The Vicious Cycle

at | 72 Replies

David Wall (above) has placed eight crosses on his cycling helmet (top)

Cyclist David Wall writes:

Yesterday , the eighth cyclist was killed on Irish roads this year. Last year, 2016, 10 cyclists died in total. If this rate of carnage continues, at least 17 cyclists will die on our roads this year.

How many have to die needlessly before we finally decide to invest in decent, safe cycling facilities?

Why is it that when I decide to cycle to work, I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands? Does any other transport user feel the same?

I wear a helmet, I use lights, but I am still never sure there won’t be an incident on my way to and from work. I am one of those cyclists that obeys the rules of the road, I try to respect all other road users, I stop at lights, etc., but still I have come close to serious injury so many times – by hitting massive potholes, by being squeezed against the kerb, by having to swerve around vehicles parked in bike lanes (constantly), by being cut off by drivers turning left to dream land, or cutting across me, or flying by me, or breaking the lights.

Cycling has exploded in Dublin, and around the country. But the facilities are still archaic. The previous government supported the Dublin bike scheme, because through selling advertising, it cost almost them nothing.

They are not, however, willing to invest in the outcome of such a scheme: more cyclists on dangerous roads needing safe, separate cycling infrastructure.

According to the recent Department of Transport, Tourist and Sport (DTTaS) Transport Trends 2016 document, the number of journeys on Dublin Bikes has increased from 1.2 million in 2010 to 4.1 million in 2015.

It also states that the number of cyclists entering the city increased by 74.5% between 2010 and 2014 as it increased from 5,932 to 10,349. If you are going to increase the number of cyclists, you’d had better increase the spend on cycle infrastructure. Otherwise you are asking for carnage.

This is not, however, what is happening. According to the DTTaS Transport Trends 2016 document, of a total DDTaS transport spend of 1 billion, 464.6 million in 2015, only 21.4million was spent on sustainable transport (walking and cycling), which is roughly 1.5% of the entire budget.

But according to the same document, walking and cycling are responsible for 21.9% of all journeys in Dublin and 14.1% elsewhere. So how does that compute?

The long awaited city quay cycleway, to finally provide a safe route for cyclists along the quays, has been delayed again a couple of weeks back after coming under pressure from business lobby groups.

Now there is talk of taking cyclists off the road altogether and along a boardwalk style cantilevered cycleway, which would mean they would have to cross over footpaths twice at each junction to get onto and off the main road. This is another proposed Irish fudge that will end up serving nobody.

A pedestrian can travel safely to work on a path, a bus user in a bus lane, and a driver on one of the many many single and dual carriageway routes into the city. But the cyclist usually has a meter wide strip painted (if lucky) on the left of an existing carriage, which may sometimes be used by traffic, and other times by parked cars, making it meaningless, and dangerous.

To the politicians, us cyclists are invisible, voiceless and powerless. We are easy to ignore, even though the danger to us is patent to any road user. They can talk about the need for facilities while doing nothing, it will not affect them. We do not register with them or their electoral concerns.

On the radio we have commentators like George Hook stoking animosity against cyclists on a daily basis, complaining that we don’t obey the rules of the road, that we cause accidents, that we are the danger to others.

There is not, however, a battle of us versus them as he would like; we are all road users, and all we want is to arrive to our destinations safely like everyone else. People like him would have us taken off the road if they could. But we don’t even want to be on ‘their roads’, we want our own dedicated lanes!

These people need to realise that we are not going away. They need to be held responsible for the conflict they wish to provoke. With every accusation they make against us, implying we don’t have a right to share their roads, they make it easier for us to be ignored by politicians, councillors and functionaries.They make it easier to overlook the fact that we have to navigate treacherous routes.

We know, however, that Dublin, being flat and mild, could be a perfect city for cycling.

We know that cycling is one of the best, cheapest, healthiest, most environmentally friendly modes of transport. There is no reversing the trends, we are not going away, unless the carnage on our streets continues. Maybe they would like that.

We need to stop being invisible on the roads. It is about time that we should make ourselves unmistakable, unforgettable, and blatantly conspicuous to other road users. When they see us on our bikes, there should be no doubt about the harm that their carelessness can cause us.

Just because we opt for a particular mode of transport, we shouldn’t have to accept more risk than other road users. For too long cyclists have been politically imperceptible.

