Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby Scotty on Tue 19/May/15 7:30pm

I remember my first experience with a cycling fatality on the road like it wasn't that long ago, a friend of mine was on a training ride and got cleaned out by a guy swinging across in front of him at an intersection. I drove past that evening and saw a foot poking out from under the tarpaulin on the road, and then I realised it was his bike that was in two bits.

I also remember the court case, and the driver offering up an “I didn't see him” excuse and the defence case centring around the fact he wasn't wearing any hi-vis. He was wearing the bright Eurocentric roadie kit that was in vogue at the time, but I guess it wasn't the right shade of yellow or orange because the guy who killed him got a small fine and lost his license for six months.

...and that was it. Done.

Being quite young at the time I remember being a bit pissed at the world after that, was that all that his life was worth? I went to war on people in cars: if you cut across my cycle-lane without indicating I usually kicked the door in, lock-ons were responsible for the local car-painters seeing quite a bit of work.

Yet, every single time someone else got run down, people would harp on
“Well, they wouldn't have gotten run over were they wearing high visibility clothing and lights!”

To which my response has been, and always will be, BULLSHIT.

Image
The illusion of safety...


You can be lit up like the FRICKIN’ PROVERBIAL CHRISTMAS TREE and you’ll still end up dead! Another gent I knew used to come into the shop I worked at to get his bike tweaked and he ran (what I thought at the time) was an absurd number of lights, so I’d spend half my time removing them from the seatpost to put the bike in the stand.

It didn’t help him, some clown in an eighteen-wheeler got him, a “professional driver”, a man who inevitably got a slap on the hand with a wet bus ticket and sent on his way.

The problem with being a cyclist on New Zealand roads is not just crappy road design or poor facilities, it’s the value we place as a society on our most vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists. Deliberately or not, any time something happens in a road corridor the car is automatically seen to be in the right until proven otherwise, usually when the fault is laid squarely at the foot of the motor-vehicle, the person behind the wheel is let off with very little in the way of consequences.

I’m not one for needlessly criminalising the innocent, but what sort of message does it send to the world when you can kill someone and just lose your license for six months? What sort of implied value does that place on the deceased's life?

What would happen in New Zealand if we started dishing out harsher penalties for being useless behind the wheel? Would we see drivers being more cautious? Or would it just up the ante and make people more aggro towards people who ride their bikes on the road? Do we need to be more responsible and get our day-glo on?

What do you think? Your thoughts callers.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby happybaboon on Tue 19/May/15 7:52pm

Crash into a few expensive cars being driven by douches, then offer the excuse "Sorry I didn't see it, it should have been flourescent yellow".
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby Chickie on Tue 19/May/15 7:59pm

Make the offender become a cyclist for a minimum of 2 years.

Let them "walk" a mile in another road users shoes.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby kneemick on Tue 19/May/15 8:17pm

This argument has been around in various incarnations for what seems like ever. Some drivers don't want to see cyclists (motorcycle or bicycle). Wearing fluro doesn't change this, and I think years ago there was a study that proved that wearing a solid dark colour stood out more than fluro as given the propensity for hi-vis these days people discount it as not being another road user but a construction/road worker/similar instead.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby 13daza on Tue 19/May/15 8:36pm

its pretty simple really if some idiot is driving their car and not paying attention to whats going on around them (for whatever reason) it doesn't matter what color obnoxiously bright clothing the cyclist/pedestrian/motorcyclist is wearing .
If they aren't looking and you're in the way .... tough shit ,the first thing they are going to say is I didn't see them which is quite likely true because they simply didn't look and see what was there to be avoided.
What should be getting asked is why were they not looking for other road users and potential hazards while operating the vehicle if they were allowing themselves to be distracted or not paying attention (which claiming that they were not able to see the victim would imply) and kill someone ,then it is their fault and should be treated as manslaughter ,they were not doing what is required to safely operate a vehicle.
I doubt pedestrians are ever going to be required to don super bright clothing to cross roads to make it easier for drivers to see them therefore drivers should at a minimum be able to recognize and react to a pedestrian in most lighting conditions ( cars do have headlights) and act accordingly .I would venture that most cyclists when riding would present a silhouette similar to a pedestrian ,surely the most important skills and habits to master before obtaining a license to drive a dangerous machine such as a vehicle would be hazard recognition and avoidance .

