Cyclists being stopped for not wearing a helmet or hi-viz jackets



I understand from the BBC that the police are stopping cyclists for concerns about their behaviour. I've pasted the links below but quote the key passage here:

More than 100 cyclists were stopped at Vauxhall Bridge Road over "concerns about their behaviour" such as cutting corners or wearing headphones while riding.

Cyclists are also being encouraged to wear a helmet and a high-visibility jacket.

As far as I am aware there is no law against wearing headphones while cycling - although I should say it's not something I would do. Likewise there is no law against listening to the radio in a car.

While I advocate awareness campaigns, and also proper traffic enforcement especially at dangerous junctions, I do not advocate the misuse of police powers, e.g., stopping cyclists for, say, merely riding without a helmet or a hi-viz jacket. A helmet is not going to help you if your body is crushed by an HGV. A hi-viz jacket is not going to help if a fast moving motorist doesn't see you to start with, perhaps because s/he can't be bothered to look or react in good time.  

Helmets and bright jackets promote the illusion of safety as much as safety itself. I also understand the evidence on the effectiveness of hi-viz during daylight hours is pretty mixed.

What do others think? Has anyone been stopped in this crackdown?

As an aside can the LCC urge the Met to start enforcing against drivers using phones while driving or stopping in advanced stopped lanes, as part of this safety drive?



  • By Bas at 11:58am 19 November 2013

I haven't been stopped but I would be very annoyed. One of the reasons I avoid public transport is the constant nannying. In the 40 years as a cyclist I have never worn a helmet en will never wear hivis and look like a canary. The police should focus on dangerour driving by car drivers but of course that is much more difficult.

I haven't been stopped, and (generally) ride with helmet and hi-viz, but if I was my response is below.


"Have I done anything illegal?" "Then thank you for your concern, good day."

  • By phufbl at 3:42pm 19 November 2013

I have seen PCSOs out over the last few days and have seen them talking to motorists who stop in ASLs. I also saw a story in the Evening Standard which said that police had been stopping bikes and stopping HGVs for checks and were deliberately stopping both at the same time so neither cyclists nor HGV drivers complained that the other was not being checked.

I think it is unfortunate timing and unfortunate reporting that the stops to talk to people about high vis and helmets has started happening right after a large spate of cycling deaths. It is unfortunate because it links the two stories together and therefore reinforces in the mind of the non-cycling public the idea that cycling injuries and deaths are probably the fault of the cyclist.

The timing might be unfortunate but I think a greater awareness of safety is a good thing and good on the police for trying to promote safety. You are of course entitled to ignore their advice about helmets or high vis or headphones 

  • By Fran at 4:09pm 19 November 2013
I don't wear helmet and I dress normal when I cycle. I'd be annoyed if I was stopped and lectured for not draping myself with all the safety gears one can possibly find in Evans. The government has a long way to go in understanding that armouring oneself is not not going to make you safer when it comes to interacting with traffic. It might actually have the opposite effect. But how do you explain that to people who think cracking down on headphones are going to help with the current situation?
  • By anita at 4:32pm 19 November 2013
I've just challenged, filmed and photographed a car driver parked on a cycle lane in Gray's Inn Road (19/11/2013, just after 15.30), who said of course he knew that was a cycle lane and to leave him alone. He eventually claimed to be a police officer, but would not show any evidence. After my offer to put the film on Youtube, he got out of the illegally parked car, did show evidence, and gave me a reason for being there; he also threatened to arrest me.
  • By evansdch at 5:21pm 19 November 2013


Ha! That would almost be funny if it wasn't so serious. Well done for you for challenging the man.  

I would suggest that anyone involved in such an altercation gets the identifying number of the police officer involved.

He couldn't have arrested you unless he has reasonable grounds; see



I sincerely hope some of these officers will now be used to prevent the speeding that blights my daily commute - particularly in the mornings before 7am in the bus lanes.

As for the requirement to wear helmets / high vis gear. That should be entirely personal choice. However rather than listening to the science spouted by many vehement anti-helmet wearers (whch is probably correct) cyclists must be made aware of the judge's ruling in the case of the poor cyclist severely injured in an accident in Brightlingsea 10 or so years ago. Despite being struck from behind by a speeding motorcycle, the insurors argued that amount of money paid to the injured cyclist should be significantly reduced because he was not wearing a helmet despite it being shown that it would not have any impact in preventing the terrible injuries suffered by the entirely innocent cyclist. I seem to recall reading this poor chap was in need of medical attention for the rest of his life. In thsi case the judge awarded full damamges but his comments about not wearing a helmet being negligence have had an impact for greedy insurance companies elsewhere. The judges comments have been used in another case where not wearing a helmet has lessened the impact of the judge's decision (here the cyclist died) and the implication was that not wearing a helmet contributed to death.