Let us wear our vulnerability on our heads. This year, and every year to come, until there are safe, segregated, cycling facilities in the city,

I will wear a cross on my helmet for every cyclist that has been killed unnecessarily that year. I invite anyone else who feels like they are entering a warzone on their daily commute to join me, so that the effect of such lack of investment will no longer go unperceived.

When I first thought about writing this, there would have been six crosses on my helmet. Now, there are eight! How many more will there be, needlessly, this year alone?

In 2017, let’s wear our vulnerability on our heads. Let’s remind other drivers of the danger we are constantly subjected to. Then, when the divisive, car commuting commentariat complain about cyclists on their roads, we won’t let them forget that it is them that are killing us, and not the other way round.

David Wall is a philosophy and architecture graduate from Dublin. David describes himself as a ‘routine cyclist’

Pic: David Wall

72 thoughts on “The Vicious Cycle

  1. reddit

    They’re more like plus signs than crosses, and maybe those who died (needlessly and tragically) weren’t all Christians, in which case don’t represent their death with Christian symbolism.

    Reply
    1. Goosey Lucy

      Reddit, the deaths are tragic- I’m sure their families would welcome somebody acknowledging their deaths and looking to improve safety for cyclists, regardless of their creed / none as the case may be. Try seeing the bigger picture and having some empathy for the families.

      Reply
      1. reddit

        Well, there’s Switzerland and Crest toothpaste as well I suppose, but that just brings me back to the same point: why paint everyone with the same brush?

        Reply
        1. Drengi

          Seriously. A guy tries to show grieving families that someone cares and is trying to make a difference and this is your response. You may not be christian but your also not humanist. You’re nothing but an insensitive, ignorant, uncaring waster

          Reply
  2. Clampers Outside!

    As a cyclist, my only real pain in me hoop over other cyclists are the magic arm cyclists who NEVER look behind them. Brave or foolish…. be dead someday, so it won’t matter.
    Learn to look behind, right over your shoulder before cycling in any city. My tuppence.

    Reply
    1. Goosey Lucy

      Or over your left shoulder if you’re in a country that drives on right – but yeah- I see it all the time- they just stick out their arm and assume they then have right to cross in front of traffic.
      That, plus cycling on cycle lanes the wrong way- that is so dangerous to pedestrians

      Reply
  3. Tarfton Clax

    Even as a long time atheist that’s a pointless comment. We all know what the symbol stands for. “The countless white crosses stand Mute in the Sand” as the Furey’s once said. Even Metallica had crosses all over the cover of Master of Puppets, and I doubt they are committed christians. It’s a reasonable reaction to the death of so many commuters going about their daily lives.

    Reply
  4. belgravy

    the reason the government don’t invest in safe cycle routes is because we don’t pay road tax. it’s that simple. if we paid road tax then they would probably have better infrastructure for us. but it would be a hugely unpopular move, and expecting kids to pay it would be political suicide. I’m not advocating for a cycling tax, because the long term benefits for our society of more people cycling greatly out weigh the short term cost of decent infrastructure for bikes but we have a government how work in the short term. I’ve often thought there should be a dedicated Street sweeper for all the glass on the cycle paths, pedal powered obviously.

    Reply
    1. Tony O'Leary

      Being pedantic here I know, but no-one pays road tax.
      Motorists pay “Motor Tax”.
      This was a cunning stunt by motorists and their lobbies to try to change the name to road tax, so us cyclists would seem like freeloaders while they pay for our roads.

      Reply
      1. Murtle

        Another fun fact, motor tax doesn’t directly pay for the roads. Infrastructure is payed for from the general tax pool. So anybody who pays PAYE is paying towards the roads.

        Reply
    2. classter

      Motor tax doesn’t nearly cover the full cost imposed upon society by motorised transport – road building, accidents, police enforcement, air pollution, climate change.

      Reply
    3. Dids the wine geek

      Not too sure about the South. But there hasn’t been road tax in the UK since 1937. We have a vehicle emissions tax. So taxing a vehicle is based on their CO2 emissions. Bikes and electric cars do not emit CO2 so they are not taxed.

      Governments encourage cycling as they see the health benefits to society. More people cycling means more people getting exercise which reduces obesity and heart disease and the like, therefore leads to reduced pressures on their respective Health Services.

