BBC piece on High Visibility Clothing

In an article about high visibility clothing on the BBC’s web site, author Jon Kelly neatly demonstrates everything that’s wrong with the current thinking surrounding high visibility clothing, and not in the way you might think.

The article, a magazine style piece which you can read at is titled “How high-visibility took over Britain” and in it the author sets out the background to the creeping invasion of high visibility clothing from it’s invention in the middle of twentieth century, through it’s initial adoption by the emergency services and on to it’s near ubiquity now.

So far, so mundane.

However, Jon goes on to say “It was not only in the workplace that high-vis took off. An influential 1981 US study found that two-thirds of crashes between motorcycles and cars took place when the car driver failed to see the approaching bike, and safety campaigners have long urged pedestrians, cyclists and all other road users to don clothing that is as bright as possible.”

We believe Jon is referring to the Hurt Report in this instance, but since he doesn’t cite a source we can’t be sure. We do however note that he sets the tone for the usual blame game.

He then goes on to quote Julian Bennett who he describes as “fashion expert and former presenter of the UK version of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” to whom he attributes the following quote;

“…in terms of reducing the accidents, we know it works. Drivers don’t always look. If you ride a motorbike or a bike, you want to be seen.”

Wrong Julian. If you ride a motorbike or a bike you want drivers to take the time to look properly.

Read what you said, “Drivers don’t always look.” That’s precisely why wearing high visibility clothing is missing the point. “Drivers don’t always look” therefore they won’t see. Not can’t see, won’t see.

What Jon has done here neatly sums up everything that’s wrong with the proposals surrounding mandatory high visibility clothing. He’s promoted the fallacy that it is the fault of motorcyclists & cyclists that drivers don’t see them.

Like Julian, Jon appears to see no flaw in shifting the responsibility for the drivers failures onto the vulnerable road users like motorcyclists, cyclists & pedestrians.

Perhaps Julian should stick to fashion & TV presenting while Jon might consider an article which actually addresses the real issue here – why “Drivers don’t always look.”


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