• Tim Rowe

    It frequently bugs me when trying to buy kit that everyone wants to make dark coloured kit – more worried about it being stylish and easier to clean. I on the other hand want light kit – cooler in the summer, and visible for my Winter commutes which occur both ends in darkness. Yet very few companies want to make light kit.

    A bonus would be if they at least put some reflective piping down the seams or pockets.

    • philipmcvey

      I agree – I usually hate the idea of legislating the life out of things, but the reflective piping idea is the sort of thing that Australian Standards should be stipulating. If your helmet has to meet a set of standards, then why not you’re clothing? It seems like a very good example of passive safety to me; it’s not really costing anything in terms of weight, cost, comfort or performance and is adding hugely to your security on the bike. Like you my winter commute is dark in the evening but not long enough for me to justify spending out on special kit for that part of the ride. Simple answer; all cycling kit should have some reflective elements.

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      • WryGuyHi

        ” If your helmet has to meet a set of standards, then why not you’re clothing?”

        Well, in the rest of the world, you are free to wear whatever you want on your head. A hat, a bike helmet, a horse-riding helmet or a fascinator. I’m not sure how an Australian Standard for high vis clothing would work unless high vis was mandatory, because I’m quite capable of wearing ‘normal clothes’ on a bicycle, and perhaps those normal clothes are exactly like cycling clothes, but without the high vis – such as the whims of hipster trends and high street fashion.

        But if you do mean to suggest that high vis should be mandatory for cyclists, please go and live in North Korea where your sort seem to be appreciated. We have a hard enough time dealing with the damage helmet laws have wrought on Australian cycling.

        • Dave

          They have standards for helmets elsewhere in the world even where using them is voluntary. When you choose to buy a bike helmet, it’s good to know that it is up to the job.

          I think a standard for cycle clothing visibility would not be a bad thing, even though using it would be voluntary. Products meeting the standard would be able to be advertised on that basis, and those manufacturers with compliant lines in their inventory would make additional sales on the basis of that accreditation.

        • philipmcvey

          North Korea? I normally like hyperbole but you’re being a bit lazy there. You’ve completely misread the meaning – if you have to wear a helmet it may as well be safe. If manufacturers market clothes as cycling specific then they should also be safe. If you choose to wear street clothes on your bike: go right ahead what do I care what you wear? If you choose not to wear a helmet it’s your head wearing the damage. Wear one don’t wear one: you’re an adult so choose. I’m not stipulating what you are anyone else does or wears merely that if people choose to wear ‘cycling specific’ clothing that it should have safety as a design parameter. Hardly a totalitarian idea is it? And I wouldn’t mind hearing about the awful damage helmets have wreaked on cycling.

        • philipmcvey

          PS: my view is that the manufacturer wears the responsibility of including safety elements not the rider.

        • Milessio

          . . . .or France: From 1 September 2008 it is compulsory, in poor visibility and
          throughout the hours of darkness, when outside built up areas, to wear a
          fluorescent ‘gilet’ or waistcoat if you’re riding your bike.
          Furthermore, it must conform to certain statutory design criteria (EN1150).

          Simple iron-on reflective shapes can be bought and applied to any kit lacking in that respect. Search for Moglo as an example.

    • Christinaawilson1

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  • jules

    there are a few things you can do to make yourself more visible. reflective clothing is great at night. so is having lights, and as a bonus, lights brighter than the msg. notification LED on your smart phone. the best thing I’ve seen is those LED light strips that mount alongside the rim. no one is going to miss you with those things on.

    • Karl

      “No one is going to miss you with those things on”.
      Hee hee. That’s usually my goal. If I’m going to be hit, at least it will be deliberate :-)

  • norm

    Volvo has produced a spray that you can use on existing clothing – the spray paints on lots of little reflective dots. Its called “Lifepaint”. This would alleviate the need to buy new reflective clothing. Spray it on you shoes for that biomotion effect.

  • Cam

    The title could equally be “Looking ahead vs. Looking at a phone: How drivers put social media before road safety…

    • There’s definitely an article in the dangers posed by distracted driving. This isn’t that article though. ;)

  • Wheldo

    Great article and topic, do you know of, or has there ever been a study on flashing as opposed to solid rear lights? Assuming colour is always going to be red.. My guess has always been constant flashing for making drivers aware, where as the crazy flashing and inconsistent modes probably annoy both cyclists and drivers more..

    • philipmcvey

      As far as I can recall the strobing effect of flashing red lights has been found to be more visible than a continuous beam in traffic situations.

      • Milessio

        I seem to remember the issue is that though flashing red lights are more visible, they are less good for judging the movement of cyclists. So probably better to have one of each type.

    • Tim Rowe

      Something weird I noticed while in Hawaii is that all their overhead street lights are red. One of the first things people always ask me when they hear I’m colour-blind is how I tell the difference between traffic lights – and while there’s obvious answers to this, it was a completely different ball game in Hawaii because the red traffic lights looked identical to the overhead street lights – giving me no reference or even ability to see that there was even a traffic light there!

      I expect rear red lights might be the same, in amongst all those red street/flood lights.

    • Roger That

      Yes, flashing is more visible. I have read a study on this someplace – I think it was German? Great article Matt – the best I have read on cyclist visibility and one that cites a review of ‘the literature’. Nice work. I honestly never understood the wear dark/black clothing whilst (daytime/road) cycling thing that emerged a few years back (aah… fashion). Some black is good for contrast with light backgrounds, but all black during the day is crazy. I’ve noticed that Team Sky when training sometimes opt for a ‘Sky blue’ jersey and helmet.

      POC have done work in this area too, in conjunction with Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and Volvo: Fluro (and white and black) works for them too.

    • Tony Lupton

      It is interesting to note, though, that the German standard that covers bike lights (STVZO?) prohibits the use of flashing rear lights. It also mandates that bike headlights have a “cut-off” ala car headlights.

      • Hamish Moffatt

        I suspect it prohibits flashing front lights too, because none of the German lights have it.

        • Tony Lupton

          Almost certainly. I have the STVZO version of the Supernova Airstream 2, and it has the cut-off. The rest of the world version has more grunt and a flashing mode. Not sure if it has the cut-off.

          • Glenn

            I have the international version of the Aistream 1, and it both flashes and has the shaped beam. I love it – never ride without it.