      So as you say, there should be more investment on cycling infrasructure.

      Reply
  5. Jake38

    Speaking as a cyclist I find the number of my peers who ride in the dark with no lights terrifying. How many of the deaths can be ascribed to their kamikaze behaviour?

    Reply
    1. gerry

      Looking at the statistics published by the RSA deaths resulting from the behavior of cyclists are virtually nil. Vast majority are found to be caused by motorists. Mostly trucks in broad daylight.

      Reply
      1. postmanpat

        true that. Last week I was hit by car coming out of Harold’s Cross Hospice , broad daylight and perfect dry mind weather. The driver said she was following a hearse. I guess that doesn’t mean giving cyclist right of way when your trying to keep up with a funeral procession. I was alright . I didn’t even get angry at the driver because she seemed like a completely calm sociopath who couldn’t care less. I felt like giving the windows a crack with my U-lock but the impact was a bit of a spectacle so their was witnesses all over the place. Plus there was 3 auld-dear lady passengers in the car who seemed genuinely concerned. unlike the driver , my god!! that thin lipped female John Lennon faceapp lookalike who was driving the car. What a piece of work! I just hope the paint work on the car bonnet was nice and scratched.

        Reply
        1. Moderate THIS!

          Oh give it a break. What did you want the Spanish Inquisition? The other party made a mistake and was properly mortified and here you are judging her like an oul wan and divil the bit of harm done to you at all. Get over yourself you self important POS

          Reply
          1. postmanpat

            You’re right. She could have killed me, but didn’t. No harm done. The remorse was clear on her face, and she was following a hearse so.. one has to bend the rules for dangerous driving in those cases. I also regret further embarrassing her on a comment board she doesn’t read.

          2. Moderate THIS!

            So she’s made a mistake and you’re alive to tell the tale. Probably from the country where following a hearse is normal. Not making it right but better observation from you could have avoided that. Count your blessings you twit.

          1. postmanpat

            No, but I might get my head cracked open by another lady motorist not keeping an eye out for cyclists.

        2. Sam

          And did you report her for dangerous driving?
          The under reporting of incidents like this is one reason why cops don’t bother dealing with most of them.

          Reply
        3. Owen

          “she seemed like a completely calm sociopath who couldn’t care less”. Did you not just say she was following a hearse? And you didn’t make any connection to that and her emotionless state?

          Yeah, you totally should have smashed up the windows. That’s exactly what she needed. Idiot.

          Reply
      2. Steve

        @gerry: I’m a cyclist myself so this is not an anti-cyclist rant. Or victim blaming. But a number of cyclists over the years have died by passing a truck on the left when the truck is turning. That’s not the drivers fault – he can’t see you there. Truck drivers are generally fine in my experience as are Dublin Bus drivers usually. Taxi drivers by and large want you off the road and there are always other bottomholes who refuse to pass you safely.

        Education is certainly needed – at an early age – on safe cycling. To include safe passing, taking position on the road, signalling, etc.

        But yes I do agree that the vast majority of cyclists death are caused by careless or reckless driving. I’ve had a few near misses myself.

        Reply
  6. Cacamils

    I cycle in Dublin city centre twice a day and I cannot believe how stupid pedestrians are . One pedestrian spots another crossing a road and immediately launches themselves across the road without once looking for traffic . The mentality seems to be : My headphones will save me , my phone will save me , my Wheres Wally hat will save me , my skipping like a pony across the road will save me …. As for the muppets hopping into cycle lanes or doing that fool angular road crossing which involves taking the longest route across the road !!
    It is amazing that more pedestrians are not killed.

    Reply
    1. martco

      for me #1 hassle on the bike is pedestrians, loads of close shaves…I find dealing with cars way easier/predictable

      my brother in law clipped someone who walked out in front of him in a cycle lane couple of years ago…had to play chicken with him and ended up with a broken collarbone and 2 teeth gone and guess what…yer man walked off and left him there, he’s still not 100% right

      Reply
          1. Moderate THIS!

            Have got flipped and clipped in fact on several occasions. As a driver myself I recognise that accidents happen despite best intentions. And as a cyclist I don’t cruise around the streets perpetually with a grimace and angry intent waiting for some motorist to screw up so I can vent all my life’s frustrations out on that person.
            I take my time and avoid the situations that can lead to the accidents by mitigating the risks. Sure there are some crazy mothers out there driving and crazy cyclists and pedestrians too. But people need to get real about all this poo and calm the fupp down.

