Hi-Viz, the new helmet debate.

Hi-Visibility clothing is designed to make you stand out. The bright flourescent colours absorb UV light and output it in a light form that is visible to us. Hence why during the day, they stand out but at night, it’s a different story.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry wearing Hi-Viz on a bicycle, does it actually make you stand out?

When cyclists talk about hi-viz, we normally refer to yellow jackets. These things are normally too heavy and thick for day use, which the hi-viz is designed to work in. Reflective strips of tape make you stand out in the dark. Are these jackets actually effective at making you visible or is hi-viz the new helmet debate?

A recent study in Australia shows us which one is true.
The study was conducted on a closed road circuit at night where driver participants of various ages were in a specially equipped vehicle and bike rider participants wore various combinations of clothing.
Due to hi-viz working off UV radiation, the hi-viz is useless at night due street lighting and headlights not producing UV radiation. The results showed that flourescent colors did not provide a significant improvement on black clothing at night.

Due to many cyclists thinking that Hi-viz makes them stand out at night, they could be putting them selves at risk if their clothing doesn’t contain reflective material.

Even when the cyclists wore a reflective vest, the drivers said it wasn’t as clear as reflective 3M scotchlite tape on their ankles and knees. This is thought to be down to the torso of a cyclist mostly being still and the ankles and knees are more often than not moving.

Whilst there aren’t many studies out there about Hi-Viz and its apparent safety features for cyclists, I don’t think the study in Australia is one to be sniffed at. It certainly makes more sense that reflective tape on a cyclists ankles will be more attention grabbing in car head lights rather than a vest which won’t get as much light.

I’m not a fan of the Altura NightVision jackets and similar jackets because during the day they are too thick for wearing and at night the reflective tape is often covered by a bag.
And as the study shows, the opinion from drivers, is the hi-viz doesn’t work at night and reflective tape is much better situated on the leg where it is moving more than the torso.

ProViz came up with the idea of using a strip of lights on their jackets and bag covers to make yourself more visible. I’ve yet to see one of these in the real world so I can’t comment on how well they work.
Some cyclists over at CycleChat have been talking about self illumination to make your self morevisible, that is pointing an LED light at yourself rather than the other way. To clear results have yet been seen but it can’t hurt trying.

My personal feeling on hi-viz is just go with out. With over 70% of cyclists wearing it, you really don’t stand out whilst you’re in it. I would much prefer to spend the money saved on Hi-Viz on some reflective tape and a good set of lights for my bike. I use my lights during the day to make up for the lack of hi-viz.

The legailty of Camera use

I often get the internet lawyer telling me that I’m braking several laws by videoing vehicles and posting videos of them, the drivers and the vehicles number plates online.
As we all know, vehicle number plates are publicly viewable and identifies the car. We can use these to complain about the drivers behaviour. What we don’t know from the number plate is any information about the driver.

I know in the past, that magnatom asked the information commissioner of Scotland what the position was, legally, of him doing what he does. The response that he got, was that it’s fine for us to do and it’s not breaking any data protection laws.
Magnatom has always stated that he isn’t sure if this applies to the England as well.

So to confirm where i and other helmet camera users stand on the matter of legality of posting videos online, i contacted the information commissioner in England and asked the following questions;

  • Is recording bicycle journeys made in england and posting footage on youtube breaking any laws? This includes posting footage of number plates of dangerous drivers that put cyclists life in danger and in some cases the faces and conversations with these drivers.
  • are there any restrictions to it, such as is advertising that you have a camera against the law e.g. a sign saying ‘video recording in operation’ on the cyclists back.

A few weeks later i got a response and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. As magnatom’s response, i was also told that the videoing and posting videos would fall under section 36 of the data protection act. Which states

Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III.

This exemption means that individuals do not have to provide fair processing information to data subjects and so signs will not be necessary in a situation such as the one described. Equally, however, it would not be illegal to display such signs that warn of a camera.

Apart from the data protection act, I don’t think there is any issue with filming, and if there was, I’m sure I would have been brought up on it by now. My footage has been passed to various police departments in London, and none of them have come back to me saying I’m braking any laws.

The ‘Efficacy’ of RoadSafe Website

Anyone that has gone through my previous blog posts will know that I’m a user of the RoadSafe London website and I was invited to meet the team that run it.

Only today I reported two incidences to RoadSafe, one for a white van that overtook me far to close and another where I’m concerned that a scooter rider hasn’t done his CBT and is putting him self in danger due to his riding style.

Recently a Freedom of information request was logged by Tim Lennon asking the following questions to the Metropolitan Police Service about the RoadSafe Website. Questions are in bold and the full FOI can be found here.

