Northern Ireland news

Strabane cyclist still going strong at 100 years of age

Strabane centenarian Pat Gillespie is still using his electric bicycle to visit his late wife's grave. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A cyclist's recent brush with the law might not be unusual except that the cyclist in question is 100 years old.

Paddy Gillespie, from Strabane, has fallen foul over his use of an electric bicycle to visit his wife's grave.

Mr Gillespie was for many years famous for the New York Police Department car he drove in his home town. However, at the tender age of 96, and after a few near misses, he handed in his licence.

Faced with a transport problem, he purchased an electric bicycle to make the one-mile journey to visit his late wife's resting place.

Some years ago, the Strabane man was stopped by police and told he should have a crash helmet and his bike needed a number plate.

Within an hour, had produced the plate “PAT 1”. However, the helmet presented a problem.

“I have a helmet but there is very little ventilation for my hearing. It is too tight. I have two hearing aids and I can't get the helmet on,” he told BBC Radio Foyle.

He solved the problem by purchasing a “canoeing helmet” which fitted over his ears.

All went well until this week when he was pulled over again. When the Strabane man explained that a helmet would not fit over his hearing aid, he said police suggested he cut two holes for his ears.

“I thought it was the end of my troubles when I bought an electric bicycle which required no insurance, no licence, no nothing,” he said.

Police say that while relevant legislation on the issue is still being processed, an electric bicycle should be treated as a motor vehicle, needing insurance and tax.

This week's encounter was not Mr Gillespie's first brush with the law. He recalled an incident before the Second World War when he was fined a shilling for carrying potatoes in a car with “trade” number plates.

In the meantime, he hopes to remain on his bicycle for many years to come and has set a goal of passing the age of his late brother Dan, a former international runner.

“He lived to 103 years and I don't like the idea of him beating me,” Mr Gillespie said.

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