The bicycle update

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.

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8 Comments on “The bicycle update”

  1. Robert Browne Says:

    Strange I am out on my DB most days and I have not had the same experiences. Where are you cycling? Most cyclists are just trying to stay alive by avoiding great big craters in the road, motorist dropping off passengers in the middle of traffic, doors flying open and of course people who hate them hemming them in trying to bully them and deliberately driving in their lanes. Recently I have even seen taxis habitually parked outside the Eliza Blue Hotel in a yellow box reserved for pedestrians so they can cross over to the Millenium bridge. Now traffic is slowing to a crawl because there is a guy in a van with a camera trying to play key stone cops. This is just going to drive people bonkers and make them more frustrated and irrational. I can see lots of people just giving up driving altogether and maybe that is the plan.

  2. Jason Michael McCann Says:

    A bit of column A and a bit of column B here Ferdinand. For as many cyclists like yourself, who are diligent in their adherence to the rules of the road, there are cyclists like me, who on occasion (every single trip) bend (trash) the rules of the road and cycle like Dublin motorists drive their automobiles. From experience I can tell you that the local constabulary do enforce the rules. Once I was pulled over after ‘bending’ the rules. I had a very good reason of course (almost late for the cinema). A Ban Garda pulled me over and asked, “Are you aware that you just ignored that red light?” I couldn’t think of a better way out of the pickle than to respond, “Of course I’m aware of that Garda, how else was I meant to get your attention?” She laughed at the charm offensive of the short, furry and funny Scot before her, and – as was hoped – let me go.

  3. Vincent Says:

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you.
    If you put it this way, the walker has between 10 and 15 feet of the carriageway and the cars twice that. While the cyclist has at the very most 4 ft. That’s the reality of the road maths.
    Lets take the N11. All the way in from Loughlinstown my numbers work. Now I’ve -back in the days when I was nuts- crossed over that road with both a car and a bike and there is nothing on this earth that would induce me to ever do it again on a bike.
    You’ve ID-ed the problem right enough with regard to the position that the cyclist takes up at a light. But you’re not addressing the question.
    It is the same as with a car following a truck on the open road, where if you cannot see the mirror of the truck then you’re invisible to the truck driver. Ditto the cyclist if he cannot see the driver of the car, as in about 15 ft ahead of the nose of the car then the cyclist is in real danger.
    What then has you acting like a cranky schoolmaster slamming the desk and quoting ‘back in the day’ type statements. I would say fear. And this fear is in the minds of car drivers when they think of cyclists but in not quite so visceral a way.
    You’ve been spoilt living amongst polite north Dublin people for the last 10 years. And the roads are very different up north. They are somewhat more benign to ‘Le Tour wannabees.
    But what’ld make life better would be a double light at a junction. One for bikes and another about 20/30 feet back for cars and trucks. Where on the change of light the bike could go about 40 sec’ before the cars clearing the junction before the cars enter. Thence to be filtered into his own widened and kerbed lane.

  4. copernicus Says:

    “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”

    How very true in London. London Mayor Boris Johnson is a cycle nut, and his scheme of rent-a- bike has not found favour with pedestrians because of the attitude of the bikers. I cycled in my adult days-some decades ago when the car traffic was low and cyclists were polite and observed the traffic rules. Recently there are incidences of deaths in London Roads, one recently in Oxford Street, when a cyclist tried to overtake ” the bendy” bus- the long bus, and found himself in the morgue.

  5. I cycle to and from work daily along a disused railway line (very close to your new main campus, Principal) and I think there is a very even split of courteous and discourteous cyclists.
    The bad ones hurtle as fast as they can along the route with a ‘get out of my right of way’ approach. The route hazards are not cars but casual walkers, dog walkers, horse riders, joggers and other cyclists. Having also been a walker on the route I fully recognise the need to slow right down, and ring my bell when approaching any of the above. Despite this I must admit to regularly getting peed of with dog walkers; who to a person do not seem to be able to control their dogs (or get them to obey them) unless they’re on a lead.

  6. Perry Share Says:

    A while back I was visiting Seville where there are numerous well-designed and clearly marked bike lanes, complete with dedicated traffic lights &c. They were free of potholes, parked cars, dog-walkers and massive semi-trailers. Occasionally pedestrians would stray in to the lanes, but these were almost invariably tourists. Cyclists were mainly calm, cool and collected, and of course you kept an eye out for those who were legitimately enough hurrying to work (didn’t see any couriers though!)and who would generally announce their approach with a ding of the bell.

    In Dublin it is the law of the jungle, for pedestrians for whom (myself included) a red ‘don’t walk’ light is merely a challenge; for car drivers, a substantial proportion of whom have yet to discover the indicator switch; and for taxi drivers, for whom all road objects are a target. Add in a road surface that is pocked with holes, bumps, drains and broken glass, and laughable ‘cycle lanes’ that are a certain highway to hell, and it is hardly surprising that cycling in Dublin requires a certain buccaneering spirit!

  7. Pantani Says:

    In agreement with most of the posters here, I think University diary somewhat misunderstands the reality of cycling. The reality is that motorists do not accept bikes as legitimate forms of vehicle. I do not condone people riding blindly through red lights and I have to say I have seen some increase in this, largely brought about by the free bike scheme and augmented by the bike to work scheme, both of which have brought a lot of inexperienced cyclists onto the road. However, if one plans to survive cycling in this city, the intelligent thing to do is to keep as far away from traffic as possible. Sometimes that means proceeding with caution through a red light so that one has a head start on the traffic. The earlier suggestion of two tiered traffic lights is an excellent one but no doubt will not be implemented on cost grounds. A further sensible development would be a new york turn right (or in this case left) on red, but applied to cyclists. The bulk of traffic law is designed for cars but bikes are not cars – specifically: bikes do not possess upwards of a tonne of kinetic energy; secondly, a bikes do not have a metre and a half of bonnet sticking out in front of the rider, so they can see through junctions in a way that is impossible for cars. Thirdly, the acceleration and maximum velocity of even a very fit cyclist is far behind that of even a basic car. As a self confessed petrolhead as well as cyclist, interestingly, I have minimal problems with cyclists when I’m driving, or indeed on the bike – other than the small instances of idiotic behaviour I’ve referred to above on the part of cyclists. However, I have no doubt that natural selection will address that in time. However, as both a cyclist and driver, I experience dramatically more bad behaviour on the part of motorists. This country has become obsessed with the application of rules when what’s needed is less rules and more common sense on the part of all.

    PS University diary – can you not claim academic freedom and ride with impugnity!!

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