Guest Article: Down with the YJA

yja
The yellow jacket of authority

Bicycles and automobiles- can’t we all just get along? @Kah writes about this universal (do aliens have this issue also?) problem of us co-existing with humans in cars. We all drive cars too and have cursed the occasional cyclists for some good reason. Cars are our greatest threat. We can crawl away from our own bicycle crashes, thanks very much. We always lose when a car is involved. Thanks for contributing @Kah.

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

High-visibility jackets offend me. I’m not in the position to judge fashion really, and generally don’t care what other people wear, but something that tarnishes an entire mode of transport as unsafe and dorky is not okay. These garments misinform the general public that cycling is an unsafe activity (look, that cyclist looks like a lit up flare and a Christmas tree had a baby!), they make all other cyclists look like dorks.

Now, I’m not picking on genuinely introverted people, but people who are just less comfortable interacting with other vehicles on the road. As someone truly in love with spinning pedals on the road, I don’t see why there is this reticence to spend time on the road. The footpath is by far the worse option: congested with pedestrians, littered with signs, and unpredictable in its ebb and wanes.

There’s a spectrum of how happy you are with sharing the road: going from very uncomfortable to exuding quiet confidence before becoming attention-seeking and finally there is a thin line to obnoxiousness.

Uncomfortable, more introverted cyclists tend to hug the kerb, trying to stay out of everyone’s way. Every potential interaction is exaggerated; every passing car becomes a danger. Confident cyclists who are experienced know when to draw attention to their intentions, when to back off while negotiating between quickly moving cars, and how to tell the difference between a passing maneuvere that is actually dangerous and one that is not even worth commenting on. This comfort around other road users is something you can cultivate, but not one you can fake.

Attention-seeking cyclists and obnoxious cyclists tend to feel more self-entitled. “I’m a vehicle/road user too!” is the common mantra of these cyclists who don’t feel inclined to offer the same courtesy they demand to the other road users. To be fair these rolling douchenozzles tend to be the same regardless of vehicle.

My problem is, the introverts are trying to make up for their meekness with the artificial posturing afforded by the YJA. Their mistaken assumption of course is that this magical garment bestows visibility, and thus invincibility in traffic, leading some to jump to the illogical conclusion that they have automatic right of way in every circumstance by virtue of the highly visible jacket.

Magic jackets are not the answer to safer cyclists. Learning to share the road on a bicycle is the answer. Anticipation, not hindsight.

Fucking cyclists.

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178 Replies to “Guest Article: Down with the YJA”

  1. @Daccordi Rider Difficult to tell as they are covered by the afore mentioned quick-tie laden helmet. But I hazard a guess they’d be funking awful.

  2. @Kah

    @pistard Exactly. Maybe there should be a YJA parody site of the Velominati. There’s a similar sense of misguided authority in both… :)

    You misunderstand me, just as you misunderstand The Rules and this article.

    Velominati Lead by Example. I would never tell a complete stranger that their socks are too long or their EPMS is an embarrassment.

    The Rules are based on cycling history and lore, etiquette, and looking either pro or awesome (not always mutually inclusive). No one will force you to follow The Rules.

    YJAs, in my experience, have no compunction about telling anyone within earshot what and how they oughtta ride, based on specious ideas of safety and advocacy. (Unsurprisingly, they are disproportionately represented in civil service, where they make laws based on the same bullshit.)

    By all means, wear a YJA. Just don’t try to make me join you. Brothers of the road, sure; brothers in dorkiness, no fucking way.

  3. @ChrisO Spot on. Unless visibility is poor, an alert driver will spot a cyclist regardless of the colour of kit. If the visibility is poor a truly bright flashing light (angled properly) will do far more to make you visibly than a YJA especially when you take into account the state of most YJAs.

  4. Yup, I’m all for a balance of safety & style.

    When I’m on my townie/commuter though my equation for style/safety changes a whole lot. It’s much more about function, whereas when I’m really out cycling on a road bike, I gotta keep style in mind.

