Thursday, 1 March 2012

Cyclists without lights

Cambridgeshire Police: Specials target cyclists with no lights.

In short, 4 specials each handed out one ticket per hour, totalling 15 tickets in 4 hours.  Those numbers appear to be suspiciously low and I wonder why.

If you drive or cycle through Cambridge you will see many cyclists inadequately lit.  There is a pattern to it too.  My anecdotal observations show those of student age, teenagers and twenty somethings, are the most likely group to fall foul of the law.

I imagine that hassle and risk of keeping lights on your bike which is left at college outweighs the risk of cycling unlit in areas with street lighting.  They do have a tendency to get lost in dark patches around the city however.  Thankfully, most leave their reflectors on.

A frequently cited Guardian story reported on the causes of cycling accidents in a study for the DfT.  "Wearing dark clothing at night was seen as a potential cause in about 2.5% of cases, and failure to use lights was mentioned 2% of the time".  I guess those students have some sort of self preservation gene after all.

I don't think the real percentage of unlit Cambridge cyclists is anywhere near as high as some people think. If you observe cyclists, they do appear to be cycling without lights.  Look more closely and you realise that quite a lot are cycling with very poor lights, which probably just need new batteries, and commonly long coats and bags cover lights attached to the seat post.  In many cases, the reflector does a better job of showing the cyclist than the lights they have.

I wonder what the Police do when somebody has lights, but they are next to useless ?  Words of advice or a ticket ?  This might partly explain why officers are catching so few.

Out here, between Histon and Cottenham it is properly dark.  Very few cycle without lights here and if they do, I suspect they have been caught out with a failing battery.  If anything, rural cyclists live in fear of not being seen and many have more than one light just in case, plus a whole load of reflective gear.  You'd have an easier time finding motorists with defective lighting.

Still, I think the numbers the Police caught is still on the low side.  But if they are as visible as the cops with speed guns it would be easy to avoid being caught.

Update:  The morning after I wrote this, it was foggy.  Visibility was down to 100m or less in places between villages just outside Cambridge.  I was gobsmacked at the amount of motorists not using their lights on their vehicles, about a quarter of them.  What is worse, is that the default choice of colour for a modern car is silver, or fog colour.  Perfect camouflage.

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