Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Cycle clothing and the Neon Army

"What should I wear?" Short answer? Anything. My advice? Neon.

I am not a Health & Safety advocate because I think that H&S is utterly paranoid and most of the slips, spills, ragged carpets and overstuffed boxes they point out as hazardous won't hurt a fly unless picked up and thrown by an angry office worker. That said, I have personally experienced what works well on London's roads: if they can see you, they are less likely to hit you.

London is not a cycle-friendly city. Many people cycle but the infrastructure is wholly inadequate, yet the Cycle Campaigns go on. It seems once they get the critical mass, then they will provide the infrastructure. And not one moment before.

Don't get me wrong, I am a strong advocate of cycling to work and cycling in London but we don't have the luxury of cycling in a safe environment with unique cycle paths like our cousins in Amsterdam, Copenhagen or those cycling down the Danube. They can all wear what they like but we have to be visible.

I tested that theory. I wore a light-blue anorak before I bought my neon jacket and I have far fewer near misses than I used to when wearing blue. Imagine what it's like when people wear black on a bike? I did that once in Dublin and some guy - on a bike - ran into me!

So what do cyclists wear in London?

Commuters? It's the Neon Army on bicycles out there. Long-sleeved neon jackets, neon waistcoats in yellow or orange (or both), strips of neon on ankles and wrists, strips of neon on otherwise darkly-coloured helmets, blinking helmet lights, lights flickering on backpacks etc.

I used to think that it was so uncool - that's until I got knocked off my bike by a white van. Now I consider it the Right Thing to Wear for the job. Since I went Neon, I've not had a problem. It's as if motorists look out for us lumo loonies, so why buck the trend?

Other leisure cyclists wear normal clothes - jeans, high heels, stockings, flapping trench coats. Some have helmets, some don't. Some are really eccentric and inventive but people who do the daily grind of commuting, we just do neon and Lycra or tracksuit bottoms with ankle clips and trainers. It seems to be our uniform and there's method in the madness.

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