04 January 2013

Reflective Material on Cars. Seriously

Vienna Cycle Chic-007
Out of the many articles on the subject of rationality and logic here on the blog, you may remember our proposal for health warnings on automobiles from a while back.

Another logical idea that we have pitched around is forcing motorists to add reflective material to their cars in order for cyclists and pedestrians to see them better. It usually garners a chuckle and a "yeah, why don't we?!"

But why don't we?

It's not such a crazy idea. According to a study from Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia (the same people who developed protective headwear for... motorists - do you have yours yet?) black cars are more likely to be involved in crashes, whilst white, gold and yellow cars are least likely to suffer the same fate.

It was a 20 year study using data from more than a whopping 850,000 accidents. That's what we like. Data to back up an idea.

Black cars are 47% more likely to be involved in crashes. Black cars were the bad guys, but the study shows that grey, silver, red and blue cars also faded into the background. That must easily cover 80% of the vehicles on the market.

Even during daylight, black cars were up to 12% more likely to get into a crash than white cars. At dawn and dusk, that figure rises to 47%.

Here's a pdf of the Monash University study.

Enter the Danish Police.

As you've probably figured out from reading this blog, the Danish Police are hardly modern visionaries when it comes to working towards liveable cities. They are one of the primary hindrances to our work.

They have, however, inadvertantly hit the nail on the head.

According to a press release on their website, all new Danish police cars from 01 January 2013 and police motorbikes under 2 years old will feature improved reflective markings. This is seen in other countries already but now it's coming to Denmark.

In addition to making the police more visible in the streets, it will increase safety and sense of safety both the citizens and the police. The cars will be easier to see...." - according to the press release.

Surprise, surprise. Although not surprising that the Danish police have proposed the same idea for all cars in the nation.

Wouldn't that be logical? Rational? Legislation - simultaneous with reduced speed limits and especially 30 km/h zones in cities - forcing cars to dress up like christmas trees and drive slower.

Are we serious about saving lives?

Anyone who works with urban design, planning or bicycle advocacy worth who is worth their salt is well aware of the folly of demanding that cyclists and pedestrians dress up like christmas trees or construction workers. The bicycle boom continues unabated and there are countless people out there trying desperately to make a buck off the trend - this is, of course, nothing new. Products that continue to sell danger and fear and instilling in the general public the profiteers desired perception of danger and fear. It's classic culture of fear tactics. Textbook stuff.

Most of the products have little conclusive evidence to back them up, not least all the ridiculous reflective gear that is swamping the market. We're not talking about reflectors on wheels or on front/bike of bikes here, by the way. We're talking about the shit that's flooded the market recently.

It's all follow the money. Which is old news, we know that.

Unfortunately, there is little money to be made in rationality and logic. As we have banged on about for years here on the blog, placing the responsibility on the most dangerous traffic users - the motorists - is the priority. Imagine if all this wasted energy on useless gear was channeled into serious advocacy to transform our cities into more liveable urban spaces.

Seriously. Imagine.

Rationality is the new black.