The Brief: the law and hi-vis


Rule 83 of The High­way Code tells us that we, ‘could wear a light or brightly coloured hel­met and flu­o­res­cent cloth­ing or strips’ – that is it. There is no com­pul­sion or even ad­vice to wear day-glow, it is sim­ply pre­sented as a pos­si­ble op­tion for us to con­sider. The High­way Code, drafted as it is by thought­ful civil ser­vants re­flects the state of sci­en­tific knowl­edge on flu­o­res­cent cloth­ing. In­tu­itively one would think flu­o­res­cent cloth­ing would make a rider more vis­i­ble, but the jury is out on this point. And the sci­ence is am­biva­lent: one Euro­pean sur­vey found it made a mod­est dif­fer­ence to driver per­cep­tion of mo­tor­cy­clists, but oth­ers have found no sig­nif­i­cant sta­tis­ti­cal link be­tween the use of high vis­i­bil­ity cloth­ing and ac­tu­ally be­ing seen. Per­son­ally, I wear high vis­i­bil­ity on a bi­cy­cle be­cause I am con­stantly be­ing over­taken and my broad back presents a lot of vis­i­bil­ity, whereas my up­per body, be­hind a screen and the front as­pect of a mo­tor­cy­cle is rel­a­tively ob­scured. The rea­sons are com­plex and a lot is de­ter­mined by how the hu­man brain and hu­man eye work to­gether – MRI brain scan­ning has re­vealed that much of what the eye sees the brain does not reg­is­ter. If some­thing is not of in­ter­est to the brain, it ig­nores what is com­ing into it from the oc­u­lar nerve. So, what am I, as a lawyer on about? It is very oc­ca­sion­ally run as an ar­gu­ment that a mo­tor­cy­clist has con­trib­uted to his or her own mis­for­tune by fail­ing to wear flu­o­res­cent cloth­ing, con­trary to Rule 83. In fair­ness, this line of ar­gu­ment is rarely run by grown-ups be­cause you ‘could’ wear day­glow, you could also choose not to get out of bed or you could choose to take the bus. This ar­gu­ment is oc­ca­sion­ally run by in­sur­ance clerks with delu­sions of ex­per­tise, and hor­ri­fy­ingly some­times ac­cepted by par­ale­gals mas­querad­ing as proper lawyers. So if you want to wear flu­o­res­cent kit by all means do so. It can­not do any harm, but do not feel com­pelled. For what it is worth, with my par­tic­u­lar knowl­edge I have opted for a light, multi-coloured hel­met, a jacket with con­trast­ing arms and body, and aux­il­iary rid­ing lights. These prac­tices have some sci­en­tific ev­i­dence of mak­ing me a bit more vis­i­ble, but as a six foot tall man on a 1290cc Or­ange and White KTM Su­per Ad­ven­ture even if I am in matt black if you have not seen me you have not looked, and if you have not looked I could be lit up with a disco ball and you still wouldn’t see me. The cause of col­li­sions is not mo­tor­cy­clists be­ing in­vis­i­ble, it is car driv­ers ei­ther not look­ing at all, tak­ing a ‘mi­cro-glance’ and fail­ing to see the mo­tor­cy­clist, or sim­ply not pro­cess­ing that a mo­tor­cy­clist is ap­proach­ing them. Day glow does not re­ally ad­dress these is­sues.

‘If you want to wear flu­o­res­cent kit do so… but do not feel com­pelled’

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