I am a helmet & high-viz type of cyclist. Not because I want to be, but because I want to give motorists the best chance to see me inbetween the other important driving tasks such as lighting a cigarette, drinking coffee, hunting for something in the back seat, texting, and having a magificantly animated row with the spouse.*
The futility of the high-viz and helmet approach dawned on me whilst cycling along Cathall Road in Leytonstone today. It is a terrible road for cyclists, but one of the few roads crossing the tear in Waltham Forest that is the A12 link road. So one has little choice, unless a lengthy diversion appeals. The road is just wide enough for cars to think that they can pass, without being wide enough so that they actually can without causing the cyclist considerable discomfort. Then there are some badly placed parking bays, a roundabout that is appalling for cyclists (cars squeeze past and overtake) and a slight incline as one goes over the A12 to a set of traffic lights where getting through the green phase is more important than the cyclist. All of this on a road where speeding is the norm as the motorist finds a new-found sense of freedom after the congestion of the A11.
I was close passed by around 5 cars, and overtaken on the roundabout by a mini-van. There was practically nothing I could do about this other than weave randomly around the road in the hope that the motorist would think I had lost my mind and back off.
If any of these cars hit me, they were going fast enough to cause real damage. Certainly more than my plastic helmet would protect me from.
So, the real cycling safety issue isn't helmet and high-viz. It is impatient and inconsiderate driving on roads that are completely hostile to cycling. It wouldn't take much to calm this road and make it more attractive for cycling. Some moving of parking bays and road markings would help. But even this seems beyond the various transport departments that manage Waltham Forest's roads.
* All these things I saw today whilst cycling. The row was something to behold. I am not too sure what the husband had done, but I would imagine he is sleeping on the sofa even as I type.