No offence to these people who at least have in common with me the love of cycling, but what are you doing wearing those ugly safety vests in the middle of the day? I’m honestly baffled by this phenomenon when I see so many people doing it around town and across the whole nation.
It’s not that I don’t want people to feel safe while they’re out on their bikes on our dangerous roads. It’s just I want to see more people riding, and I think a lot will be put off if they think that they have to dress this way to ride. It’s not cool, in fact it’s completely uncool. It’s not like I would care if people wore them when they went out walking. It wouldn’t make people think twice about walking in future. Cycling is different because it’s optional. I want people to think yeah that looks cool, I want to go and buy a bike now, not be put off by things like this.
Like I’ve said, I want people to feel safe on their bikes, and there is a time and a place for hi-vis clothing. You can get sleeker cycling jackets that do the same thing, but aren’t dorky vests. The other thing to note: they’re designed for wearing at night. To be honest, even at night you don’t need these things. I have a helmet with some reflective stickers on the back of it. They’re not obtrusive in daylight but they help at night. I have lights which I can attach to my handlebars and my bag to shine behind me. My pannier has a reflective patch on it. I have reflectors on my spokes, pedals and the seatpost to help as well. Unless I’m going out into unlit country roads at night, these things combined are going to keep me safe. No one can convince me that I’ll ever need a fluorescent yellow vest.
I’m certainly not that into fashion. I like to look good and occasionally make style statements of sorts like everyone else, but that’s really as far as it goes. However, it doesn’t take a genius to think of ways to stay visible during the day while still keeping your dignity. Wear bright clothes if you feel safer that way. If you’re a girl, a yellow dress for example. If you’re a guy, a bright T-shirt or whatever. Why not just buy a brightly coloured bike to begin with. A white bike will get you noticed for sure. Having said this, even if you wore completely black clothing, a black helmet and had a black bike I still doubt any driver with half decent vision is going to miss you in broad daylight. I mean black does contrast with the background when it’s daytime.
But my despair at the great cycling public doesn’t end with those yellow vests. I think it’s fair to say that 90% or more of the bikes I see out on the roads, are cheap, nasty and ugly looking pieces of junk. The good quality bikes I see are usually very old and battered. I mean yes, I do see some nice bikes out, but they’re very few and far between. When I do see one, I love the conversations that happen when I’m waiting at the train crossing and another rider comes up to me. I say “hey nice bike” and they say the same back to me. Then we have a great conversation about our rides, and it’s fun. You would never lean out of your car and say to the driver next to you “Nice car! Where did you get it?” and them replying with anything other than “You what mate?” before pressing the up button on their driver side window.
When you’re a cyclist, a proper cyclist with a proper bike, not a rusty piece of shit, you’re instantly a part of a huge community. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s nice when someone coming the other direction nods and smiles at you, or when they compliment you on your bike and the customisations you’ve done to it. When people say to me “£300, that’s a lot for a push bike isn’t it?” the reality of the enormity of the task of educating people about cycling is hits me once again, and you think, am I ever going to stop seeing these junk bikes everywhere I go?
People keep saying that the huge success of GB in the Tour de France, World Championships and Olympic games on both the road and track will lead to massive increases in the number of people taking up cycling. Personally I’m not sure if I believe that. I just feel like the difference between sport and commuting / leisure riding on our congested roads is just too great. A lot of drivers don’t associate them at all and will see cyclists on the road as a nuisance even if they love professional cycling. I really hope that it does make a massive difference, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
As much as it’s kind of cool that it’s an exclusive club right now, I wouldn’t mind a bit if we increased the membership dramatically in the coming years. It’s about time. There are many other subjects to touch on, like helmets and whether they should be mandatory among other things, but I’ll have to come back to those another time.