A proposal to make the use of hi-viz vests and helmets compulsory for cyclists in Ireland has been in the news recently. At this week’s conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), sergeants and inspectors from the Sligo-Leitrim division have called for the new legislation to make hi-vis clothing for pedestrians and cyclists.

The motion for pedestrians wasn’t passed but the amended motion to make high-visibility clothing mandatory for all cyclists was voted for by mid-ranking gardaí.

However, research from the UK suggests that the use of hi-viz clothing by cyclists will not prevent drivers from passing extremely close to cyclists.

The research was conducted by Ian Walker (Department of Psychology, University of Bath) and Ian Garrard and Felicity Jowitt (Brunel Institute for Bioengineering, Brunel University) and outlined in the paper ‘The influence of a bicycle commuter’s appearance on drivers’ overtaking proximities: an on-road test of bicyclist stereotypes, high-visibility clothing and safety aids in the United Kingdom.’

The study looked at whether drivers overtaking a cyclist influenced the closeness of their passes in response to the level of experience and skill suggested by the cyclist’s appearance. Five different cyclist’s outfits were tested, ranging from a stereotypical sport rider’s outfit, portraying high experience and skill, to a vest with ‘novice cyclist’ printed on the back, portraying low experience.

A high-visibility cycling jacket was also used, as were two commercially available safety vests, one featuring a prominent mention of the word ‘POLICE’ and a warning that the rider was video-recording their journey, and one modelled after a police officer’s jacket but with a letter changed so it read ‘POLITE’.

An ultrasonic distance sensor recorded the space left by vehicles passing the cyclist on a regular commuting route. 5690 data points fulfilled the criteria for the study and were included in the analyses. The only outfit associated with a significant change in mean passing proximities was the police/video-recording jacket.

Contrary to predictions, drivers treated the sports outfit and the ‘novice cyclist’ outfit equivalently, suggesting they do not adjust overtaking proximity as a function of a rider’s perceived experience. Notably, whilst some outfits seemed to discourage motorists from passing within 1 metre of the rider, approximately 1-2% of overtakes came within 50 cm no matter what outfit was worn.

According to the researchers, this suggests there is little riders can do, by altering their appearance, to prevent the very closest overtakes.

They also go on to suggest that infrastructural, educational or legal measures are more promising for preventing drivers from passing extremely close to cyclists.


  1. More worrying is the idea that people want to insist on helmets and high vis. The aim should be to encourage more people on to bikes, not discourage then with fines. Look at cycling rates in Australia after they made helmets compulsory.

    • Drivers should pay attention I agree 100%. Common sense should tell you that wearing black is going to make you less visible or even non visible than wearing something neon or hi -vis…

    • David Ultrashuffle Anderson I’m only discussing cyclists and I’m talking about a safety measure that I believe would help cyclist to be more visible on the roads, not saying it would be 100% safe proof but if it was 0.01% then that would do for me.

    • I get the point of what you are trying to say, and I get the merit, however forcing cyclists to always wear high vis for their safely is taking the responsibility and blame away from the driver. I personally wouldn’t wear all black i agree your asking for trouble, but I will wear black/blue, blue and black/green. Black and red which are all contrasting colours. To say you have to wear hi vis orange or yellow all the time would not only put alot of people off cycling but would be a bad move on shifting responsibilities

    • Research on motorcyclists suggests that, in fact, depending on the background, black can be a very effective colour to wear during the day. In the countryside, for example, black contrasts with the mostly green background. At night, the colour is irrelevant as only reflective material is visible, regardless of the background colour of the garment.

    • Ronan Fox “depending on the background, black can be a very effective colour to wear during the day. In the countryside, for example, black contrasts with the mostly green background”…..and it will make you invisible if you are cycling on a road that is shaded by trees or high hedges even on a bright sunny day….

    • Ciarán McArdle I’m just trying to point out that it’s a more complicated issue than it might appear. Certainly far more complicated than the Gardai seem to be able to grasp. Ultimately the point is that this would be bad, unenforceable, law. If they want to limit people’s freedom (including the freedom to be stupid) then the onus should be on them to prove it’ll actually work and by how much. They haven’t even started to try to do that.