  • Arfy

    I’ve tried to find reflective material that I can add to my existing gear, but haven’t been able to locate anything worthwhile. It must exist because clothing manufacturers are using it, does anyone know where to buy it?

    There’s also many sources of reflective stickers, I even saw one designed to go on your chain links!! I’ve got reflective stickers on my wheels that I bought in a 10m roll from a hardware store, they’re designed to go on trailers etc. and you just cut them to shape. You don’t need much to make yourself visible, just make them blend in with the decals on the wheels.

  • amanda

    Giro reflective empires: released for men, not women. Thanks Giro! :

    • Superpilot

      Gaerne also makes shoes in reflective colourways, they made them years before Giro.

  • RayG

    We should all keep the reflectors that came attached to our spokes :-). Seriously, a cyclist rode across in front of me (legally and safely!) through my car highlight beams over 20 years ago and I can still remember how much the motion of the spoke reflectors stood out in the dark. A similar effect to the leg and shoe motion mentioned in the article I think. I spent a few years adding spots reflective tape to my rims, but it wouldn’t stay reflective very long and looked crap pretty quickly (almost straight after I put it on).

    Also, you mention that flouro clothing is “largely useless at night”. I assume you just meant no better than other light-coloured clothing, which is still better than dark-coloured. Unless we ride entirely at night, the flouro will be useful for some part of our rides.

    • Dave

      And if your fluoro clothing has reflective elements, you’re covered for all 24 hours of the day!

  • Laurens

    Re: SMIDSY, I call that attitude “No car therefore no traffic”. Just little old me on my bike but hey, I’m just a pesky cyclist.
    Edit: for the record, I have very bright blinking lights. But even they are hard to see for someone who is not looking.

  • Brendan

    Continental make a 4000 GP SII that in a reflex variant which has reflective sidewalls – I’ll be buying a set of those to replace my current ones on my next tyre change. I still get the performance with the added safety for night/predawn rides.

    • Tom Galbraith

      I’ve used those in the past and they are quite effective, a mate I ride with also uses them so I have seen them from a fellow road user’s perspective.

  • Michael McGowan

    I think anyone who rides in the dark should buy some velcro reflective ankle bands. They never run out of batteries, don’t add much weight. I bought mine 10 years ago and still working. Forget about fashion.

    • Dave

      For cheapskates, there’s also the MAC Be Safe Be Seen snap bands available for free at the Tour Down Under every year. No velcro needed!

      • Michael McGowan

        You are spot on. We actually got about 200 of them to give to students at my school on the GVBR this year.

  • Ian Randall

    I’ve recently been thinking about the cyclists red flashing light and how a simple colour change may make cyclists even safer. If ‘red’ was replaced with a ‘yellow/amber’ flashing light, the ‘third person’ (the cyclists) is out of the picture. The message is simply WARNING DRIVER – hit this you wreck your car!
    Self interest always wins.

    • VerticallyCompliant

      Nice idea, although can’t be car indicator coloured.
      A few years ago I almost got cleaned up in Fitzroy when some hipster with an orange blinky front light was riding alongside a car. I took off thinking the car was turning into my side street.
      Lucky the driver was paying attention and slowed down for me.

      • Dave

        There shouldn’t be anything wrong with a yellow/amber marker light so long as it is constant rather than flashing, trucks have them.

        But why stop at yellow/amber? Flashing blue would be a no (those gang colours are already taken) but constant should be fine, flashing green or pink would catch a bit of attention for being unexpected.

        Under the road rules in Australia, other marker lights would simply need to be in addition to the red rear marker light which can be constant or flashing.

        • Luke Bartlett

          just go for flashing blue and red, it should get most people’s attention

  • Benjamin Knowles

    Oh dear.Stats abuse. Pseudoscience. It’s all going on here! Please go away and read “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre before you write something which looks scientific to the untrained eye.

    Eg: “We’re up to 30 times more likely to get injured on the road than drivers are, and up to 18 times more likely to get killed.” 30 times more likely to get injured *per distance travelled*. How many cycle 15,000 miles/yr as is common for ppl to drive? Yes, some – but not many.

    In addition you seem to have cherry picked methodologically weak papers to prove a certain point.

    Some papers you have selected to try and prove your point comment on conspicuity (who knew! Conspicuity aids make you more conspicuous!) Rather than actually looking at collision rates.

    The most robust studies tend to find that hi-viz has no effect – and some studies even seem to show that hi-viz makes cycling more dangerous. Not less – presumably because those wearing hi-viz feel safer and therefore take more risks.

    Here’s the most robust type of study – a Cochrane review (review of all available robust evidence) showing no sign of benefit:

    Please do not publish this dangerous nonsense. The most methodolically sound papers appear to show no reduction in collision rates for those wearing hi-viz.

    • Roger That

      In Matt’s defence, that Cochrane Review paper is linked to in the sixth paragraph at top. I’ve downloaded it for a weekend read.

    • Plenty I could say in response but two quick points:

      – The Cochrane review you mention is an older version of the study I drew on for the piece. See the first paragraph after “staying visible”.

      – We didn’t set out to “prove a certain point”. In fact, going into it, it was our belief that fluoro kit didn’t increase conspicuity. It turns out we were wrong and so adjusted the focus of the piece accordingly.

      • Here’s a summary of one piece of research questioning the overall importance of visibility as a measure of safety (but probably excluding the stealth riders that Nitro mentions below!)

        • Sean parker

          It doesn’t exclude the importance of visibility it points out that 1-2% of drivers pass dangerously. – whatever the cyclist wears If the other 98% can notice you than it is likely that they will not pass dangerously.

      • Benjamin Knowles

        Sorry Matt – on a second look I still think this article is misleading for the following reasons:

        1. You have focussed on studies on whether hi-viz is more visible…well duh. But that doesn’t prove an improvement in safety.

        2. The only study that you have selected that looks at anything related to actual collisions has horrible methodological flaws.

        3. The only other relevant (i.e. looking at collisions/casualties and hi-viz use) studies I can find show that there is either no improvement in safety with conspicuity aids – or those wearing conspicuity aids have slightly higher collision rates. e.g. (this has methodological flaws too of course – but seem less than the study you quoted).

        4. In addition, we know that those places that have the best safety records (Netherlands, Denmark) have extremely low levels of use of safety equipment, especially hi-viz.

