Wednesday 27 March 2019

Tour de farce: it will be even more risky for cyclists in city

Will the plan for a new cycling-friendly capital work? We hear the views for and against

Dublin City Council and JCDecaux Ireland announced on 18th June, that Coca-Cola Zero will become the commercial partner of dublinbikes in a three-year agreement. Pictured (l-r) at the announcement were Commuter Transport Alan Kelly TD, Frank O'Donnell General Manager Coca-Cola HBC Ireland, Joanne Grant, Managing Director, JCDecaux Ireland, Owen P Keegan, Chief Executive, Dublin City Council and Jon Woods, General Manager, Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.
Dublin City Council and JCDecaux Ireland announced on 18th June, that Coca-Cola Zero will become the commercial partner of dublinbikes in a three-year agreement. Pictured (l-r) at the announcement were Commuter Transport Alan Kelly TD, Frank O'Donnell General Manager Coca-Cola HBC Ireland, Joanne Grant, Managing Director, JCDecaux Ireland, Owen P Keegan, Chief Executive, Dublin City Council and Jon Woods, General Manager, Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

It's a short, north to southside hop from the office to Leinster House on a Dublin bike, but I always arrive with a broad grin on my face and an elevated sense of wellbeing. This feelgood factor, I figured, was a pleasant side-effect of gentle exercise, fresh air and the wind whistling round my nethers.

Then, a moment of clarity. My elation was simply a by-product of euphoria-inducing endorphins – the hormonal rush most closely associated with those who survive near-death experiences. I felt so good because I was glad to be alive. I'd made it across the city without suffering catastrophic brain injury.

I keep meaning to buy an "office helmet" to be available to anyone in the newsroom who uses the Dublin bikes (soon to be a Coke Zero bike, thanks to a major sponsorship deal) to zip around the city centre.

At the moment, I couldn't feel more naked biking around the capital. And I worry about the bright young things in the office, tipping around on a bike in vertiginous heels, or even flats with their heavy handbags swinging.

They have the fearlessness of youth – a dangerous quality on a bike when the credo of survival must always be: "why is this driver trying to kill me?"

On the quiet back roads of Kildare at the weekends, where for a few hours at least I become a MAMIL (middle-aged man in lycra), I wouldn't think of venturing out without a head protector.

So, on the face of it, having narrowly avoided being crushed a couple of times by HGVs and on one occasion going arse over tit on Middle Abbey Street when my front wheel strayed into a LUAS tram track (a perfect fit! who knew?), I should be an enthusiastic supporter of City Manager Owen Keegan's grand plan to reduce the number of car lanes on the north quays from two to one and introduce a two-way bike lane.

Mr Keegan seems to think that Dublin is a city where the only time imperative is to make a lunch at the National Gallery, or a bit of window shopping on Grafton Street or counting the ducklings in Stephen's Green.

But Dublin is a working city. Drivers need to get to work, to make deliveries and pick up supplies.

The quays are already, in the argot of northside Dubs, "chop-a-block". One lane for cars and one lane for buses simply won't work. Mr Keegan's heart is in the right place. But there has to be a better way to promote cycling, reduce the number of car users and help get bikers into the city centre safely.

A deliberate policy of causing chaos for those who need to drive is "a gun to the head" method of forcing people on to public transport.

Because of continuing congestion, road rage is already rampant. And in many cases it's cyclists who bear the brunt of intemperate, often downright dangerous beligerance by those behind the wheel.

Motormouth Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who has test-driven more supercars than the Sultan of Brunei, has in his garage tartly observed that the fastest car on British roads was invariably a clapped-out white Opel Astra van driven by an apprentice plumber.

He had a point. As a cyclist you develop a sixth sense if you live long enough.

You always know when some bloke who parks his lorry straddling the footpath and the bike lane while making a delivery is going to open the driver's door without looking.

You know instinctively that the lorry driver hasn't checked his mirrors as he turns without a signal and you remember that if white-van man sees a space (and a cyclist is in it) he will still drop a gear, drive on, and hang the consequences.

Cyclists are public enemy No 1 in the eyes of many drivers and pedestrians. Cyclists go through red lights, cyclists are guilty of "salmoning" pedalling against the traffic, cyclists mount the footpaths and scare the living daylights of mothers with prams.

All true I'm afraid. But not all of them. In fact not many of them.

No one mentions jaywalking pedestrians who, if there are no cars or buses in sight, will casually saunter across the road oblivious to the cyclists coming to the junction at a fair lick.

No one mentions the taxi drivers who like to "squeeze" cyclists into the curb, lorry drivers who ignore the speed limits, car drivers using their mobile phones and who don't use their rear-view mirrors.

You see, road users are not exclusive groups. The woman with a pram on the footpath can also be a cyclist and a car driver. The guy on a Dublin bike probably has his car in an underground car park. The lorry driver may be a week-end warrior cycling 100k on a cycling sportif.

And they will be a mixed bunch. Some will be safe, calm and attentive road users.

But it is guaranteed that if someone is a gobshite on four wheels they will also be a gobshite on two.

The trouble is that a minor accident in a car is a life-changing event if you are cycling – especially if you are not wearing a helmet.

Sunday Independent

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