Last week the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors called for Hi Viz clothing to be made compulsory for all Irish cyclists. This seems to have been a token gesture without very much effort going in to the reasoning behind it.
Those who do not cycle, complain when they see a cyclist who does not look like a builders labourer, cruising along taking up road space and delaying motorists who pay road tax for those very roads, causing them to miss the opening credits of Coronation street. Hi Viz has it’s place. Hi viz is better than no hi viz, but flashing lights front and rear are much more effective in making motorists see cyclists out on the roads in all daylight and weather conditions. But even those very lights draw criticism, with some motorists claiming them to be distracting. This means that they notice them and the bicycle they are on. This is a good thing.
Helmets are now almost universally worn by all club cyclists, and are becoming more and more common amongst commuter and recreational cyclists. Common sense suggests that they be worn but making it a legal requirement will lessen the numbers cycling, which might be exactly what some members of society want.
Essentially, to call a spade a spade, the root of the problem is that many motorists do not want cyclists on what they see as their roads. Everyone is in a hurry and everyone has very important business to attend to. It does not really matter to them what the cyclists are wearing, but some will take any opportunity that comes along to criticise and complain about cyclists, which is encouraged by much of the mainstream media.
Cyclists for their part do not want to be blocking up traffic. The vast majority prefer to cycle on safe, quiet roads with little traffic.
The more publicity the issue gets, the more vehement the arguments become on both sides. Cyclists have their part to play too. If you break red lights, cycle at night without lights and generally show no regard for other road users you give ammunition to those who want to get wound up and aggressive towards cyclists.
If the question the Gardai want to answer is : How can we make a token gesture that will require very little effort on our part and pass the buck onto others whilst appearing to be doing something about an issue that is in the media at present?
The answer will be to call for it to be compulsory for all cyclists to wear hi viz clothing.
If the question is : How can we make the roads safer for cyclists and other road users?
The answer is to do some of the following :
- Detect and prosecute those who are looking at and using their mobile phones whilst driving (I heard on the radio today that the average person checks their mobile 150 times per day. How much of this is done whilst driving? )
- Detect and prosecute motorists who drive aggressively around cyclists and who overtake too closely, using the 1.5m passing rule as a guide.
- Publicise prosecutions of those who put the lives of cyclists in danger in order to deter others.
- Call on the government to improve the cycling infrastructure where cyclists and motorists are separated by kerbs, grass margins and barriers, instead of just thin white lines.
Time will tell just how seriously the issue is taken, and how much value is actually placed upon the lives of those who choose two wheels along with four, as most cyclists are indeed motorists too.