        Finally, I find it problematic that you include a link in the article to your own sites’ sales of fluoro kit.

        In my view this article is problematic because:

        a) We know that encouraging people to think of cycling as a dangerous activity is likely to reduce levels of cycling.

        b) We know that reducing levels of cycling increase i) risk per person cycling (through Safety in Numbers) and ii) risk per person from ill health and death resulting from inactivity.

        I don’t generally go in for giving people a hard time on the internet….but when it involves my particular area of expertise and I think it likely that what is being said is likely dangerous, then I will. It’s been useful to review the evidence for me in any case.

        Time for me to go ride my bike now – have a good day (afternoon/evening over with you, right?).

    • Prof. Fluffy

      I don’t know where you studied statistics, but the numbers Matt cites are very appropriate for giving a lay audience an impression of the relative risks involved in cycling and driving.
      Additionally, you are completely misrepresenting the findings of that Cochrane review. There are no studies collecting injury/collision numbers, but the ecological validity of lab studies on cyclist visibilty is just fine. If anything, the authors of that meta-analysis conclude that wearing high-visibility clothing is beneficial for cyclist safety.
      Here’s a representative quote: “Fluorescent materials in yellow, red and orange colours improve detection and recognition in the daytime. For night-time visibility, lamps, flashing lights and retroreflective materials in red and yellow colours increase detection and recognition.”

      • But there is an assumption that detection equals more safety. Research requires assumptions, but I think that one needs its own separate testing. As I understand, there has been some effort to check any correlation between visibility and driving further away from cyclists, but found none. Suggesting better seen, but no improvement in diving.
        (Perhaps that’s all in the review you cite, of course.)

      • Benjamin Knowles

        @Matt – apologies if my tone was a bit harsh. People saying things that in my view are likely to end up getting people hurt tend to get that tone from me when I’m in a rush. I realise that this might be a bit unfair.

        @Prof Fluffy – I disagree – because people do not cycle and drive similar distances, for the most part. I realise there is some discussion on this point in academic circles, but am under the impression that risk per hour had come out on top as the most representative for comparing walking/driving/cycling (because most people are only willing to travel for a certain period of time).

        There are other reasons this figure is unrepresentative – cycling in many places is dominated by cycling as a sport; whereas driving is generally for transport. The road safety stats do not include for e.g. drivers crashing on track days which I imagine would greatly increase the risk/mile. Acceptable risks for an everyday activity like cycling to work are entirely different to those acceptable in a competitive environment. My Aunt Angela, for example, has not fallen off her bike since age 11….she’s in her 60s now and rides most days. I, on the other hand, am a hardened racer and have scars all over my knees, shoulders and hips and a trivial number of wins to show for it ;).

        Apologies for the Cochrane link – I’m at work and am human so skim read very briefly and assumed it was a paper I’d read previously on the effect of hi viz on casualties.

        I am of the view that looking at surrogate indicators (e.g. visibility) is irrelevant. It may seem obvious that increasing visibility will reduce collision rates, but things which seem obviously connected frequently turn out not to be – or the connection runs the opposite way to that which is obvious. For example, to my grandma it is obvious that exercise is dangerous because people keep dying of heart attacks in marathons – but turns out exercise has a massive protective effect and can reduce mortality rates by up to 50%. The key thing is the connection between hi-viz and casualty rates – which has seemed weak every time I reviewed it previously – but I will return to check as I appreciate that I may have missed something or the evidence may have moved on in the last 18 months or so.

        Even if it were proven that hi-viz improved safety for an individual, this does not prove that widespread promotion of hi-viz/widespread uptake will be helpful for improving safety – because it is likely that widespread use might e.g. encourage drivers to drive faster b/c they expect everyone to be visible from further away (risk compensation). In addition, there are complex interactions with the Safety in Numbers effect – if you discourage people from cycling by making it look like a dangerous activity (e.g. by everyone cycling being tooled up with safety gear), this increases risk per cyclist dramatically. This can be seen in the effect of e.g. the helmet law in Austrailia and New Zealand – or conversely in the fact that the places that have the lowest casualty rates (e.g. NL/DK where casualty rates are about 1/7th what they are in the UK once adjusted for age – from the top of my head in Aus you have higher casualty rates than here in the UK) also have the lowest rates of hi-viz and helmet use by a dramatic degree.

        In the interest of fairness, here’s my article on Safety in Numbers so you can give it a kicking in return ;)

        • Dave

          > There are other reasons this figure is unrepresentative – cycling in many places is dominated by cycling as a sport; whereas driving is generally for transport. The road safety stats do not include for e.g. drivers crashing on track days which I imagine would greatly increase the risk/mile.


          The scope of road safety is defined by the venue of the incident being an open road, not the purpose for which a person is using the open road.

          Closed road sporting events (e.g. car rallies, road cycling races) and sporting events not held on roads (e.g. motorsport on circuits, cycling at velodromes) are quite rightfully excluded.

          • Benjamin Knowles

            You don’t think that e.g. a fast group ride (I am defining this as sport) is more dangerous than pootling down the road to the shops?

            And you don’t think that e.g. ragging a car round on public roads at high speed would be more dangerous than pootling down the road to the shops?

            I am suggesting that due to various dynamics the sport element is a larger component of cycling than driving and this distorts the figures. Does that not seem likely to you?

            • Dave

              > You don’t think that e.g. a fast group ride (I am defining this as sport) is more dangerous than pootling down the road to the shops?

              The probability of a bike/bike collision would certainly be higher, but these collisions would be unlikely to be reported to the relevant authorities (in Australia this is typically the police) unless the result is a fatality.

              Solo crashes are dependent on rider skill levels, not the type of cycling, and also unlikely to be reported to authorities if there’s no fatality. The last fatality coming from a solo crash in South Australia was a frail (but fit) elderly man riding a ‘normal’ bike.

              That leaves bike/motor collisions, which are largely (92% in South Australia) the fault of drivers. That proportion has stayed roughly the same for many years now, despite the increasing popularity of sport cycling in SA over the last ten years as a result of the Tour Down Under, Lance and Cadel.

              > And you don’t think that e.g. ragging a car round on public roads at high speed would be more dangerous than pootling down the road to the shops?

              Of course it is – but in Australia they still count for road safety stats.