    Biked home from a social gathering last night with two friends, one of them being very unused to open roads. And pouring rain. And a small shoulder with cars traveling 85kph. Thus, I threw on a YGA and rode at the back to kind of shield her. That’s a Yellow Gilet of Authority and the thing is magic. Two big broad strips of reflective material over a neon yellow vest that is race cut. If I do end up getting mashed like a squirrel…the fucker won’t be able to claim they didn’t see me. Plus, I feel that at least people might think I’m a manual laborer and not some pussy biker pussy, so they won’t run me over just out of spite.

    That said, I’d buy a sweet, race-cut, high-end jersey with similar large reflective stripes in a minute for winter/wet/low-light riding. I don’t want the whole thing to be neon and I don’t want it blowing in the wind, but I want more than reflective piping. I’d love to see a vendor making sharp stuff with real reflection. Where is the Rapha of the YJA world?

  5. That little shoulder jacket looks like mini denim jackets that are/were? in style. I rarely can resist making a laundry mishap joke when I’m around someone wearing a half denim jacket.

  6. @Ron

    Yup, I’m all for a balance of safety & style.

    When I’m on my townie/commuter though my equation for style/safety changes a whole lot. It’s much more about function, whereas when I’m really out cycling on a road bike, I gotta keep style in mind.

    Biked home from a social gathering last night with two friends, one of them being very unused to open roads. And pouring rain. And a small shoulder with cars traveling 85kph. Thus, I threw on a YGA and rode at the back to kind of shield her. That’s a Yellow Gilet of Authority and the thing is magic. Two big broad strips of reflective material over a neon yellow vest that is race cut. If I do end up getting mashed like a squirrel…the fucker won’t be able to claim they didn’t see me. Plus, I feel that at least people might think I’m a manual laborer and not some pussy biker pussy, so they won’t run me over just out of spite.

    That said, I’d buy a sweet, race-cut, high-end jersey with similar large reflective stripes in a minute for winter/wet/low-light riding. I don’t want the whole thing to be neon and I don’t want it blowing in the wind, but I want more than reflective piping. I’d love to see a vendor making sharp stuff with real reflection. Where is the Rapha of the YJA world?

    Here, the hardshell from Rapha, I have one, it was a present, honest

  7. @xced

    Is this a joke?  Surely the police should be alerted and this young lady have her licence removed.

  8. I think it is a bit ironic how many manufacturers offer black or dark colors with minimal reflective areas for articles of clothing that you would normally wear in low visibility conditions.  Long sleeve jersey, rain jackets, light jackets that you would wear dusk/dawn – all of them.  I’m not looking for CHARTREUSE (correct, btw), but something a bit more colorful is better than black under such conditions.

    Hazard Orange is getting a bit more popular, and maybe I can use it and explain it as a Dutch/Velominati scheme …

  9. @Ron Rapha is exempt from the YJA stigma. It offers Chartreuse instead.

    It’s surprising how much reflective trim there is on kit. You’d struggle not to see this lot and not a YJA in sight.

  10. @snoov

    @xced

    Is this a joke? Surely the police should be alerted and this young lady have her licence removed.

    It would seem that Emma Way is having a bad day. If the twattersphere is to be trusted it would appear that not only have the police been informed but they’ve requested that she pops in for a chat. It also looks as though she’s been tracked down to an accountancy firm in Norwich who no doubt know about her activities by now.

    She’s deleted her twitter account but not her twitter pic account thing which suggests she likes taking photos with her phone while driving. the police have also been made aware of that. Silly girl.

    Can’t imagine she’ll get much more than a slap on the wrist though.

  11. @xced

    Alas, she’ll probably get a warning. Of course, she’s so stupid she can’t conceive that cyclists might own cars too. Bring back publiic stocks for thiis kind of idiocy.

  12. @Chris She could have run him over and then backed up to make sure and she’d get off with a ban and suspended sentence.

    But make a joke about blowing something up and you’re sent to Devil’s Island.

  13. @ped

    Gaerne shoes in reflex colourway, I fucking love them.

    Wow, you’ve got orbs on your feet.

    I’ve just got some Gaerne shoes  – they are lovely. I don’t know if they light up like that though, but it isn’t such an issue in Dubai. If I get hit it will be someone in a Range Rover Sport doing 160km/h on the hard shoulder, and aint nothing gonna make a jot of difference.

