A petition to ban the use of a hi-vis vest with “POLITE” on the back has been started in the UK, saying it is “pretend police wear”.
When we published an article about the British-designed “Polite Notice Think Bike” waistcoat becoming available in Australia a year ago, it inflamed a lot of negative comment about promoting mandatory hi-vis and the legality of impersonating a police officer.
The vests haven’t become very popular here, but they are apparently ubiquitous in the UK where they have been on sale for more than six years.
While the petition is concerned about the vests making riders look like police, the UK constabulary is not concerned and has not arrested anyone for impersonating an officer. We also have no record of anything similar in Australia.
Riders who wear them claim the vests attract the attention of the traffic with motorists making way for them in the mistaken belief they are police. It has also been claimed they may prevent road rage.
Some riders are more concerned that a proliferation of such vests among riders will give authorities more drive to make them mandatory.
Victoria already requires novice riders to wear a hi-vis vest and France has introduced a rule where riders have to carry a hi-vis vest with them.
Many riders believe it is unfair to place the burden of visibility on riders when cars don’t have to be painted in luminous colours.
But there is also a shadow of doubt over their efficacy of hi-vis as a safety device.
Professor Richard Huggins of the University of Melbourne says he was hit by a car while wearing hi-vis clothing.
He has reviewed several studies on motorcycle conspicuity and “look but fail to see” accidents and says there is “sufficient doubt” of the effectiveness of hi-vis to call for a repeal of the mandatory requirement in Victoria.
Prof Huggins has a number of concerns about motorcyclists wearing hi-vis clothing:
They may impart a false sense of security for novice riders;
Modern research shows that people don’t recognise or react to motorcycles, rather than not seeing them at all;
Drivers are more likely to see a bike but make an error in timing; and
All bikes have hard-wired headlights yet no research has been done on how this affects hi-visibility.
Prof Huggins says that if hi-vis is a real safety issue, why are there no greater penalties for drivers who crash into people wearing them?
Meanwhile, the POLITE vest has been available in Australia through Xenonoz for $79.95, but the website is now under construction and we don’t know the current price or availability situation.