Has anyone else noticed the difference between what you notice around you when riding a bike or motorcycle compared to a car ,I for one find that i pick up a lot more detail in my surroundings ( even at speed ) my field of view especially peripheral vision seems to be a lot better ,I feel a lot more keyed in to my surroundings and aware of what is going on than when I'm driving a car .I have been noticing of late (since I hardly drive anymore) how the windscreen pillars tend to guide your vision into that narrow strip in front of the car which becomes the primary focus and center of attention ,you have to turn your head to look to the sides ,is this perhaps part of what causes car drivers to not pay attention to things around them .
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby jo on Tue 19/May/15 8:51pm

I wear hi -vis. But its mainly for the moral high ground for the inevitable argument. I do believe it helps a little with visibility, especially on dark or dim conditions. But despite that, I am completely against legislated compulsion, and completely for the elimination of "I didnt see you" as a defense. The only sane answer to that would be to send them to the doctor for an eye and brain check then a repeat of driver licensing because obviously something went wrong in their brain to car control system....
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby AgrAde on Tue 19/May/15 9:03pm

Scotty wrote:What would happen in New Zealand if we started dishing out harsher penalties for being useless behind the wheel? Would we see drivers being more cautious? Or would it just up the ante and make people more aggro towards people who ride their bikes on the road? Do we need to be more responsible and get our day-glo on?

What do you think? Your thoughts callers.


Harsher penalties won't do shit (although I'm all for it!) because everyone has a "that'll never happen to me" approach. High-viz clearly does fuck-all.


I think the only thing that can help is by increasing awareness by personifying cyclists. I always try and acknowledge/wave to people that I've made wait by taking a lane when it's not safe to pass, etc. If someone makes a move to pull out in front of me but then realises they've misjudged my speed and stops with the nose of the car close to the cycle lane, I'll wave to say thanks for stopping (even if in my head I'm saying "thanks for not murdering me today you twat"). I'll always try to convey my thanks even if there's nothing to thank them for.

They're more likely to think "hey, i didn't mind stopping/waiting after all, and now I feel nice for doing so." rather than "fuck that guy."

Likewise, if someone does something retarded and almost kills me, I try not to yell and scream. I'll catch them and knock on their window, and tell them how scared I was. And I'll be nice about it.

They're more likely to think "man, I don't really want to hurt anyone" rather than "fuck that guy."



Honestly, I think that's all that can be done. There's no other way to change it. It's all social.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby philstar on Tue 19/May/15 9:42pm

AgrAde wrote:
Scotty wrote:What would happen in New Zealand if we started dishing out harsher penalties for being useless behind the wheel? Would we see drivers being more cautious? Or would it just up the ante and make people more aggro towards people who ride their bikes on the road? Do we need to be more responsible and get our day-glo on?

What do you think? Your thoughts callers.


Harsher penalties won't do shit (although I'm all for it!) because everyone has a "that'll never happen to me" approach. High-viz clearly does fuck-all.


I still think saying "i didn't see them" should be considered pleading guilty to dangerous driving....

the one that pissed me off recently was the coroner that said "the truck cant be expected to slow down (to pass cyclist safely) " when investigation the death of a woman wearing hi vis :angry:
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby AgrAde on Tue 19/May/15 9:52pm

philstar wrote:
AgrAde wrote:
Scotty wrote:What would happen in New Zealand if we started dishing out harsher penalties for being useless behind the wheel? Would we see drivers being more cautious? Or would it just up the ante and make people more aggro towards people who ride their bikes on the road? Do we need to be more responsible and get our day-glo on?

What do you think? Your thoughts callers.


Harsher penalties won't do shit (although I'm all for it!) because everyone has a "that'll never happen to me" approach. High-viz clearly does fuck-all.


I still think saying "i didn't see them" should be considered pleading guilty to dangerous driving....

the one that pissed me off recently was the coroner that said "the truck cant be expected to slow down (to pass cyclist safely) " when investigation the death of a woman wearing hi vis :angry:


I completely agree. "I didn't see them" is exactly the same as "I didn't look" (unless the cyclist is wearing black, at night, with no reflectors or lights). That's gross negligence. Manslaughter. You can get life for that.