  14. @ped

    Gaerne shoes in reflex colourway, I fucking love them.

    Christ! A little heads-up might have been goo there! I close my eyes and all I see are bright bolts of light!

  15. @Ron

    Most of the large manufacturers make white jackets, which I personally think is the appropriate color if you want to be “visible” and not look like a nuclear waste hauler.

    I have a pretty thin rain shell from Castelli which is a semi-opaque white, so kit shows through. It’s what I wore for my commutes earlier this year when it was still dark as I left my house.

    Between that, some lights, and the reflecty bits on the jacket and shoes, I felt pretty good about being seen. I still use lights when I commute even now that it’s light when I leave, just to catch the attention of any sleepy motorists.

  16. Off topic but eggtimer is retiring (about time): http://www.pelotonmagazine.com/Feedzone/content/6/2324/Leipheimer-Retires

  17. My VMH makes me take a YJA (I call it the Dork Jacket) on Rule #9 rides or twilight/dark rides. It raises the bar for Looking Fantastic; if I’m a rolling eyesore, I sure as hell better be a FAST rolling eyesore.

    The last time I got hit the driver told police he never did see me from the cab of his diesel garbage truck, just heard my helmet cracking on the grille. The YJA has its place. (That place is not a group ride, and certainly not any time during daylight hours.)

  18. @balexander and @ron: i view it similarly. i have a hi-viz gilet that i take with me when i know a significant portion of my ride will be in the dark. but even then, it’s only on while it’s actually dark out (just like my lights). and at least it’s rapha, form-fitting and hi-viz pink, not yellow :)

    i’m actually ok with the whole hi-viz trend (which the rapha pink/chartreuse gear falls into, also items like neon defeet slipstreams), i just think it needs to be done in a more fashionable manner than the general big, baggy, reflective-striped, nuclear green, YJA even in the middle of the day approach.  but the only time i really get close to that route is in the winter months when the majority of my riding is in the dark, it’s freezing cold and the last thing people are expecting to see is a cyclist.

  19. @mcsqueak

    I have a pretty thin rain shell from Castelli which is a semi-opaque white, so kit shows through. It’s what I wore for my commutes earlier this year when it was still dark as I left my house.

    Between that, some lights, and the reflecty bits on the jacket and shoes, I felt pretty good about being seen. I still use lights when I commute even now that it’s light when I leave, just to catch the attention of any sleepy motorists.

    The Sottile? I’ve got that shell in grey. I like the packability of it, but they cut the sleeves way too baggy.

    Anecdotally, subjectively, I believe drivers (on average) give me more space when passing when I’m flashing a light during the day, which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t. I don’t know that this will ever save my life, but it does suggest that running a light during the day gets attention. I still feel like a dork, but not the biggest dork ever.

  20. @pistard

    @Kah

    @pistard Exactly. Maybe there should be a YJA parody site of the Velominati. There’s a similar sense of misguided authority in both… :)

    You misunderstand me, just as you misunderstand The Rules and this article.

    Velominati Lead by Example. I would never tell a complete stranger that their socks are too long or their EPMS is an embarrassment.

    The Rules are based on cycling history and lore, etiquette, and looking either pro or awesome (not always mutually inclusive). No one will force you to follow The Rules.

    YJAs, in my experience, have no compunction about telling anyone within earshot what and how they oughtta ride, based on specious ideas of safety and advocacy. (Unsurprisingly, they are disproportionately represented in civil service, where they make laws based on the same bullshit.)

    By all means, wear a YJA. Just don’t try to make me join you. Brothers of the road, sure; brothers in dorkiness, no fucking way.

    Um, I think it’s you who might have the wrong end of the stick here. @Kah actually wrote the article, so it’s hard to see how he doesn’t understand it!

    And he certainly understands, and obeys The Rules. He has to, he rides with me ffs! Always looks fantastic, always lays down The V.

    We’ll be riding tonight, on the road, in the dark, and I guarantee he’ll be decked out head to toe in black (but with awesome lights).

  21. Another shout out for the reflective Gaerne G.Coste shoes – they really do reflect like that in light and proper comfortable too.

