The power of the high vis

You’d often hear people say look at your man with the high vis jacket. He thinks he’s running the show just because he’s wearing that. They scoff because he has the authority to tell them where they can’t loiter, much to their disdain. These remarks are usually heard at local community events where a group of organisers don the high vis to ensure the smooth running of the particular event. And there is always one dude who thinks he’s been handed the freedom of the village when he gets the high vis on his back.

But high vis clothing is not the preserve of stewards any more. Sports shops are awash with trendy fluorescent clothing designed specifically for those engaged in outdoor exercise such as walking, running and cycling.

In fact wearing a high vis vest or jacket does give you a sense of power, especially when you are grappling for space on the country’s roads atop a bike.

I was a latecomer to the high vis experience, it coming only last week. It goes something like this.

I spend most of my working day lunch hours with my girl friends, chatting and moaning and solving the problems of the world. We take our time over a healthy salad or a plate load of carbs, depending on the weather, the day of the week and what particular healthy eating regime we’re following. This gets washed down by coffee and dessert comprises purple Snacks. On occasion we consider going for a sprightly walk around Lough Lannagh, but that never materialises.

However, last week I bucked the trend when an invitation came into my inbox to attend an advanced cycling course during lunch.

Some people tell me I need to learn to say no on occasion but it was a most enjoyable way to spend an hour and educational to boot.

I have to admit as I was in the county council’s regional training centre listening to the road safety officer Noel Gibbons’ talk in advance of the cycle, my heart was racing.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike but if you’ve been an absent cyclist for a while, it’s amazing how the nerves creep in. However, I was quick to learn that some nerves are probably healthy because they keep you alert and in tune with your surroundings while out on the bike.

A course like this should be mandatory for all road users whether they ever intend to hop on a bike or not. Noel made an excellent point when he remarked that there is a whole generation of young people now behind the wheels of cars who never had to cycle to school, town or a friend’s house because they were always chauffeur driven by their parents. They have no concept of cycling or the dangers cyclists face. Cyclists to them are a nuisance which should be consigned to the Greenway and never let on a road. And this opinion is not the preserve of the twentysomethings. It’s a grumble that is often voiced by drivers who loathe sharing the road with individuals or gangs of cyclists. They view cyclists as being in their way or taking up all the road space paid for by the motorist’s tax.

But why should a cyclist risk their lives by cycling in the ditch only to be dislodged from their bike when they hit a gaping pot hole, or crushed against a wall by an articulated lorry through no fault of the driver who can’t see the cyclist in his blind spot.

The roads aren’t owned by drivers but are there for everyone’s use. We need to be more accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists when we get behind the wheel. It’s heartening to see the amount of people who have returned to the saddle. It shouldn’t be a frightening experience but an exhilarating and alternative method of getting from A to B.

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