Friday, 24 February 2012

Don't Try This Away From Home

"Do as I say, don't do as I do."
So said my PE teacher at school. Every week. Without fail. It's dangerous for children to play football wearing jewelry, but not for middle-age men it seems.

Lets be clear. Don't try this away from home. This post is not a recommendation. I'm not even certain I agree with myself. But the truth is I hate hi visibility clothing.

I've been prompted to write this by a post on The London Cyclist blog, which includes some good advice on road positioning and a scary picture of a Boris Bike stuck between two lorry wheels.

You would think somebody like me, who cycles in the dark through grim northern streets (mostly still lamp-lit of course), would embrace the high visibility jacket. And I've tried, I own a bright reflective gilet but it stays buried at the back of my wardrobe. Why?

I feel safer without it. It's as simple as that.

Cycle of Fear

Every time I put it on I feel vulnerable. It takes a degree of confidence and courage to ride on Britain's roads (cobbled in the North of course). The moment I put that thing on I instantly feel less confident. That lack of confidence makes me more twitchy on the bike, which starts a horrible cycle:

  • I start to take less confident positions on the road 
  • the traffic squeezes past more often
  • each incident frightens me 
  • which makes me less confident
  • I get overly defensive
  • I start to make mistakes
  • which makes me less confident
  • and repeat

The last time I wore my gilet I almost walked home in a state of fear. I think that part of the problem maybe caused by drivers expectations of anyone in hi visibility clothing. On the flat I can be moving at 25mph. Drivers turning in front of me don't anticipate that speed when they see the jacket, so they think they've more time to pull out than they have. The combination of my speed, their expectations and my beacon-like appearance is not good.

I'm Not a Risk Taker

Don't get me wrong. I try to be visible. I have reflective shoes and overshoes and all my jackets, shorts and tights have reflective strips. I have two front lights, three back lights (two on the bag) and a reflector on the seat post and front wheel. I want to be seen and I want you to be seen too, so make sure you get good advice on safety and visibility from somebody else.

I don't think I'm a risk taker. I just don't want to feel like a victim in waiting.