Stats on effectiveness of safety gear

A friend (and former TFL employee) claimed the other day that safety equipment for cycling, such as lights and bright clothing, don't affect your chances of being involved in a collision. I'm having trouble finding stats on this topic (the claim seems improbable to me) - can anyone point me in the right direction? Thanks.

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  • By Stily1 at 1:29pm 15 February 2012

Ask your friend for his/her source. I seriously doubt there's much respectable statistical evidence out there. I'd love to see any such claims and the backup. The devil is in the details (and the definitions).

Remember, there are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lied, and statistics!

- Perhaps no one notices the sqished cyclists that blend into the road ?

If cars and lorries and motorbikes and buses have lights so that they can see and be seen why do some arrogant riders think they're invincible when invisible? If we as cyclists can hardly see one another - it happens - how can other road users be blamed for not seeing the idiot with insufficient / no lights?

IF the claim were to be true it could be that a high proportion of inexperienced, kerb hugging, go up the inside of a lorry because there's room types are properly equipped with lights, if not with road sense.

Personally - I'd just use common sense and be the most visible I can be.

Mind you - a peloton out on a country road in the Lake District was so bright and "odd" looking when driving up to them from a distance that I thought a UFO must have landed ! Seriously impressive lights - but they needed to be!

Proof please

This Statistic has to be incorrect. I am a firm believer that it is the motorist’s responsibility to look out for the cyclist but it is the cyclist’s responsibility to be seeable. If you don’t use lights and wear dark clothing it does make it difficult for you to be seen even by other cyclists.

Hi - I love this website: http://bicyclesafe.com/ , which quotes lots of evidence, particularly under its "Articles" link. Interestingly, the author states "I would like to subtract out fatalities where the cyclist was riding at night without lights, or riding on the sidewalk, or ran a traffic signal, but I can't find the data.", so even someone dedicated hasn't managed to dig this up!

At one point it does state that "Bruce Mackey (formerly of Florida, now head of bike safety in Nevada) says that 60% of bike collisions in Florida are caused by cyclists riding at night without lights." That seems to me very unreliable, particularly given that there's no source quoted, and it heavily contradicts studies of police reports assigning reponsibility for accidents, such as this coverage of a DfT report, which states that dark clothing at night was mentioned in 2.5% of police reports, and a lack of lights mentioned in 2%. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/15/cycling-bike-accidents-study

This university study reports a 77% reduction in the likelihood of a crash for cyclists wearing fluorescent clothes. http://www.everybody.co.nz/page-2fb0bd78-d3cd-415d-ad8e-acfc71684746.aspx

While we're on evidence, I'd just like to point out these sites which, whilst not about lights or bright clothes at night, are very good at discussing evidence on safety topics which come up again and again:

Review of research on cycle paths:http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/digest/research.html

Against mandatory cycle helmet laws (but doesn't address voluntary usage so well):http://www.cycle-helmets.com/

For cycle helmets (but doesn't address the problem about them discouraging cyclists well):http://www.bhsi.org/stats.htm

Just realised that I didn't attempt to draw a conclusion. At least we have to try to reconcile a possible 77% reduction in crashes, versus finding that dark clothing was only the apparent cause of 2.5% of accidents!

I guess one take on this is that a lot of accidents come from car and lorry drivers simply not seeing cyclists, so while dark clothing isn't explicitly identified as the cause "sorry mate, I didn't see you...", bright clothes and lights may well have helped the driver avoid the accident.

While we're at it, this study of Toronto police reports showed that cyclists caused only 10% of accidents, and the most common accidents were all things that look like they'd be reduced by being more obvious: http://www.sharetheroad.ca/what-are-the-dangers-in-terms-of-cycling-safety--p128277 .

Would you agree that an Estate car is larger and easier to see than a person on a bike?These days, when I'm driving, I have my lights on because there have been far too many occasions when some idiot in a car has cut across me/pulled out in front of me as though he/she just hadn't seen me.

If he couldn't see an estate car then how is he going to see a cyclist? Of course you use lights and safety gear! Use every legal means you can to make sure that the other idiot has no excuse to say "I didn't see you!"

A few months ago, whilst driving in the countryside, dull day, thickish mist, I had the misfortune to meet what was very obviously a cycling club, who were travelling in the opposite direction. Two separate groups, winding, hedge bordered country lane, visibility less than 100 yards, even on the straight, riding three or four abreast, no lights, no HiVis jackets, heads down, peddling hard as they charged round a bend in the road. How I missed them I can only put down to the fact that I was travelling slowly and well to the left of my side of the road. I gave them the room that they did not give me!
If we cyclists want to be regarded as good road users then we must obey the rules of the road, respect all other road users and give them every opportunity to see us.

This post was edited by jayprime at 11:18am 28 July 2012.

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