              > I am suggesting that due to various dynamics the sport element is a larger component of cycling than driving and this distorts the figures. Does that not seem likely to you?

              Sorry mate, it’s a load of cobblers.

              If ‘sport cycling’ on open roads really did produce a statistically significant effect on road safety statistics, we would quickly see governments moving towards policies of restriction rather than encouragement. Picking on a minority group is a well proven method for governments to get a quick hit of positive news coverage for little effort.

          • RedMercury


            On the other hand, how often do you cyclists using the open road for “training”? And how often do you see sports drivers using the open road for “training”?

        • Sean parker

          There is no causal link between mandatory helmet laws and cycling participation in Australia. Cycling participation was already far less than its peak and the statistical blip after the introduction of MHLs is completely subsumed by other factors.

          Australia and the UK have very similar cycling participation rates (compared to the world’s best) despite MHLs in Australia.

          the UK has cycling participation rates far, far lower than european countries with similar economies and weather which suggests that the greatest contributor to cycling participation is something other than helmets.

          I do not agree that Australia ought to have MHLs but to suggest that they have tangibly effected cycling participation in 2016 is erroneous. Australian cycling advocates need to concentrate on what works to prevent cycling injuries and to advance cycling participation.

          MHLs are a peripheral issue only. Sure, repeal them, but lets not pretend that australia will become Amsterdam the moment that this happens. Why isn’t the US or UK Amsterdam?

          • Benjamin Knowles

            Sean, thanks for challenging my thinking – always helpful I find.

            Regarding “no causal link MHL/cycling participation” I am not sure I agree. There was a pretty dramatic fall in levels of cycling in both Australia and New Zealand (see graph) in the immediate aftermath of these countries respective helmet law introductions when there was no such equivalent dramatic fall elsewhere.

            The UK certainly does have far lower cycling participation rates, and higher levels of helmet usage than other European countries – I’m not sure I quite understand your point here. Certainly, there seems to be a connection between high rates of helmet wearing, low cycling levels and higher levels of risk cycling (see second graph). Note – there’s an obvious confounder here in that more dangerous places will encourage higher levels of cycle helmet usage…so it isn’t necessarily that helmets make cycling less dangerous (though extensive study actually does think this might be the case – see the NZ safety stats in the previous graph).

            I agree that the US and UK are behind the Netherlands and Denmark when it comes to cycling – this is because of a lot of history – some involving the strength of the motor lobby in both the UK and the US and the environment essentially designing out cycling over time. This is now being reversed in many cities across the US, and a few in the UK as governing authorities are realising that their population is overweight, deprived of breathable air, and intimidated by the noise and danger of motor traffic which is ruining the environment in their cities.

            I know of no major cycling cultures where there are high levels of cycle helmet use – but maybe I just don’t know of them yet. Can you point me to any cities that have >20% mode share cycling and >20% cycle helmet use? Always helpful to have more case studies and data to draw on…

            • Sean parker

              Correlation does not equal causation. There are no robust data to correlate the drop in cycling in Australia to helmet laws. There are a range of variables that makes that inference very dodgy.
              My comment in relation to the uk us is to point out that in countries where there are no MHLs cycling participation might still be very poor. Which suggests that others factors (the strong motor lobby) are at play.
              What makes you think that other factors aren’t at play in Australia above and beyond MHLs ?

              • Benjamin Knowles

                I disagree. For me, the data correlates extremely well and there is an obvious causative mechanism for mandatory helmets laws suppressing cycling through making cycling appear a dangerous activity. This pattern was seen in both Australia and New Zealand. I have also seen studies in grey literature that show that increasing levels of cycle helmet elsewhere (through promotion) have led to falls in the levels of cycling; and on an international basis, generally those countries with higher levels of cycle helmet use have lower levels of cycling.

                Regarding other factors – of course, I agree – there are a variety of factors. It is possible to have low levels of cycling uptake in the absence of cycle helmet laws (as in the UK where for some 50 years cycling was essentially designed out of our roads). The fact remains, however, that there are no cities which have high levels of cycling and a mandatory cycle helmet law.

                The point of raising this was, of course, to point out that making cycling seem more dangerous in other ways (e.g. by getting all cyclists decked out in brightly coloured safety gear) is likely to reduce levels of cycling, and therefore increase the risk per cyclist – as well as resulting in more deaths related to inactivity.

                • Sean parker

                  See my reply below. There is no evidence of complete attribution of MHLs on cycling particpation in Australia there is inferred causality due to temporal correlation but the degree of causation has never been established.

                  This might explain some of the decrease in cycling commuting and cycling participation rates correlating with MHLs in the 90s? Could it explain the difference between cycling in Australia and north-west Europe?



                  In Sydney for example, throughout the 1990s there was a substantial increase in the distances people travelled to work (Watts 2003, p. 15). In part because of ‘a consumer preference for low density outer urban living fuelled by land availability and cheap land costs’ (Black and Suthanaya 2002, p. 4), the kilometres travelled to and from work by people living in the outer suburbs have exploded. If Sydney were to be divided into three concentric rings, residents of the outer ring would travel by car for total distances three times higher than those of residents in the middle ring and six times higher than those in the inner ring according to 1996 census data (Black and Suthanaya 2002, pp. 4-5). Journey-to-work travel in Sydney’s outer ring has increased by an amount eighteen times higher than that recorded for the inner ring during the years 1991 to 1996. In Queensland, rapid growth in fringe metropolitan areas is resulting in a significant increase in vehicle volume on major arterial roads.28

                  Lengthy commuting has been exacerbated by suburbanisation and urban sprawl. Rapid growth in fringe metropolitan areas and poor planning of land use has meant that commuters in outer urban areas and in satellite cities face complex and poorly organised public transport systems.29 The lack of public transport increases the comparative advantage of the car in accessing employment, such that cars come to be seen as the only feasible transport option for the employed (Parker 2003, p. 7). In Sydney, private transport has become the dominant mode of getting to work, and this is especially true for outer suburban commuters (Black and Suthanaya 2002, pp. 5-6). They are more likely to travel by car, and they travel long distances each day. The same situation applies in Melbourne where commuters in suburbanised fringe areas find that public transport is severely lacking and the provision of services lags years behind the building of houses (Morris et al. 2002, p. 21).

                  ‘he fact remains, however, that there are no cities which have high levels of cycling and a mandatory cycle helmet law.’

