe that will happen in my lifetime. 🙂

      • Codezombie says:

        We have to modify both our behavior and drivers. However we have spent decades getting driver behavior as good as it is currently. The problem is also as much as traffic density as it is individual drivers behavior too.

        Heck, I see at least one pair of cars on the side of the road, examining each others damage… Cagers don’t seem to discriminate…

        In the meantime I recommend a good helmet and an airbag jacket. 😉

      • Codezombie says:

        Also, drivers get away with too much when then invariably run over a cyclist.
        If a driver injures a rider, it should be charged as GBH (maximum sentence is life)
        If they kill a rider, it should be charged as murder. (likewise)

      • Codezombie says:

        There also could be more joined up advocacy between cyclists and bikers. Who basically face exactly the same problems on the roads. Just having an engine in the frame does’nt make much a difference safety wise… 😉

      • I can’t agree on any approach that says we need to modify our behaviour or wear any special clothing. The message that we as advocates need to be urgently pressing is that no matter how exemplarily we cycle, we are at an unacceptable level of risk. Focusing on clothing or the behaviour of a subset of bike riders opens the door to the cagers positing the false equivalence that cyclers and drivers are equally to blame. We all know that not to be true. We need an “enough is enough”, no-nonsense attitude.

      • Codezombie says:

        I think we will have to agree to disagree here, as I cannot condone riders going out without planning for or expecting the worst case scenario.

        In my other role as a regular motorcyclist ( I don’t own a car so my motorbike is my commuting vehicle ), If I did not wear a helmet I’d be 6 foot under by now. Yes its law to wear a lid on a motorbike, but its as sensible to wear one as it is on a cycle. I suspect my decades of also riding motorbikes very much colours my views here, and I accept that.

        I firmly believe that we must take responsibility for our safety, which includes wearing decent protective gear, and cannot and must not rely on other people acting safely, as other people driving safely cannot ever be relied on.

        I wholeheartedly welcome any measures to improve drivers road awareness and to make them drive more safely, but I sure as anything am not going to rely on it.

        So yes, I truly and deeply believe that we should wear protective equipment, and use defensive riding techniques, however I also deeply believe we should never allow drivers to use that as an excuse to not change their driving behavior as a result.

        • There’s an ideal case and the reality. I’m quite involved in advocacy and I want to see cycling levels increase vastly and not just stagnate at 2% as they have been for decades. That’s not because people don’t want to – the demand for safer cycling conditions is vast – have a look at some of the stats in these reports https://www.sustrans.org.uk/bikelife and what measures people want in order them to feel confident to cycle safely. Spoiler: it’s not yellow coats and plastic hats. Trying to encourage cycling but then telling people they need to dress for a potential life-changing/-ending crash scenario doesn’t work. We can see that in these flatlining cycling numbers. Which is why I specifically said “as advocates” we need to shift the approach and I stand by that. I cannot in good conscience tell someone who wants to start cycling that a hi-vis jacket will have a marked impact on their safety; at best it might give them the confidence that they’re doing what they can to reduce their vulnerability. All the evidence tells us that helmets and hi-vis have a marginal impact on safety when compared to consistent and sustained policing, better driver training and a re-engineered, vision-zero-based road environment. In a nutshell, wear what makes you comfortable and confident, but let’s be alive to what will make real, lasting and effective change and work together to make that happen.

        • Rob Sharrock says:

          Helmets. It would also make sense for pedestrians to wear them but they don’t.

    • claire d says:

      ‘I hope this young lad learns from his experience before he is hit.’ Learns what? To catch the bus instead??? Personally I hope the drivers learn from their mistakes instead.

  7. Steve Tomlin says:

    Good article, have subscribed. Thanks.

  8. Peter Thornton says:

    Liking some of this blog, particularly Alexander’s insight into driver behaviour. It certainly fits some of my experiences. I got knocked off by a driver pulling on to a main road focussing on a gap in the traffic and they did not see me despite lights and high vis. Then the most outrageous claims that I was at fault for going too fast. I was travelling down the bus lane at 15 miles per hour in a 30 mile limit when hit according to my Garmin. The car was pulling into the lane outside and flew out without observing me or the junction. I had no chance to avoid because of the speed they flew out. How could I be going too fast? I was listening to this bullshit whilst lying on the road, unable to get up and with restricted breathing for about 30 minutes until the paramedics removed me. Needless to say I was livid. Had many near misses in 4 years of commuting and I do practice safe and defensive cycling. I must congratulate Nick on some fantastic evidence of what we all know to be true. Now going viral on facebook. So many cycling friends I know have been involved in a no fault accident because of this poor driver behaviour and this is a major problem in Manchester. I really think we need to keep speaking out to get this influenced. Then maybe one day I will feel safe enough to resume commuting. More importantly lives will be saved and injuries avoided if education and publicity can influence.

