Myth: “Unsightly, invisible wand orcas”

Orcas are small semi-permanent kerb sections made of recycled plastic. The name derives from the black and white markings that make them reminiscent of a killer whale (orca) breaking the surface of the sea. Due to a fear that drivers, and particularly motorcyclists, might not see them, they are sometimes combined with vertical posts, called wands, to increase their visibility. In some cases, wands are fitted without orcas.

A road carrying motor traffic, with cycle lanes protected by wand orcas, with two youngsters cyclig in it.
A cycle lane protected by wand orcas with two youngsters cycling in it.

We often hear people claiming, of the same installation, both that wands and wand orcas are unsightly, and that they are so invisible that drivers can’t see them. I have also heard people say that they are invisible at night, and also that they cause drivers to be dazzled due to the retro-reflective surface. These claims cannot both be true at the same time. It is of course possible that a driver might be dazzled if their vehicle is fitted with excessively, or even illegally, bright headlights.

The Government guidelines on cycle infrastructure (LTN1/20) specifies that cycle lanes should be separated from motor vehicles using at least light segregation on roads carrying traffic at 30mph or higher; white paint is not protection. Orcas and wands are widely used, the world over, to provide such light segregation. Being cheap and easily changed, they are also often used for trial scheme implementations, allowing ideas to be tried out prior to the implementation of more permanent measures.

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