A recent discussion came up if cyclists should wear bright retro-reflective safety vests under all conditions. Some professionals came out in favor, other were ambivalent, while some were downright opposed particularly if the bicycle is already equipped with a full legal (varies by state) complement of bicycle lights.
Image via Bike Nasbar Catalog.
I fell into the ambivalent category (wear 'em if you want to but I don't) until I read a response by one of the more respected members of APBP, Mighk Wilson out of Orlando, Florida:
When we start portraying such safety items as very necessary at all times, we run the risk of the contributory negligence problem. While it may not be explicitly written in law that failure to wear brightly-colored clothing is contributory negligence, we might foresee a time when that might be the common belief, and juries might unfairly rule against cyclists in some cases for that reason.Once Mighk brought up this possible scenario John Sigurjonsson of Cycle Chatham-Kent of Ontario, Canada informed the group that:
Police reports in Ontario note the color and reflectivity of cyclists clothing (e.g. “dark, non-reflective clothing worn by smeared cyclist”)So, since you the cyclist DID NOT dress like a 1980's neon prom queen, you had it coming to you because the helpless (hapless) driver couldn't help but NOT see you. Unfortunately this is already a common excuse when a driver hits a pedestrian who was otherwise walking along or crossing a street in a perfectly legal manner. "The pedestrian victim was dressed in 'dark clothing'" is often cited as the PRIMARY reason why a crash happened at night or other dark conditions.
Hmmm... Last I checked my finest cloths are all fairly dark (my best suit and overcoat are all black). Most police uniforms are mostly black too but I have yet to hear of the "dark clothing" being an excuse when a driver hits an officer of the law.