Unless it's a cyclist. Then you get a fine and told that you're naughty.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby dragon_style on Tue 19/May/15 10:31pm

Actually, from my interpretation of the numbers it appears that hi-vis clothing puts you at more risk. In the various reports it seems that half or just over half the cyclists killed have been wearing hi-vis. I'd estimate the proportion of cyclists wearing what would generally be described as hi-vis to be 10% maximum so to my mind that means hi-vis makes you a much bigger target. I can't see any argument that convincingly links the various victims who were wearing hi-vis as engaging in some particularly dangerous behaviours or were of some particularly high risk group of cyclists.

Apart from agreeing with the various other good arguments against compulsory hi-vis for cyclists I'd like someone to explain how the recommendation doesn't completely fly in the face of the maths.

Unless it's all part of the same conspiracy by the car companies (who I am secretly own Specialised, Giant, Merida etc) to eliminate cycling this conspiracy being what has driven the bottom bracket/headset/handlebar size/chainring BCD/freehub mounting standards proliferation so that you can't buy something for a bike nowadays without needing an engineering degree to work out what you have and how to replace it.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby znomit on Tue 19/May/15 11:27pm

Hi Viz is great. We should legislate it to be compulsory for all cars to be painted flouro yellow. Include it in the car-drivers-must-wear-helmets bill.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby Simonius_Titius on Wed 20/May/15 12:08am

Hi vis wearers are different to non-wearers in one obvious way and presumably in a bunch of other relevant ways, so you can't draw any conclusions from the statistics I've seen. My feeling is that high-mileage commuters are much more likely to be in hi-vis.

It would be expensive to test the difference hi vis makes. You would need to enlist enough people to make two randomly-assigned groups, each of which would get hit by cars a significant number of times. If four people got hit in one group and six in the other group, that could be just chance. It takes more carnage than that to do a proper science.


Compulsory hi vis would be similar to the helmet disaster, it would prevent many of the next generation from ever getting on a bike after puberty.
I'd guess there are several powerful groups with an interest in motor vehicle transport who might lobby and pay PR operators like Carrick Graham and WhaleOil to promote compulsory hi vis just as a way of clearing cyclists off the roads.

I'm a big fan of hi vis.
It started with motorbikes. All my motorbikes could be ridden with the headlight switched off, so sometimes I did that by mistake. The effect on my visibility was seldom relevant, I was visible when within range. But the effect on noticeability was huge and obvious in the behaviour of other drivers and pedestrians.
I don't know whether it affected cyclists, they weren't wearing hi-vis in those days so I didn't notice them. :p

I love my new long sleeve solid fluoro riding top. When I'm skulking on the left then desire to be in the right-turn lane and there are one or more bothersome lanes of traffic in the way I just extend my Yellow Arm of Authority and swing out. It's like having a super power.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby foremannz on Wed 20/May/15 6:20am

I have been taken out riding in a 3/4 length bright yellow raincoat, and have been cut off multiple times while wearing hi vis - its a false sense of security these authority types are putting on the general public that hi vis will work, but then also if it becomes the norm, then those NOT wearing hi vis become that much more vulnerable because motorists will only look for cyclists in hi vis gear ...
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby jimmi71 on Wed 20/May/15 6:38am

The beauty is with this debate........you can choose!

I ride maybe 4 - 6 times a week - mostly in the evenings which are now dark. I choose to wear a Hi vis vest with reflective patches, and I also commit the worst crime ever: Hi vis, reflective ankle bands (dont wear these during the day though). I also often ride to the extreme left of the road, which as you know often means cars will squeeze past instead of waiting. For me its all about making choices when I ride that mean I am most likely to survive and if Hi vis makes even a tiny bit of difference to me surviving my ride, then Im all for it.
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Re: Vorb Talkback Tuesday: The Hi-vis Fallacy

Postby R+P+K on Wed 20/May/15 7:49am

With great power comes great responsibility.

Causing the death of another person by driving your vehicle should mean permanent loss of licence. You get ONE shot at it and if you fuck it up, that's the penalty.
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