'Cycling is an integral part of my life' - Ivana Bacik
Senator Ivana Bacik is one of the few members of the Oireachtas who cycles to work every day. "Rain or shine, whatever the weather, I will cycle to the Seanad," she says. "It is by far the best way for me to get to work."
In 2012, she established an all-party Oireachtas cyclist group whose aim was to encourage more members of the Dail and Seanad to become reacquainted with the joys of pedalling. She estimates that seven members of Leinster House make the journey by bike each day.
"Cycling is an integral part of my life," she says. "I find it to be the most efficient way to get from A to B, and, as more and more people take up cycling, there's a sense that our streets are becoming safer.
"There are people out there who are nervous about getting back on the saddle, especially in urban areas, but it is a much safer environment for the cyclist now than even a decade ago. The success of the Dublin Bikes scheme has also shown people that not only is cycling a healthy and inexpensive option, but it connects them with their surroundings in a way that vehicular travel simply doesn't do."
Besides the commute to Leinster House, Ivana cycles on the school run every day. "The children scoot on the pavement alongside me," she says. "I think they're too young to cycle on the streets just yet."
She admits that she doesn't cycle for leisure purposes as much as she would like - "it's very much a practical thing for me" - but has experienced the joys of discovering her own country on two wheels. "We cycled around the Ring of Kerry some years back and it was just magical," she says. "We did it over a period of four days and nights, staying in a B&B each night. It was the sort of leisurely pace that allowed us to fully appreciate the beauty of the region - and it truly is a magnificent part of Ireland. It just wouldn't have been the same by car."
Ivana hopes to take in other significant Irish cycle routes when her children are a little older. "We'd love to do the Burren Way," she says. "And there has been so much talk about the Wild Atlantic Way this year that we would like to cycle a stretch of it. It's really great to see so many people out on their bikes - whether it's on the streets of Dublin or on country roads. It's quite liberating."