  1. How many people have visited the site since its inception?
    Since November 2009 the site has been visited 8235 times.
  2. How many copies of the form have been filled in? by how many individuals?
    From Nov to Dev 2009 = 12 Reports
    from Jan 2010 to date = 1213 reports
    The system does not capture data to provide detail of how many individuals have filled in forms.
  3. What transport method was in use by those filling in the form?
    Details of mode of transport is not logged
  4. How many people have been contacted (i.e. those listed in ‘driver details’ or ‘vehicle details’)
    We have sent 659 letters to resisted keepers and/or companies
  5. How many individuals and individual vehicles have been named in these forms?
    58 drivers named
  6. What action has been taken in each instance? (if detail is expensive to provide, you may simply advise how many have been cautioned , how many have had words of advice or similar, and how many have been pursued with further legal means.)
    Nine specific tasks aimed at disqualified or drink drivers. Resulting in two disqualified drivers arrested, one suspected persistent drink driver stopped.
    Eight reports generated and forwarded to our criminal justice unit for a decision on prosecution.
    Twenty eight intelligence reports passed to the MPS Cab Enforcement office.
    Four interest reports added to the ANPR database.
    Twenty one Intelligence reports disseminated to other MPS units.
    Twenty nine previously unreported collisions received.
    Four company visits made by our Commercial Vehicle Unit.
    Twenty one cycle intelligence reports passed to newly formed cycle team to deal.
    Eleven reports passed to our Traffic Management Unit to investigate alleged problems with road engineering. One of these resulted in recommendation to council for engineering solution. This has now been completed with new bollards and signs put in place.
    There have been 393 instances of no further action from reports created.
  7. Has any cost benefit analysis or similar been done of the site and its activity (if so, can you supply this data or report?)

I don’t know the person that requested this FOI, or what there intentions where, I’m unaware if they are a blogger as i was passed this link by one of my twitter followers and he found it in the comments of another blog post.

A lot of people are complaining that this is no better than before. The roadsafe website makes it easy to make a complaint about a vehicle and their driver but without proof the police are unlikely to do anything about it. Which to me is understandable.
And you have to be realistic with what you expect them to do.

Looking at the results of the FOI request, it’s clear that they are using the information they are getting in a positive way. The information is being passed on to specific teams that can deal with them in a better way, and arrests and prosecutions are being made where possible.

With 1225 reports made with RoadSafe in nearly a year and 659 letters sent out to the registered keepers and/or companies. Your complaint has a 1 in 2 chance of having some action being taken place. A letter might not do much, but it should be kept on record against the vehicle that they have been contacted about their driving in the past.

More than 40% of the reports are about cycling ‘near miss’ this just shows that a vast majority of the users of it are cyclists. And I know that most of the London helmet camera users will report the worst stuff they see to RoadSafe, So I expect a vast majority of those 530 cycling near misses will be accompanied by video evidence.
With lots of video evidence going to the police with regards to issues that we cyclists face on a daily basis, one can only hope that they listen and help to do something about it.
Clearly we are going a step in the right direction as the cycling task force has been launched and they are tackling various issues across London by bicycle.

The only bad thing to pick up from this information is the fact that the traffic to the webpage is quite low. I still haven’t seen any advertising about this form, and I only found out due to word of mouth from other cyclists.
I recall from when I met the officers that run the website, they said something about a soft launch first of all and then going public later. An extended testing period?

Silly Cyclists

A coconut bunch
Image via Wikipedia

For as long as I have been publishing videos on youtube of bad drivers, I have had comments about why I don’t show videos of cyclists doing dangerous things. The reason was mostly because the cyclists are putting them selves in danger and not others.

About 2 months ago I half changed my mind on this case. I make videos to highlight the dangers of cycling in a place like London, and often the issues which come with cycling and how to get around them. But with other cyclists not reading from the same hymn sheet, I decide that making regular videos about the dangerous positions I see people putting them selves in to be a much better learning tool if anyone sees them.

These regular videos where daily at the start. Showing everything I saw. I soon changed this format to a weekly video with a commentary over the top. This format has made Silly Cyclists an important learning tool. I talk about what you shouldn’t do and what you should do in those situations. Watching the videos you soon learn what the common issues are, it seems to me that undertaking large vehicles such as buses and HGV’s is still a regular accorance.

Below I have added the latest Episode (14) and here you can find a playlist with all episodes in.

The Success of the Barclays Cycle Hire

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes
Image by duncan via Flickr

Anyone that has been into central London after the 30th of July will have seen the Barclays liveried cycle hire bikes that are scattered across 7 boroughs of central London. Thousands of people use them each day, with peak days reaching over 20,000 journeys being made.

Who would have thought that this scheme would work, adding such a scheme into a busy metropolitan city such as London could easily lead to a disaster. A similar scheme in Melbourne, Australia failed dramatically. That was mainly down to the mandatory cycle helmet laws they have over there.

Why is the success of such a scheme important for cycling in London and potentially England?
The added cycles to the road and image value that they have will make people aware that cycling is the cheap and easy transportation. The easy access to the bikes also gives people the freedom to cycle around the City and in many cases people start using other bikes for other duties, such as commuting.
The sheer volume of cyclists on the road during non commuting times has increased dramatically and the bicycles i see the most are the cycle hire ones. Could the success of this scheme be the next big thing for the Cycling Revolution in the 21st century?
In the first 2 and a half months 1,000,000 cycle journeys were made using the Barclays cycle hire and with only 90,000 people registered that means each user has used a hire bike on average 11 times.
This makes the Barclays cycle hire scheme more succesful than any other cycle hire scheme of its kind in the world for its uptake by the public that uses them.

For the lucky person that took the 1,000,000th bike for a spin, Barclays have awarded them and 3 of their friends a 5 year membership to the scheme for free. This lucky person is Rupert Parson from Balham, South London, he also wins a cycling makeover at Bobbins Bicycles in Islington.
Rupert is not just a user of the cycle hire scheme, he also uses the Cycle Superhighway 7 to commute to work. Clearly the two major cycling schemes in London are working well for Rupert.

Clearly from the quick uptake, even with technical issues and access limited to people in the UK with credit or debit cards, the scheme has been a massive success and lets hope that it continues to grow.