Thursday, 4 October 2007

A Bright Idea

There has been a fluorescent explosion in Britain. Everywhere you go you see retina-searing articles of clothing: a sort of electric lime green color emblazoned on jackets, vests and bags. Apparently, these items are designed to keep the wearer from being flattened by a truck. (Or "lorry," as the British quaintly insist on calling them.)

Here's a construction worker in one of these "high-visibility" garments:

Here is an off-duty bus driver:

Where you mostly see them is on cyclists:

I bought my daughter a green and orange "tabard" for low-light cycling. (I love that noun: tabard. It was originally the sleeveless tunic a knight would put over a suit of armor. The English never really left the Middle Ages, did they?) I also bought a couple of safety patrol-style bandoliers for us to sling on when we take to the streets. And, of course, no cycling outfit is complete without a bicycle clip. When I lived in England as a teenager, a bicycle clip was just that: a metal anklet for keeping your trouser leg out of your bike chain. Now it's Velcro and it's reflective:

Alexei Sayle had a column in the Independent the other day about the phenomenon, and whether we will become inured to it. If everyone is in a high-visibility jacket,
will anyone be visible? Or more visible than anyone else?

I had the same thought when Canada mandated daylight running lights for its cars. Snowbirds pouring down Interstate 95 with their headlights burning certainly stood out. And now I see more cars in the U.S. driving with their lights on in the middle of the day. But if every car is like that, are we going to have to add sirens and Congreve rockets to our vehicles to make sure they're noticed?

I also worry about the environment: With all those high-visibility jackets being sold in England, surely the famed Day-Glo mines of Cornwall must be in danger of being depleted.

What's Going on in Burma?
Of course I'm not spending all my time here in Oxford snapping photos of workmen in green jackets. I'm pondering what's known as "citizen journalism," the movement to democratize the media via the Web. If you saw a shaky cell-phone video of the saffron-robed monks marching on the streets of Rangoon, or read a blog by a Burmese citizen, you experienced citizen journalism. Glenda Cooper provides a good overview of what's been going on there and how it may change the media equation.

Ad today many bloggers around the world are supporting the citizen journalists in Burma, and indeed the citizens, by posting a "Free Burma" banner on their Web sites.


Richard said...

'zoons, forsooth and egad, sir, "not left the middle ages"? A poltroon, sir, and a pox 'o your coxcomb.

suburbancorrespondent said...

Boy, my kids would love a siren on our minivan....

Paul said...

A reflective tabard would come in very handy on the nocturnal walks my wife and I take on the poorly lit streets of N. Arlington. The great thing about these things is they work!