A cycling spokesman speaks

PUBLISHED: 13:17 15 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:14 28 May 2010

It s been a strange - maybe worrying - week for cyclists. Not only have they discovered that every cycle will soon have to have a bell, but the males among them have learned they might be safer if they demonstrate transvestite tendencies. To make matters

It's been a strange - maybe worrying - week for cyclists. Not only have they discovered that every cycle will soon have to have a bell, but the males among them have learned they might be safer if they demonstrate transvestite tendencies.

To make matters even more confusing it seems there is evidence that cyclists are safer if they do not wear safety helmets.

Dr Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist at Bath University, has been doing a bit of research, using a bike with an ultra sonic distance sensor and a video camera to record the data. And he has proved - at least he claims he has - that cyclists wearing helmets are more likely to be hit by other vehicles.

The reason is that drivers perceive helmeted cyclists as more serious and experienced, so they give them less room. Therefore, wearing a safety helmet can be counter-productive.

But his wisdom doesn't end there. During the series of tests he spent time wearing a woman's wig while pedalling among the traffic. From this he discovered that because drivers thought he was a woman they gave him more room. Consequently he was safer.

And before we nosedive into the realms of woman-driver jokes, let me remind you this is serious stuff, certainly for Dr Walker, one of our jolly band of scientists who get six-figure salaries to tell us what we already know or what is pretty inconsequential anyway.

Which brings me to bells. Dr Walker would probably suggest cyclists should all wear pointed hats with flashing lights and tinkling bells so drivers would dismiss them all as totally daft and give them a very wide berth.

The Government, however, has a plan of lesser dimensions, to make sure all bikes have bells.

Present law requires bells to be fitted to all new bikes, but cyclists may remove them. Under harmonised EU cycle construction standards, due to take effect this autumn, the bells will have to stay on.

Perhaps the Government might consider this a good time to remind cyclists that they should obey the laws of the road - stopping at red traffic lights, showing lights at night, that sort of thing.

As schools get busier, with less time for cycling proficiency instruction, this might also be the time to introduce testing cyclists before they are allowed on to our lethal roads.

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