Wednesday 22 May 2019

Colette Fitzpatrick on city cycling: 'Some crazy drivers think they're the only ones on the road and act with total disregard'

Colette Fitzpatrick
Colette Fitzpatrick

Colette Fitzpatrick

THE bike to work scheme was one of the simplest, most effective and creative tax incentives any Irish government ever came up with.

It enables you to save half the price of your wheels on up to €1,000 worth of gear. As well as saving the cyclist a bunch of money, the scheme has led to a boom in bike shops and created up to 1,000 jobs. It’s reduced greenhouse gas emissions, combated congestion and helped in the battle of the bulge.

The Dublinbikes scheme has been another stunning success. That said, it’s quite incredible that nobody has been killed on one of the bikes given the level of congestion in the city and the fact that it’s not compulsory to wear helmets.

In Melbourne, where there’s a similar scheme, users must wear helmets but the take-up has been a fraction of that in Dublin. However, the scheme has such a good reputation here that its convinced people who were cautious about cycling to bike around the city.

This week we learned that the number of commuters cycling into Dublin’s city centre during the morning rush hour has reached its highest level since records began 20 years ago.

Almost 11,000 people cycle into the city each day. As a driver and a cyclist I think it’s time to move beyond the war between bikes and cars. Our congestion and traffic problems simply don’t come down to either/or solutions.

It does seem that drivers hate cyclists with a passion though (maybe it’s the lycra that bothers them). Some drivers constantly endanger cyclists. Or they simply don’t see them. 

As a driver I know this and I realise how often I don’t spot cyclists, and how often I don’t see pedestrians. Drivers are too distracted by the radio, their kids, their phones or looking at someone on the footpath.

But a lot of drivers are simply crazy. They get into their cars and think they are the only ones on the road, acting with total disregard for others. Again I know this because I drive.

Many drivers believe that all cyclists do is hog lanes, bunch up, run lights and act like they deserve special privileges for not driving.

But cyclists often bunch up to stay alive and to make sure they’re seen. On my bike I’ve been beeped at, shouted at, cut off, and told to ‘get on the footpath’ by drivers who clearly don’t know that a bicycle is a legal vehicle entitled to be on the road.

Yes, cyclists travel slower than cars, and yes, we are considerably more fragile. In any collision, we’re far more likely to end up in the hospital or morgue. But no, we are not pedestrians and yes, we are entitled to use the roads just like anyone else. 

Whenever I get on my bike I know that many drivers will hate me just for being there. I represent yet another obstacle that motorists, often in a hurry, must overcome.

When I’m cycling and I get beeped or shouted at, or have lights flashed at me, I try to remember to say ‘hi!’, and wave back with a big smile, before breezing on by. Though that too, is a risky move. Remember you could be dealing with one those really, really crazy drivers.


Editors Choice

Also in Life