Protective motorcycle clothing compulsory?

motorcycle clothing

Victoria is introducing compulsory hi-vis vests for learner riders as part of their new graduated licence system, again raising the hoary issue of compulsory protective motorcycle clothing.

However, the state government’s road safety committee found there was not enough evidence to support mandatory high-visibility clothing. It cited European road safety research which found the benefits of wearing a high-visibility vest depended on the time of day and location. A rider in the city would be more visible in reflective clothing whereas a rider in a rural setting is more visible during the day wearing dark clothing, according to the research.High-vis motorcycle clothing

So the new rule for hi-vis vests seems more an issue of politicians grabbing a headline rather than really considering the safety of motorcycle riders. It’s a dangerous precedent that again puts the issue of compulsory motorcycle clothing under the spotlight.

France introduced minimum fluoro requirements on riders’ jackets a couple of years ago and is now trying to expand that to compulsory vi-vis vests for all riders. The latest move, together with banning lane filtering, sparked a protest by 100,000 French riders.

However, across the channel, the Brits seem to want compulsory clothing standards. British independent road safety organisation IAM is calling for labels on motorcycle clothing that tell you how much protection it provides. This is based on their research which shows 85% of UK riders consider protection the most important factor when purchasing motorcycle clothing. It also found 90% say they always wear protective clothing when riding, 70% are willing to pay for top quality gear and 45% actually believe it should be compulsory.

Of course, the Brits don’t have to deal with oppressive heat as riders do in the rest of the world. However, as more countries begin talking about compulsory protective clothing issues, it could flow through to the motorcycle clothing brands and eventually to our legislators who think they are doing us a service, or at least getting good media exposure.

Meanwhile, America seems to be going in the opposite direction with a couple of states reversing their helmet rules. In the US, freedom of choice is more important than legislating other people’s lives.
What do you think of compulsory clothing rules? Leave your comments below.


  1. I agree with this!! Freedom of choice is more important than legislating other people’s lives. It should be up to the rider whether he uses a helmet or not. His life is his responsability.

  2. hi on the matter of wearing full protective motorcycle clothing is surely up to the rider I myself always wear full protected jacket but on really hot days I wear Kevlar jeans in my view it is as dangerous in hot weather to be all geared up your body temp rockets and that can be very dangerous as to hi vis are we being rail roaded down this avenue just one point if you have a top box and wear a hi vis can the car behind see your hi vis I DONT THINK SO . its a nanny state minefeild

  3. no helmet headlight or hi vis vest will save you from the shit that has tried to run me of the road ect as has happened since i started riding in 1971 i have met phyco insects who hate all bikies and have said how they and their mates love to run them off the road or drive into their path i am alive today because of my riding skills and experience and not from any compulsion to wear this shit if you want to wear them you have the freedom to choose but leave me to look after my self

  4. I have a letter from Mr Mulder assuring me that the Victorian Govt is not considering the introduction of compulsory HI-Vis clothing for motorcyclists.. are you saying he might not keep his promise???

  5. The pollies can F off with their compulsary crap. It is just another way to get revenue from fines when riders won’t wear the rubbish. At least the yanks allow for personal choice & freedom. If I want to take a bigger risk I bloody well will. I wear boots, Kevlar jeans all the time, Leather jacket when cold and Tshirt and leather vest in hot weather.

  6. The proposed Victorian legislation doesn’t look like it’s been peer-reviewed by either riders or experienced road safety groups. Among other things, it bans using mobile ‘phones while riding and towing. Are these really problems among learners?
    There’s no scientific support for hi-vis vests which should rule it out from the start. Here’s the procedure for correct research:
    Set up a hypothesis (wearing hi-vis vests will reduce motorcycle crashes), design the research in a way that will provide useful data, analyse the data and then draw conclusions from it. This legislation fails at the first step.
    The Victoria government is heading for an election and this has the sniff of VLAD about it. Changing governments may introduce some common sense to the debate.

    1. Does changing governments ever introduce common sense. Glad to see you are an optimist!
      Unfortunately, being seen to be advocating road safety – even when it is not backed by science – is reality for all sides of the political spectrum.

  7. Complulsory lights-on and hi visability gear have recently been made law for novice riders in Victoria. There are several serious problems with these moves.

    Lights-on first. This law was unnecessary in terms of motorcycle & scooter safety because most bikes in Australia have the headlight on when the motor is running. The Australian Design Rule(ADR) system requires machines to be hard-wired but, later, allowed a rider to put a light switch on the bike without effecting roadworthiness. We fought the lights-on law for 15 years mostly because of the legal implications for a rider after a crash if the car driver said. “I did not see the bike. The headlight was off”. With a broken headlamp the onus would be on the rider to prove it was on or he/she could be booked. We beat the law and Greg Hirst sorted a compromise with ADR so a light wswitch could be added.

    When the lights-on ADR came in we asked governments to do a before and after studies so we would have evidence as to whether lights-on reduced bike casualties or not. There was a serious safety question about a car driver being able to judge a bike’s speed & distance with a single dot of light breaking up the machine’s silouette in daylight. This problem was worse if the bike was backlit as at dawn or dusk. No study was done. Nowadays headlight beams are so specific that they are often hardly visible in our bright sunshine anyway. There is no evidence to suggest the lights-on ADR improved rider safety one bit.