Rightly or wrongly these two cases make helmet wearing essential IMHO for those of us who have dependents... Would love to see it changed.

Does the lack of a stab vest count as contribary negligence in stabbings?

Cycle Helmet Testing

1 - Place helmet on crash-test dummy.

2 - Bend dummy 90 degrees at waist.

3 - Push dummy over so front top central portion of helmet impacts with ground.

4 - Check helmet and/or dummy for damage.

5 - Issue certificate of conformity.

Please note that it is only the front top central portion of the helmet that is tested NOT the sides or back although if properly worn will lessen road-rash to the face/head.

There is also some evidence that car drivers will pass a cyclist wearing a helmet closer than one not wearing a helmet.

Personally, I wear a helmet but that is entirely my choice and I don't wear it for impact protection.

Cycle helmets are probably of more benifit to pedestrians than to cyclists. Also, most car drivers involved in an accident with another car suffer head injuries - car helmets are available!

  • By roadrage at 11:11am 20 November 2013

This morning did my own servey on a busy road. Over the course of 10 mins counted 54 cyclists, 14 with no lights at 7 in the morning(dark) 13 jumped a red, 23 wearing headphones and 0 observing the giveway sign.As a group demanding better safety for us on the roads i think we need to look at ourselves. Does anyone read the highway code and how about being the only form of transport that requires no test. We need to be very carefull as a group or in the very near future this will happen.

Yes, cyclists may jup lights, etc. but can understand this when law and infrastructure is entriely vehicle centric.

This morning on my commute a cyclist stopped to allow me to cross the road. As he was in the primary position the cars behind him had to stop too (probably to their annoyance). Cyclists - they're not all law-breaking bastards. Some are very considerate.

  • By roadrage at 12:56pm 20 November 2013

Its that attidude that needs to change,( yes they may jump reds but) thats the problem we have an excuse for everything.Current highway lwas if adheard too are up to task. i have been a London cyclist for 22 or more years and take pride in my ride knowing i'm within the law at all times. As for infratructure most London roads are too small, but for me it still comes back to the law of the roads. And yes that applies to everyone there are idiots on all forms of transport.

  • By phufbl at 1:40pm 20 November 2013

Anita, you can make a complaint to the met police and use your video/photos as evidence.

I've been thinking more about the original topic which is the stops and chats about lights and high vis from police. I saw police out this morning telling cyclists about lights and high vis jackets and while I support their motive to promote safety it struck me that the experience of being stopping by the police and preached to is more likely to make people defensive or feel victimised and I'm not sure if it achieves the goal.

A police officer was criticising someone in front of me at traffic lights for not having their lights on and telling them to turn their lights on. This was at ~8:15am this morning and although it was overcast and a bit gloomy it was daylight and to me seemed a bit over the top. Personally I'd prefer to save my batteries for my ride home when it is actually dark.

  • By roadrage at 2:41pm 20 November 2013

Which brings me back to cycing within the law and not making a choice in this case based on battery consumption. In low light you must still use your lights, this is a common trend within us cyclists the law states one thing we think we'll use the other law because it suits us.

  • By phufbl at 4:38pm 20 November 2013

Highway code rule 60 says "at night..." not "in low light...", so actually I think I was within the law.

Additionally what is "low light"? It is a qualitative and subjective term.

In my opinion at that point it was light enough to not need lights, and it is a sensible and pragmatic approach to save my lights for when they will be more needed and more effective.

Later on in my ride I did actually switch my lights on because the clouds got thicker, it got darker and it started to rain.

It has nothing to do with choosing to ignore the law because it suits me. 

WE ARE NOT A GROUP! I have no power over or responsibility for anyone else on a bike just because I'm a cyclist too, just as I have no power over or responsibility for anyone walking because I walk too, or any man doing anything simply because I'm male.


Some people do ignore current road infrastructure for good reason - much of it makes no sense for cyclists and some of it is actively dangerous. Although this does not mean riders should always ignore all red lights, there are times when obeying them can put you in a dangerous position.

