In a sea of yellow and orange, black will be the new Hi-Vis colour

This evening, I rode past a serious accident on Nine Elms Lane/Ponton Road, when a motorcycle crashed head on into a ambulance. The ambulance had its blue lights flashing and was using the wrong lane in the expectation oncoming traffic would use the bus lane. I guess it was on its way to the nearby A&E of Guy’s and St. Thomas.

Maybe a bus blocked the view of the motorcycle, so he did not see the ambulance coming, but this whole tragic accident made me think about the value and benefit of hi-vis vests and day-glow colours.

Nothing is more highly visible then a big ambulance van painted in bright yellow, with flashing blue lights, and still this poor biker managed to crash into it.

Hi-Vis colours are clearly not a guarantee for accident free travel, but they can attract attention and increase visibility. However only if applied in moderation.

Let me speculate: maybe it was not a bus that blocked the view of the biker, but half a dozen bikers and cyclist wearing Hi-Vis vests, resulting the oncoming ambulance to fade into a blur of hi-vis yellow.

Yes, I am speculating, but I feel strongly that hi-vis colours should be used in special occasions only, and not by the general public. We are not allowed to ride with flashing blue or red lights, and we should reserve by law the Hi-Vis vest and colours for those traffic participants who are a obstacle to the normal vehicle movement, like road workers, rescue and security services and yes, the lollipop man.

Imagine in this picture dozens of biker and cyclist all wearing a high-vis vest, the lollipop man would suddenly become invisible.

Should all bikers be forced by law to wear hi-vis vests, I predict the number of accidents and death will increase, as traffic participants in special needs will not be recognised anymore. Health and Safety officials are wrong in assuming: more is better, as the real attention comes from measures that are “special”.

Hi-Vis vests have their advantages, but to neutralise their visibility by mass usage can be fatal. Let me summarise 3 simple rules I would recommend:

  1. bikers may choose to wear orange Hi-Vis vests, but only in special occasions like bad weather conditions (rain, fog) and outside large cities.
  2. cyclist shall only wear a optional green Hi-Vis vests to distinguish them from other road obstacles, like rescue service, road workers and the lollipop man.
  3. using a yellow Hi-Vis colours should be mandatory and reserved for rescue service and road workers, and other special obstacles, like the stationary car drivers after a defect on the hard shoulder.

Only by limiting the free usage of Hi-Vis vests will we be able to keep its benefits: alert traffic users to unexpected obstacles and dangers. And by assigned colours, you can easily recognise the potential speed at which they are moving. Orange for fast bikes, green for slow cyclists and yellow for immobile participants or special services “above the law”.

But in a sea of yellow and orange, black will soon become the new Hi-Vis colour.

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2 Responses to “In a sea of yellow and orange, black will be the new Hi-Vis colour”

  1. christ i really hate this kinda thing. it makes me mad as hell .we all ready have headlamps on all day and rear red lights …i mean ahhhhh do they really think if idiot drivers who spend more time fiddling with the radio, talking to the kids, talking on there phones and playing with the gps, shouting at the dog running about in the back ……….basicly not spending any amount of time considering there driving are gonna miss seeing your lights but ” oh hey look he/she’s weaering a hi-vis

  2. I have HD’s orange and black hi-vis rain gear: reflective piping on sleeves and pants, and big reflective logo on back of jacket.

    I would be opposed to any attempt by the government- wankers all- to mandate the style and design of any piece of my gear (beyond safety standards for helmets, of course)

    Cheers- 2011FLHR rider, Colorado USA

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