Does a cyclist choice of jersey influence motorists’ approach to passing cyclists safely? A study looking at whether drivers overtaking a cyclist changed the proximities of their passes in response to the level of experience and skill signalled by the cyclist’s appearance has been published in the journal, Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Highlights of the Jersey Choice – Safe Passing Research Paper
- Overtaking proximities were not related to a bicyclist’s apparent experience level.
- Drivers responded to a ‘police’ vest which suggested the journey was being videoed.
- 1–2% of overtakes came within 50 cm of the rider no matter how they were dressed.
- Bicyclists probably cannot prevent close overtakes by manipulating their appearance.
- An instrumented bicycle recorded passing proximities from 5690 motorists.
Abstract of the Jersey Choice – Safe Passing Research Paper
This study looked at whether drivers overtaking a bicyclist changed the proximities of their passes in response to the level of experience and skill signalled by the bicyclist’s appearance. Seven 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 bicycling 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 bicyclist 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 m of the rider, approximately 1–2% of overtakes came within 50 cm no matter what outfit was worn.
This suggests there is little riders can do, by altering their appearance, to prevent the very closest overtakes; it is suggested that infrastructural, educational or legal measures are more promising for preventing drivers from passing extremely close to bicyclists.
Quoted under section 41 of the Copyright Act 1968, Fair dealing for purpose of criticism or review.
The full reference for the paper is:
Walker, I., Garrard, I. & Jowitt, F. (2014). 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. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 64, 69-77.