Is there any way the LCC can object to the met police regarding this victim blaming, and focusing on minor issues of high vis, and helmets (none of which are legal requirements) which make little difference when you are squashed by a 10 ton truck! I do agree with the need to follow basics of the law of using lights at night and stopping at red lights etc. but this focus on cyclists is victimisation.
  • By ec4cycle at 8:21pm 20 November 2013

I just wonder how anyone would feel if you as a driver you ran over and killed or seriously injured a cyclist because you did not see them as a result of not having lights or wearing a hi-visibility jacket or wearing a helmet? It is about time ‘cyclists’ (and I do not believe there is a collective group) took responsibility for their inaction.  I have cycled CS3 tonight from Dagenham to Tower Bridge, I would estimate 20% of the cyclists were cycling with no lights and no high visibility jacket and no helmet. Yet according to some on this website no matter what the circumstances it would be the driver’s fault if these ‘cyclists’ were injured? Strangely I don’t drive up the M1 with no lights on my car, there is something called responsibility as well as the law operating here. If people are picked up for no light or no hi visibility, then so they should be.

When driving I do not expect every pedestrian and animal to be lit up like a christmas tree. If the visibility is bad (due to weather, or the time of day) I tend to drive slightly slower (eg to the conditions). If I don't see something and hit it with the vehicle I'm operating it IS my fault - I should've seen the hazard, anticiated it's behaviour/movement and acted accordingly to minimise risk. It's the same in daylight too.

The more riders are forced to wear 'special' clothing for riding a bike the less normal cycling becomes, and the less likely it is for people to take it up as a normal part of just getting about.

So if rider has lights, hi-viz, and helmet on, any collision is then automatically the fault of the driver? Well it's worth a try. Or go the Netherlands way, where driver has to prove it WASN'T their fault and pays half cost of cyclist damage anyway. Btw, what % of cyclists hit are so equipped vs what % are not, that would be more telling. Also, 50% of HGV's stopped were breaking regs of some sort!
  • By roadrage at 11:56am 21 November 2013

To the guy further up who defended cyclists who ignor current infratructure because it makes no sense to them they should get off the bike and remove themselves from the roads. If you study the highway code in full all the answers become clear i.e junctions roundabouts ect. We need to wake up to the fact that we are road users and all rules apply to us, we need to grow up and realise that the headenistic days of jumpimg on your bike and going to work without a care in the world are over. We need to take responsability now and encourage others to do the same.

Roadrage - I assume you mean me. I wasn't defending RLJing, just explaining why many people ignore the current infrastructure. By ignoring ASL lead-in lanes (to the left of the road, where vehicles may be turning) I am ignoring the infrastructure by remaining in primary position behind large vehicles. Are you advising I follow the poorly-designed infractructure and follow the lane to the ASL regardless of the situation??!!

Cycle infrastructure in London is generally poor to the point of being dangerous. Most of it is an afterthought and has been shoe-horned in to tick the box of providing for cyclists. There are some very good bits, but they are few are far between.

What is needed is well-designed, high-quality, integrated infrastructure that is built FOR cyclists of all types, not random bits of paint that have no legal standing that encourage riders into dangerous positions. It is utterly absurd that the lanes that currently are actively created for cycling ("the cycle lane") is often the last place a cyclist should be.

Whatever the legal lighting requirements or your perceptions of light / dark - if more than 10% of the cars on the road have their lights on  then make sure that yours are on too - it is just common sense. 

 And buy some back up batteries instead of whinging about "saving" them - you are saving more than that in tube and bus fares.

This post was edited by Helen2000 at 1:34pm 21 November 2013.

  • By roadrage at 1:13pm 21 November 2013

Having been riding in London for more than 20 years when i started commuting there was no infrastructure you completly relied on road awarness i.e the hiway code. The problem we have now is things are a million times better and dare i say safer but people believe they can just get on a bike use the facilities and be safe we are the only form of transport that deams the hiway code as almost unesercery. As for the infrastructure everyone seems to crave London roads are in general too small and thats why we have the current answers.



Clothing. You should wear

  • a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened
  • appropriate clothes for cycling. Avoid clothes which may get tangled in the chain, or in a wheel or may obscure your lights
  • light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light
  • reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.

Highway Code - Rule 59 Help Yourself To Be Seen


At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.
Law RVLR regs 13, 18 & 24

The highway code, above, recommends light/ bright clothing and reflectives but, yes, this is not the law.

Lights are the law.

Common sense is not a legal requirement either - unfortunately !´╗┐

  • By phufbl at 1:40pm 21 November 2013

I have sufficient bike lights and I have not whinged. I stated that I didn't have lights on at a time when I judged they weren't necessary.

Stop telling me I should have had them on - you weren't there.

Now paste in all the pics of riders bikes WITH lights that've been knocked down. Those Real World examples would be much more instructive than Fake Staged fantasies! Now add pics of the 51% of fatalities that are pedestrians, and tell them to have lights, etc.. Mmm not so clear cut, eh?

There seams to be some confusion as to what night means. Night means "hours of darkness".

