Thursday, August 21, 2008


During one of my Wednesday morning walks from Quillan market to home, I decided for a change to walk along the roadside, rather than on one of the GRs which goes almost parallel, where I normally walk. As the reasoning in previous posts seems to now have me planning to abandon the idea of doing my Big Walk off-road, I thought I had better experience roadside walking as it is something I normally avoid.

Like most country roads, there is no path at the side. In some cases there is a ditch, or something else, such as a crash barrier, preventing one from seeking an escape route if the oncoming traffic (I was walking on the left side of the road, against the traffic) is coming too close. Most of the oncoming drivers pull out a little, to give some clearance, but it is surprising how many do not. Don't they realise that a slight stumble - perhaps caused by their alarming proximity - could cause a disaster? To themselves as well.

So constant concentration and preparation for escape is needed. But the bigger problem is with traffic going in the same direction as the walker. You would think that as they are on the opposite side of the road, there is no danger. But when the road ahead is clear, i.e. no traffic coming towards us, the overtaking happens. On that one 16 kms walk, I had several cars and vans almost brushing my shoulder. They just made no allowance for the fact that for some reason I might deviate from the straight line. All very alarming, and yet there is no warning of their approach.

I got to thinking that I need some sort of a rearview mirror. I have occasionally seen the little mirrors which attach to cycling helmets. Would one of those, attached to the peak of my walking hat, do the trick? I had, in any case, been thinking of getting one for my cycling helmet but had never managed to find one in the cycling stores.

A message to my cycling nephew Andrew brought an instant response. He sent me this link:

Clicking on the link led me to the very object I desired, so I ordered a mirror for my cycling helmet so that I could evaluate it. A very efficient company. The item was despatched the same day and received a couple of days later. I have attached it to my cycling helmet and will report further when I have had a chance to use it. It attaches to the helmet with sticky pads. I am not sure that it would be satisfactory for the cloth-covered peak of a walking hat (basically a baseball cap with a bit dangling down the back to protect the neck from sun).

The mirror is like a tiny dental mirror, dangling in front of, and slightly to the side of my eye. I am sceptical. Another possibility which struck me for rear view is a sort of walking stick with a wheel, a bit like those surveyors use, but with a bicycle mirror attached. Do they exist? Watch this space. Or tell me, if you know the answer.

I think the main item of safety equipment required is alertness, and it will be vital to pick roads which are as quiet as possible, as long as their selection does not increase the overall distance too much.

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