Hi-vis cyclists and the Garda’s blind spot

 

Sir, – The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has called for hi-vis clothing and helmets to be made compulsory. Evidence from other jurisdictions that have implemented similar laws (such as Jersey and Seattle) suggest that it would have the effect of reducing the number of cycling fatalities – by reducing the number of cyclists.

Vastly more people in Ireland die from being inactive than from cycling accidents. Irish men have the highest body mass index in Europe; women have the third highest. The World Health Organisation expects 89 per cent of the country’s men and 85 per cent of its women to be overweight by 2030, with all the problems of cardiovascular disease, cancer and so on that flow from this (not to mention the reduction in health-related quality of life).

A visit to cities such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen will show an almost complete absence of hi-vis materials on show. And why would there be – safe cycling infrastructure is provided and is therefore used. There is a real common sense business case for investing in such infrastructure in Ireland too from a taxpayer perspective, even before considering the happy by-products of increasing health and well-being while reducing pollution and traffic.

The Garda Síochána appears to be advocating a facile alternative approach so that it can claim to have done “something”. On its watch, five cyclists have been killed by motorists this year; its solution is to threaten to criminalise cyclists. All the while, there is a genuine crisis brewing in the obesity rates in this country. The AGSI proposals to discourage exercise – seemingly to make drivers feel more comfortable in their cars – speaks volumes about the organisation’s own blind spots, and current issues. If heeded, it will also cost countless lives. – Yours, etc,

Dr BRIAN REDDY,

School of Medicine,

Trinity College,

Dublin 2.