  9. George Kremer says:

    We, as both cyclists and motorists have to learn an old lesson of, expect the unexpected. This is an old study where a person in a gorilla suit showed up in a video, yet many missed it as they were concentrating on other action. https://www.livescience.com/6727-invisible-gorilla-test-shows-notice.html

  10. What I find difficult when I have been injured whilst cycling, is one of the first ( if not the first to be asked is, ‘did you have a hat on?’ Would that have stopped my broken arms stitched up face smashed up knees, i don’t think so. Neither would it have saved my mum.

    • Agree entirely. Forgive me for asking but, also given the comment about your mum: are you related to Chris?

      • Married name but still boardman on Facebook. Never done this before, but for obvious reasons would be intrested by others take on things.

        • Thanks, Lisa. I didn’t mean to appear to be detracting from your own experience by bringing Chris up. Obviously through him we’re aware of what happened to your mother, and I can imagine how hard that must be for your family. My sincerest condolences. I mentioned him simply as I thought the post might strike a chord with him given his public pronouncements on the matter, as it also has with you and many thousands of others. This blog has currently been viewed nearly 8,000 times and the parallel Facebook post has had a similar number of shares, so it’s been seen by tens of thousands and the response has been hugely, overwhelmingly positive. Many people who cycle totally understand the point that it’s not cyclists breaking the law/ being irresponsible that’s the problem, it’s essentially attitudes towards cyclists that need to change. Are you yourself involved in any cycling advocacy?

  11. Alison says:

    2 things need to change:
    Firstly an attitude change that human error is not an acceptable cause of death through driving accidents, and that the system is redesigned to mean that human error can’t endanger or end someone’s life. Each injury should be learned from rather than everything just carrying on as before.
    At my work, someone fell down the stairs and got a mild injury because they were reading a journal whilst walking. Now we have regular reminders that you must not walk down the stairs whilst reading, and if they see you doing it they will tell you off. ie. one person did something dangerous, and everyone’s behaviour needs to change as a result
    Meanwhile a young lad was killed by an uninsured speeding driver in a 20 mph zone near me. What action was taken? None at all, apart from to charge that particular driver. There are still many speeding drivers there all the time. The same could easily happen again at any time and probably will. It’s heart breaking.

    Secondly, all bad driving needs to be punished much more severely with strictly enforced, lengthy driving bans. All the offenders in the video should get a years ban and compulsory re test. If they reoffend it should be a lifetime ban. A few plain clothes police on bikes, punish a few people, and the word would soon get out and people would be more careful.

    • Excellent comment, and really getting to the heart of what I was talking about in the post. Address the source of the risk, not its effects if you want to make a real difference.

      • lisa gye says:

        in response to the question, about what i would advocate in order to cycle safely? my brother has also
        recently responded to the article in question i echo his sentiments to the letter.

  12. rogink says:

    Agree with all your points above. I’d also make a point about the traffic – which looks pretty much nose-to-tail. Despite what the car ads show us, driving is a very mundane activity when it is like this. I think many, if not most, drivers ‘switch off’ in these conditions. Other drivers’ behaviour is usually predictable, so the focus is on keeping a short distance behind the car in front. Those drivers making manoeuvres from left or right are trying to ‘beat’ the normal pattern by nudging into any gaps. The cyclist is not part of the regular pattern: if moving quickly, cars will pass without thought; if slow, then the chances are cyclists will pass.
    What is the answer to this? Maybe to make boring commutes less predictable? E.g. traffic calming. Certainly to give some protection to cyclists, especially on busy roads. And maybe when we get Dutch levels of cycling, drivers will learn to expect cyclists! And respect them.

  13. I agreed with most of it until I got to the final paragraph.

    “get on a bike, do everything right and see how much respect you get”

    Maybe cyclists should try walking and see how much respect *they* get.I live 10 minutes’ walk from my office and the other day on my commute I narrowly avoided being hit by SEVEN different bikes.

    If you MUST go on the pavement, dismount, don’t ride like you’re in the Tour de France!

  14. Nic Fripp says:

    It’ll be a task to change entrenched attitudes that go way back. Disney managed to describe them back in 1950 and things have got much worse since
    I do have a radical solution, but I fear that I could not publish it…

  15. This is the reason I’m reluctant to cycle.
    Mind you as a pedestrian you’re not really safe. Cars parked on the pavement so you have to walk into the road, driving on pavements, going through reds, driving across a Zebra crossing when I’m halfway across.
    I always cross the road properly, I look out for traffic, wait for the green man. Yet I’ve almost been run over by idiots speeding through the red or who cant wait. No amount of hi vis is going to stop that.

