Compulsion Hi Viz

The Hi Viz Debate Rumbles On

The FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme)/UEM (Continental Union for Europe) has just published its latest Public Policy Newsletter.

The newsletter reports on subject such as the airbag jacket, Italian schools programme, Crete – helmet campaign update, UN Decade of Action for Road Safety events, FIM Experienced Rider Training Symposium – Canada, Prologue Project a road safety research programme, Responsible tourism. But interesting is the opening comments in the newsletter by Achilles Damen, Director of the Public Affairs Commission (CAP), FIM and Jean-Pierre Moreau, President of the Public Affairs Commission, UEM (FIM Continental Union for Europe).

There has been a lot of furore in France regarding the apparent proposals by their government to introduce the compulsory wearing of high viz clothing or devices for motorcyclists. Achilles Damen asks some reasonable questions and offers sensible advice which we haven’t come across in the present rhetoric on the issue.


The comments also tie in with clothing regulations as regards protective clothing. Mr Damen suggests that the real problem that should be addressed are those who ride in who ride around with nothing but a tee shirt, shorts and flip flop shoes.

Although this is directed towards those European countries that enjoy a much more “heat orientated” climate, in Northern Ireland a couple of days sunshine will see riders in tee shirts, shorts and no gloves and while that is their prerogative, at Right To Ride we can’t help but cringe and thinking ouch!

As the comments point out, “Modern technology has brought superb new products in the form of Kevlar reinforced clothing that has an appearance identical to casual clothing. It is made as jeans or combat style trousers and jackets, and other designs.”

Hi Viz

On the issue of a “government” specified reflective jacket, the comments report that this has been tried in a number of countries and the newsletter shows a photograph of a rider wearing the version prescribed in Ecuador. The comments point out that the design,” is both uncomfortable and dangerous as the straps can easily snag in the event of a fall.”

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) in Ireland have proposed in their National Motorcycle Action Plan, to make “the introduction of regulations for the mandatory wearing of high visibility upper body clothing with full sleeves for ride [sic] and pillion passenger.”

Mr Damen points out that, “Many motorcycling jackets are also adjustable for “climate control” with vents that can be opened in hot weather and closed when it is cold. If anything is put over the top this feature is immediately affected. Experienced riders also know how important it is that all clothing works together and does not flap in the wind or restrict movement.”

He also points out that riders ride across borders and asks, “in the European Union how will these new laws affect riders from other countries as they pass through? As with other national laws it seems likely they would have to be applied to visitors. Where is a German or British rider visiting France supposed to obtain the new government specification yellow jacket? Another different design will be needed when riding across into Belgium as the Minister there says they are considering similar proposals!”

Right To Ride – Asks Questions

In consideration of riding across borders, Right To Ride asked the RSA in Ireland and the UK’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Mike Penning a couple of questions regarding mandating the wearing of HiViz/Day Glo jackets/vests and the compulsory wearing of compulsory protective clothing by motorcyclists in the UK.

First we asked the RSA for clarification if the proposals in their 2009 consultation regarding the compulsory wearing of high visibility upper body clothing with full sleeves for riders and pillion passengers are being introduced into Ireland.

While we have had an initial response from the RSA that states, “Regarding the using of Hi-Vis clothing , Action 8 requires the Road Safety Authority to provide such clothing to increase wearing rates and to promote their usage (Action9).

There is no reference to compulsory wearing.

The response continues “in the actions (Action 23) there is a plan to introduce compulsory wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) scheduled for the end of 2014. However Actions 24 requires the Road Safety Authority to promote the usage of such clothing on an annual basis and Action 25 requires the authority to carry out a comprehensive research project on the matter. This research is ongoing at the moment.

The RSA representative ended his response with “I hope this clarifies the issue for you and your members.”

Well no, not really! In fact we’re now completely bamboozled!

In the meantime, MAG Ireland recently reported that they oppose the mandatory use of high visibility clothing as an unjustified and questionable “solution” to the problem of drivers failing to properly look for vulnerable road users, while quoting that the RSA National Motorcycle Action Plan states to “ Introduce regulations for the mandatory wearing of high visibility upper body clothing.”

It seems to us that there appears to be a contradiction from the RSA which is leading to more confusion about whether hi-viz will be made compulsory in Ireland.

We have asked if this could be clarified and voiced our concerns that if Hi-Viz or PPE clothing are made compulsory in the ROI (Republic of Ireland), then motorcyclists from Northern Ireland or from any other country for that matter, would then have to comply with the regulations in the ROI. These may not be a legal requirement in UK or in other European countries for riding on the road. We wrote that this would thus suggest that foreign motorcyclists would be open to prosecution for non compliance if travelling in the ROI.

We wrote to the UK’s Mike Penning the UK’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport and asked:

1. Are there any plans to introduce in the UK to mandate the wearing of HiViz/Day Glo jackets/vests for motorcyclists?

2. Are you aware that the European Commission is planning to introduce legislation so that member states will have to introduce the compulsory wearing of HiViz/Day Glo jackets/vests?

