Greener Living: As part of our special on easy ways to tread softly on the planet, John Meagher says if you want to make a big difference, kick it up a gear by switching to two wheels writes
There are several environmentally-friendly alternatives to cars from good old-fashioned bicycles to e-cars and even eco-cabs...
A number of Irish cities - Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway - have bicycle-sharing schemes with DublinBikes one of the most successful of its type anywhere in the world. Now in its 10th year, it's perhaps the very best way to get around the heart of our capital city. You can buy a short-term pass, but it's much better value to pay €30 for a year's subscription. Every journey under 30 minutes is free - and that will be more than enough time to get wherever you want. The comparatively new dockless scheme in Dublin, BleeperBike, is built around an intuitive app and there's a range of cost-effective subscriptions available.
Electric cars are better for the environment than the majority that run on fossil fuel. Even so, the traditional car lobby likes to talk about the environmental impact needed to generate all the electricity required to run electric vehicles. Yes, increased electricity will be required as the EV population increases, but the health benefits in hugely improved air conditions will be keenly felt. Less than 2pc of Irish cars are electrically operated, versus almost 50pc in Norway.
While cycling is a part of daily life for many, others have not been on a bike for years. In fact, it's not uncommon to meet people who haven't cycled since their childhood. But help is at hand for anyone who wants to begin cycling again but feels rusty. The Irish Centre for Cycling runs courses to help give people confidence to start pedalling and if you've never cycled, don't despair: it's much more common than you might think and the centre can help provide the tuition to get you going. Just like those who learn to swim later in life, there's great pleasure to be had in persevering with cycling. And you'll have the skill for life. www.irishcentre forcycling.ie
E-bikes may have been around for a couple of decades, but e-scooters and other battery-powered personal mobility devices are comparatively new. And yet, they seem to be everywhere in our cities. There's still a lot of confusion about their legality, with the garda website stating that they are mechanically propelled vehicles and as such they are 'not considered suitable for use in a public place' until a mechanism is found for their tax and insurance. The scooter lobby argues that as e-scooters are started through physical propulsion - in other words, that you get them going by 'kicking off' with your foot as you would do on a regular scooter - they do not come under the mechanical vehicle regulations. Watch this space...
Fold-up bicycles used to be a rare sight, two-wheeled transport favoured by architects and other creatives. But thanks to improved builds and some newly affordable options they've become far more popular. Part of the appeal is the fact that they can be taken on public transport - they're permitted on the Luas when folded up while regular bicycles are not - and you can keep them with you at all times, thereby reducing the risk of theft on the street. Those in the know swear by Brompton - the fold-up bicycle pioneer - but they don't come cheap. That's where the Government's Bike to Work Scheme comes in handy - you can save up to 51pc of the price of bicycles and accessories.
There is a growing number of eco-friendly taxis available too - whether they use hybrid technology or are purely electric. All the major taxi firms have them - make sure to ask when booking. The more demand for them the greater the likelihood that they will push old fossil-fuelled cabs off the roads. We can't guarantee that the driver of an eco-taxi will be less likely to tell you how they'd put the world to rights, but here's hoping!
Is it really worth the expense of having a car as a city dweller if you're only clocking up 5,000km to 7,000km per annum? Think of the fuel, tax and insurance money you would save. You would walk further, cycle and get public transport more frequently. And if you do need a car the odd time, rent one by the hour with the GoCar app. Prices start from €8 every 60 minutes and they have a range of electric models, including the eye-catching BMW i3.
If you can't be tempted to abandon your car you might want to consider car-pooling. Go on rideshare.ie and find people from all over the country who are commuting to work on your very route every day.
If you're already a biking aficionado but need a little encouragement to take two wheels on a 10 to 20km commute, an e-bike might be just what you need. You still get all the health and environmental benefits of cycling, but there's a motor that can kick in to help you with the extra distance or to negotiate those hills. There are plenty of suppliers, including the Dublin-based GreenAer. And if you aren't sure you want to take the leap, they'll rent you one for €45 per day so you can get the feel of it.