Posted tagged ‘traffic regulations’

At great speed

November 15, 2010

My current home is on Anglesea Road, Dublin. At various times of the day and night I come out of the house to walk my dog, and often the first task I have to accomplish is to cross the road. For those unfamiliar with the geography, Anglesea Road is in south Dublin, and it links two major thoroughfares into the city, and also runs past the Royal Dublin Society showgrounds. However, the houses on it are residential only. On either end of the road are some quite impressive speed bumps.

For all that, when I try to cross the road, and unless there happens to be traffic gridlock on it at that moment (which is not that rare), I will invariably find that it is a horribly dangerous undertaking, as the average speed of cars is often around 50 mph (or 80 km/h, in a 50 km/h or 30 mph speed limit area), and a number of cars are clearly going at much higher speeds. At no point since I have moved here have I ever seen a police speed check, and motorists have clearly factored that into their driving. On one occasion I saw a car drive past at what must have been 70 mph or so, and the driver then screeched to a stop as a car had stopped just in front of him; there was no accident, but it was a narrow miss. I walked up and knocked on his window, and then asked him whether he realised what speed he was doing. He gave me some pithy advice which I would be unable to follow, physically speaking.

In this country, speed limits are routinely ignored. Just occasionally I understand why, where some speed limits are inappropriately low – but only occasionally.

Tonight new speed cameras and speed checks will come into operation across the country, but I fear it won’t change a whole lot. Motorists seem to be of the view that speeding is their right, and while they will avoid being caught, for them that seems to be some sort of freedom fight against tyranny. My suspicion is that speed cameras will make some money for the state (perhaps we need that right now), but won’t change habits, unless we do more than just improve enforcement. We need to change attitudes. we need to stop kind and considerate people getting into cars and becoming reckless killers. We need to change the national culture.


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.