3. Are there any plans to introduce the wearing of compulsory protective clothing by motorcyclists in the UK?

Our questions where passed on promptly to the Department for Transport (DfT). The DfT Ministerial Support Unit replied:

“The importance of wearing the right clothing has been part of the Safe and Responsible Riding Syllabus and the CBT syllabus for many years. And examiners turning candidates away from test for wearing inappropriate clothing is not new. Representatives of the motorcycle community have been involved in developing guidance to new riders and also the Syllabus.

Only those candidates who are wearing wholly inappropriate clothing should have their tests cancelled. Our (and DSA’s) aim is to reinforce the message that learner motorcyclists should take their safety seriously while riding, including during the practical test.

It is for individual member states to set requirements on the use of vehicles in their country and there are no plans to change our laws simply because another member state chooses to do so.

The (UK) Government has no plans to make Hi Viz/Day Glo jackets/vests and protective clothing for motorcyclists compulsory but encourages their use through publications such as The Highway Code.”

The reply from the DfT regarding compulsory clothing focuses around concerns that the DSA (Driving Standards Agency in GB) has reminded motorcycle test candidates to wear suitable clothing – which contrasts with the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG UK), suggesting that “the spectre of compulsory protective clothing comes one step closer”.

The DfT’s reply could not be clearer: “The Government has no plans to make Hi Viz/Day Glo jackets/vests and protective clothing for motorcyclists compulsory.” With regards to the EU and what other member states are proposing, “there are no plans to change our laws simply because another member state chooses to do so.”

However if the EU decide European wide to try to introduce mandatory hi viz or compulsory clothing then we hope that the UK Government and elected MEPs will fight our corner!

Hi Viz Voluntary

The road safety authorities in Ireland have been handing out Hi Viz to riders and in the UK, Motorcycle News (MCN) reported in February that police force in England were issuing, either a high-visibility jacket or bib and rucksack as well as leaflets which were designed for all road users but contain messages relevant to motorcyclists in respect of speed.

While MCN reported that, “thousands of motorcyclists could be stopped by police for not wearing high-visibility clothing as more forces adopt the policy.” and be given lectures on “being seen”

The Motorcycle Action Group MAG UK reported at that “the tactics are a step towards compulsory hi-vis clothing or reduced insurance pay-outs for riders in dark kit.” and advised that “all riders stopped without obvious cause in order to deliver these lectures to make a stand by lodging formal complaints.”

Road Safety GB recently commented on the issue of compulsory hi-vis jackets, that, “Following the news that compulsory hi-vis jackets for motorcyclists are among a raft of new traffic laws to be introduced in France, a Road Safety GB motorcycling expert has warned against similar measures being adopted in the UK.”

“Hi-vis clothing is unlikely to improve conspicuity on bright sunny days when visibility is good and it may even lull people into a false sense of security. However, we would always advise people to wear it in poor weather or low light conditions, when some drivers may struggle to see and identify a motorcycle and rider or indeed a cyclists or pedestrian.”

While MAG Ireland opposes the mandatory wearing of hi viz, MAG Ireland and is not against the use of high visibility clothing, they have recommended for example a reflective purple “H” belt as the visual impact of this is much greater, they also believe that hi-viz colours need to be assigned to different classes of road users e.g. builders – orange, emergency services – green et cetera so that other road users will associate the various colours with the type of hazard that could be connected with them.

So whether you choose to wear a hi viz jacket, vest or belt, whatever colour they are, or buy these yourself or they are given away free, at present as a motorcyclist with a full licence, it is your choice.

While the DfT in GB has said that there are no plans to make Hi Viz/Day Glo jackets/vests and protective clothing for motorcyclists compulsory, here in Northern Ireland we can keep an eye on the issue. In its road safety strategy to 2020, the Department Of the Environment (DOE) only considers measures to improve the visibility and conspicuity of motorcyclists.

Back To FIM

Meanwhile back to the newsletter. The comments offer a sensible approach for, “for governments to work with motorcycling in a joint campaign to address the real problem – the tee shirt and shorts riders – and convince them that today they can still look fashionable, remain cool, and protect themselves from severe abrasion injuries by buying some modern clothing. Not only does it look good, it is also remarkably inexpensive.”

However the newsletter finishes with comments that might be seen as conversional regarding policing for those in the minority who still behave “stupidly” that, “there is always the application of some effective policing. Officers can still stop riders and advise them and their passengers. While doing so they are fully entitled to run some checks on driving licence, insurance etc. Experienced police officers know that those who are irresponsible in one area of life are almost always irresponsible in other ways too”.

Suggesting that experienced police officers are capable of knowing whether a person is irresponsible just because the way they are dressed, is a dangerous statement.

You can leave your comments at Right To Ride EU – Click Here

Further details here:

FIM Newsletter – Click Here pdf

MAG Ireland – Mandatory High-Viz: The Background – Click Here

MAG UK – Compulsory protective clothing for novices from next month? – Click Here

Motorcycle News – Police to issue thousands more riders with hi-vis vests – Click Here

Road Safety GB – Compulsory hi-vis gear gets thumbs down from UK bikers – Click Here

Road Safety GB – Revved-up reaction to hi-vis for bikers – Click Here

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