Hours of darkness are defined as the period between half an hour after sunset to half an hour before surise - The Road Vehicles (Lighting) Regulations 1989.

During the hours of darkness, if you are on the road, you must be lit.

Outside of this use your common sense!

Levermonkey - I think that's what I said - common sense to me dictates that if a fair proportion of cars have their lights on and I want to be seen - then I need my lights on - whether I think it is light, or dark or whether the street lights are on or off.

Just saw 2 kids tonight dodging across road crossings at a 5 way junction in dark clothes and no lights - and yes - it was dark.


phufbl :  as you could quote p60 of the Highway code but not even read it properly , I will tell you to stop "saving" your lights and use some common sense if I want to. Lights do not need to be saved - they need to be used and the batteries changed / recharged.

  • By bob at 10:32pm 22 November 2013

Most London cyclists are sensible, wear helmets, don't jump red lights, wear high viz vests, use lights, have a bell and signal etc Those that don't do these things risk their lives,those of others, are a nuisance and make our cycle campaigning  more difficult, as we loose the support and good will of other road user groups, including pedestrian groups. 



  • By evansdch at 12:11am 24 November 2013

I really don't accept that London's roads are too small to have proper cycling infrastructure. Many roads, often the busy ones, in this city are really quite wide, just the space on them is allocated to motor traffic, parking and pedestrians.

Removing lanes and parking and/or making such streets one way, to free up space for segregated cycle lanes is the solution IMHO, but, the Mayor's (illusory?) Vision aside, there doesn't really seem to be the political will to make cycling a rational and safe transport choice while grasping the other attendant benefits - less congestion, less pollution and better health. 

In a nuutshell - it's easier to issue an edict to ban headphones while cycling (etc.) than to radically overhaul surface transport across the capital. 


Trust me, I'm not arguing with you. I'm just trying to clarify when you MUST be lit and when SHOULD be lit as the term night is a little vague.

  • By phufbl at 12:43pm 25 November 2013


You are making me feel very defensive even though (1) I generally agree with you in the first place and (2) you have no evidence to suggest that I was wrong.

The regulation says "at night", I was riding during the day time, so there is no mis-reading there. Yes, I mis-read it in another thread where I said I didn't tihnk it mattered whether a light was attached to the bike or to a backpack but that is not what is being discussed here and I also suggested using both

At the time I was riding it was light enough for cycle lights to be (a) unnecessary and (b) ineffective. I made that judgement using my common sense. You were not there at the time so cannot possibly make a judgement yourself on whether the light level was sufficient to ride without lights. Yet I feel you are still trying to argue with me and tell me that my lights should have been on.

As it happens I completely agree with you that sufficient lights are important when it is dark and that many people do not have sufficient lights. I think I often go over the top with the amount of lights on my bike. I have three on the front, three on the back a front and rear helmet light and three spoke lights on my front wheel.

However at the particular time I was referring to it was not necessary to have them on. You are in no position to tell me that I am wrong because you weren't there.

Please, stop arguing with me.

You know how it is ...  I came across this whilst reading for something else.

'Lux-narcissum', fantastic term. 


  • By fernlyn at 9:33pm 26 November 2013

In Wimbledon yesterday in I presume a response the recent deaths of cyclists we had an unparalleled police presence on the street at 09:00, six police keeping cyclists safe by stopping and fining anyone cycling on the footpath.
If you know Wimbledon shopping centre around Centre Court you know is very cyclist unfriendly place with one way streets and no provision for cyclists at all

"In Wimbledon yesterday in I presume a response the recent deaths of cyclists we had an unparalleled police presence on the street at 09:00, six police keeping cyclists safe by stopping and fining anyone cycling on the footpath.
If you know Wimbledon shopping centre around Centre Court you know is very cyclist unfriendly place with one way streets and no provision for cyclists at all"


I couldn't agree more, it is difficult to know which way to go, on the dual carriageway round two sides of triangle or walk down the pavement on the Broadway; neither is particularly appealing.

  • By dickyr at 9:14am 3 December 2013

I'm new to these threads but there seems to be some common themes: sensitivity, indignation and barely concealed rage.

Whether it is the police stopping cyclists to speak about lights, red lights, high viz clothes or helmets. Or lorries with stickers on. Or advanced stop lines. A few contributors venture arguments such as sensible safety messages aimed at cyclists are "putting all the responsibility on cyclists". With helmets you see "it won't stop your head being crushed by a lorry". With lights and high viz it's "drivers should be more aware - it's their responsibility". With police stopping cyclists in an attempt to reduce fatalities it's "they're blaming the victims. Why don't they spend their time stopping drivers on phones or vehicles crossing ASLs". It's tedious, tedious, tedious. Traffic and enforcement are complex and chaotic systems. A mixture of solutions and the sharing of responsibility is the way forward, not the playground attitudes of making out we cyclists are always wronged, never wronging. 