                  In Australia around 1.6% of commuting trips are made by bike. In Canada 1.2% of commuter trips were made by bike. In the UK 1.3 %…


                  If there was a direct linear correlation between helmet laws and bicycle commuter trips I would suggest that the US, canada and uk should adopt MHLs in order to have a cycling commuter rate as good as Australia’s.

        • Sean parker

          In regards to the metric of hours vs km travelled as a point of comparison please see this comment by Andrew Davies of the blog ‘the Urbanist’:
          ‘It’s sometimes argued that using kilometres of travel can give a
          misleading impression because car trips tend to be longer than bicycle
          trips. In Melbourne, for example, the average weekday trip by car is
          11.7 km compared to 5.3 km by bicycle. The average duration of travel
          however is similar: 20.5 minutes for cars versus 22.4 minutes for
          bicycles. (Note though that in their study for the City of Sydney,
          AECOM assumed an average 9 km trip distance for cycling). Even if that
          proposition is accepted, using time or the number of trips as the metric
          only halves the relative risk of bicycle travel in Melbourne in
          2007-08. A cyclist is still around twice as likely to die and around six
          times more likely to suffer a serious injury than a driver if he or she
          cycles on the road. In any event, this argument only holds when the
          same trip is compared (as is the case here).
          On average, however, cyclists make fewer trips than drivers, so over
          the course of a year, total kilometres and hours spent on the road by
          all cyclists will be considerably lower than the corresponding figure
          for all drivers.’

          • Benjamin Knowles

            Again – interesting challenge….seen this (or similar) before? (see graph)

            So you tell me. What’s dangerous – your bike; or are Public Health in Copenhagen right and it’s actually your sofa?

            • Sean parker

              Pointless comparison unless a truck is going to drive through your house and knock you off your sofa.

              • Benjamin Knowles

                Sounds like you don’t think inactivity deaths count as real deaths…..:/

                • Sean parker

                  What you are repeating here is an ideological fantasy. You are implying that obesity is a cause of death therefore people should cycle more. This is fallacious because the answer to the problem of obesity is being less obese. This may be achieved via a number of means, one of which is cycling..

                  if you are implying that cycling safety ought to be resisted because it leads to more deaths from obesity, well there is simply no evidence that this is the case. In the case of Australia much has been written that MHLs have led to less health in the community (echoed by European cycling activists) again there is no evidence to support this claim, which fails on a number of causal and logical steps. Other social factors (such as diet for example) confound this simplistic reading of the data. It also should be noted that participation in sport in Australia remained relatively stable between 1992 and 1997 for both sexes which suggests that if cycling declined post MHLs it was being replaced by other sporting activities.

                  In the case of Australia MHLs were introduced in 1991. At that time the cycling participation rate had been decreasing from a high in the mid 80s (around 2.3% or so) and the cycling participation rate further accelerated after the laws were introduced. Anti-MHL advocates will attribute all the decline to MHLs. personally I think that they have a point, some of the decline can be attributed to the introduction of MHLsand a combination of the law and the cost of the helmet is likely to be a factor. It should be noted that all forms or transport, except the car, decreased after MHL introduction (ie the car became king and drops
                  in pedestrianism, public transport and cycle use followed). By the logic expressed in your argument pedestrianism and use of public
                  transport also ought to be attributed to bicycle helmet laws as these
                  two forms of non-motor vehicle participation also declined.
                  Subsequently in australia, cycling rates have risen to above that of the 70s but not as high as in the mid 80s.

                  The cycling participation rates in Australia since the rise of the motor vehicle have historically been poor… the biggest blip on the radar in Australia occurred independently from helmet mandation. Studies in Australia have shown that the biggest determinent of cycling participation is infrastructural and demographic (distance from work, urban design etc).

                  This article draws some interesting data over the last century or so:


                  Figure 6 has some telling trends: since even before motor cars have been relatively affordable the motor vehicle has supplanted public transport, horse riding, walking and cycling as a mode of transport.

                  Figure 7 is even more stark. The motor vehicle is the preferred mode of travel in Australia and, apart from a blip in WW2 and in 2005 has been growing since they have been commercially available

    • Dave

      Which studies?

  • Nitro

    Almost every ride I do starts at 0 dark 30 – and you simply wouldn’t believe

    (a) The frequency with which I see people on the road in full on stealth mode – black jersey, black knicks, black arm warmers, black crash helmet, no lights


    (b) The comments I get when I ride past people (I make it a mission to catch up with them) and – always politely – mention that they’ve got no lights. Everything from “Yeah – it just fell off” to “It was working a few minutes ago”

    I’m all for drivers (I’m one) watching out for cyclists (I’m one), but there needs to be some personal responsibility on both sides…

    • Shane Ingram

      Agree with Nitro. Seems my “close moments that could easily be avoided” on the night time commute are far more common with cyclists who choose to be invisible and surely unable to see the road themselves.

    • Jim

      At this time of year driving down Flemington rd at night it seems to me every other bike rider could do with some decent lights – I really wonder if they realise how invisible they are especially in the rear view mirror.

    • dsd74

      Ah yes, the ninja cyclist who thinks he/she can disappear from a dangerous situation in a flash…

      Oh wait that’s me! Though as of recently, I have white shoes and and a white helmet.

  • Andrew Lang

    Shifting responsibility to the victims, trying to make riders look even more like freaks. Hope Duncan Gay doesn’t see this article and get any ideas – it might give him more excuses to avoid doing anything that actually helps people using bicycles.

    • Dave

      Worth noting that cars, despite being larger and easier to spot, also have mandatory rear reflectors and nobody calls that victim blaming.

  • Ajh

    Great work Matt
    It would be interesting to see QUT repeat the study with the new reflective textiles as there has been large advances in this area in the last few years. Personally I think driver distraction is an increasing concern. I have just started wearing the Capo Padrone Hi Vis vest, plus during the day I run day lights, if it’s good practice for motorcyclists why not cyclists

  • Derek Maher

    In Ireland the law for cyclists is to have a front and rear light when cycling at night. I always make sure mine are working as cycling on unlit country roads you at least need a front light to see were you are going. The biggest danger for a cyclist is having an oncoming car with its lights full on and a car coming up behind you were the driver has little chance of spotting you in time if dazzled by the other cars headlamps. Cyclists and pedestrians have been injured or worse in that scenario.

