Sunday 18 March 2018

Pedal power has gone to the heads of city cyclists

Cyclists seem to think the rules of the road don't apply to them because they're saving the planet, writes Emer O'Kelly

This aggressive illegality has been going on for years, the majority of cyclists believing they are doing society a favour if they occasionally condescend to obey the rules of the road

THE spokesman for the AA, Conor Faughnan, says that the recent introduction of a 30kph speed limit in the centre of Dublin city hasn't made a blind bit of difference.

He's wrong: it has made a huge difference. It has ensured that cyclists now feel entitled to behave with massively increased levels of lawless aggression on the city streets.

Motorists and pedestrians have been accustomed for years to the experience of having the heart put across them by cyclists with heads firmly down sailing through red lights and turning right across lanes of traffic and against 'no right turn' signs, without so much as checking to see if there are cars approaching the lights. (They can't hear if there are cars approaching because the noise from the iPods blasting in their ears blocks out everything else.)

Motorists are accustomed to cyclists who think that not even other cyclists have any rights, pulling out of the cycle lanes because those in front of them aren't going fast enough to satisfy their own belligerent desires, and ploughing into mainstream traffic in a manner that ensures motorists will have to brake so fast they will leave several kilos of rubber on the road surface. If a motorist infringed the cycle lane in such a manner, there'd be bloody mayhem and foul-mouthed abuse.

Motorists are accustomed to having obscenities shouted at them through their side windows, having their roofs banged with a fusillade of thumps, and the sides of their cars raked by whirling pedals as cyclists try to force a way past them where there is no cycle lane on a narrow street and the motorist is patiently stopped for a pedestrian crossing or a red light.

The cyclist, having vented his or her spleen, will then career across said pedestrian crossing, giving the pensioner legally in possession of a right of way grounds for legal action should he or she be struck down in terror by a heart attack or stroke -- if only they had a way of identifying the ill-mannered, law-breaking environmentalist.

This aggressive illegality has been going on for years, the majority of cyclists believing that they are doing society a favour if they occasionally condescend to obey the rules of the road.

The rules don't apply, you see, because they're saving the planet.

On the other hand, of course, cyclists are not contributing a penny in taxes to the upkeep of the roads. (More of which later.) And since a cyclist became Minister for the Environment, it has been noticeable that cyclists' aggression and law-breaking has been markedly on the increase.

It's as though they knew through some kind of cycling Freemasonry that their transgressions against the law will be ignored (well, to be fair to John Gormley, cyclists' transgressions against the law have always been ignored), and that motorists will be increasingly penalised as time goes on to ensure that cyclists become kings of the road, above the law, and outside the realm of any kind of responsibility or civility.

And the centre of Dublin city has become like something out of Metropolis since the introduction of the 30kph speed limit.

Initial research has shown that the majority of motorists don't keep to it, as it happens. I suspect that this may have something to do with the fact that there are very few reminder signs where it operates. And you have to keep your eye closely on the speedometer, which means your attention isn't where it should be: on the traffic and the road.

In any case, motorists driving with care at the old limit of 50kph were every bit as safe as at 30kph. But the existence of the new limit has encouraged cyclists to believe that they can now do entirely as they please, all of the time.

The result has been a rash of cyclists sailing the wrong way up one-way city streets in the face of heavy traffic, shooting suddenly out of side streets, and forcing their way through and across lanes of heavy traffic.

The Wrong Way Corrigans are a daily occurrence on both Dublin's Dawson Street and Nassau Street. On one occasion recently, the offenders were a pair of uniformed Garda cyclists. And they weren't rushing, so it wasn't an emergency, just a case of giving lousy example.

I (almost literally) ran into an eminent politician a few weeks ago, gaily cycling the wrong way up South Frederick Street. I know he's been on a fitness regime, and I like him a lot, so I won't name him. But it was, to put it mildly, "inappropriate".

And campaigners for the rights of elderly people have complained recently that the introduction of the cycle stands and the 'blue bikes' for hire in Dublin has made their lives a living hell. Dublin City Council, of course, is planning to provide more of them. But what they have meant for elderly people, it appears, is a huge increase in the numbers of cyclists careering along pavements instead of on the roadway.

My prize example of the illegal and irresponsible use to which the Blue Bikes can be put was on the walkway at Sandymount Strand last week. Note the word "walkway". It indicates that it's supposed to be reserved for pedestrians.

Again, cyclists by the score ignore the signs, scorching along to the danger and terror of elderly people and small children on a regular basis. When gardai at Irishtown were informed of this, a station officer said they weren't aware that cycling wasn't permitted on the Sandymount Strand walkway.

Interesting, since I know of a woman whose small child's lip was badly cut and needed stitches when she was knocked down there by a cyclist. The mother called the gardai, who apparently said it was nothing to do with them.

But last week, a cavalcade of seven helmeted cyclists on the Dublin City Blue Bikes were sailing majestically along the walkway. Two of them were Irish, and obviously operating a commercial guided tour for five Japanese people, (which may well have been illegal in itself) because they were explaining the Joycean associations of the Strand and the history of its Martello tower.

It was pointed out to them, quite acidly (I know, because I was the acid one) that cycling was forbidden, and bless their little hearts, they obeyed. When I was on the way back, they had indeed left the walkway. They were cycling on the footpath along Strand Road. Try getting away with something like that in Tokyo and see what would happen.

There is a way to put manners on cyclists. Simply insist that bikes are registered as cars are, and that they carry identifiable number plates. And introduce cycling tests and licences of proficiency.

But then, of course, infringements of the traffic laws would have to be followed up. And on the experience of Irishtown gardai, it would seem that the authorities don't know what's an infringement and what isn't.

Think of the sudden and mysterious disappearance of L plates from cars when it was announced that the regulations requiring a learner driver to have a qualified driver as a passenger at all times were actually going to be enforced.

It's a great little country.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News