On becoming a cyclist, again…

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.

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17 Comments on “On becoming a cyclist, again…”

  1. Pidge Says:

    That guy being a prat aside, there’s a significant difference between behaving “responsibly and with consideration for other road users” and following the law.

  2. College Girl Says:

    You see this far too often with cyclists. You will always hear from them how bad all of the drivers are, but don’t seem to realize that the same rules apply to them.

  3. Vincent Says:

    Southside ?. Value to be had down there these days ?.
    I hope you’ve had your jabs.

    • Jilly Says:


      It’s true about cyclists, though. They are often a greater menace to pedestrians than the cars. Well, apart from those drivers who decide to be the last one through rather than the first one to stop at pedestrian crossings. If I’m ever arrested, it’ll probably be for what I’ve done to one of them…

  4. kevin denny Says:

    Why are you so surprised? Most cyclists seem to think they are exempt from the requirement to stop at red lights. Their use of lights at night is also sorely lacking, putting them at great danger. The Gardai are not generally bothered about such mundane matters.
    When I was a student in Dublin, I foolishly never used bicycle lights & always got away with it. But when I moved to the UK to study I learned that the local cops, no fans of the student population in general, did indeed enforce the law prompting a rapid change of heart on my part.

  5. brianmc Says:

    I’ve had similar experiences myself. The Garda just need to enforce the laws more rigorously – red light jumpers should be subject to on the spot fines.

  6. wendymr Says:

    Having been, in the days when I was a regular cyclist in Dublin, mown down by a double-decker bus and a petrol tanker, among other vehicles much heavier than my own bicycle, I have little sympathy for the argument that cyclists are the dangerous road-users…

    • kevin denny Says:

      Its the asymmetry thats the issue: if a truck driver is careless he kills the cyclist. If the cyclist is careless he kills himself. So the cyclists needs to be very very careful. By and large, they are not. I wasn’t and I’d say was fairly typical.
      There is an age element: cyclists are younger on average and young people tend to engage in more risky behaviour in general, drink, drugs, sex etc.

  7. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    Knowledge of the rules of the road is the key issue, and it tends to be pretty poor across the board: both the hothead young cyclists, who disregard the rules altogether, and also the drivers ( young old and in-between) who actually don’t know the rules half as well as they think they do.

    for me, the key phrase is “drive according to prevailing conditions”.
    It can be subjective as to what that actually means, and it requires people to exercise their common sense. That is asking too much in some cases.

  8. Barra Says:

    While there are of course some idiotic cyclists, the disrespect shown by motorists (in particular taxi drivers who we share bus lanes with) to cyclists is incredible. I’m a very careful cyclist, and have lost count of the amount of times I’ve been nearly run off the road by cars. A lot of the cyclists I know who break lights do so because of the aggressive manner in which motorists accelerate at junctions. Nearly every time I’m at an advanced stop line, cars (in particular taxis) have pulled into the space left for cyclists, pushing the cyclist right up to the junction.

    • Barra, I’m afraid I don’t buy that as the sole/main reason. Today I stopped my bike at a pedestrian traffic light when it turned red. There were five bikes behind me, and absolutely no car in sight. All five bicycles passed me without stopping, breaking the red light, and with absolutely no excuse. The first of them had to swerve to avoid a crossing pedestrian, and shouted some abuse at the pedestrian.

      In my recent experience cyclists are actually worse than car drivers.

  9. Antoin Says:

    It’s a southside cyclist thing. Northside cyclists are far better behaved.

  10. Maire Says:

    Hi, Ferdinand,
    Just read about your blog on cycling in todays Sunday Times, so decided to check it out. Firstly, congrats on getting a bike – despite everything, you’ll find it will be well worth it. When I lived in Dublin, I cycled pretty much everywhere, and much and all as I gave out about other road users (including other cyclists) it turns out to be a lot safer than where I am now, in Sligo, simply because drivers here are not used to cyclists, because there are so few of us, and therefore are quite clueless about how to behave around us.

    I came across more of my fair share of idiotic cyclists, and what used irritate me most about them was that their behaviour allowed drivers to demonise all cyclists, and treat us with contempt, because that is really the only word for it. As a newbie, you are delightfully optimistic enough to think that the gardai might enforce the law with regard to errant cyclists – oh, that they would! You are still a person of some authority and influence – perhaps you could bring that to bear? As a driver as well as a cyclist, too often I see cyclists at night only at the last minute, because they have no lights and not only no reflective clothing, but dark clothing to boot. This is especially so in the cities, because there is a presumption that street lights will make them visible. And don’t get me started on cyclists wearing headphones!

    It would be lovely to see us follow the lead of some councils in the UK, especially now that we seem on the verge of getting some great cycling lanes around the country over the next decade or so, and introduce cycling courses by county councils, especially for adults taking up cycling again after a long absence. I was one of those, and my initial experiences on the road were nothing short of terrifying. It would also be a dream of mine to see a minimum requirement on learner drivers to take a bike on the road for a week or so, if only to learn what it feels like to have a car pass you at speed and way too close.

    I once read a letter in the Irish Times, many years ago, which has stayed with me because of its simple truth: ‘When I drive, I think like a driver; when I cycle, I think like a cyclist, and when I walk, I think like a pedestrian’. Each group of road users seems to think that it is in competition with the others (though taking to the road in any vehicle seems to bring out the competitive aggressive in most of us) whereas we need to learn to share. It is not for nothing that Irish drivers have a reputation for being among the worst drivers in the world.

    Myself, I operate on a very simple premise: if it’s bigger than me, it’s got right of way!


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