Let’s Talk Helmets and High Vis

Should helmets be compulsory? Many ask ‘why aren’t they?’ and are often very forceful in their questioning. While we’re at it, let’s light cyclists up like a Christmas tree because it’s only if they’re in high vis that drivers will manage to see them! 🙄

As a cyclist, I don’t have a problem with wearing a helmet or high-visibility top over my clothing. I even got a special one made that reads ‘child on board’. I couldn’t believe the difference it made in how motorists behaved around me on the road. To confirm, for the most part,  they behave how they always should, giving space when passing and holding back a little when behind me. But what stands out most of all is the courtesy and politeness to a fellow road user. This is purely the cuteness factor of my son sitting safely in his cargo box and really nothing to do with me who is smiling and waving thanks too!

While I choose to wear a helmet and my high vis most of the time when on my bike. I do, however, believe that when it comes to genuine efforts to make cycling safer, helmets and high vis clothing are not the solution but they have somehow come to dominate the argument for many people.

If you think about it, in the Netherlands, helmets and hi-vis are rarely seen. Cycling doesn’t magically become safe because every cyclist wears helmets and hi vis. It’s the proper infrastructure that creates a safer cycling environment. So why is it that our government finds it so hard to implement better, safer road options for cyclists? The improvements on the canal seem to constantly be on the back burner with delay after delay and excuse after excuse as to why they don’t at least begin to fix the sections without any issues with the embankment. This would take many cyclists off the road in the first place!

The canal from Castleknock to Maynooth stills awaits improvements. Unfortunately the sections that have been improved are not accessible to all cyclists due to kissing gates blocking entry to cargo bikes or disability bikes.

There’s talk of high court action against the Liffey Cycle Route. It took them so long to actually put it in place and now it might be ripped out before it even gets proper use! Why is it, cycling is seen as the enemy?

What us cyclists are given is a painted section (if we are lucky) of the road. Meeting every shore along the way. Sometimes it’s up on a path with bus stops, signposts, tree stumps and man holes to contend with.

Manholes on Ongar Distributary Road.
Tree stumps outside Latchford.
Uneven surface along Ongar Distributary Road.
Bus Stop along Ongar Distributary Road.

Getting up and down onto these paths by the way can cause a flat tyre the kerbs are so severe.

Severe kerb outside Allendale.
Can’t get up on cycle lane at a dangerous bend near Clonsilla station.

If it’s a really special cycle lane it disappears suddenly, nothing like meeting a dead end cycle lane on a dangerous bend!

Sudden end to cycle lane near Clonsilla Station.

Other times access is suddenly blocked by kissing gates (but that’s a whole other blog post).

Cycle lane connecting into Hazelbury Park…
… but cyclists blocked entry by a kissing gate.

Can I be clear …a coloured section of the road does not a cycle path make! Is it really so difficult to do the job properly? Surely if it was done to a standard like in the Netherlands,  then helmets and high vis wouldn’t even be an issue in the first place?! More cycle lanes should be installed like they have done on the Huntstown/Hartstown road and the Liffey Cycle Route. A segregated lane to help protect cyclists.

Segregated lane in Hartstown…
… separates road users safely.

The bottom line is, having proper infrastructure would make journeys a lot safer for all road users involved.

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