Anyone advocating the shunning of helmets, lights in poor light and high viz clothing should avoid trading highly selective and dubious statistics and studies and ask themselves "What would I want my child to do when she/he starts cycling on his/her own in town?". If the answer is to avoid lights and high viz when gloomy and helmets then they need to ask themselves some serious questions, preferably in a darkened room with whale music playing.

  • By 5tratus at 10:57am 3 December 2013

I was stopped..  when WALKING my bike peacefully and considerately down the pavement near Euston.   I was listening to an audio book on my headphones - which fyi meant that I could actually hear everything around me, including the guy who stopped me.  

I was also wearing a bright yellow jacket with 3m retroreflective tape.  It was a bright sunny day, my lights were in my bike bag.   

The guy who stopped me told me I should have a hi-viz jacket on.  I got defensive..  first of all i'm WALKING - 2nd i'm wearing a bright yellow cycling safty jacket.. he told me "it's not bright enough" - then he told me I shouldn't ride on the pavement.. I said.. "um.. I'm not.. I'm WALKING"..  he said  "yeah.. but you still shouldn't ride on the pavement because you'll get an on-the-spot fine"..   I said.. "I don't ride on the pavement"... him:  "never??!"  .. me: "no.. and how about this.. why don't I continue to not ride on the pavement because I don't want to be a douche.. instead of because of fear of persecution?  how about that does that work for you?"    Then he said "also you need lights"..   me: "it's bright sunny daylight.. also.. I'M WALKING!"  ...

This persecution of all cyclists is nothing more than blaming victims.  The accusatory way that the safety information was "shared" with me is not OK.   The assumption that if he wasn't there I'd be riding on the pavement ...  how is this different from telling women that if they hadn't been dressing attractively they wouldn't have been asking for rape?

  • By dickyr at 6:45pm 3 December 2013
Something about your account makes it seems like you may have misunderstood what was occurring, or you may not have included all the information. Even so, comparison with persecution and rape hardly advances your argument. If I am wrong then I presume you will be making a complaint against the officer whose details you have got, relaxed in the knowledge that the copious CCTV around Euston will support your case? If I am wrong again and this was just a 'guy' then I would say that there are lots of people out there who don't know how to communicate effectively and this forum seems a strange place to point that out. I had a guy who badgered me for money once and got quite rude when I declined....grrrrh!

Dickyr: "Anyone advocating the shunning of helmets, lights in poor light and high viz clothing should avoid trading highly selective and dubious statistics and studies and ask themselves "What would I want my child to do when she/he starts cycling on his/her own in town?".


I don't want anyone (kids, old people, me) to feel they have to get dressed up in magic clothes to do something as normal as travelling from A to B. Cycling is not a dangerous activity, just like walking isn't. I've never heard anyone suggest pedestrians should be wearing helmets and high-vis.

As yet I don't have kids, but here's what I'd like them to do. I'd like them to be able to get on their bike in their normal clothes and cycle safely to school, or to meet their friends´╗┐. I'd then like them to cycle home again later without having the risk of being killed by someone operating a dangerous machine without due care for the safety of others. Why is this unreasonable?

  • By dickyr at 4:41pm 5 December 2013
What you say is aspirational and who could disagree? You say "Here's what I'd like them to do. I'd like them to be able to ...." You haven't said what you'd advise them at all. Try again at your advice in the 'here and now' on real roads with real motorists. And on a soggy December Friday evening in Central London with tired drivers and all that reflected light from the road surface. I would like my kids to be able to walk the length of the Hindu Kush and meet the wonderful people there. It shouldn't be dangerous - but it is. Maybe I'll just tell them to take a stroll through Cloud Cuckoo Land instead. [this reply][post][edit][delete]

Ok, for now I'd advise them to ride within the law - to take primary position where necessary and to not allow themselves to be bullied off the road. Use lights after dark. That is all. It's the same advice I'd give to anyone else.

  • By dickyr at 2:36pm 6 December 2013

Sorry to press you but what advice would you give them (and young children do need advice and direction - or parenting, if you will) about wearing helmets and high viz clothing in poor (not night time) light? Would you want them to wear a helmet or not? Would you want them to wear high viz or not?