    • I’m glad you raise this point, namely that drivers, too, endanger pedestrians, counter to the popular narrative that it’s only bikes that do that. Once you start looking into these issues, you realise that everything that cyclists are commonly accused of, drivers also do to a significantly greater extent. Which isn’t being anti-car, as I’m often accused of, it’s simply analysing the position and identifying the risk.

  16. Adrian says:

    Great summary of the major hazards posed by the average motorist, that get brushed off as ‘that’s the risk you take when riding’.
    I hope that video has been passed to the relevant police. Even if the drivers just get shown that and ask if they’d be happy if it was their child, grandchild or sibling. Some of those pictures (the 2 Audis in particular) look like they could only be deliberate and they should have their driving privileges removed immediately.

    • Unfortunately as I simply happened to be riding behind him, and it all happened so quickly, I didn’t get such details. Had it happened to me directly, you can be sure every single one would have been reported.

  17. Marie Cooper says:

    Thank you for sharing this. When I tell people that, when I am out cycling, it’s incredibly dangerous and that I have to ride assertively and be alert to drivers behaving stupidly on the roads, just to stay alive, I get looked at as if I’m talking nonsense. And then get anti-cycling rants back. You know, the usual…but cyclists ride through red lights/sit in front and hold me up at red lights, ride on the pavement/don’t ride on the pavement, ride too fast/ride too slow, aren’t wearing neon, are wearing neon and look stupid, don’t have light/have distracting lights etc etc The only drivers who have a clue as to how difficult it is, I’ve found are drivers who are cyclists.

    • Bang on the money. I’ve been having a few discussions like that since this went unexpectedly viral. The whole point of this is that even if you do everything right, you’re not safe. But still people come with all the above cliches. On the other hand, it’s resonated with many more – this is something so many of us know and want something done about.

    • baoigheallain says:

      The English speaking world has a serious attitude problem concerning people on bikes. You constantly hear moans that “they” don’t dress visibly enough, or look silly in neon; that “they” never ring their bells, or are aggressively ringing their bells; that “they” ride too slowly holding up the traffic, or that “they” all ride too quickly.

      It’s strange that this contradictory attitude is shared across the UK, Ireland, Australia and the USA. I don’t know how we got here but you don’t find it in other countries.

      It’s going to need a national campaign to explain that the lad in this blog is someone’s son, someone’s brother, he is a real person not some alien species “cyclist” who can be endangered at will.

      Given the current government I don’t hold much hope for such a national campaign from central government. It will have to come from CUK or similar.

      • Agree about the English-speaking countries. The US of course has huge a car and huge oil industry. The UK to a lesser extent, but significant enough to be a major vested interest. Oz, NZ are largely populated by British migrants with a similar mentality, and I suppose Ireland is, as nations go, a close first cousin or something similar. Have you watched the Netflix documentary “Bikes vs. Cars”? It’s wonderful, and looks at these issues across different nations. I can definitely recommend it.

  18. Mark Reese says:

    The worst thing for me is that if these drivers really acted this way deliberately because the lad is ‘just a cyclist’, then even the highest standard protected bike lane wouldn’t help… It wouldn’t matter if they cross the lad’s path at a 90 degree angle, it wouldn’t matter if he had a green light whilst theirs was red.
    How do you ever get rid of such criminal attitudes in a society…?

  19. JBT says:

    I’ve been driving bicycles, motorbikes, cars and vans for 40+ years and have done police driving training to increase my life expectancy as a biker. As a result, when i’m driving a car I “look once look twice think bike”. In foul winter weather, in the dark, the probability of me seeing a cyclist wearing dark clothes and showing no lights is cut drastically. And I’m trying really hard, unlike the kind of criminally negligent drivers in your video.
    This thread is a essentially a conversation about risk. Yes, bad driving increases risks, but cycling with no regard to whether the vehicle (which for a bike includes the rider) is visible to other road users is also high risk behaviour. Breaking the law by not showing front and rear lights is just playing along with the prejudices of some car drivers.
    I would never ride at night without lights. And my waterproof jacket is high vis – why not? I also have an air horn, so I can make the people who disrespect me wake up. I’m saving for a headcam.
    I truly believe that most drivers are decent people who don’t wish me harm. They may not have been taught how to share the road safely with cyclists (who is? I never was).
    We need to work together on the cultural value shift that says cyclists and law abiding car drivers are not enemies. And that means gathering evidence and pursuing prosecutions of the the few percent of drivers who endanger cyclists.
    We could make start by working with driving instructors and taxi firms to set an example.
    Stay safe.

