Kathriona Devereux: On your bike... cycling can be for life, not just for lockdown

Many people have discovered or re-ignited a love for cycling in the last few months, says Kathriona Devereux
Kathriona Devereux: On your bike... cycling can be for life, not just for lockdown

PEDAL PUSHER: If more people cycled in Cork, it would be a better place, says Kathriona Devereux. Picture: Stock

I’M not someone whose head will be turned by a fancy car. You drive a Maserati? Meh! Those are the keys to your Porsche? Pah!

My last car was a 16-year-old VW Polo that inexplicably kept passing the NCT and I only upgraded to a car with electric windows two years ago, so you can recognise I’m not a ‘car person’ and have zero appreciation for premium car palaver.

However, last week a snazzy pair of wheels did catch my eye. I could not top staring at the beautiful monochrome Dutch design as it did laps of Fitzgerald’s Park. The perfect balance and poise yet with substantial storage. I hoped the owner understood I wasn’t checking him out, I was checking out his wheels.

My head was turned by an Urban Arrow cargo e-bike. Have you seen them? I want one.

Cycling is not a new pursuit for me. My mother was transporting me around in a child seat on the back of her bike in the eighties. In fact one of my earliest memories is of eating a banana in that bike seat. I cycled a lot as a child but never as a commuter until I lived in Dublin and the only solution to the daily rage at unreliable public transport was a bike. Cycling is immune to traffic delays and being fully in control of your own departure and arrival times is very calming.

This was twenty years ago when articulated trucks hurtled down the narrow Northside quays and “cycling infrastructure” was a few bike racks dotted around the city (a handy spot to signal to the local bike thief where to go to work!). I adopted a “they are all out to kill me” attitude to buses, trucks and cars; assuming none of them could see me (despite the high-vis paraphernalia) and they could all make a sudden left turn at any time. I had a few scrapes over the years and bent a few wheels but nothing drastic.

Cycling infrastructure in Dublin has been transformed, particularly in the last five years, and has a solid cycling culture. Cork doesn’t yet have the the mass numbers of cyclists but they are coming. Calls for bike corridors connecting its hospitals are being led by Irish Doctors for the Environment.

‘Cork Hospital Cycleway’ would be a very tangible way to say ‘thank you’ to Cork’s healthcare workers for their brave work during the pandemic and would bring enormous benefit to the wider communities along the route. I really hope Cork City Council will use the government’s ring fenced cycling infrastructure funds for cycling commuters rather than just recreation cycling…although the Lee to Sea Greenway is a fantastic proposal too!

Many people have discovered or re-ignited a love for cycling in the last few months. Quieter roads lured people to explore their 2,5 or 20k range on two wheels and cycling offered a lovely way of being out and about getting fresh air and exercise but still being slightly removed from people. Bike shops reported a boom in sales and in May an Ipso/MRBI survey found that 510,000 adults said they are cycling at least once a week – 220,000 people more than the previous year!

But what about the hills you say? I have two words for you – electric bike. I have a friend who cycles to work every day from Rochestown to Mayfield. Another who cycles from Gardiners Hill to the Airport Business Park.

An electric bike takes the sting out of hills and means you can get to work without being a sweaty mess (unless you like that look!). Imagine how much time my friends are gaining by not sitting in car traffic everyday!

But what about the rain you say? I have two other works for you – waterproof pants. Yes it rains in Ireland, but actually way less than you think and if it really is raining cats and dogs the traffic is going to be terrible anyway so you might as well skip the stress and put on your waterproofs.

That feeling of freedom that cycling brings can be for life, not just for Lockdown. Cycling is one of the most positive, and simple, things we can do to reduce carbon emission, improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion and keep fit. If more people cycled in Cork it would be a better place.

What lockdown taught me is that I operate within a 5km range most of the time. Work, school, city centre, groceries and one granny are all within walking and cycling distance and with quieter roads we were cycling more as a family.

I’m desperate to hang on to the experience of cycling with my kids and not putting them in the car every time I want to go somewhere with them.

Which brought me to Green Aer Munster on Monahan Road, a newly opened electric bike shop where I was able to road test the Urban Arrow Family. It’s a cargo e-bike with that promises to ‘turn rush hour into fun hour’.

My two kids securely strapped into the front carriage were delighted with the test drive and I laughed out loud as I effortlessly pedalled up a steep hill thanks to the ‘Turbo’ function of the electric motor. It is a joy to cycle but comes with a hefty price tag of approx €4500 so I’m unlikely to take the purchase plunge soon.

However. if you have a second car, or think you need a second car, an Urban Arrow Family is a no-brainer alternative. Your kids will thank you for it!

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