Posted tagged ‘bicycles’

The bicycle update

November 18, 2010

Some weeks ago I posted an account of my experiences as a newly regular cyclist on Dublin streets. While I was enjoying my new method of transport, I nevertheless found that my fellow cyclists were, in significant numbers, rude and discourteous and a menace to other road users; almost as a matter of course they did not observe even basic rules of the road, and resented having their attention drawn to this. This post was picked up a little later by the Sunday Times, and since then I have been receiving a steady trickle of correspondence, more or less evenly split between non-cyclist road users agreeing with me (both pedestrians and motorists), and cyclists hurling abuse at me and telling me how cyclists are a victimised group of road users constantly subjected to danger by cars.

I cannot say that the habits of my fellow cyclists have improved visibly. Now when I stop at red and, invariably, cyclists speed past me as they break the lights, I tend to call out to them, politely, that it’s red. I won’t go into the responses, except to say that it would be a great way to learn Dublin expletives and hand gestures. I have however noticed that, recently, Garda (police) electronic noticeboards have contained warnings to cyclists to observe ‘all the rules of the road’. If this is a prelude to enforcement, that might be a good thing; but so far I see no evidence of that.

Finally, to those who have said to me that cyclists breaking traffic regulations are only a danger to themselves, let me just say that since I last posted on this topic I have seen three cyclist collisions (i.e. cyclists colliding with each other), two cyclists running into pedestrians, one cyclist nearly hitting a pedestrian and making the latter jump into a big puddle of water, and one cyclist forcing a car to swerve dangerously out of his lane.

I may continue to report on this from time to time.

The bicycle report

September 2, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I wrote here about my experiences as a born-again cyclist. You may recall that, the joys of this form of transport notwithstanding, I was somewhat disturbed by my fellow bicycle users. Maybe it’s time for an update.

I am now pretty much a daily cyclist. In part I do this for the exercise, and in part because, particularly when there is heavy traffic, it really is a much faster way of going places in Dublin. But I am still completely amazed at my fellow road users. Before taking to the bike again, I kept hearing from other cyclists (and reading in the media) about the aggressive driving of motorists and their consistent failure to respect cyclists. And indeed there is some of that. Only yesterday I saw a driver swerve into the bicycle lane, forcing a cyclist to take evasive action by going on the footpath, where he promptly hit a pedestrian (though clearly he was not at fault). A particularly dangerous moment is when, at a junction, you want to keep going straight ahead while a motorist wants to turn left; at such moments I have now seen a number of motorists actually force an unwilling cyclist to turn off.

But bad and all though the behaviour of motorists is, it is as nothing when compared with that of the cyclists themselves. Yesterday I cycled for about an hour round Dublin, monitoring my fellow bicycle riders. Through the entire journey, I only saw one cyclist ever stopping at a red light. This one exception was a really pleasant young man, who came up behind me while I was waiting for a green light and stopped next to me, asking in perfect good humour what I was doing and whether I needed help. I replied that I was waiting for the green light. He asked, ‘do you always do this?’ I indicated I did. ‘Cool’, he said, ‘how exciting. I’ll try that with you.’ And so indeed, for the next four lights, he stopped with me on red every time. Eventually he went his separate way. ‘You’re a gas man’, he said to me as we parted. I’m not sure he was a convert – he may now be telling people what a weird experience it all was.

But in any case, today he was the only exception. During that hour, I counted 36 cyclists who drove through red lights. Five went the wrong way up one way streets. Eight cycled on pavements. Six almost certainly broke the speed limit for cars. Two behaved with extraordinary aggression towards pedestrians, one of them actually (and deliberately) hitting a pedestrian as he passed for crossing while he was breaking the red light.

So I return to my previous theme. I have concluded that Dublin’s cyclists are, almost to a man or woman, a menace. They clearly believe that no regulations apply to them, and that they are free to do as they please. They, rightly I suspect, presume that they will never be stopped in all this by the authorities. In addition, since it has become more widely known that I am now a cyclist (the Sunday Times has mentioned it), people have been volunteering all sorts of horror stores to me about accidents and injuries.

I believe it is time to require of all cyclists that they know the rules of the road, and that these rules should be enforced.

On becoming a cyclist, again…

August 14, 2010

As part of the major change in my life, having stepped down as President of Dublin City University and moved (God help me) to Dublin’s southside, I have also acquired a bicycle (for the first time in many years). And so, over the past few days, I have done little trips around Dublin on my bike. Mostly it’s all very good: getting there as a cyclist is usually faster in Dublin than as a motorist.

But what has shocked me is the behaviour of other road users. No, not car drivers (after all, I know all about them), but other cyclists. On my initial bike ride I cycled the first two hundred yards or so and came up against my first red traffic light. I stopped, braking gently and coming to a halt beautifully. And as soon as I had done so the cyclist behind me crashed into me.

‘You f***ing idiot’, he offered, helpfully. ‘Why did you just stop like that without warning?’

‘Because of the red light’, I suggested cautiously.

‘Oh Gee, you really are a wan*er’, he offered, before cycling past me through the still-red light, with a farewell hand gesture.

While this spirited repartee was not repeated in any other incident that day, I quickly lost count of the number of fellow cyclists breaking elementary traffic rules. Maybe it’s time for some enforcement of the law. Getting people on to bicycles is undoubtedly a good idea, but even cyclists need to behave responsibly and with consideration for other road users. That needs to start now.

On two wheels

August 13, 2008

Over the past ten days or so, I have been on vacation in the United States with my family. We have been staying in a coastal area of South Carolina, where it is impossibly hot and humid at this time of year. Nevertheless, we have greatly enjoyed ourselves, and I for one have been getting some much needed exercise by cycling some 20 miles or so every day Рdespite the heat, a rather pleasant activity.

What has struck me here as a cyclist is how well behaved my fellow cyclists are. They stop at a ‘stop’ sign, they do not cross a red traffic light, they stick consistently to the correct side of the road, they stop to let pedestrians cross. In short, cyclists here observe the traffic regulations and behave with great courtesy and consideration.

In Dublin, I routinely see cyclists behaving as if the rules of the road did not in any way apply to them. They cross red lights as a matter of course, cycle on pavements, go the wrong way down one way streets, and so forth. Just before I left on holiday, I saw a cyclist in Dublin go through a red light at a pedestrian crossing and collide with a pedestrian just going across the road; and rather than apologise or act guilty, he berated the (elderly) pedestrian. I acknowledge of course that there are many cyclists who do not behave in this manner, but on the whole we do not recognise sufficiently that cyclists can also be a danger both to themselves and to others.

I believe that, in the interests of fuel conservation, far more people should be encouraged to take to bicycles. But it is time that cyclists in Ireland learn that they too must be responsible road users and adhere both to the rules and also to the desirable practice of courtesy towards others.


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