Enough of the negative vibes, cycling is finest way to travel

Kathriona Devereux shares three good reasons for people to get on a bike.
Enough of the negative vibes, cycling is finest way to travel

Cycling is available for every person, regardless of their age, size or fitness level, says Kathriona Devereux. Picture: iStock

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride it where I like

SO sang Freddie Mercury in Queen’s 1978 song Bicycle Race. It’s one of those earworm songs that gets stuck in your head for days, so I’d caution you starting to hum it.

I find myself singing it on occasion when I’m cycling somewhere flat, picturesque and serene — a rare event because when cycling in Cork you have to keep your wits about you.

There are welcome cycling lanes popping up all over the city (thanks, Cork City Council!) but they sometimes end abruptly; joining with a footpath or petering out into the main road.

Motorists and pedestrians don’t take too kindly to cyclists appearing from nowhere. I get that. I also walk and drive around the city so have the perspective of a motorist and a pedestrian.

But cyclists have to go somewhere and we’re going through a period of change as our city accommodates and becomes accustomed to the growing number of people who are choosing to cycle around our beautiful city.

Freddie Mercury’s sentiment of cyclists riding where they like is causing a bit of consternation among some people, who feel that “cyclists now pose a very significant hazard to pedestrians,” according to Áilín Quinlan writing in this paper last week.

I recognise there are inconsiderate cyclists who bomb down footpaths and shared plazas, making pedestrians nervous. No-one generally gets hurt but it does create a sense of unease for people strolling along.

It is often under pressure delivery cyclists working in the precarious gig economy, so I have a certain amount of sympathy for them as well.

However, there are also plenty of inconsiderate drivers who park on footpaths, blocking the way of wheelchairs, buggies and walkers all over the city. But these are such familiar and common occurrences, they don’t seem to generate the same amount of public ire.

And don’t forget the inconsiderate walkers who, despite the bye-laws stating dogs must be kept on a leash in public places, leave their dogs off for a run around. These dogs could knock over a small child or deposit a furtive poo, conveniently out of sight of the dog owner, but in the path of an unsuspecting, future recipient of a sole full of faeces.

There are all sorts of inconsiderate people in the world and a negative encounter with a rude, inconsiderate person who happens to be on a bike is not sufficient reason to tar all cyclists.

Cork is in a period of transition to becoming a city where cyclists are a significant proportion of the traffic on our roads. We need to make room for them.

“Cyclists are entitled to road space as much as cars, vans, goods vehicles or any other vehicle on the road,” according to the Road Safety Authority.

As a society, we have to make the move away from the car being the dominant form of transport in our cities. Cars take up too much room, and cause congestion and pollution.

The more people who take up cycling, maybe only for a short trip for milk at the local shop, or a leisurely spin along the Lee Fields, means the more people who will see the world through cyclists’ eyes.

More empathy towards other road users and pedestrians will mean more considerate behaviour by everyone. So, to counter any negative vibes towards cycling and to encourage more people to give it a whirl, here are three good reasons to get on a bike.

Cycling is for everyone

Cycling is available for every person, regardless of their age, size or fitness level. People often say to me, “you’re great for cycling” as if it’s an unattainable activity. For the price of a second hand bike, you too could be experiencing the freedom of cycling.

If you’re not that fit, just go at your own pace and the fitness levels will increase with time. If the hills are too hard, just walk up them!

Free wheeling down the other side of the hill is the reward for the huffing and puffing to get to the top.

My four-year-old is a competent cyclist. I wouldn’t send her down the Straight Road but I would let her cycle on the footpath as I ride next to her in the cycle lane.

If you’re nervous about cycling with traffic, explore the off-road routes along the Harbour from Blackrock Rochestown, or check out the new segregated cycle lanes around town.

For older adults, there are even specialist tricycles on the market for people who want a more active way of getting around than relying on a mobility scooter.

Coming into the summer months is the ideal time to get on yer bike.

 As the comedian Billy Connolly said: “It’s only weather. There’s no such thing as ‘bad’ weather, there’s only the wrong clothes, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.”

Cycling is efficient

Knowing how long it will take to get to my destination is my number one reason for cycling.

If I ever find myself sitting amid a sea of unmoving cars, I always think “should have cycled”. Cycling removes the anxiety of being on time and unforeseen traffic delays.

When you do get to your destination, you simply lock your bike to a nearby pole — no fretful searching for a parking spot!

Cycling is good for the environment

We are living during a climate crisis and we need to drastically reduce our emissions to avoid the worst of climate change.

Every kilo of carbon counts, so any time you can hop on the bike instead of taking the car is a little less carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.

Less air pollution and noise pollution also make cycling a better choice for a safer, healthier and happier city.

See you in a cycle lane soon!

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