    The hi viz vest law is a concern because there is no evidence to suggest they will reduce serious injury or fatal crashes at all. And, we have seen no definition of what a hi viz vest is under the new law. What colour is compulsory? What is the vest to be made of? How many square centimetres? Is a reflective surface required? What about when a vest is dulled by road grime? Police will have field day with this. Enthusiastic constables have another excuse to pull up riders and give them a lecture on the dangers of motorcycling and a fine that has nothing to do with road safety.

    So the 2014 Victorian conspicuity laws for novices is based on non-riding bureaucrats’ opinions not fact. And input from a range of experienced stakeholders was not sought.

    Contrary to Minister Mulders media release, there was no real consultation with stakeholders. VicRoads cooked this move up in the back room and even their pet rider reps did not know when it would hit.

    It is significant that neither the 1992/3 nor the 2012 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiries into motorcycle & scooter safety recommended compulsory conspicuity measures.

    We will ask VicRoads to supply a definition of the hi viz gear they have made compulsory. We want to know the penalties for non-compliance. And, we want a scientific study to document the reduction, or not, in casualty bike crashes (not just fatals).

    In my opinion, the bureaucrats will invent an excuse for not doing that research in case they are proved wrong. And because these conspicuity laws are the thin edge of their wedge. I beleive their agenda is to make motorcycling less attractive and less affordable for ordinary Australians. After a time VicRoads will say these laws work. They have been introduced interstate. We will expand them to cover more riders.

    I have been riding in traffic for over 45 years. I have never had an injury from a bike crash. I have worn safety vests and coloured leathers and all black outfits. In my opinion hi viz clothes and lights-on do not work. I value my right to choose my safety options. Riders who think these measures do work are often cautious people by nature. They take the time and spend the money to wear hi viz gear and they ride accordingly.

    BUT, ask road workers and lollipop people if their dayglo outfits work. They get hit by cars when the sun is shining and visibility is excellent, with sickening regularity.

    The aim of these laws to make riding motorcycles & scooters less attractive and less affordable for the average rider. I think that after a time VicRoads will say these laws work so we will expand them to cover more riders. The political appointees they use to claim they consult with stakeholders will nod their heads in agreement like they did when the TAC antibike tax and later road tolls for bikes came to this state.

    Go see your MP.

    1. In Argentina, compulsory lights on for every vehicle on the road during daytime has proven to be a great aid when overtaking on country roads. Incoming traffic is much easier to see.

  8. Thats a great idea. But what about the carnage inflicted on our wildlife!
    what about high vis for roos , wombats….koalas we could have a whole
    new gov department dedicated to it. In fact make high- vis mandatory
    for every one. issue them at the arrival lounges at the airports. Then
    we can hold our heads high as Australians knowing we have made the
    world just that bit safer.

  9. I live in North America where, there are some places that don’t even require you to wear a helmet and have no speed limits. Although I personally am an ATGATT woman (All The Gear All The Time) there are many who aren’t and don’t wear safety gear opting for fashion over function. The culture or perception is that motorcyclists are rebels. Doing what they want and damn the consequences. Which, in its very essence is kind of what we do when we wrap our legs around a machine with less safety cocooning than a car. I, personally believe that politicians need to get out of my sport and it’s ultimately up to me and my ‘common’ (sometimes not-so-common) sense to protect myself. There will always be those who don’t wear safety gear or that live in areas where it is legal for them not to ride with a helmet. Essentially I look at it as Mother Nature’s Population Control Rule coming into play. In the meantime I protect me and mine because I’ve seen too many fashionistas after a cement slide and know the consequences of flip-flops, shorts and a halter top riding attire.

  10. I wear high-vis all the time on the bike for a variety of reasons, but greater visibility while riding is NOT one of them.

    High-vis is actually more dangerous in certain situations – for example passing slow moving cars in the centre lanes on the GC-Bris motorway, as one passes the B pillar the “driver” happens to look up from their twit-face-phone thingy, notices a motorcycle and fluoro, the dumbphone goes flying and the car starts swerving.

    At night – what will people see first – the light projected from my headlights? Or their lights reflected from the vest? (assuming they are looking at me from the front, from the side the period of collision exposure is miniscule and if they are behind me I am very actively avoiding them).

    Active avoidance and visibility behaviours(weaving in the lane) are much more effective.

    However – once I am off the bike(such as parked on the side of the road) I tend to be very visible and most motorists slow down to take a look at my incredibly sexy motorbike(because it is).

    Note also that this year motorcyclist fatalities are down in Victoria, but unpowered cyclists and pedestrians are up. Surely if high-vis works for motorcyclists it should be mandatory for more vulnerable members of the community?

