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The team at LJ Research are keen cyclists; three out of six team members pedal into the office every morning – despite strong North-sea winds and the rather frequent number of rain showers we regularly experience here in Edinburgh / Scotland.
The way each team member dresses for the commute differs, however. Here’s how:
- Team member 1: helmet and high-vis jacket
- Team member 2: helmet only
- Team member 3: neither helmet nor high-vis jacket
Naturally, at team gatherings the question of the safest way to travel to work (or the least insane way to travel to work in the view of the team’s three non-cyclists) is regularly being discussed.
Does a helmet make the commute safer? Or is a helmet perhaps even a health-hazard as car drivers would be encouraged to pass you less carefully? How much effort should one put into being visible on the street? And so on…
Recently we have been commissioned by the Accident Advice Helpline to conduct market research around this subject. In May 2016, we’ve asked a nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK motorists about their views on cycling clothing. Courtesy to Accident Advice Helpline, we may publish some of the findings in this blogpost.
We’ve asked motorists if they’ve ever had difficulties spotting a cyclist in road traffic. Some 41% confirmed that this was the case. Notably, in Scotland the proportion of motorists who admitted to having had difficulties seeing a cyclist was lower than average; it was much higher than average in places like London.
Those who’ve had difficulties spotting a cyclist in time were asked for which reasons they struggled to detect the cyclists. The chart below illustrates that lack of front / rear lights was the number one reason for most motorists not to see cyclists. So you will be pleased to learn that despite the different security policies applied by each team member, we all have front and rear lights!
In a boost to the approach for team member 1, 56% of those who said they’ve had difficulties detecting a cyclist said that “lack of high-visibility clothing” was the reason for that. And a staggering 93% of motorists said that cyclists should wear such high-visibility clothing. The same proportion also said that cyclists should wear a helmet – take note, team member 3!
Why would, considering this, a helmet even be controversial? Some cyclists argue that wearing a helmet makes their commute even more dangerous as it would encourage car-drivers to pass them more ruthlessly. The assumption goes that motorists see the cyclist with a helmet and think: “oh, he’ll be fine.”
So we’ve posed this question to our sample of UK motorists. The market research reveals: the vast majority (79%) say they would not pass a cyclist who wears a helmet differently than one without. But of the minority who would pass a cyclist differently, 84% admit they would pass a cyclist who does not wear a helmet more carefully than one with a helmet.
Now, does the latter finding mean that those who do not pass the cyclist without helmet more carefully pass the cyclist with helmet more carelessly?
This is where our market research findings enter the phase of interpretation and speculation. But let’s apply one scenario: Of 1,000 motorists (perhaps the number each of our team members would encounter in traffic in a working week), 790 say they would pass a cyclist with helmet the same way as one without; and 177 say they would pass a cyclist without helmet more carefully!
As ever so often with market research findings, different interpretations are found by different team members with each interpretation being an argument in favour of sticking with the way it’s been done thus far. But there is a little twist, too: team member 3 admits that high-visibility clothing may be advisable in the darker winter months. Here’s a tangible outcome of our market research… and food for further team discussions.
We thank the Accident Advice Helpline for allowing us to publish these findings.
Any questions, please contact us.
You can also check the Our Team page to guess which team member applies what security policy.