Pogu Bag Cover
The constant stories of close passes and even worse incidents with motorists resulting in serious injury or death who decide it's safe to overtake a cyclist when it's clearly not really does mentally affect a person. We have read tweets from people who now refuse to ride to work or leisurely because they are too afraid to cycle on UK roads. There are other factors such as road infrastructure which contributes to unnecessary incidents. We say incidents because hitting someone is not an accident unless you're telling us your brakes failed or you had a medical episode. But choosing to close pass just to then sit yourself in stationary traffic 50m down the road is definitely a contender for Room 101 for us. We have written in a blog before about etiquette on the road where for some psychological reason, some people turn into some sort of impatient road demon where shaving off 10 seconds of their journey is more important than looking after another human being.
So we jumped at the chance to review Pogu's reflective bag cover. The winter brings dark mornings and dark nights so commuting has a heightened sense of risk. There are some safety groups out there where they will point out that it doesn't matter how bright and reflective you are, it won't stop the odd *********** (insert your own expletive!) from causing an incident that we wish on no one. We totally agree with this but you've also got to give yourself a chance. Front and rear lights is a must and is law. Reflective jackets are a big help but if you commute like us and often have a big rucksack to carry, this will hide the majority of the reflection it has given you. We even wear from time to time reflective overshoes but often the grit and grime from the UK roads (surely they are the worst maintained in Europe?!) will hinder their purpose too.
Our commute consists of a mixture of rat runs and heavy traffic roads and in particular a 4 lane roundabout we have to cross. Positioning on the road is key and we often assess the traffic as early as we can, signal at the most effective time so drivers can clearly see what we are doing then flow into the lane we need to be. But we would rather be looking ahead at this point rather than checking behind to whether if some speed freak is going to attempt a pass they should never make. So we were looking to see if the bag cover would have any affect on driver's behaviour which would make us feel more confident and safe commuting by bike.
We opted for a red cover to test out as we were interested to see if a non fluro based cover has a different impact on drivers behaviour. The cover itself caters for bags from 10-25 litres. Our Osprey is a 33L so when full, it can be quite bulky. The bag cover itself is not stretchy but designed to slip over your bag with ease. We couldn't sacrifice anything in the bag (don't think my work would appreciate us walking around in cleats!) so some of the top zip was visible which meant if it rained, anything near the top of the bag would probably end up wet. Not a problem really as we packed our bag with that in mind (no shirt near the top!). The bag also comes with 2 buckled straps which make a cross on the rear of the bag to keep the bag on. Compared to previous bag covers, this was very helpful as often a slip on cover would fall away and you'll find your bag contents damp!
We have been wearing this bag cover for the past few weeks and just from our commute alone, the amount of near misses has definitely reduced. That's not to say we are not prone to the odd one of two but we have definitely felt a sense that the bag has given us more presence on the roads. Because it covers the whole bag and whereas a light will arguably show the width of the bike from the strength and radiance of the light, the bag cover gives you more of an existence on the road. The critics will again counter-argue that this won't guard you from those who are ignorant and don't empathise with cyclists. Of course not, unfortunately we don't live in that world. But whilst we still fight the battle to change road behaviour and infrastructure so it is safe and efficient for all, we say give yourself a helping hand by making yourself as visual as possible.
Love it, the first ride we felt a difference straight away. Drivers were taking wider berths, we felt more safe at pinch points. We still would recommend treating every road user as someone who has only found out what the steering wheel does as this is the only way you can try to control the outcome of each situation you come across. Ironically, we came across our most closest call ever with this bag but it was from a driver who drove straight across us at a mini roundabout (another Room 101 contender!) which made us swerve in the pouring rain. Pogu also makes fluro' strips which you can stick either on your clothing or bike. We would suggest purchasing the bag cover with some strips to go on your shoulder straps to make you as visible on the front as the bag cover does at the back.