— Motorists need to slow down at crossing and children at a zebra crossing shouldn’t be the unexpected, says campaigners.
Transport minister Shane Ross, Westmeath County Council, Cork City Fire Brigade, and news website Cork Beo are among those sharing a hoax image which is claimed to show the different between a child with and without bright coloured clothes.
Most of those sharing are promoting the use of high-vis clothing, but campaigners point out that the effectiveness of high-vis to reduce road collision related injuries is in doubt. Responding to a Freedom of Information request from campaigners, the RSA they had no documents to support the promotion of high-vis.
This comes across as counterintuitive to members of the public but is largely explained by two factors — distracted driving, such as phone use, talking to passengers or messaging with radios; and what road safety researchers call “looked but failed to see” — which results in cyclists and motorcycles experiencing motorists pulling out and then saying “Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you”. Both of these factors cannot be solved by high-vis and often reportedly occur even with strong flashing bicycle lights or motorcycle headlights.
The image being shared mainly on Facebook this week is claimed to show the different just in clothes but a close inspection of the image shows how the image was Photoshopped or otherwise edited to darken even the face and legs of the child:
You have read this far, now please think of supporting this reader-funded journalism. The current target is to reach 20 more subscribers by the end of August: Thanks to readers like you, as of August 2, there's now 265 readers subscribed to IrishCycle.com -- that's just five short of the target. Help us surpass the target by subscribing today.
The source which kicked off the sharing of the image on social media seems to be a Facebook page called Ulster Roadwatch Community from a post on October 17.
That page had the following text which is largely repeated by others: “The same child is in both photos. The only difference is how they’re dressed. As we approach shorter daylight hours, whether you walk, cycle, use public transport or drive be sure to adapt your outfit to improve your ability to be seen.”
The Ulster Roadwatch page even includes a zoomed-in section showing the child’s face and legs blacked out, but it brazenly uses this to claim all that’s different is how the child is dressed. It said: “For anyone struggling to see the child in the second photo, they are there, just dressed in Navy/Black.”
Minister Shane Ross posted on Facebook yesterday: “Very powerful message from Westmeath County Council. It is important that we can be seen on our commute, particularly in these dark winter mornings evenings.”
He added: “If you or someone you know needs a high vis vest you can call in to my constituency office to pick one up. #BeSafeBeSeen.”
At the time of publication, Minister Ross’s Department has not responded to why he shared a deceptive image.
Not everyone is falling for the hoax. Wexford Bicycle User Group said: “This image is doing the rounds of the internet at the moment. There’s a lot of photoshopping going on there for starters.”
“A child waiting to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing should not be expected to dress like a builder or a road worker.”
They added: “Where is the reference to the expectation on a driver to drive with the due care an attention required as part of one’s drivers licence? Slow down and expect what shouldn’t be the ‘unexpected’ especially at pedestrian crossings.”
Gerry Dornan, a spokesman for Cyclist.ie, said: “It is dishonest of the Minister Shane Ross to equate safety with hi viz and we note that the child in the photograph was waiting at a zebra crossing. If the Minister is genuinely interested in the safety of such children, he should introduce legislation to allow CCTV cameras at such crossings.”
He added: “At a time of increasing cyclist fatalities, many cyclists are exposed to close passing on a daily basis even during daylight hours. The Minister has promised action but nothing has been delivered to date and cyclists have had to go out to protect cycle lanes as he has done little or nothing to stop cars parking in cycle lanes.”
Hello Reader... IrishCycle.com is a reader-funded journalism publication. Effectively it's an online newspaper covering news and analyses of cycling and related issues, including cycle route designs, legal changes, and pollical and cultural issues.
There are examples, big and small, which show that the reader-funded or listener-funding model can work to support journalism -- from the Dublin Inquirer and The Guardian to many podcasts. To make it work for IrishCycle.com, it just needs enough people like you to believe!
Monthly subscriptions will give IrishCycle.com's journalism a dependable base of support. But please don't take free access for granted. Last year IrishCycle.com had an average of 15,800 readers per month and we know our readers include people who cycle and those who don't, politicians, officials and campaigners.
I know only a small percentage of readers will see the value of keeping this open enough to subscribe, that's the reality of the reader-funded model. But more support is needed to keep this show on the road.
The funding drive was started in November 2021 and, as of the start of June 2022, 250 readers have kindly become monthly subscribers -- thank you very much to all that have!
But currently, it's only around 1.6% of readers who subscribe. So, if you can, please join them and subscribe today via ko-fi.com/irishcycle/tiers