  • slowK

    Wasn’t there a study (may even have been linked to on Cyclingtips) from a few years ago that looked at passing distances given by cars to cyclists wearing different types of clothing (hi-viz, casual clothes, cycling kit, etc)?

    From memory, the only factor that increased passing distance was… a ponytail. On male or female riders. Go figure.

    Maybe there’s a Kickstarter project out there for a hi -viz, reflective, flashing clip-on ponytail?

    • Sine Metu

      Yes. I read the same study. I believe the guy found the best results with dressing as a woman which corresponds to my own experience as an every day commuter – i.e. when I ride with women we get waaay more courtesy. He dressed as a homeless guy, a police officer, in casual clothes and in cycling kit I believe. I think he said that the closest passes were in his cycling kit. The presumption being that motorists assume that folks in cycling gear can hold their line and are more predictable.

      As a man who commutes in cycling clothes I consistently experience ‘punishment passes’ (what we call close passes here in the States.). The only thing to stop them is to do ‘the wobble’ which I learned back in my instructing days.

      I wear hi viz these now as I’ve had better luck (haven’t been hit since I started wearing it 2 years ago. I had been hit 3-4 times over the years prior to that). I also don’t mind looking like a dork. I am an everyday commuter here in Los Angeles and I ride in very heavy traffic. I take the lane and interact constantly with cars for 25 miles a day (if this helps).

  • Stop blaming the victim.

    People driving motor vehicles need to stop killing people on bicycles. No amount of hi-vis is going to stop that from happening if those behind the wheel don’t change their behaviour. Period.

    If people driving motor vehicles can’t stop themselves from killing people on bicycles, then the law needs to be changed to increase the ability to convict people driving and increase the severity of the punishment. Because as it stands, in Australia and the US at least, it’s nearly impossible to obtain a conviction, even when the driver is clearly at fault.

    • lauren o’keefe

      All I can think is “righteousness makes terrible armour”.

      We can get all indignant and demand all car drivers change their behaviour or we can do something as simple as slipping on an item of clothing that’s got decent reflective paneling on it for riding around in the dark. (For the record I love, love, love my fluro pink Rapha gillet that has reflective panels.)

      • Sure, but fluro makes armour that is just as bad.

        If visibility was the problem, then car drivers wouldn’t be going around killing people on bicycles during the day.

        • lauren o’keefe

          So as cyclists we shouldn’t do anything at all in an attempt to lower our risk? At night visibility is a HUGE issue. You can’t ride around in black kit (usually on a black bike with a black helmet and crap lights) and simply expect everyone to be able to see you. Hell, I have problems seeing them when I’m on my bike. (I may be shortsighted but I have pretty good night vision with my glasses on.)

          Yes, drivers should be paying 100% attention to what’s going on around them, I wholeheartedly agree with you on that. However, I think that sometime we cyclists are our own worst enemies because we do things that are freaken stupid it defies belief. Riding around at night in black kit with a tiny bit of reflective fabric on it is one of them.

          • Yes, it is a huge issue – which is why motor vehicles are required by law to be fitted with lights and that those lights are on when a motor vehicle is being driven at night. If the driver is unable to safely operate the vehicle under those conditions, they should slow down enough to be able to do so or else simply not be on the road at night.

            By your logic, not only cyclists should be in should be hi-vis but also adults and children on a footpath or crossing the road (especially if wearing black), pets out at night (especially if black furred), parked cars (especially if painted black), trees, bins, and pretty much anything else on a road or road related area after dusk. Because it lowers the risk of car drivers hitting and killing them, right?

            If you want car drivers to stop killing people, write to your local MP asking them to fix the laws so that car drivers aren’t allowed to quite literally get away with murder. If you think a flimsy piece of fabric is going to save you next time some careless driver SMIDSY’s you, regardless of the time of day, then you’re the one being so “freaken stupid it defies belief”.

            Stop blaming the victims.

            • lauren o’keefe

              I am NOT blaming the victims. You’re talking to someone who has been in physical therapy for 18 months because some stupid woman ran a red light and hit me while I was riding to work.

              I’m more than aware that some flimsy piece of fabric is utterly useless when confronted by the stunning stupidity of some car drivers. You seem unwilling to admit that there are just as many idiotic cyclists out there who get themselves into trouble because they’re too pig-headed to have a little bit of personal responsibility and change their behaviour if it’s endangering them. Riding around in the dark on a dark bike, wearing dark kit is dangerous. You can’t deny that! There are genuine cases where a driver didn’t see a cyclists because they couldn’t. Admittedly not that many but you make it sound like every single car driver is going out of their way to mow down cyclists.

              I’d rather do what I can to keep myself safe and do whatever I can to make sure I’m visible to car drivers. Would I like car drivers to pay attention to all the details on the road? Absolutely! Do I think it’s going to happen in the next 10 years? Nope. It’d be nice if we didn’t have to wear what is some of the ugliest attire around but it’s not the real world. I have no intentions of not riding my bike so I accept the fact that if I’m sensible, I’ll do what I can to be visible. Doesn’t work every time (got the x-rays, ultrasounds, CAT scans and MRI to prove that) but at least I know I did what I could. I’d like to think that sometimes it does help, that a car does stop because of my bright pink gillet reflecting back that them.

              It’s not victim blaming to expect people to use their brains to mitigate the potential risk.

              • A recent study in SA showed that 4 in 5 collisions (or was it cyclist deaths? I can’t quite remember) between a bicycle and a motor vehicle were the driver’s fault. So actually it seems like there’s far more idiotic car drivers out there than idiotic cyclists. The collision you suffered from is evidence of that.

                Riding a bicycle in the dark, wearing black with no lights is not dangerous. Driving a car a speed where you can’t be 100% sure you’re not going to kill someone is dangerous.

                It is in fact victim blaming when you are asking the people getting killed to change, rather than the people doing the killing to change. That’s the very definition of victim blaming.

                • lauren o’keefe

                  “Riding a bicycle in the dark, wearing black with no lights is not dangerous.”

                  No, not until you hit something you can’t see because you’re riding along one of the extremely dark bike paths in Melbourne because the councils don’t feel the need to install any lighting.

                  Wow. Just… wow.

                • Sean parker

                  that’s an absolutist argument.