  7. Diddy

    All of this hysteria over bike safety is getting ridiculous. Look Dublin is a medieval city, there is only so much space on our narrow roads in which to share bikes buses and cars.

    Cycling in the bus lane is perfectly fine once you take it easy. There are plenty of cycle tracks and yes at busy times the roads are gonna be hazardous no matter what mode of transport your on. Stop whining are just be careful. Don’t go up the inside of trucks etc.

    Reply
    1. Donal

      Only a non cyclist could make such a flippant comment
      Safe cycling infrastructure is not some abstract concept that exists only in the minds of dreamers, it exists in cities and countries that have invested in properly designed facilities.
      We have never made this investment, all efforts at infrastructure have been piecemeal (apart from the recent S2S improvements and the various greenways (though these are more for tourists than commuters)) and cyclists are killed as a result.

      Reply
  8. Goosey Lucy

    There are cycle safety schools out there- cannot see why the government couldn’t make it mandatory to cover this in school- that way, even future drivers could appreciate a cyclist’s / motorcyclist’ vulnerable position on the roads

    Reply
    1. Boj

      +1 on that, also mandatory driving course in transition year or something. Would go a long way to educate ALL in road safety and general awareness.

      Reply
    2. Donal

      Cos everybody pays attention to what they learned in school 40 years ago.
      Why not make all drivers do an annual refresher course in driving safely, including cyclist awareness etc?
      Safe Pass registration expires and the course must be re-taken, once a driver has a licence they never have to be tested in any way again.

      Or, a novel idea. invest in infrastructure that removes the need for these nonsense ideas.

      Reply
    3. Paps

      Driving licenses should be maximum 5 years with a mandatory retake of a driving exam to renew.

      Shocking how bad drivers are these days. Flying through red lights , parking on clearways and cycle lanes , turning without indicating.

      Reply
  9. Gers

    Would need to know the circumstances of each of these accidents to know what to work on. Was it more the cyclist fault or motorists/pedestrians? Without this data its not possible to start pointing fingers.

    Reply
    1. edalicious

      In the cycling fatalities so far this year, it has overwhelmingly been the fault of motorists, I believe.

      Reply
  10. Blue nun

    In fairness the roads themselves are fairly lethal for drivers too.

    Dublin being flat and mild? Having a laugh…

    Reply
  11. Joe

    He needs to talk to his fellow cyclists as there as a group of then that don’t want not won’t use segregated cycle paths. They want to be on the road with the other wheeled vehicles. He doesn’t speak for all cyclists. his comment about swerving around parked cars shows poor cycling skills, should be reading the road and safely passing them.

    Reply
    1. Turgenev

      Yes, yes, on the weekly meeting of all cyclists we’ll bring it up.

      People who ride bikes are individuals. If you want someone on a bike to be talked to, get out of your car and talk to that person.

      And cars parked on cycle lanes should be immediately towed. They’re really dangerous. It’s selfish and nasty to leave a car parked in a lane that’s dedicated to cycling. This is why we need protected lanes that drivers can’t drive into.

      Reply
      1. Moderate THIS!

        How about safely passing it in line with the rules of the road for encountering any unexpected hazard? The sense of entitlement is strong in this one

        Reply
        1. Turgenev

          Surely the sense of entitlement is strong in people who park on sections of the road set aside for cycling ;)

          Reply
          1. Moderate THIS!

            It is, I didn’t say it wasn’t, but poo happens in life and sometimes it’s better to just accept it and deal with it than to howl at the moon

  12. Turgenev

    All of the complaints against people who ride bicycles on this thread – every single one of them – could be solved by providing good separated and protected infrastructure for cycling. Dedicate some roads completely to bicycles; on others use planters and kerbs to keep cars out.

    Dublin isn’t a mediaeval city – only about four streets of it are pre-18th-century.

    And end the expensive luxury of allowing on-street parking. In cities like Tokyo, there is no on-street parking at all; it would be unthinkable. The only reason we allow one-third to half of all street surface to be taken up by private property is that we’ve grown to think it normal.

