Even though it’s winter, there are still a few brave souls out there cycling the road of the hutt valley for either fun or fitness. While most of them seem to regulate their speed and control (you get the impression they also own a car), there are a few hardened souls who are less cautious and expect drivers to have some form of traffic ESP to avoid a catastrophic collision.
A near-miss a few days ago with a cyclist got us thinking about bikes and one simple measure some of the cycling fraternity can take to protect themselves. According to some research conducted by the Queensland University of Technology a few years ago, collisions with bikes disproportionately occurred during low-light conditions such as at dawn, dusk or at night. Only 34 per cent of cyclists in these low-light crashes were wearing reflective clothing and 19 per cent of them said they weren’t using bicycle lights at the time of the crash. LED bike lights have got cheaper and most cyclists seem to be well equipped, but few cyclists seem to adopt fluorescent or reflective gear. Few wear yellow.
We found this somewhat ironic, especially here in New Zealand in the current Health & Safety climate. In numerous jobs, wearing a high visibility vest is common (you could almost say it’s mandatory across Christchurch). While the Workplace Health & Safety legislation slowly gets adopted, probably due to the big stick rather than a juicy carrot, us kiwis seem to readily accept personal protective gear at work but dismiss it once we knock off at 5pm.
Which brings us back to our cyclists. If you had to conjure up a ridiculously dangerous situation, put a cyclist whipping down the road at 30 km/hr on skinny 23mm of rubber, with little protection other than a helmet. Out pulls a car. The shear physics make you cringe. If the same circumstances were reproduced on an industrial site the H&S Manager would be having kittens, and Worksafe would be ready to pounce.
This week the Tour de France is about to start. Some of the cycling fraternity will soon be out and about, sporting the latest European lycra in syn with their European heros. While the latest Team Sky cycle gear might be stylish and pleasant, it’s still hard to see at dusk. But if you’re really brave you’ll dismiss the current European trends or the equally dangerous kiwi all-black look and wear something bright and reflective so that you can be seen. The cycling elite might sneer at you. Ignore them. Be brave and wear yellow.