Hi-vis vest call panned

Coroner's recommendation panned

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:00 15/02/2013
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SEEN: A coroner has made a recommendation that all road cyclists be forced to wear hi-vis clothing.

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A coroner's recommendation that all road cyclists be forced to wear hi-vis clothing has been rejected by Sport Manawatu as simplistic and potentially harmful.

Some people would stop riding bikes, the agency says.

The recommendation has come in response to the death of Wellington police Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald, who died after being struck by a truck while cycling in Petone in 2008.

After an inquest into his death, coroner Ian Smith yesterday recommended the Government look at making hi-vis clothing compulsory for road cyclists.

Sport Manawatu chief executive Mike Daisley said making hi-vis vests compulsory would reduce the number of people choosing to cycle to work and school.

Mr Daisley said research in the British Medical Journal had proven the more people cycling on the roads, the safer they became for cyclists.

"I lived in Denmark for years and every time you went into an intersection over there you looked in your wing mirrors and you just knew there was going to be a cyclist there.

"That sheer number of cyclists is what changes driver behaviour, not forcing people to wear hi-vis vests."

Sport Manawatu promoted the use of vests, but could not support the call to make them compulsory.

"At least putting a helmet on has a direct safety benefit for the cyclist but wearing a hi-vis vest is assuming it's going to change someone else's behaviour."

Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School principal David Jopson said his children treated hi-vis vests as part of their uniform, with all children cycling to or from school required to wear one.

The school had introduced the hi-vis policy nearly six years ago and it had been a big success.

"It's something I feel strongly about. I wanted the kids coming to and from the school to be safe and in the past three years I haven't had a single parent come to me and say they disagree with their kid wearing a hi-vis vest."

Mr Jopson, who cycles every weekend, said he would never go for a bike ride in dark clothing.

"We all want the same thing and that's safety.

"With regard to adults, they are going to make their own decisions, but personally, I like to wear a vest."

Palmerston North cyclist Bill Devonshire, 78, said he agreed with the recommendation.

He has been taken to hospital two times in 14 months after being knocked off his bike by motorists.

He still cycles 160 kilometres a week and is always clad in hi-vis gear.

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"I can't think of a downside to it although a few ladies might not like it because it's not very feminine," he said.

Owner of Pedal Pushers Garry Buys said making hi-vis vests compulsory would limit the freedom of cyclists, which was dangerous.

Wearing hi-vis vests on hot days was stifling, and it was better to encourage the use of them, rather than forcing anything, he said.

- Manawatu Standard

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