And in answer to an earlier point about pedestrians wearing high viz I would say that as they inhabit the pavements and not the roads except when crossing it is not such an issue. In rural locations where there are no pavements it is extremely advisable to where high viz and that is why you see so many people doing just that when, for example, walking their dogs at dusk or at night.

Helmets and High Viz would be personal choice, and depend on the type of riding (as it is for me now). For example, I rode to the allotment and market at lunchtime in normal clothes on a utility bike without helmet or high viz. This evening I'll be riding a road bike into the west end in cycle-specific clothing, helmet and high viz, and lights. 

I've ridden the utility bike with a helmet in the past, and it makes me feel less safe. As you can see there's no hard and fast rules to make you safe (or feel safe) on all bikes in all situations. To believe so is foolish.

  • By dickyr at 7:59pm 6 December 2013
I notice that you again avoid my direct question. We are all free to choose hazardous options for ourselves and can convince ourselves, probably with reason, that we are safe as we have advanced skills. I would place myself in the same bracket. But the reason I phrased my question in the way I did was to try to distance the question from you and establish whether you think that the road is a hazardous environment for some and therefore whether you consider helmets and high viz are advisable precautions. I shall therefore try again: What would you advise a child to do who is looking to you for advice. Helmet? High viz? Yes or no.

I do believe the road can be a hazardous environment. I do not believe that a helmet and hi viz clothing is the solution to keeping you safe. Cycle training, road positioning, awareness, experience and confidence are all higher up the list for keeping riders safe on the road. Helmets can be helpful in certain circumstances, but have been shown to encourage closer passes from drivers. Hi Viz is not as good as reflective wear, and neither is as good as the other things I've listed.

As I said earlier, it isn't as simple as a yes/no question. If helmet and hi viz aids a particular rider that's great, but it isn't a panacea for the failure of road infrastructure, and shouldn't be promoted as such.

  • By dickyr at 7:59pm 8 December 2013
No single thing is The Solution. The things you mention are great preventative measures but helmets, for example, can save you when, as happened in my case, I had a front tyre explode down hill and all control went. Preventative measures doesn't always stop accidents, they just make the odds better. The study that 'proves' wearing a helmet induces closer overtaking has not, as far as I can find, been replicated. It would be interesting to see whether those with or those without helmets are disproportionately represented in accident figures. High viz may not be as good as reflective wear but you seem to acknowledge it has some good. And would reflective wear satisfy your criteria of being normal clothing? The question of what you would advise a child regarding helmet use and high viz really is as simple as yes or no. Obfuscation aside, what is your answer?

I'd never tell a child (or anyone else) that they shouldn't wear a helmet or high viz, but I would definity never claim them to be the best thing they can use to keep them safe on the road. Why are you finding this difficult to understand?

  • By dickyr at 5:30am 11 December 2013
Marco, we love to have a dig at politicians for never giving a straight answer to a simple question (Paxman: "Mr Howard, did you threaten to overrule Derek Lewis?"). Look at your replies to a simple question and you will see that I am not having any difficulty in understanding anything: you have not stated anywhere what your advice would be. Even here, in this latest post, you have said what you would not say and not what you would say. Why are you finding his difficult to understand.

I clearly hadn't made that clear enough when I said "Cycle training, road positioning, awareness, experience and confidence are all higher up the list for keeping riders safe on the road. Helmets can be helpful in certain circumstances, but have been shown to encourage closer passes from drivers. Hi Viz is not as good as reflective wear, and neither is as good as the other things I've listed"


You're claiming it to be a yes/no situation - ALWAYS or NEVER. I disagree, for the many reasons clearly explained and reiterated. You don't accept this (why I don't know - you haven't said...). You're more than entitled to your opinion, but I will continue to disagree. Should the Dutch be encouraging kids (well, everyone) to wear helmets and high viz, or is their system a better, safer way?

  • By dickyr at 10:47pm 11 December 2013
Here's what I might say: "Confident riding, raised vision, awareness, road position, signalling, observing rules and using a well maintained bicycle are important but they just make things safer, not entirely safe. As drivers wear seatbelts and benefit from airbags, and bikers wear leathers, spine protectors, strong boots and helmets, you must wear a helmet and high viz and use lights in poor light. Improbable does not equal impossible so over a long riding life you will have an accident. It may be a front puncture in heavy traffic. It may be another mechanical malfunction or a driver sending a text or being drunk or showing off to his new girlfriend, or having a seizure. When you do you cannot control which surface and which part of your body will interact and how hard. Under gravity alone your head will accelerate to about 14mph before it strikes the floor so if you want to know what that's like run very fast head first into a brick wall and think about whether a helmet might be advisable. And if someone quotes a study suggesting drivers overtake closer if you wear a helmet ask them this: Has the study got academic integrity, has it been replicated and does the apparent correlation transfer to those wearing helmets being more likely to actually get knocked off?" That's what I'd say.
  • By dickyr at 10:51pm 11 December 2013
Oh, and another thing, I'd love us to have the infrastructure of Belgium or Holland, but we haven't. Until we do comparisons will always be fanciful. To highlight what I mean, it's like me saying you should wear a helmet because I was cycling in Lagos and it's really dangerous.

