Would Mods & Rockers have existed… | EDITORIAL
…if Hi-Viz was enforced last century?
I firmly believe not, and to understand why, consider this for a second…
Why did you take up scooter riding? Was it purely for transport, commuting or going shopping?
For the vast majority of us there was much more involved. Most people who ride accept that there are risks involved because they are natural risk-takers.
Taking risks is fun. It stimulates us. Without that stimulation there would be no such thing as a fun-fair ride or a bungee jump. We would all walk around wrapped in cotton wool, or maybe get the bus if we felt adventurous.
Besides enjoying the thrill of piloting a device that can’t stand upright unless it is moving, many of us got involved because scooters represented a style, a fashion or a scene that we identified with. It doesn’t matter whether that scene was ‘60s Mod, ‘80s Scooterboy or even new millennium auto-riding stunt kids. We all had peers who enjoyed the freedom of 2-wheels. Peers who we thought looked cool.
How many of those inspiring peers wore Hi-Viz vests?
None of them, except maybe on the day they took their bike test.
The sad truth of the matter is that Hi-Viz is not cool in any shape or form. It makes you look like you are trying to park an aeroplane, empty a bin, or have fantasies about being a motorway cop. No teenager is ever likely to be inspired to take up 2-wheels by a scooter rider in Hi-Viz.
At this stage I should point out that I have nothing against scooter riders wearing Hi-Viz as an insurance policy against dozy drivers; of which there are many. If you feel that style is a worthwhile sacrifice for safety then you may be right. Hi-Viz will possibly improve your chances of being seen at a junction by someone who was barely paying attention. But if they didn’t see you because they were looking at their phone, would wearing pink, orange or yellow make a difference?
For clarity’s sake, let me explain that I’m not the sort of Motorcycle Action Group nutter who thinks it would be a great idea to repeal the helmet law. Motorcycle helmets are a good idea. They keep you warm when it’s cold and they have visors to protect your eyes. Fundamentally, they will protect your head if you have an accident; whether it is the fault of a car driver, or as a result of youthful exuberance. By contrast, how much extra protection do you think a thin layer of fluorescent plastic will give you as you slide down the road? Defensive riding techniques are much more likely to save your life than a Hi-Viz vest.
What I do have a problem with is Hi-Viz compulsion, and the French government are trying to sneak compulsion in through the back-door.
Since January 2016 it has been compulsory to carry a Hi-Viz vest on a bike in France. You risk getting a fine of 11 Euros if you are stopped riding and do not carry one, or €135 if you aren’t wearing one when broken down.
Wearing Hi-Viz at a breakdown is very sensible. This is not a normal situation; it is an emergency. Being stationary on a busy road is dangerous, particularly if you can’t step safely onto the verge because you have to find where you stored your Hi-Viz vest in your scooter.
Many riders will feel obliged to wear one all the time because they have nowhere else convenient to carry one. This is akin to catching a plane and wearing the life-jacket throughout the flight because there’s no room for it under your seat.
The obligatory carrying of a Hi-Viz in France is a fudge. The government were trying to force through compulsion for all bikers and scooterists to wear Hi-Viz while riding, with a specified minimum area of reflective material. Instead the requirement they’ve settled on is that your helmet should have four reflective stickers on it when riding in France. At the moment this law is not supposed to be retrospectively enforced to old helmets, but if you buy a new helmet then the law will require you to sticker it.
All of this is very comforting in a Nanny-state kind of way. Thanks for wanting to keep me safe, France, very good of you.
Before everyone who voluntarily wears Hi-Viz writes a snotty comment, think about this scenario for a moment.
Imagine a joyful summer ride on your scooter in France. Or anywhere else with a similar sartorial fascism:
You are wearing jeans and a casual jacket. On your head is a stylish, brand new crash helmet . You look cool, but you have forgotten to pack your fluorescent bib and your helmet has no reflective stickers on it. By doing what people have done for 100 years – getting on your bike and riding – you are now a law-breaker. An outlaw.
Suddenly, you spot a police car, but by quick thinking you manage to nip down a side-road before they can give you a fine for not having a reflective helmet or carrying a Hi-Viz vest.
Just as you begin to remember why you got a scooter in the first place – the joy and rebellion of your youth – a car pulls out from a side road because the driver is too busy sending a text to look properly.
The result is not only an accident. According to the car driver’s insurance company it is partly your fault. Why? You share the blame because you were not wearing the correct Hi-Viz equipment. How could their client be reasonably expected to see you if you aren’t dressed like a neon sign?
Compulsory requirements are a dangerous game; particularly in this case. Here, we are being forced to do something to protect ourselves from the behaviour of others or risk prosecution. This is like all the non-smokers being forced to stand outside the pub in the rain to protect them from the effects of passive smoking. Shouldn’t it be your right to choose whether you want to take that risk?
The problem with the way the EU works is that this sort of legislation creeps and spreads to other countries and other areas of life like a virus. Do-gooders in Brussels won’t understand why we don’t want to be forced to wear safety Hi-Viz. But equally they will not have experienced the joy of just jumping on your scooter in the summer and riding.
My argument is not against high-visibility clothing – many of my riding jackets have Scotchlite reflectors built-in. My issue is with creeping compulsion backed by fines.
Even if you wear Hi-Viz by choice you should support the right of others not to do so.