    • Ronan Fox Hi no worries lad, I just think wearing black is asking for trouble. I would hate to see people coming to any harm because their clothing choice made them less visible on the road. Regards

    • So does wearing hi-vis come with an absolute solid guarantee of safety………..

      Then look at the elephant in the room, the person who is not paying attention and using what is basically a lethal weapon, or is that just too damn logical and sensible?

  2. It’s not the intentional close passes I fear, it’s the oblivious/distracted idiots that will hit you. You could be lit up like Christmas. If they are too busy with a book/makeup/phone/radio/kids in the car/looking in glove box you are dead. Black Cars don’t have hi viz they have no problem seeing them! Drivers just need to start using their eyes and looking at all of the road not just the numberplate of the car infront. It’s been a while since I had lessons but when I was learning I was taught to look for what the car infront of the car infront is doing, keep checking the roadsides and always be aware of what’s going on infront and behind, my teacher would randomly ask what colour is the car 2 infront or behind etc etc. If you ride a bike you are constantly listening for what’s going on around you or should be. (I would ban headphones whilst road cycling if i had my way) always looking for cars infront, parked, potholes, grids etc etc and carry this through in my driving. Become a much more aware driver since taking up road biking.

    • You do your thing, there’s no need for you to ban others from riding the way they like to. I wear ear buds and I’m fully aware of my surroundings. Should deaf people be banned from riding too?

    • Richard Tarbuck I most certainly do not agree. Your solution to a few morons is to make a law to ban others from doing something even if they’re doing it safely. That’s like saying some cyclists are completely oblivious, we should ban all bicycles. It’s an authoritarian response. You can’t control what other people do, you can only control what you do. Lead by example instead of banning things. Deaf people don’t have secret eye powers, that’s not how it works. Music doesn’t distract me from my surroundings. My eyes work just as well as that of any deaf person. They ride without being able to hear cars that’s why it’s relevant to the conversation.

  3. Why are they still treating the cyclists like they are the problem.
    It’s the lack of education and drivers on their “they shouldn’t be on the road” bandwagon that are the issue. Not the cyclists

    • Well, it’s kind of all road users really, Saw a cyclist jump a red today in front a Lorry turning across our lane of traffic, the Lorry stopped hard as did all the traffic behind him then the lights changed back before the Lorry cleared the junction, adding to traffic. So it’s not just idiot cars it’s all idiot road users. Education is a good point!

    • Cars are not dressed in dark clothing and come in a variety of colours that can be seen, also cars display front and rear lights unlike many of our cycling road users. Bit of a silly thing to say wasnt it tom amos.

    • <>
      Having lights and using them are 2 very different things. Whilst I see too many cyclists not using lights and it frustrates the hell out of me, I also see quite a few cars without lights switched on as well. And don’t get me started on lack of indicators being used at junctions!

    • Yep grey and black is really easy to see against a backdrop of grey roads and buildings! “Cars display front and rear lights”?? R u sure? Many drivers don’t turn them on in poor light conditions or even when pitch black and about 1in10 have broken bulbs front and back all of which then makes any reflective clothing on a bike totally useless. Plus most speed and use mobiles whilst driving and don’t stop and look at junctions all of which further reduces chance to see dramatically. But still the cyclists fault?

    • >>
      If hi viz is so important, why aren’t all cars painted in hi viz paint?

      Because if your eyesight is so bad that you can’t see a car in front of you, no amount of hi viz is going to make it any better. Cars also have lights that greatly improve their visibility. Even if the headlights aren’t on, the brake lights and indicators will always be there. Cyclists in dark clothes without any special visibility measures are an absolute nightmare, and a hazard to everyone including themselves.

    • Dave Burke have you been on a road lately nobody driving autos now use turn signals I see more cyclists using turn signals and headlights than I do cars. And there are many times and situations where any color car can become invisible to onlookers of any kind. If you don’t know this you should maybe stay off of the road

    • ah no it absolutely is in many many cases. It’s either refusing to wait until a car passes in the opposite lane and squeezing by you or you’ve slowed them down for a little bit and they want to teach you a lesson. Then there’s the fools who don’t see you at all those might be accidental but the majority are completely cynical actions.

