Cyclists advised to wear clown suits and flashing neon glitter hotpants

21 02 2013

With a recent coroner’s report into the 2008 death of a cyclist at the Petone roundabout there have been his and others’ calls for cyclists to wear hi-viz clothing. It’s a very strange call considering he could have advised to invest in safe separated cycle infrastructure instead, and especially strange when considering the victim, Stephen Fitzgerald, was already wearing hi-viz clothing when he was struck and killed by the truck.

The coroner has also called on motorists to give cyclists a metre of space when they pass. Someone should tell the coroner we ask for at least 1.5 metres, so he is calling on motorists to come closer and scare us even more.

Now the NZ Association of Optometrists has chimed in with their advice for cyclists to put biomotion reflector markings on their knees and elbows, presuamably so we can look more like crash test dummies, so it helps the ambulance officers to find us in the dark or something.

My first reaction to all this is to think that like the mandatory helmet laws this is really a reflection of the relative political power of motorists versus cyclists. Motorists hate cyclists because we’re not caught in traffic as much as them, and we glide past on the inside, and sometimes they even have to slow down and give way to cyclists. If it really was all about road safety then speed limits for cars would be cut, and motorists would have to wear helmets too. But why address the real problem of too many cars going too fast with poorly trained and inattentive drivers on poorly designed roads, when you can just score an easy political point against cyclists and mandate another condition pretending it is for their own good? Mandatory hi-viz clothing in the middle of a sunny day on a cycle path, the Waterfront, or even the Hutt Rd shamozzle does absolutely nothing to increase the real safety of cyclists. It just tells the general public that cycling is more dangerous than it really is, and participation rates are going to fall, as cycling becomes even more denormalised in New Zealand. The rest of the world is going the other way and is promoting cycling and building safe infrastructure. New Zealand is once again cack-handed and backwards, behind the times and a bit of a laughing stock.

So if hi-viz,  helmets and biomotion reflector markings are a sop to motorist’s guilty conscience or more a way to try to put us in our place, then what other suggestions could we make for them to drive us further into a fringe activity?

How about some colourful clown clothes and a big red nose:


Or perhaps we should all wear hot pink sequined hotpants (I believe they sell them and neck ties to match  in Men’s sizes at Munns on Willis Street:


Feather boas could also be worn, but be warned; they’re scratchy.


Maybe what is really needed is some kiwi ingenuity and Wellington cyclists should team up with the Wearable Arts people and they can all make us great costumes that will make us standout so that we don’t get run over by trucks anymore:


Really I think we need to dress the streets up, rather than ourselves. Something like this on Hornby St, Vancouver will do:


Here are three suggestions:

– when making cycling policy ask cyclists what they want.

– when planning for transportation infrastructure ask cyclists what they need.

– really, really, really don’t go the hotpants.




3 responses

21 02 2013

Great post! I’ve been feeling really quite cross in the last week about the great big hi-viz red herring, especially after my mother sat me down and told me how she’d read all about it in the paper and ordered me to go straight out and buy a fluoro vest (despite the fact that I’m a grown up now, have proved my ability to make sensible decisions over and over again for the last four decades, and don’t live my life based on slanted articles in the Dom Post or on the vitriolic comments of the hateful commentators on the Stuff website), but this post really made me laugh. So thank you. For making a cross and frustrated cyclist smile.

PS: I just showed my partner the headline of your article and he reckons he’s up for the glittery hot pants. He does have very nice legs.

22 02 2013
Rob Edward

Nice post Matty.

Have you read this article

It explains alot of the hostility that we encounter.

24 02 2013

Hi Matty. If it were all about road safety, motorists would be directed to have headlights on all the time, instead of just in darkness, as is occurring throughout Europe. It’s not the point as far as cyclist safety is concerned, but I think it’s another example of where focus of safety is being diverted into a place that won’t involve friction with motorists: we’d rather have more high-speed head-on collisions than try to convince motorists to change their ways.

I’ve followed a few coroner’s reports/inquests in the last few years, a domain in which I’m especially interested, and while I realise they’re important and have their place, I no longer take coroner’s findings as automatic authoritative opinions, or even necessarily well informed. Some of the ones I’ve seen have come up with stereotypical findings that are simplistic, and appear to miss important points that have been known with clear evidence for decades. I ranted about this to a few random people and it was suggested to me that coroner’s aren’t always experts in the domains and can’t be expected to get everything right, but I don’t see that as being a great excuse when the process is meant to be coming up with important recommendations on which others will be judged for their implementation. Sometimes it seems to be entirely about whom a coroner ends up interviewing, or the angle they’ve narrowed into when pursuing a situation. We’ve had a few discussions about this sort of thing on my blog (here’s one).

I haven’t read the specific findings in this case, but the second-hand information I’ve seen, such as the coroner justifying things from his own intuition rather than expert evidence, seems quite bizarre.

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