I am a driver, but the cyclist is always right


My first time cycling in Dublin city I went by ear on the Luas tracks. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have been on those tracks and should have known that the groove is the perfect width to trap a beginner bike wheel. I did my penance for being ridiculed by some teenagers and pretending that my scraped knee didn’t itch like bejesus. I haven’t ridden a Luas track since.

The second time I cycled through Dublin City, a taxi driver yelled at me for daring to share the road with him. It wasn’t my fault. I was cycling down Manor Street in Dublin 7, negotiating around illegally parked cars in a bus lane and along a road not wide enough for bike and taxi to coexist safely. The driver couldn’t believe I was stopping him from accelerating until the next red light, so he honked his horn and called me a “bitch”. I haven’t cycled in Dublin since.

I am a driver. I drive regularly in Dublin city and across or across the country several times a year and I don’t know how cyclists do it. I see them squeezed out of traffic, cut into left turns, passed close by with indifference, kicked out onto country roads for daring to cause a slowdown.

And look, I get it, it can be difficult to share the road with cyclists. It’s a bit rich for me to play devil’s advocate considering I’m the devil himself in this scenario, but it can be annoying being held up by a herd of Lycra-clad Dermots on a Sunday, doing cycling three abreast and chatting. It’s tempting to slowly overtake when you finally get the chance, give them a stink eye or maybe throw a “what’s the story, can’t you see we’re late to the fine- Siobhan’s parents, and we have a defrosting Vienetta in the boot?” hand gesture.

I must admit that just as there are bad drivers, there are bad cyclists

But we share the road. We don’t own the road, we drivers. Paying the car tax does not entitle us to everything, from one sidewalk to the other, and to say that “cyclists do not pay” is childish. Cycling is a sustainable, relatively inexpensive and health-promoting mode of transport. Do we really want to tax this? And then, pedestrians paying road tax?

Earlier this month appeared a story to distract us from the post-Christmas woes. It was a story of cyclists versus devotees – two sections of society that can really get people excited. Participants from Howth Presbyterian Church were concerned that the plan to introduce bollards on the currently unseparated cycle path outside the church would interfere with parking and therefore their right to worship. It was a middle-class southpaw’s dream scenario. Church people! Parking already on the bike path! Wanting to continue parking in the cycle lane to the detriment of cyclists when there are already other parking lots available to them! Hilarious outrage!

I will prioritize safety over speed and frustration every day. Don’t drive faster, leave earlier.

It was a good story, of course, and not at all hilarious for those parishioners who could no longer park in front of the church, of course. But that brings up the subject of those separate bike lanes. As a pilot, I think they’re great. They slow me down, take up space, give me less “convenient” parking options, and force me to recognize that there may be a cyclist coming inside and I should wait until sure to turn. They remind me to respect the pact I made to always give cyclists the required wide berth (one meter when overtaking cyclists on roads with a speed limit of less than 50 km/h and 1.5 meters on roads at 50 km/h or more) anyway. is glued to my rear bumper, furious at the 20 seconds I’m costing them. I don’t drive for a living so it may be easy for me to be facetious about delays and inconvenience caused by improved cycling infrastructure, but I will prioritize safety over speed and frustration everyday. Don’t drive faster, leave earlier.

Back to my place in the devil’s lap, I have to admit that just as there are bad drivers, there are bad cyclists. Weavers, light breakers (although often the safest option), all-blacks. Sure, they exist, but they can’t be a reason to scapegoat a whole community of cyclists. I guarantee that if you see a “bad cyclist” on your ride, a cyclist sees 10 dangerous drivers, two of whom unknowingly tried to kill them.

I miss the bike. As a child, I rode my bike everywhere, including a few miles from school. My only rules were “ride with traffic, walk against” and I almost always felt safe. I got a five-speed mountain bike for Christmas when I was 12. It’s still the best Christmas present I’ve ever received. I don’t ride a bike anymore, but I salute those who do. Even the Lycra Dermots.


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