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That glowing feeling….

August 16, 2011

Dunbar, Scotland – Motorway bridges….

Strange objects. You look down at all those little tin boxes whizzing by pondering who are there occupants, where are they going. Will the fact that your paths crossed for mere seconds affect outcomes in the space-time continuum.

Then there’s that urge to jump thing. Am I experiencing the conflict between my brains recent capabilities and capacities and the old mammal brain. Perhaps it is simple intrusive thoughts, irrational thinking the result of curiosity, boredom or a  thrill-seeking impulse.

I digress. The reason I’ve been hanging around on motorway bridges, apart from the need to generate income, is to carry out a completely unscientific survey on the issue of hi visibility clothing. The question: what percentage of motorcycle riders are wearing high visibility jackets? The answer: on the three commuter routes checked out, about 70% of riders were wearing hi visibility jackets of one sort or another.

So where does that figure leave the current debate on the compulsory wearing of hi visibility clothing? Almost certainly in the same place as we were last century in the run up to the compulsory wearing of crash helmets. Then the argument was that with the majority of riders wearing helmets the legislation would have no effect on them, but simple “encourage” the none wearers to enter the fold.

Of course in 1973, when the wearing of crash helmet became compulsory in the UK, we had only just joined the European Union (EU). So this time around, on hi-viz, the UK Government has at least got a scapegoat i.e. just blame the EU.

The UK Government has already said that it has no intention of making the wearing of hi visibility clothing compulsory for those riding motorcycles and scooters. However it has not said is that it will not support compulsory hi viz when it is discussed by the European Commission or other European bodies. Nor has it said that it will seek a derogation or other method of opt out should Brussels decided to introduce mandatory hi-viz throughout the EU.

So where are we? Well thanks to Right to Ride EU, who work on the basis of information dissemination, we are aware that there are “ no current plans” to introduce compulsory hi-viz on the UK mainland or Northern Ireland. The UK Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) is organising a “National Day of Action” on 25 September, hastily renamed from its original “Flash Mob” presumable for riotous reasons, which among other things is protesting against compulsory hi-viz. Hey MAG remember to get people to take off their hi-viz jackets at the photo call!

Meantime the Federation of European Motorcycle Associations (FEMA) is assuring us that it is fighting against mandatory hi-viz. FEMA’s latest press release quotes one of the few Members of the European Parliament (MEP) who seem to be against compulsory hi-viz for cyclists, strange I thought this was about motorcycling, as saying: “protecting cyclists should not consist in making them ride around like garbage collectors”. Err well didn’t the same MEP’s vote in the EU Health and Safety legislation that makes garbage collectors wear hi visibility clothing.

While even the folk at  the Union Européenne de Motocyclisme  (UEM) the European branch of the  Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) are getting anxious about mandatory hi-viz. According to UEM we are all going to get hot and sweaty in the summer and end up wearing a hi-viz device similar to one that is compulsory in Ecuador, which from its appearence may also have a ready market among EU S&M fans.

And in France, where it all kicked off, Minsters are backing down. Apparently what they meant by compulsory hi-viz was wearing a day glo armband!

Something missing? Err yes actually hard research evidence that wearing hi-viz actually makes you safer in relation to you being spotted by other road users. Then what about risk compensation hey I’m in hi-viz everyone can see me yippee, I’m safe

Oh and the real shame. This mandatory hi-viz thing has, handily for the EU mandarins – was it deliberate, taken the heat out of the real issue. The mandatory proposals contained in the Framework Regulation(s) on the Approval and Market Surveillance of Two or Three-wheel Vehicles and Quadricycles.

Be careful out there, ride safe, ride with a non compulsory warm glo!

© Back Roads Rider 2011

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    August 17, 2011 8:47 am

    There is a study: which looks at motorcycle conspicuity and whether having headlights on or wearing hi-viz makes a difference. Makes some interesting points about the structure of the human eye, how the brain works and why wearing hi-viz does and doesn’t help you get seen.

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      August 17, 2011 8:53 pm


      Thanks – a very interesting paper.

      I particularly enjoyed:-

      “The Police Riders Handbook advises police motorcyclists that just because they are conspicuous they should not think they are safe.”

      A point that the best rider trainers always hammer home and one that all the Brussels “experts” would do well to ponder.


  2. Twiggy permalink
    August 17, 2011 9:26 am

    The Silly Season!

    The latest from the FEMA General Secretary Ms Delhaye stating that “Motorcyclists should not be forced to wear fluorescent clothing. And women should never be barred from wearing mini-skirts.”

    It’s a bit like stating – cooks should not be forced to wear gloves while handling knives and people should never be barred from eating chocolate cakes – It’s just wacky! (and sexist as it doesn’t mention men wearing mini-skirts).

    Interestingly, FEMA has not had a position on Hi Viz – up till now it seems.

    Ultimately the debate on hi-viz – is as you suggest a red herring – a ruse – which covers up the fact that FEMA has as their patrons the same MEPs that support mandatory ABS/AHO/OBD, anti-tampering measures, blah blah blah blah blah

    see pictures here:

    The question to ask MAG is how come they are (founder) members of an organisation (FEMA) that has patrons supporting all the stuff that they are fighting against? How does that work?

    The BMF seem to be sleeping through all this, so no point asking their views – well anyway, I suppose that would be hard to do considering the BMF person is also the director of communication in FEMA…..maybe he likes mini-skirts?

  3. Dave permalink
    August 18, 2011 1:14 pm

    There’s another interesting piece here: that confirms quite nicely that just expecting drivers to see you, whatever training or education they go through, wont work all the time (sorry MAG) but that also as a rider you have to allow for other road users to make errors and have a escape plan which is where rider training and education come in too.

  4. Scouse permalink
    October 24, 2011 1:11 pm

    Which means Dave that you agree hi-viz is just a waste of time. In a world where slow moving or stationary road users ( like pedestrians, road workers,crossing patrols, horse riders etc ) are the main users will anyone register the speed of the object approaching them or just expect them to be stationary?

    Interestingly enough, have you also noticed that the majority of riders wearing hi-viz often have sports bikes or sports tourers with screens ? I do find that their hi-viz works better from the side or the rear as it is impossible to see it from the front 😉


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