  22. I couldn’t be bothered to read all 3 pages of messages (love this community), but I will say this about the YJA, it is part of the reason I started cycling in the first place.  As a father of 3 kids, 2 of which are under 5, I have a lot to lose if I were to get hit. The YJA gave me some confidence that drivers would see me and that equated to peace-of-mind on the bike.

    I agree its contribution to my safety is minimal, and it does look atrocious and it now sits in the closet except for on rainy days as I don’t have a proper jacket for rain yet (its sunny most of the time in Colorado) – but I don’t know if I would have tried cycling were it not for, in part, the peace-of-mind that comes with any YJA purchase.

    I think of the YJA as a rite of passage for the uninitiated…that they may get enough experience to be safe and comfortable on the road and in time, look sharp.

  23. @pistard Agreed. I was leading a group ride of neighborhood kids last year (in June, in daylight), and a motorcycle rider pulled up to my wife, who was riding sweep, and pressed a high-viz vest on her, because “if you’re at the back, you need to be safe”. (Size XXXL, of course).  We sent it home with one of the kids, who was psyched to look like a traffic cone.

    More recently, I’ve started seeing people walking with lights on their person, high viz shoes, jackets, dog leashes, etc. The idea that you need special high visibility crap just to exist near roads is ludicrous. The onus is on drivers to not be jackasses, not on me to dress like a traffic cone whenever I’m cage-free.

  24. @pistard No offense taken. Thanks for that @brett.

    @Beers and @Deakus – this article is not about style. @ChrisO has it, it’s about the misconceptions surrounding the YJA.

    Most recently I worked on a bicycle advocacy project called BikeEverywhere, where we’re trying to help empower new cyclists. I found that it’s the YJAs that hampers my efforts the most – it’s a strange sense of entitlement that it bestows.

    Wear what you want, just follow Rule #43 on the road.

  25. @Noob

    I couldn’t be bothered to read all 3 pages of messages (love this community), but I will say this about the YJA, it is part of the reason I started cycling in the first place. As a father of 3 kids, 2 of which are under 5, I have a lot to lose if I were to get hit. The YJA gave me some confidence that drivers would see me and that equated to peace-of-mind on the bike.

    I agree its contribution to my safety is minimal, and it does look atrocious and it now sits in the closet except for on rainy days as I don’t have a proper jacket for rain yet (its sunny most of the time in Colorado) – but I don’t know if I would have tried cycling were it not for, in part, the peace-of-mind that comes with any YJA purchase.

    I think of the YJA as a rite of passage for the uninitiated…that they may get enough experience to be safe and comfortable on the road and in time, look sharp.

    If I could simply steer you to the lexicon and the masturbation principle we need say no more about it….

    And masturbating with a YJA on is a definite fucking nono!

  26. @Kah I see, my mistake, also been across your project, which is to be applauded. There seem to be more riders around our country now, if I was to generalise, the people that seem to have started lately do tend to don the YJA, so that seems to be a big thing for beginner commuters. But you’re preaching to the converted here, my 2yo loves jumping in the dickie seat and spinning up the road for the milk…

  27. @Beers

    @Erik Andersen I appreciate the danger, but it’s going a bit far saying the rules or article are trying to kill? I mean, you can’t hold this community to that, really? I understand where you are coming from but the Rules aren’t a life and death situation like they are often made out to be. Sure, some are obsessive about compliance, but no one is going to be at the end of your driveway to tell you to stop riding because you wear and tell your friends to wear a YJA and it breaks the rules. No one is going to report you to the Keepers.

    You won’t all of a sudden be any more or less awesome than you already were. You will just be you, going for a ride. YJA or not. IMO, the whole idea is to get people keen to ride, and to be interested in the bike, the craft and the sport. This owes you nothing, and you owe nothing to it, just take from it and contribute to it what you will, as long as you enjoy.

    The article is about fashion, that’s all.

    You and @scaler911 aren’t going to change each other’s mind over the interwebs, and as I understand, the only resolution is you must both meet at dawn at an HC climb and repeat until one of you has noodle legs and is dropped.

    Well said.

  28. Am I going to wear a YAJA on my Saturday morning ride with my pals? On my May evening after work training ride? Oh fuck no.