You're more likely to injure yourself on foot than on a bike. Should you ALWAYS wear a helmet, just in case you trip on the stairs? Personally I don't think the risk is that high, so I don't wear a helmet all day every day. Most cycling is broadly the same - safe to do in normal clothes. Some cycling has added risk and sometimes a helmet can help reduce the risk of certain head injuries IF there's a incident. IF it's worn correctly (and I'd susepct a large percentage are not).

Also, none of the things you've mentioned for driver, bikers or cyclists makes things "entirely safe", otherwise the road death stats would be better. There is always going to be the risk of injury from everything in life. This has to be accepted to some extent. I'd much rather prevent accidents occuring in the first place than make the potential victioms wear armour or cotton wool 'just in case'.

  • By Dagda at 2:15pm 12 December 2013

hi Dickyr, since you are questioning scientific proof, is there a general consensus in cycling literature that wearing a helmet significantly increases a cyclist's safety,particularly in serious accidents?

Those who perpetually preach the benefits of cycle helmet safety are doing a dis-service to cycling as it clearly suggests that cycling is inherently dangerous and requires specialist gear to be safe.

What the cycling debate doesn't need is even more scare-mongering about the perception of cycling safety.

  • By dickyr at 7:56am 13 December 2013
There is no consensus in either direction. I note that a lot of the objections to helmet use are based upon their wider societal effects. On that basis I do not advocate helmet laws either as these are counter-productive but I do advocate individual decisions to wear a helmet. The argument that they cannot be shown to significantly increase cyclist safety in serious accidents is a circular one as accidents only become classified serious if there is a serious injury or death. Accidents where a cyclist comes off and bangs their helmeted head on a kerbstone tend to be only reported by way of an anecdote in the pub. Studies have been poor at separating correlation from causality. The proximity of traffic study, even if accepting that proximity is an indicator of collision prevalence, has not been replicated. The difficulty is separating those likley to wear a helmet and the cycling they engage in from those who don't. Therefore, in the absence of any effective control trial we must rely upon our judgement. We all know we would want our kids to wear helmets because, even though I agree cycling is not a dangerous activity, it is not as safe as others either. Head protection is a natural part of lots of activities not classed as 'dangerous' based upon individual choice because the devastating consequences of an unlikely event outweigh the inconvenience of use. It is also important to bear in mind the likelihood of a motorist's insurance company paying out a meaningful sum in the event of an injury (& not just a head injury) accident is significantly reduced if you aren't wearing a helmet. Now that is verifiable.

 "The difficulty is separating those likley to wear a helmet and the cycling they engage in from those who don't. Therefore, in the absence of any effective control trial we must rely upon our judgement." - Yes. This whole thread started because this judgement was becomming an ill-informed instruction from the police.

"We all know we would want our kids to wear helmets because, even though I agree cycling is not a dangerous activity, it is not as safe as others either." - Not entirely. There are plenty of things kids do that are more dangerous than cycling where helmet use would be seen as ridiculous. Nobody wants kids to get properly hurt doing anything, but I strongly believe that a drive for 100% safety is removing the learning of the judgement required to assess risk.

"It is also important to bear in mind the likelihood of a motorist's insurance company paying out a meaningful sum in the event of an injury (& not just a head injury) accident is significantly reduced if you aren't wearing a helmet. Now that is verifiable." - Sadly this seems to be the case, although I want to see lawers expand the usage of victim-blaming to mugging, rape and murder too. 


  • By dickyr at 10:42am 13 December 2013
I hope that was rhetorical and you don't want it really. The legal concept is an old one and is used in many different areas from medical negligence to industrial tribunals. Blame for the effects of an event, if not the blame for the actual cause of that mishap, can be shared between parties. If the victim can be shown not to have taken reasonable steps to mitigate those likely effects. That is reason alone to wear a helmet, I'd suggest.

Why would anyone actually want that to be enshrined in law?

"Reasonalble steps" could also include not wearing a short skirt and not going out alone or at night. Why does it seem to be fair game to blame people that get run over because of their perfectly legal choice of clothing, but not victims of other events for the same thing?

This post was edited by marco panettone at 12:00pm 13 December 2013.