                  The facts are that it is a shared road. Drivers of motor vehicle are obliged to take due care in law and also morally to not harm another road user. That obligation is not infinite and also obliges other road users to take responsibility for their own road use.

                  If a driver, driving to conditions, hits a cyclist who is riding without lights on a shared road than that driver is not culpable legally or ethically if the cyclist reasonably ought to have taken steps to be visible, but did not. Driving to conditions does not imply crawling along at 40 km/hr just in case there is a rider without lights on the road.

                  It does imply that the driver ought to slow to 40km/h around a blind bend, if driving faster would render the driver unable to stop if another road user is around the corner reasonably and legally using the road.

                  On is reasonable and covers what is reasonably expected of other road users – one is an ideological assertion of primacy and nil personal responsibility.

                  None of this implies that we ought to wear high vis or ought not make positive changes to road safety. But this does not abrogate the responsibility of ourselves, as riders, of taking reasonable steps to ensure other road users can attend to our presence.

                  you wrote:
                  ‘So actually it seems like there’s far more idiotic car drivers out there than idiotic cyclists.’

                  Actually no, it proves that drivers have human fallibilities. Some may be idiots but most are making predictable errors. errors that might be near misses if riders were not wearing black and had no lights.

                  it’s not about blaming victims or perpetrators it is about doing what is reasonable. Which involves both cyclists and drivers.

                  • Of course people driving motor vehicles should have an absolute obligation to not kill people, regardless of what ends that requires. If it means driving 40kph around a blind corner, then that should be done. The obligation must be fully on people driving motor vehicles because they are the ones who through their actions are responsible for putting other people’s lives in danger.

                    If a person riding a bicycle is killed in a collision with a motor vehicle and and the collision was not due to the direct actions of the person on the bicycle or mechanical failure of the motor vehicle, then the death of that person is the fault of the person driving the motor vehicle. Period. If the motor vehicle was not there in the first place, then there would not have be any risk to the person on the bicycle and they would not have been killed.

                    It is disgusting how we as a society quite literally let people driving motor vehicles get away with murder. If this was any other situation it would not stand, but somehow if someone is behind the wheel of a car they are immune to punishment for this most horrific infraction of our most basic right as a humans. Imagine if the construction industry killed over 10,000 people a year — there would be outrage. When a single Australian soldier gets killed in someone else’s war, we are ourselves up in arms. Yet people driving motor vehicles are immune.

                    It is disgusting, and if you are defending it, you’re part of the problem.

                    • Sean parker

                      ‘If a person riding a bicycle is killed in a collision with a motor
                      vehicle and and the collision was not due to the direct actions of the
                      person on the bicycle or mechanical failure of the motor vehicle, then
                      the death of that person is the fault of the person driving the motor
                      vehicle. Period. If the motor vehicle was not there in the first place,
                      then there would not have be any risk to the person on the bicycle and
                      they would not have been killed.’

                      Logic 101 fail.

                      ‘..collision not due to the direct actions of the person on the bicycle’ what if the cyclist can not be seen? That was my point entirely. Cyclists have reasonable obligations to be visible if they desire to be attended to. Riding in black at night on an unlit road (or even a lit road) satisfies none of these obligations and is, in actuality, a ‘direct action’ of the individual.

                      In this instance the bicyclist materially contributes to the collision because under reasonable predictable circumstances a cyclist can be seen on the road. the driver may not be at fault legally or ethically in this circumstance.

                      If the cyclist takes due reasonable care (i.e. has lights fitted) and is struck by the vehicle it is likely that the driver is at fault for not taking due care.

                      You seem confused by these trivial points. your argument is completely
                      egocentric and privileges cyclists over other road users. It does nothing for road safety but only satisifies your desire for indignation.

                    • Actually it’s a simple conter-factual argument. Basic first-year stuff. I can lay it out in either propositional or first order logic if you’d like? Would you prefer a syntactic derivation using classical rules of inference or a set-theoretic semantic proof? But perhaps you should just Google it, and learn something.

                      Your weasel words here are “under reasonable predictable circumstances”. That’s pretty much the clause that lets people behind the wheel get away with murder. If a person on a bicycle cannot be seen, then the person driving the motor vehicle is doing something wrong: Their lights are off, or they are going to fast, or they aren’t paying attention, or they’re sending a text, or they’re updating Facebook, or they’re changing the radio, or whatever. It doesn’t matter in the end – it’s still the fault of the person driving.

                    • Sean parker

                      You stated: ‘Riding a bicycle in the dark, wearing black with no lights is not dangerous’
                      then you stated
                      ‘If a person on a bicycle cannot be seen, then the person driving the motor vehicle is doing something wrong’

                      None of those statements are true because it excludes the normative. A driver is ethically correct to travel at 80km/h in an 80km/h zone at because of the cultural norms around road use. if there is a pram in the middle of the road that cannot be seen under these circumstances it is not a moral wrong for the driver to strike it if he was using his motor vehicle and the road for their designed purposes. he is responsible for the harm done to the pram and its occupant but he is not liable morally. You conflate responsibility of an act with the moral harm of an act.

                      It is a moral wrong for the driver to see the pram and choose not to avoid it. It is a moral wrong for the driver to be updating his facebook page on a phone, not be attending to the road and to strike the pram. It is a moral wrong for the driver to negligently or purposefully leave the road and strike a pram on the road verge.

                      IN the case of a cyclist the same case holds true. It is not a moral wrong for a driver to strike an not-visible cyclist if the driver could reasonably predict that a visible cyclist could be attended to in those circumstances.
                      It is a moral wrong if the driver struck a cyclist that could predictably be seen in those circumstances but, because of speed, inattention or whatever reason the driver could not avoid the visible cyclist.

                      You cannot aply consequentialism in all circumstances otherwise you end up with absurd statements like
                      ‘If the motor vehicle was not there in the first place, then there would
                      not have be any risk to the person on the bicycle and they would not
                      have been killed.’

                      If the cylist was not there in the first palce there would not have been any risk to the rider either. Ought we ban cycles from the road? pedestrians as well? roads?

                    • Oh, you agree with me that it’s culturally acceptable in Australia for people to put other’s lives in danger in a daily basis. Great!

                      Can we do something about it now? Because as I said before, it is horrific that we find it acceptable to let drivers get away with murder like this.