    • I got forced off my bike on a bend I’m sure the girl that was driving didn’t even see me. I ended up on my side on the pavement. I never got the number. It was a red fiesta. Luckily no injury and no bike damage except for my bar tape

    • The vast majority of car drivers are great and they’re conscious of us and our welfare on the roads however the ones that cyclists take issue with only ever seem to have concern for our welfare when they’ve hit us and are trying to weasel out of being responsible or trying to apportion blame.

  4. Maybe educate/penalise close-pass drivers rather than legislate on cyclist clothing? If pedestrians don’t have to wear hi-viz, and motor bikes, horses and cars aren’t banned in gray/black then why on earth would you single out cyclists? As a cyclist and as a driver I believe it’s my responsibility to be aware of my surroundings and what I’m headed towards, not the other party to be a Christmas tree.

  5. Sick of hearing the constant bloody waffle from the bicycle riders. Any person using the public highway should have to wear kit that makes it easy for a vehicle driver to be able to see them, its common sence isnt it. Also cycle lights back and front should be working, maybe we need to hit these cycle users with the anti dazzle regs as the majority are using hi brightness led lamps on the front of the cycle and are not adjusting them down to cover the road in front of them creating dazzle to oncoming road users. And these red and white flashing led lamps should be outlawed a constant white lamp on the front and a constant red lamp to the rear should be enforced, also a warning device should be fitted ie bell or horn before the cycle can be taken on a public highway, maybe if the police started clamping down on these cycle riders with the tenacity they adopt to car drivers, maybe the rate of deaths from cycle riding would drop making the highways safer for all road users. SUMBITCH

    • Hi Pete, I could forgive you this comment because you clearly had no intention of actually reading the article in your haste to have a go, but c’mon, it’s right there in the headline for you: “Research suggests hi-viz vests for cyclists will not prevent close passes by motorists”

      So whether we are dolled up like a Christmas tree or not has been proven to not make any difference to whether drivers see us. Furthermore, when cyclists start killing and maiming people in the massive numbers that cars do, I expect the Police will take an interest. (Perhaps until then we should ban cars instead, it’d be a lot safer!

      I’m also unclear where you stand on lights. Do you want us visible or not? Or is it just the hi vis you have a special fondness for?

      Have a nice day,
      Caroline (Driver and Cyclist)

    • People use those high intensity lights because they got ran over using normal lights that the motorists”couldn’t see” people see a single red light and think it’s a reflector on a mail box or sign post and pass it like it’s not even there

    • Lee hearnden going by your comment i assume you one of these born again cycle planet saving tree huggers, that think the road is there just for them. Any person contemplating riding on a motor bike or cycle will need to be safe thats why the emergency services wear hi viz vests and come to think about it any body with an ounce of brain capacity, why its so difficult for you cycle riders to understand the reasons why i do not know, i rode a bike and a cycle for years never had a problem because i used a little bit of common sence.(BE SAFE BE SEEN). SUMBITCH

  6. I can vouch for this, I wear hi-vis but it still happens.
    It’s all about education and attitudes. Everyone these days are in such a rush, drivers – not all – just will not brake or drop a gear or two to pause long enough to make a safe pass, instead they squeeze past us and oncoming traffic, determined not to cross the centre of the road completely oblivious to all the hazards and dangers that face cyclists close to the edge of the road or in the gutter where they seem to think is where we should be.

  7. Research suggests the actions of the offender prevents ********, not the clothing of the victim.

    Where have we heard all this before and why is it still difficult to understand?

  8. The onus of survival is on the cyclists. i’d suggest wearing red so blood doesnt show as easy. Cycling in a shark cage wouldnt change how safe you are on roads today

  9. Shotguns mounted under the garmin may help motorists stay over. I’m not saying anyone should be shot or any criminal damage but a couple of blasts past the window so the driver can get the crap scared out of them too.

  10. It’s nothing to do with spacial awareness, what you wear or any other crap! It’s the fact that everyone is in a rush and couldn’t give a shit about anyone accept themselves. Until the attitudes change towards each other and people have respect for the other people around them. Then nothing will change.

  11. Flashing/strobing lights don’t stop these people either…….the utter lack of judgement is beyond me on how close vehicles pass at…..ride with care….all of us….always.

  12. I was lit up like a Christmas tree and made eye contact with the driver emerging from the junction on the left. Didn’t stop him pulling out and breaking my bones though. Hi viz won’t prevent this level of driver stupidity.


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