Growing up in Colorado, I quickly learned to wear my brightest attire when venturing into the woods during hunting season, lest someone mistake me for Bambi’s mother.
Not that we look the least bit alike.
But still, there was always the risk that some armed fool might sense movement, raise and fire without first determining just what the hell he was shooting at.
Even riding my bike, I had to worry about hunters mistakenly assuming that deer tend to travel at relatively high speeds on paved roads wearing spandex. And have spoked wheels instead of legs.
Things that should be readily apparent at a glance to even the most sleep deprived, drunken and/or inexperienced idiot with a high-powered hunting rifle. And it never ceases to amaze me just how many of those we’re willing to arm and send out into the world.
But every year, it seemed like one or more people would get shot just because they ventured out into the woods when the beer and blood lust was running high.
And almost without exception, it would be written off as just an accident.
After all, the shooter didn’t mean to kill anyone. Even if the victim would still be alive if the person with the gun had taken just a few more seconds to verify what he was shooting at before pulling the trigger.
Instead, the authorities would inevitably blame the victim for venturing out without high-visibility clothing, even though the hunters themselves were usually in camouflage gear.* Or just being outdoors in the relative wilderness, when anyone with a salt-lick of sense would know they just didn’t belong there.
Maybe you can see where I’m going with this.
Despite the requirement for a license, and a proliferation of hunter safety classes, it was still up to everyone else to stay the hell out of the hunters’ way, rather than on hunters not to shoot those on two legs instead of four.
After all, they’d suggest, you should know there are people with guns out there. And it’s up to you to stay the hell out of their way.
Or at least make sure they see you if you do.
Sort of like cyclists and pedestrians are expected to do everything short of setting off a thermonuclear device to get a driver’s attention.
Don’t require drivers to pay attention to what’s in the road directly in front of them. Or improve infrastructure to help keep everyone safe.
No, the standard solution is to put the blame squarely on the potential victim, rather than on the ones capable of causing harm.
Or as former competitive cyclist and current OC attorney David Huntsman put it, it’s like handing out longer skirts to prevent sexual harassment.
It was David who forwarded me a link to a New Zealand story praising a local trucking company for handing out hi-vis vests to cyclists.
The article quotes Tony Gare, general manager of Icon Logistics, discussing a collision one of his drivers had with a dark-attired cyclist, who fortunately was only slightly injured.
“If he had been wearing high-visibility clothing instead, the crash might not have happened.”
There were many cyclists in Dunedin who did not wear the visibility gear, he said.
So Mr Gare bought several hundred high-visibility vests, at a cost of about $50 each, to give away to cyclists.
“If, at the end of the day, it’s going to save someone’s life, it will be worth it.”
Clearly, his heart is in the right place.
Even if his efforts could, perhaps, be better directed by improving training for his drivers, rather than getting local cyclists to dress like people hiking through a high-fire hunting zone.
Huntsman, however, is clearly not one to let a matter such as this lie. So he sent the following email to Mr. Gare.
Mr. Tony Gare
The referenced article came across in my alerts this morning here in California.
First I want to say that the purchase of those reflective vests is a nice gesture.
However, as a logistics firm, isn’t your organization better suited to assess and address the education and habits (and any deficiencies) of truck drivers? I’m curious to know if your firm has taken any steps in that direction.
Of course it would be helpful if all cyclists and pedestrians dressed in day-glo. But focusing on that aspect of accident prevention distracts from the other side of the equation – the motorists’ side.
Remarkably, the response came just a few minutes later.
Thank you for your email regarding the Hi Vis Vests.
As a company Icon Logistics Ltd is very proactive in its driver training and all safety matters whether it be on road or off. We have regular Training, Health and Safety sessions, including those with the local enforcement agencies to keep our staff aware of their responsibilities in operating heavy vehicles.
On this occasion our most senior driver, plus the truck turning into the freight yard failed to see the cyclist because he was indistinguishable from the parked vehicles. This accident occurred on a heavy traffic bypass and an industrial area and as a result of this many of the business in the area have asked for changes in where people can park so turning vehicles have better visibility. While we can’t direct people where to ride, they also must take a degree of responsibility to ensure they can be seen and the choice of roads that they use.
Our General Manger, Tony, has kept in touch with the cyclist, to ensure he has had no further health issues, has replaced his bike and ensured he has the proper reflective clothing.
And a few hours later, this came in from Mr. Gare himself.
Thanks for your e-mail but as far as training goes in this situation the cyclist was in a heavy transport area with-out any hi-viz and the driver concerned and all of our drivers to this point are well trained and equipped in all aspects of the heavy transport industry
Many Thanks for your response
Icon Logistics Ltd
Evidently, there’s a punctuation shortage down there in Kiwi land.
But don’t get me wrong.
Like David Huntsman, I appreciate the gesture. Even more when it’s done on a more personal basis, simply because someone cares.
I’m also a firm believer in being as visible as practical, if not as possible. I make a point of riding where I can be seen by everyone else on the road, and lighting myself up like a Christmas tree after dark.
And I’ve learned over the years that what I wear makes a big difference in how well drivers see me. Bright reds, yellows and whites seem to result in far fewer close calls, while an otherwise good bright blue jersey seems to mean dodging cars all day.
I call it my cloak of invisibility because it somehow seems to make me disappear from drivers’ view.
But I draw the line at wearing fluorescent vests to ensure that those who should see me anyway actually do. Let alone that we don’t blend in with parked cars, not one of which I have ever seen that looked even remotely like a bike rider.
There is a point at which drivers must be held accountable for seeing other road users and operating their vehicles safely, without cyclists having to light themselves up with neon signs to point out their position on the road.
Just as hunters have an obligation not to pull the trigger until they know what the hell they’re shooting at.
One quick suggestion for anyone who still hasn’t finished their holiday shopping.
L.A.’s own Pure Fix Cycles offers this very cool $1000 table made with their own Pure Fix Urban Forks and custom wheels, in your choice of frame and wheel colors. Or maybe you’d prefer one of their single speed/fixed gear bikes, starting at just $300 — each of which comes standard with front brakes, as well as optional rear brakes.
After all, if comes down to a choice of brakes or wearing a Hi-Viz vest, I’d rather err on the side of stopping.
*Whenever I see someone dressed in camo, I have to resist the urge to run up and say “I can totally see you, you know.”