Tested: Polite Notice waistcoat

Three weeks through central London looking like plod

POLITE looks a lot like POLICE and because nobody wants to knock a cop off their bike, other motorists make room. That's the simple logic behind these increasingly popular high-visibility bibs. But do they work?

Yes, according to the security guard at the Visordown office. He wears one and swears by it. 'It's like Moses parting the Red Sea,' he told me proudly when he spotted me wearing my waistcoat. 'Even the buses move out of your way.' It sounded promising.

My daily commute is 12 miles of constant filtering, ducking, darting and weaving - it's SMIDSY central. I have to ride so defensively it's the biking equivalent of the Hindenburg Line. I was ready to try anything that might make the commute a little less white-knuckle.

At first I was worried I might get nicked for impersonating a police officer but the Association of Chief Police Officers has given the bibs the thumbs up, supporting the idea that better visibility means safer roads and makes their jobs easier.

My other worry - which has proved harder to dispel even after three weeks - was what a complete tool I always feel when I'm wearing the waistcoat, it's unashamedly naff. I feel like a five-year-old who has raided the dressing-up box. 'When I grow up, mummy, I want to be a police motorbike man.' 

The first time I rolled out of the car park wearing the waistcoat my self-consciousness must have been radiating like a beacon for bullies because at the first set of lights three blokes in a white van started laughing and pointing.

'Are you going to arrest me, officer?' they jeered. I revved the engine to drown out the taunts but I was a deep shade of scarlet beneath the dark visor. 

This incident was a one-off and unfortunately other motorists failed to pay as much notice of my POLITE waistcoat as those white van bullies. Researchers suggest wearing high-viz vests improves your chances of being seen, particularly at night but in my three weeks through London I couldn't really notice any difference.

Certainly, cars and buses were not pulling aside to let me pass through unimpeded like a presidential motorcade. It was not the Moses Red Sea moment I had been promised as I filtered along the South Circular. 

Part of the problem is the POLITE lettering is on the back of the waistcoat, so its effect is only felt once I've overtaken a car... which is usually the end of our brief relationship together on the road. I can imagine for horse riders and cyclists who are regularly victims of impatient motorists driving too close behind them then this waistcoat would be much more useful.

The waistcoat comes in eight sizes from small all the way up to the impressive sounding XXXXXL (I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of the man who fits snugly into that). 

There are cheaper high-viz vests on the market but few are so well made as this. There are adjustable straps for a fitted, flap-free finish and two zip pockets.

After this three week test I shan't be wearing the POLITE waistcoat any longer. Perhaps it was my crippling self-consciousness over-ruling my common sense but I'm consigning this to the bin of biking fads next to the stick-on helmet mohawks. That said, the security guard reckons it's the best £35 he's ever spent.

For more information visit High Visibility.

Price: £34.99

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