  • By dickyr at 1:16pm 13 December 2013
I agree with you. I'm not saying that a person not wearing high viz is to blame if they get run over but, knowing some drivers will only become aware of your presence if you are highly visible, I think it sensible to put on a high viz. Please note I drew a distinction between the cause of mishap and the effect. Therefore, if you get knocked off on a road and sustain head injuries, even though the driver is to blame for the collision, you will be partly held to be responsible for failing to mitigate the effects by not wearing a helmet. That's the way it is and I don't want to get drawn into whether that is right or wrong. But knowing those two things leads me to conclude a). High viz is my choice to help to avoid dopey/drunk/distracted/telephoning/short-sighted drivers missing my presence and that's what I'd advise unconfident or novice riders (road warriors can do their own thing); b). Wearing a helmet as a personal choice is wise as it will (and in my case has - I rode into the back of a mate on a quiet country road trying to emulate the men's team pursuit) save me from a nasty head injury.

Looking where you're going might be more use... ;-D

  • By dickyr at 4:05pm 13 December 2013

In this case you are allowed to blame the victim.

So if I understand how this legal axiom acts against a cyclist if they don't have helmet on, as they're 'willingly taking an unreasonable risk', if you like. Then hauliers continuing to operate hgv's with blind spots so large they "can't see anything" is tantamount to criminal negligence. Is that how it works? Should go both ways, don't you think?

Sorry, maybe I should have said 'contributory negligence' if in a court case? is it too far off the thread?

Anyway, I would agree with those who've suggested that if cyclists be obliged wear helmet & hi-viz then drivers and pedestrians should be likewise, as both groups walk on highway at times. In the same way, all vehicles would have to have an EN471 standard  hi-viz streak around them too, yes? only fair if a rule applies to all!

  • By dickyr at 11:21pm 14 December 2013
MikeyBikey, I think the consensus is against any compulsory requirement to wear helmet or high viz as the deterrent effect to the activity of cycling leads to overall worse health across the population. But as an individual choice by cyclists, high viz does lead to you being seen in situations where otherwise you may not and helmets mitigate the damage should you be knocked off. As an ancillary consideration one should bear in mind how differently the civil courts tend to allocate blame and compensation for the EFFECTS of a head injury depending on whether the cyclist is wearing a helmet or not. Whether this should be so should be regarded as a separate issue.

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Its basic common sense in heavy urban traffic not geared to optimum cycle safety if you wear highly reflective/visible colours you are more likely to be seen.  So to me it seems a little churlish to complain when bike safety officers suggest its worth you doing so.  But what is really needed is dedicated cycle routes or wider cycle lanes and far stronger penalties for hitting cyclists.  Cyclists should have priority on roads and that will change an attitude in drivers that appears to be anger and resentment that someone on a bike can move around the city faster than them, if they knew they would be the faulty party in the event of a collision then they would be a little more careful about pulling out as 'its just a cyclist'.  I am lit up like a neon coco the clown most days but I still had a car shunt into the back of me waiting at a set of lights (I was in lane so was not snaking around traffic) - the traffic was stationary yet he drifted so close his grill and my rear mud guard got caught up - I am lucky he didnt damage my wheel or tyre or more importantly me.  He obviously could clearly see me.  He did it because he was chancing his arm drifting so close for reasons I cannot even fathom.  So what are we supposed to do to stay safe and avoid drivers like this who appear enraged a cyclist is even on the road?

I wear a helmet, high viz jacket and have all the lights an reflectors the highway code recommends. I never jump red lights, always give way to pedestrians / buses where appropriate.

But I do like to listen to headphones whilst cycling and, although I can't find a single person to agree with me yet, I think doing so (or at least not relying on your hearing whilst cycling) forces you to be far more aware visually to what is going on around and I don't think my hearing has much if any affect on my ability to cycle safely, especially in busy London streets.

People in cars/trucks/buses can't hear what's outside and so in some respects I think putting yourself in the same position as them helps you anticipate what their actions are likely to be. I'm serious, I actually think cycling without hearing is possibly safer than with. For example, do you always look over your shoulder when overtaking another cyclist? Or do you sometimes rely on your hearing? (which I would say is much more dangerous that taking a quick look over your shoulder).

There's a few of scenarios where having your hearing does help when cycling - if there's something wrong with your bike you might not feel it or see it, but may hear it for example. But in the main my feeling is that if you can't see something, listening for it is a dangerous game.

People with hearing problems can get drivers licences without any special training or adaptation of the vehicle they intend to drive. People with hearing problems are also able to cycle - or are we now saying they shouldn't? I certainly don't think so.

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