  11. some car driver can’t even see a b double, of course its a bit hard if you’re telling the kids
    to shut up talking on the phone and having a coffee. I was once nearly taken out by woman
    in a merc convertable coming through a give way sign with a smoke and coffee in one hand
    and phone in the other, she was steering with her wrist.
    i wouldn’t be at all suprised to see hi vis become compulsory. Trouble is there will always
    some dickhead in the biking community. [yes i’m talking to you ullysses] who will jump up
    and say what a good idea it is.

  12. I have spent the last 8 years in the traffic management and incident analysis business and I can assure you the visibility of motorcycles is a minimal factor causing car/truck Vs motorcycle incidents, driver inattention is without doubt the greatest cause of incidents on our roads. I have seen an SUV run up the back of a motorcycle at 8 am on a duel carriageway on a clear Sunday, not another vehicle for miles. The issue for Government is that they can’t legislate for this; it’s not like speeding, drinking, obviously dangerous driving. Good riders know to sway slightly within their lane to assist in drivers see them but when your stationary as in the example above, there is not much you can do. Motorcycles are easily seen, if your watching where your going, if drivers are not paying attention hi-vis clothing will not help any more that lights on at all times have. Believe it when I say Governments often legislate just so as to be seen to being doing something. Excluding the idiot riders who think they are on a race track, almost without exception the majority of car Vs bike incidents could be avoided if the car driver was paying attention, not if the bike was painted bright pink.

    1. Well said.

      I weave about a fair bit. Waiting for a plod to pull me over for a breath test. At stop lights I squeeze and release my front brake lever to flash the brake light on and off in the hope of being seen by the upcoming traffic. So far so good. One other thing that has made a dramatic difference in my being noticed on the road, is something I didn’t want to have to do. Put on LOUD pipes. Now people check their mirrors for the noise when I go to pass them instead of pulling out on me. I try to be neighbour sensitive as well.

    2. Given the TAC involvement I’d wonder if there won’t be a rash of claims that otherwise blameless riders contributed to various incidents – after all it is “proven” that hi-vis works, so if an experienced rider doesn’t wear hi-vis they must be negligent or careless about risk……

      Now I’ll be giving people ideas…..

  13. As has been stated, there is little evidence that hi – vis works particularly well and one is not necessarily seen better if one is wearing it. However what is important is that pus polititions and burro rats at clearly seen to be doing something that keeps the highly visible. Have a good weekend Mark

  14. To me it’s all just a cost cutting issue that targets the minority , let’s face it if all drivers where being taught to drive a car properly and there where government endorsed advanced training that was compulsory , riders would be seen.

  15. Well done, High-Vis made a n00b badge. How many riders will never wear on again when qualified? I occasionally pull mine out in massively diminished visibility, and to stop my waterproof over-jacket from flapping around. Mostly it’s a big sign that says “please harass me” Lights work better in all conditions. Both my jackets have retro-reflective piping or stripes that work well to make one visible off the bike, but retro-reflectives work on reflected light, so vehicle lighting again works better.

    No, Britain does not have extremes of heat. For a fraction of the summer I will unzip the thermal liners from my kit. Winters are mostly rideable all the way through with warm enough clothing. I consult SHARP ratings when buying helmets, make sure that that all locations of my kit that can take armour inserts have them, preferring aftermarket armour with demonstrably higher impact protection. Every little helps. Particularly in making the difference between an embarrassing slip on wet leaves or diesel, and broken bones and road rash.

    None of this helps the biggest threats to a motorcyclist, malobservant or inattentive drivers, and the urge to go faster.

  16. Hi-vis should be the rider’s choice, not legislated. If it’s legislated and someone wearing hi-vis is injured or killed could the government be held responsible? If, for example, the driver says he/she blended into the background?
    The rider has no choice and wearing hi-vis made it harder for the driver to see them.

  17. So, as part of this “safety agenda” for motorcycle riders, are we going to see compulsory rider awareness training for car drivers? Paid for by the car drivers, in the same way we will have to pay for compulsory hi-vis clothing?

  18. Say NO to the Nanny State agenda. Mandating flouro riding gear will not work, in the same way that Compulsory Lights On did not work. Drive in any city or town and you see an over-abundance of bright colours, banners, lights, vehicles and people, some moving and some stationary.. in fact, too much visual input. Now add bikes with headlights on and flouro gear, and all you are doing is adding to that already overwhelming background visual input.

    The answer is longer and more difficult learner driver training including visual recognition methods to discern smaller moving objects in the background pattern. Ram that home to all prospective drivers and do not let them drop the good driving behaviours as soon as they have their P plates. Stay vigilant on them and me bike riders may live a little longer without having to dress like some Circus Clowns.

  19. This looks like it is going down a slippery slope.

    There should definately be a minumum standard but that shouldn’t include fluro vests, up to the individual rider depnding on situation if they choose to wear one. I do, sometimes wear one, usually at night,dawn, dusk. You can become complacent wearing one of these especially a L rider rather than focusing on ‘situational awareness’.

    1. I must admit, I wear a reflective vest when I travel way out west because of the dust and harsh light that can make you almost invisible, especially to road train drivers. But in the city where every man and his dog is wearing a flouro vest these days, you just blend in with the scenery! There is also the thought that a flouro vest will attract undue attention and people will target fixate on you with dire consequences!

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