    • We’re of course essentially on the same side, and I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. However, I’m frustrated at the number of times people have mentioned not legally using lights in the context of this post. Saying hi-vis doesn’t reduce risk by much isn’t the same as saying never use lights. You mention driver prejudice, and that’s at the heart of the issue. Drivers are conditioned to regard cyclists as irrelevant – no matter how we’re kitted out. The prejudice of the scofflaw cyclist abounds and in the minds of many justifies dickish behaviour towards folk on two wheels. Discussions like this are also indicative of that, and I struggle to see the logical link: “this kid doing everything right and is being harrassed.” “Yes, but some people cycle in dark clothes without lights, so…” That’s what we’re dealing with. It’s not logical, so it can’t be reprogrammed using logic. I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to approach those entrenched biases. I don’t have an answer. But, at risk of repeating myself, focusing on PPE isn’t it, I’m afraid.

    • SF says:

      This comment is completely illogical and illustrates the problem we are up against. Consider the following: Girl wearing trousers, sober and in daylight gets raped. Someone suggests doing something to make the area safer to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Internet commentators say ‘girls should wear trousers, not get blind drunk, and not walk home alone at night to keep themselves safer’.
      A. It’s victim blaming and
      B. The person who got raped was already doing all these things and It DIDN’T HELP!!!

  20. Nadim says:

    I rode completely in the middle of the lane when I didn’t feel it is safe for a vehicle to overtake me. I did this when I rode a bike several years ago and it just ensures the driver isn’t in the uncertainty of do I overtake or not. I pulled well to the left once I think there’s space for them.

    Now I am a driver and having been a cyclist, what is needed is for cyclists to know when they could be at risk and take the entire lane at tight spots. Many drivers are subconscious during their monotonous drives so that action basically takes their decision making out of their minds and they will naturally queue behind the cyclist.

    Ok, we all know they won’t wait forever but at least the tight lanes and risky junctions are covered for the rider. It’ll make my decision making easier as cars behind my car can’t get erratic because there is simply no space to get past. Simply put to completely shut off the uncertainty over whether it is safe to overtake or not. When it is safe then to pull well to the left (within 2 feet of pavement) is ok (then the cars can overtake into the oncoming lane without risk of oncoming traffic).

    Completely cut off the lane when environment is not quite as safe or clear the lane to help the subconscious drivers avoid the dreaded uncertainty.

    Cyclists need to have confidence to hold the traffic behind them when it simply isn’t safe for cars to overtake.

    • Again, this is great advice when you’re cycling, but so many drivers haven’t been trained to understand why people cycle like that, that you again end up with aggression and frustration. We keep coming back to the same point – cycle as well as you like, but if no one tells the drivers how to behave properly around bikes, we’re goosed.

  21. Graeme says:

    Nick – fantastic article. Really enjoyed it and agree on all points. This is at once a incredibly simple and entirely complex issue, as are most things that deal with human nature. I find our capacity to ignore facts that interfere with our desires to be quite amazing. I have written down many, many thoughts relating to this topic in the past, the most recent one being found here (I’ve been quite inactive there lately): http://www.thestickybidon.com/education-infrastructure-laws-in-that-order/.

    I’d be curious as to your thoughts on the matter.

  22. A car free network is needed for safe walking and cycling. Read idea here. http://sensiblepolitics.beep.com/carfreenetwork.htm

  23. Andrew Derbyshire says:

    Hi, I came here after reading the plagiarised version on twitter. Very good read and still very relevant. I believe the risks are even greater due to la’s pretence at wanting to increase cycling and implementing cycling infra that is more dangerous than safe and gives motorists added ammo to punish anyone on a bike not using it.

  24. Weejen says:

    Perhaps a driving test amendment….in order to pass you MUST:
    Spend a day cycling round a busy town preferably one with bus lanes (which you have to share with buses – who thought of that idea??) cars parked in cycle lanes and cycle lanes that magically disappear into nothing. I think this might provide just the right amount of insight when they finally get on the road…

  25. Anonymous says:

    If wearing high viz prevents only one accident then it is worthwhile. It’s all about reducing risks under your control and avoiding hazards. Unfortunately we have no immediate control over how others drive/ride apart from educating them. I do not understand the hostility towards increasing your visibility to others road users, if you wear all black and have no lights day or night you Must have a death wish!

    • Nick Hubble says:

      If this is what you took from the piece – that I’m advocating cycling at night without lights, then I despair. The scenario described very clearly illustrates the futility of focusing on cycling clothing at the hands of a feral driving culture. A young lad in hi-viz in daylight and drivers just don’t give toss. Safety efforts should focus on the source of the greatest harm on the basis of evidence and not some emotive, intangible ‘if it saves one life’. I think we should be aiming to save all lives lost on the road, and we won’t achieve that by making everyone wear little yellow jackets. If it gives you the confidence to ride, fine. But don’t imbue it with any more effectiveness than that.

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