The way cyclists are dressed does little to improve their safety when it comes to being overtaken by cars, according to a study by researchers from the University of Bath.
The study looked at whether drivers left more or less space when overtaking a cyclist, depending on the level of experience and skill indicated by the cyclist’s appearance.
Five 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.
A high-visibility 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 on a police 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. The only outfit associated with a significant change in passing proximity was the police/video-recording jacket.
The researchers say, “contrary to predictions”, that drivers treated riders in the sports outfit and the ‘novice cyclist’ outfit no differently, which suggests “they do not adjust overtaking proximity as a function of a rider’s perceived experience”.
The study concluded: “There is little riders can do, by altering their appearance, to prevent the very closest overtakes”. It goes on to suggest “infrastructural, educational or legal measures are more promising for preventing drivers from passing extremely close to bicyclists”.