Hi-vis

18 January 2010

Now that the paths are clear, the most serious threat on the way back from work (you hope) are cyclists sprinting along the track by the main road. Only a few flickering LEDs – no brighter than the backlight on your phone – tend to light their way.

This evening’s cyclist clipped something that was more or less my elbow as she passed. The space belonged to my puffy winter coat, not to my body – or, at least, I hope that’s the reason I couldn’t fit between an extremely narrow pair of archive shelves one day last week when I popped into another department to pick something up on my way out. But even so.

Wobbling away in front of me was the dulled bright yellow and shiny silver bar of a hi-vis tabard.

I’ve even wondered if I should buy one of the same for leaving work, but it’s a step too far. I had something like that when I was seven or eight: a fluorescent Sam Browne belt that smelled of rubber, before I knew who Sam Browne was. My mother had one too for cycling to college and she made me put it on before we walked back from my grandmother’s house on winter teatimes. I still chafe against wearing one now, and I certainly refuse to hang it up in the office, in case the alarm goes off and someone thinks that I’m the fire marshal.

Tsarist Russia uniformed its civil servants. The hi-vis jacket is well on the way to doing the same for us, with less militarism and far less sense for design. If you did buy one, where couldn’t you brazen yourself into, with an air of inflexibility and a scent for causes of public liability?

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4 Responses to “Hi-vis”

  1. kate m Says:

    Our local primary has started dressing its pupils in hi-vis for school trips. They look like a line of very small construction workers.


    • It started with identical baseball caps or rucksacks when I first saw schools doing it five or so years ago. The language colleges near where I live were early adopters too.

      Has anyone ever heard of a child going missing on a school trip, though? (The visit-the-local-museum-and-cause-a-ruckus-in-the-schools’-dining-room variety rather than the activity holiday kind…)

  2. kate m Says:

    I’d assumed it was for visibility in traffic; there’s a higher than average number of people get run over in our area. Their usual destinations are the city farm, local library and the swimming baths, none of which are big enough to get lost in.


  3. Actually, traffic would make more sense… Some of the language students were in their late teens, so quite a minimal risk of their getting lost. (Although we did once have a group of them struck by lightning on the common.)


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