    On that pitch black, pouring down rain Seattle morning commute from the unlit ‘burbs and equally pitch black, pouring down rain evening commute to the unlit ‘burbs you fucking bet I wear a YAJA, along with reflective piping on my booties, tow red LEDs in the rear and two FUCK YOU bright lights, one on the bars and one on top of my helmet to give a 450 lumen stink eye to the cager about to pull out of a side street into my (yellow covered) pink ass.

    Do I look like a dork?  I am sure I do.

    Does the YAJA make me feel  invincible and able to run lights with abandon? Nope.

    Is it just a little more visible and therefor likely to help me get where I am going in one piece? Possibly – and that’s enough for me.  You guys commenting from Phoenix have no idea…

  29. @Jamie  you’ve got it exactly.

    I throw out a challenge to the Keepers and designers of V-Kit.  Design a max-visibility line that obeys the Rules!  I promise to be the first to throw down my hard-earned for it!

  30. @paolo

    oops wrong article quoted…..was supposed to be about egg timers retirement.   Dunno how that happened!

  31. @paolo

    @G’rilla

    Article about Emma Way’s investigation by police:

    http://road.cc/content/news/84212-norwich-police-seek-driver-who-tweeted-about-collision-cyclist

    Thank the baby jeebus I won’t have to read any articles this year about how he’s a genuine contender at this years TDF. I guess they will just write the same articles though and replace his name with Teejay Van Garderen’s

    Or Taylor Phinney.  Even when he misses the time cut, they make him out to be the second coming.

  32. @paolo

    @DerHoggz
    True That.

    I’m quietly stunned that Cuddles is still getting questions at the Giro about TDF team leadership.

    FFS, Van Garderen’s win at the ATOC was good, but it’s not the fucking Giro!  Perspective, people!

  33. @mouse

    @paolo

    @DerHoggz
    True That.

    I’m quietly stunned that Cuddles is still getting questions at the Giro about TDF team leadership.

    FFS, Van Garderen’s win at the ATOC was good, but it’s not the fucking Giro! Perspective, people!

    Lets see here, we’ve got a TDF winner and (presumptive) two-time Giro runner-up against a talented kid who won a second-rate one-week stage race.

    Brainstorm! Lets put the rookie in!

  34. I’ve just picked up one of these Mavic H20 Sprint jackets that I’ll wear during my dark commutes over the winter. It’s a quality bit of kit, well fitted and not stupid expensive. The white / black contrast will make me as visible as I need to be. I’d say good lights are more important, I see a lot of riders in hi viz but with rubbish lights.

  35. @Jamie

    tow red LEDs in the rear and two FUCK YOU bright lights, one on the bars and one on top of my helmet to give a 450 lumen stink eye to the cager about to pull out of a side street

    Why stop at 450 lumen when you can have 450,000 lumen?!

  36. @sthilzy

    @Jamie

    tow red LEDs in the rear and two FUCK YOU bright lights, one on the bars and one on top of my helmet to give a 450 lumen stink eye to the cager about to pull out of a side street

    Why stop at 450 lumen when you can have 450,000 lumen?!

    Weeping baby Merckx… Frank’s seatpost looks very low in that photo.

  37. @mouse

    @paolo

    @DerHoggz
    True That.

    I’m quietly stunned that Cuddles is still getting questions at the Giro about TDF team leadership.

    FFS, Van Garderen’s win at the ATOC was good, but it’s not the fucking Giro! Perspective, people!

    To be honest I’d query whether Cuddles will be able to back it up to lead the Tour given the effort involved in competing in the Giro. Bertie couldn’t keep up in the last week of the ’11 tour after his casual jaunt through the Italian countryside earlier that year, given the conditions they’ve been getting through this year, I’d wager Cuddles & Nibbles will need some sort of R&R after this week is done.

    If he doesn’t recover in time to be in top form why not have Teejay as the leader & Cuddles playing a Hincapie-esque road captain role?

  38. @Ron here’s my compromises with the VMH on the ‘safety’ wear when riding in the dark (or at least starting/finishing in it).

    Rapha’s pink brevet gilet & the yellow DeFeet oversocks, they still look good (in my opinion) and they’re bright enough to well & truly catch the attention.

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