An Avid Cyclist's Response to 'I HATE Cyclists'
So yesterday Anna wrote a bit of a controversial article about her hatred for cyclists. As the only cyclist in our office, I sometimes get a bit of stick as my colleagues air their grievances towards cyclists at me. But the fact of the matter is, every day as I cycle to work I genuinely feel like I'm taking my life in my hands (or handlebars?). Within both groups there are cautious and reckless human beings, but it's usually the bad experiences that stick with us, hence where the generalisations come from. The cyclists versus drivers conflict is never going to be resolved because we're both as stubborn as each other, but this is my opportunity to defend the two-wheelers. The following points are a few things that really niggle me about being a cyclist in Dublin city, so hopefully drivers can see things from our perspective.
The majority of roads do not have cycle lanes, and the ones that do are not always respected by the cars on the road. Now I'm not saying it's done intentionally, but very often only about a quarter of the cycle lane is available to cyclists. This gets particularly tricky when there are parked cars along the road, which means that sometimes we have literally no choice but to go up on to the footpath unless we plan to crash into a parked car. Or at other times the wheels of your bike are so close to the curb that any impact could set you off balance and send you flying off your bike. Bigger vehicles like buses or trucks take up way more room on the road, which is obviously natural given their size, but it means that we get completely cut off with absolutely nowhere to go. So while you may think a cyclist's gestures or knocks on your window are rude and unwarranted, you could be the fifth person in the past ten minutes to have pushed them right up to the curb.
The fear of getting knocked off my bike by a giant chunk of moving metal far outweighs my desire of looking cool as I cycle, so no matter what, I always wear my helmet. I find it funny that so many people don't, and it's usually the daredevil cyclists weaving their way in and out of traffic that are the ones without proper headgear. While there's nothing like a lovely cycle with the wind blowing through your hair, it's just downright dangerous in reality. On the matter of high vis clothing and lights: I always try to have them on me, but sometimes it can be tricky. I've gotten caught out in the summer leaving the house on my bike assuming I'll be home before dark, but when plans change there's often no alternative but to cycle home without any lights. I don't condone people never carrying any hi-vis gear or lights, but I'm just saying that sometimes it's beyond your control. Drivers will probably be happy to hear that the Gardaí are very strict on this matter and do fine people found cycling without them - I got busted once!
Dublin Is Not A "Cycling City"
While we're making great progress in becoming a cycle-friendly city, we're just not there yet. The Bike to Work scheme and other initiatives from the government as well as the ever-growing dublinbikes services are all great assets to the city. The cycle path along the canal all the way down to Barrow Street is great and I'd love to see more of these, but due to town planning there's barely any space for them. A cycle-friendly city is one that is both enjoyable and safe to cycle in no matter where in the city you are, this just is not the case in Dublin. In Copenhagen there are 5.2 bicycles for every car so the emphasis is very much on the bike, and in Paris and Amsterdam there are segregated commuter cycle paths through busy areas, away from all motor traffic. So while we can look to our European pals for pointers, the reality is that we haven't reached their standards as of yet. The current infrastructure doesn't always make it easy for us to cycle around town.
Seriously though, I love cycling and won't be trading in my bike for a car anytime soon, but it would be great if both drivers and cyclists could meet each other half way in order to make our roads safer for everyone!