Tuesday 21 November 2017

Commuter test: Which is faster - Bus, bike, or car? We find out

Tom Coogan
Tom Coogan
Gareth Morgan gets on the bus in Stillorgan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Liam Collins

Gareth Morgan, Tom Coogan and Liam Collins

Three Irish Independent journalists raced against each other using the bus, bike and car to see who would travel quickest from Stillorgan Shopping Centre to Independent Newspapers on Talbot Street. Here's how they got on.

Gareth Morgan - Dublin Bus (58 minutes)

I live near one of the best bus lanes in Dublin, but as I keep telling everyone - it doesn't guarantee I get into work all that fast.

Our challenge begins outside Stillorgan Shopping Centre at 9.23 on a gloriously sunny morning, and I trot to the bus stop on the dual carriageway only to experience a 46A coughing exhaust fumes into my face as it pulls away. Fortunately, another bus comes along within three minutes.

By 9.29am I'm on board and en route. We positively fly down the bus lane past UCD, and at 9.53am hit St Stephen's Green - making really decent time.

Some mornings, your closest travel companion is a stranger's armpit and the only solace is found in a good pair of headphones. Today the bus is relatively uncrowded and there's no tedious driver switchover at Donnybrook to hold us up.

However, the next 20 minutes don't go so smoothly. We're clogged up in city centre traffic, while the roadworks near Trinity College mean we must take the scenic route, four buses now in convoy, squeezing through the junction near College Green. We finally pass the last red light and make it to the stop on O'Connell St at 10.14am.

From there it's usually a 10-minute walk up Talbot Street. I make it in seven minutes and hit my desk at 10.21am with my opponents nowhere in sight. I raise my arms in triumph - until they saunter in and inform me they've already had time for a cup of coffee while I was sitting in traffic.

I was rather pleased with the speed of my bus journey today, which cost €2.60 using the Leap Card, but it's still taken 45 minutes to travel 9km on the bus - I was way behind my two opponents arriving to work.

And on a bad day, I can wait for a bus for 15 minutes and then be sitting on it for well over an hour. That unpredictability is perhaps the worst thing.

Tom Coogan - Car (43 minutes)

A bike, a bus and a car, what could possibly go wrong? It was 9.23am and the mission was to get to the place of work ASAP.

Grand. That was before a woman in a Jeep the size of a combine harvester reversed into me - or I into her. A quick inspection of my dimpled car could not immediately identify any new bumps. I let her off with a light caution.

On down onto the N11 - that boulevard of broken appointments, and turn left for the city. Like a feckless virgin in Amsterdam, I seemed compelled to stop at every red light. Along Merrion Avenue all was sunshine and blue sky.

But a red mist descended as I hit the Rock Road. They say Americans will put up with anything that doesn't stop the traffic. But the Rock Road would test the most serene of them. Time stands still. I defy anyone to feel very zen as the cyclists swerve and zigzag in and out of your way.

I know nothing about motor cars other than the window-wipers are supposed to be on the outside, and wheels are a means of getting from A to B. Not on the Rock Road they are not.

And so I slouched on towards the citadel, finally grinding through the Merrion gates and up past Sandymount Strand. Along Pearse Street pedestrians diced with death as they ignored rare green lights for drivers.

I was moving with the pace of a hung-over sloth, but it was progress. It was 10.06am when I arrived at my desk. The journey cost me about €3 in fuel, €5 in parking and 4.5km in shredded nerves.

As I sat down I remembered something James Dean once said: "Take it easy while driving, the life you save could be mine."

So much for the road not taken.

Liam Collins – bicycle (32 minutes)

I wasn't surprised to find that the humble bicycle is the quickest way to get from A to B in Dublin - I've been doing it since the Guinness boat the 'Lady Miranda' used to dock at City Quay and that is not today or yesterday.

In this case it was from Stillorgan in the suburbs, to Talbot Street in the city centre. It took me exactly 32 minutes, breaking just one red light and cycling at a lively, but not 'racing', pace.

What struck me is that the cycle lane along the leafy, blossom-festooned Stillorgan Road is in an absolutely shocking state and, I believe, dangerous in parts.

Through gridlocked Donnybrook you certainly make up ground on a bike, and then with the lights in my favour (they were red so the traffic was stopped), I veered across Lower Leeson Street, taking a favoured detour down Wellington Lane - one of the many largely traffic-free shortcuts through the city - emerging at Baggot Street.

Down the canal, across Grand Canal Dock and I was peddling leisurely along the cobbles of old Monto having survived another day in the city.

Cycling carries the whiff of danger (for those of us who like that sort of thing). The downside is the buses, lorries, cars and even pedestrians are all trying to make life hazardous and you have to watch them because often they won't see you.

Of course, cyclists wobble - we're talking Dublin road surfaces here - but if you take it easy it can be healthy, enjoyable and if you don't behave like a lunatic (as many cyclists do), you can live in harmony with other road users.

Irish Independent

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