I nearly knocked a cyclist off a few days ago. I don’t drive much but it was dark, cold and rainy, and I lazily decided to drive to the local store to buy some cider and snacks for a rare evening by the telly.
As I started pulling out onto the main road between a line of parked cars I noticed a cyclist about 25 metres away. Actually I noticed his fluoro yellow jacket before I noticed his front light.
What I didn’t notice was another rider about five metres away. The closer rider’s front light was almost invisible among the muddle of other lights in the street and he was wearing dark clothing.
The front of my car was poking out into the road and the rider swerved and gesticulated. I put myself in his situation, a situation I’ve been in many times.
I’d been looking for traffic through a rain streaked window. If I’d wound down the window I would probably have seen him.
Okay, no harm done this time. But this happened on the same day I’d been discussing the undoubted worth of high-visibility clothing with a neighbour. Her two teen sons ride about five miles to school and back a few days a week, occasionally in the dark. They have good lights but they won’t wear high visibility clothing.
One of them said to his concerned mum, who just happens to work for the NHS Blood and Transplant Service: “They're just not cool. You'll never understand, but no kid in their right mind would ever wear them."
I can see where he’s coming from. I remember baulking at the idea of wearing an orange belt over my black school jacket when I used to ride to school. But that was back in the days when roads were a bit less like battlegrounds and the majority of car drivers had been cyclists too. I think that made a difference.
As I’ve become older I seem to have become increasingly aware of my vulnerability on the road. But I’m really not sure whether I’ve become more vulnerable or just more aware.
Either way, I bought myself a new fluoro yellow jacket after my near miss. I’m usually a sucker for subtle styling when it comes to dressing for road rides… but there are times when subtle styling could get you killed.