POLICE officers should spend more time tackling bad driving instead of handing out reflective jackets to cyclists, claims the campaigning cycling organisation CTC.

Reacting to the news that New Forest police had been stopping cyclists riding in the dark and giving them free high-visibility kit, CTC campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen claimed while it might make headlines, it did not improve safety.

“Whilst we would obviously not recommend wearing dark colours at night on an unlit road, the limited evidence on the effect of fluorescent clothing is that it makes at best only a marginal difference to cyclists’ safety,” he said.

“In any case, cycling is not a particularly ‘dangerous’ activity; you are less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking.

“Handing out hi-viz vests to cyclists may earn the police a few headlines, but will do little if anything to improve their safety, and is if anything more likely to put people off cycling altogether, by exaggerating the risks involved.

“That in turn could actually worsen safety for the remaining cyclists, as cycling gets less safe the fewer cyclists there are.”

He added: “The police should spend their time tackling the root causes of the hazards cyclists face, notably bad driving.”

But Julian Hewitt of the Hampshire Police’s Safer Roads Partnership said collisions involving cyclists were increasing in the county with most happening at junctions and roundabouts.

“Many of these collisions will be motorists emerging or crossing into the path of cyclists,” he said.

“It would therefore seem to be a sensible precaution for cyclists to wear high visibility clothing that makes them more visible to motorists.

“Wearing safe clothing is no more likely to put people off cycling than fitting seat belts and air bags to cars would put people off driving.

“Most cyclists will feel more confident if they know that motorists are more aware of their presence and that is why they have been so keen to take up our offer of free reflective clothing.”