                    • Sean parker

                      You’ve answered your own question. Not cycling satisfies the conditions of your argument.

                    • My original statement, that the law needs to change so people driving motor vehicles can actually be punished when they kill a person on a bicycle, also satisfies the argument.

                      Why do you want to let people behind the wheel continue to kill other people? Why do you continue to blame the victim?

                    • Sean parker

                      ‘that the law needs to change so people driving motor vehicles can
                      actually be punished when they kill a person on a bicycle, also
                      satisfies the argument.’

                      No it doesn’t. How does retributive justice prevent the death of cyclists? It is neither a deterrent nor a control. You also ignore human factors.

                      In the netherlands, with strict liability in motor vehicle/cyclist collisions, the death rate for cycling is higher per population than that of australia (yes exposure is greater).

                      ‘Why do you want to let people behind the wheel continue to kill other people? blame vctitm etc..’
                      really? That is the argument you are presenting.
                      When did you give up wife-bashing , Michael? ….sound familiar?

                    • Again, it’s pretty simple, really. First year economics. To get people to change their behaviour, you need to provide an incentive. That instrument in Australian society for things like murder is punishment through jail time. Currently, people driving motor vehicles are allowed to get away with killing other people, so there is no such incentive, and so they continue to kill tens of thousands of other people every year. If we change legislation to provide that incentive, then the rate at which driving motor vehicles kill other people will decrease, and fewer people will be killed as a result.

                      To repeat myself: I’m still not sure why you’re want to let people behind the wheel continue to kill other people. Note: Personal attacks don’t count an an answer.

                    • Sean parker

                      Retributive justice is a poor safety control and deterrent. It still doesn’t meet sufficient conditions for your premise so it’s curious why you continue to repeat it.
                      Since your first paragraph is completely uncited it’s clear that you intent is to keep repeating stuff until it sounds facty.
                      Your second point is another impertinent and idealogously driven attempt at provocation.
                      Do you ever wonder why people just stop listening to you?

                    • Given you can’t seem to provide any refutation of the argument I’m making – you just simply assert it is wrong, and since you continue to avoid answering any questions asked, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do.

                      Since you also continue resorting to the ad hominem, it’s pretty clear you don’t actually have a case to make, I’m just trying to tease that fact out of you.

                    • Sean parker

                      i’ve rebutted it twice. You lack comprehension.
                      And, tu quoque to you sir.

                    • “Not you’re wrong” doesn’t constitue a rebuttal, and yet another substance-free personal attack. Nice work!

                    • Sean parker

                      I corrected your conflation of responsibilities and moral harms a (a simple matter of logic – even if you cannot understand the distinction).
                      I rebutted your assertion that drivers have sole responsibility to prevent collisions(again incorrect in logic).

                      You further assert that increasing penalties (for drivers) will create the cycling safety controls that you desire. It is well known that legal controls are low down in the safety hierarchy. Moreover it is no secret that retributive justice is a poor deterrent. Furthermore, you completely fail to appreciate how legal sanctions are completely independent from human factors in safety. Your ignorance of human factors in safety design shows complete and utter ignorance of the subject. Not only is legislation a poor motivator for safe decision making, threat of harm is a poor motivator for safe decision making.

                      Now i could find evidence to back this up but i will not because:
                      1. your argumentation is so captious and idealogous that i do not think there is any point
                      2. i don’t care that you are misguided because you are not one of my students
                      3. you are so ignorant about the principles of safety controls that it is hard to know where to start

                      you have made the claim that legal penalties increase safety, so it is completely up to you to convince your waiting audience.

                      So thank you for the repartee, it’s been great. I have rarely met a person so sure of their own righteousness and intellect yet so unable to demonstrate it. yes that was ad hominem.

      • Milessio

        Cars & trucks of all colo(u)rs have collisions, though they are big, and have lights and reflectors. Will wearing reflective/fluorescent gear really make us cyclists safer than cars and trucks?

  • RB

    Why no mention of “rearview mirror for helmet or handlebar end” as another great source of protection? With the increase of cyclists being hit from behind, I like having an eye on what’s approaching from the rear!

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  • Jon

    Could we please insist on cars being manufactured in fluorescent yellow with reflective stripes. I find it very difficult to concentrate when riding my bike and frequently end up hitting them. If they were more visible I would not have this problem…..

  • Terance Hore

    Ever heard of target fixation Cycling Tips. Its when people see something and instead of avoiding it, hit the object instead. Eg one tree on a freeway. drivers see the object and because they see and focus on that object actually go towards it.

  • Robert Barr

    After reading this I looked at the pearl Izumi range (linked from an ad on the page) the poc article and range mentioned by Roger and then the CT shop. In the CT shop There are a few red jerseys and a couple of “watermelon” but absolutely nothing in a colour that really “pops” out and a dominance of earthy tones.
    This is similar to trying to buy a Gillette or jacket a few years ago when you could have any colour you wanted as long as it was black.
    I’m all for black Knicks (for the love of god please legally ban white ones) but there is a need for designers and retailers to actually think of the end users safety when they design their clothes. After all, to put it bluntly, a dead rider won’t buy any more kit, and will probably contribute to a larger reduction in rider numbers than just one.

  • Augustine Jones

    Why reflective images? To protect yourself, family, friends and employees.
    Reflective images on your clothing reflects light back to the source of origin.
    Making you visible when it counts the most.
    These reflective images are durable and would not wash away when cleaning.
    Visibility is needed in this fast paced world we’re in and now it’s more important today than ever before.
    Go to, for more info..

  • Carl

    Interesting article, Matt. Thanks for sharing. Always great to add what we can, where reasonable, to improve visibility on the road!
    I recently saw a helmet which has red LEDs on the back plus two other sets of yellow LEDs to indicate turning direction. I was wondering if you’ve tried out anything similar?

    Besides the visibility features, the helmet also has other features like Bluetooth connectivity for connecting to a phone and a device on which fits on the handlebars (control the indicator direction etc…). It seems that there is also a cadence sensor that can be connected up to the same kit.

    I thought it was pretty nifty and a bit different. The helmet would definitely would increase visibility on the road.

    Keen to hear your thoughts and comments!

    Here are a few links:

  • Wily_Quixote

    Just read an article in Scientific American that describes lime/ lemon green as the most visible single colour for both day and night. Which is why fire trucks are painted that colour.


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