    If people riding bicycles paid “road tax”, how would this be calculated? Should it be paid, as now, in proportion to the carbon pollution they cause? In that case, cyclists should be paid a fee out of the carbon tax paid by polluting cars. On the other hand, should tax be according to road wear? Road wear is proportional to the 4th power of axle weight. If an 80kg bike-plus-rider would be taxed at €60, then an 1800kg car would be €15 million. Is that agreeable?

    Reply
    1. Rob_G

      “And end the expensive luxury of allowing on-street parking”

      – when you stop and think about this, it really is bizarre – if I wanted to store a pile of boxes on the street (equivalent in size to a car), the council would be in touch quick sharp. If we allow parking on the street, people should pay the market rate for it, rather than having their parking subsidised by everyone else in society.

      Reply
        1. Rob_G

          Why should you and I subsidise these private enterprises? If we had less on-street parking, there would be loads of room in city centres for bus lanes and cycle lanes; those who wished to use their car could still do so, but their parking would no longer be paid for in part by everyone else.

          Reply
          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Jesus. Right wing ideology is just about entitled toddlers having tantrums. It has no relation to the real world.

          2. Rob_G

            I thought ‘right-wing ideology’ ruled the world, and that’s why we were currently having ‘show-trials’?

            – I find it peculiar that you agree with taxpayers subsidising private businesses; perhaps your only objection to the solution that I proposed is that it is ‘right-wing’…

          3. MoyestWithExcitement

            Entitled toddlers having tantrums often get their way, especially when they’re grown ups with lots of money and have lots of equally fragile and entitled grown up toddler friends who have lots of money and ownership of all the main information channels so they can tell everyone why their tantrums are justified and why people who want justice and fairness in society are big smelly poopoo heads.

            And I don’t know why you’re referring to parking spaces as the subsidising of private business. It’s almost like you’re trying to frame this as an ideological argument because you don’t have the honesty nor capacity to deal with reality and nuance.

          4. Rob_G

            On-street parking is parking spaces that is subsidised, in part, by the relevant local council. So, when people are using on-street parking, it means that people who own cars are being subsidised to park there by everybody – including people who are too poor to own cars.

            It ‘s a subsidy from the rest of society to motorists and private businesses – very surprised that you would be against it, Moyest (though more likely you failed to grasp the concept).

          5. Moderate THIS!

            Such a dumb “concept” it’s hard to know where to begin Rob. I can’t speak for him but I think that’s where Moyest is coming from.

          6. Rob_G

            Given that it is so ‘dumb’, surely is should be very easy to pick apart? Other than just saying ‘dumb’, ‘bullpoo’.

          7. MoyestWithExcitement

            Yes, thank you for explaining to me how taxes work (and confirmation of your dishonest motivation in specifically talking about businesses being subsidised). Grown ups mostly don’t view the world in black and white terms, however. You’ll learn that one day. You’ll learn many wonderous things like how you’ve beem mindlessly lapping up simplistic propaganda such as ‘People who talk about fairness are all beret wearing cultists who hate money and business’. Yeah, you’re still living at home, aren’t you. No way a grown man can be this naive.

          8. Rob_G

            Again, failing to point out any flaws in the argument, instead engaging a load of personal attacks and assumptions about me – well done, Voltaire.

          9. Moderate THIS!

            Well where do I start? For example I could start and say the public highway ( generally and other than PPP built or privately built toll roads)is a commonage hence the idea of subsidising it for one group is a nonsense as all travellers are permitted to use it in general. Second you refer to parking being a luxury. I disagree. Parking is a necessity for folks with kids, older folks, the disabled or anyone not as lucky to be as fit, strong, good looking, active and well as I am ( and hopeful you are too, dear internet friend). Third revenue from paid for parking allows public sector services to be funded. Finally enquiring minds want to know who’s going to drive trade to town centre shops if the “market” decides what on street parking spaces should cost? The market distortion and lack of revenue etc could be catastrophic in the short term for the vitality of our urban spheres. You sound like some kind of failed Randian or else have one wheel missing off your pram, as Moyest suggests.

          10. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Again, failing to point out any flaws in the argument, instead engaging a load of personal attacks and assumptions about me – well done, Voltaire.”

            Nobody is obligated to validate your childish ranting by taking it seriously enough to “point out any flaws” It’s not an intellectual, reasoned argument. It’s a childish tantrum. Your fragile ego demands people take it seriously. Obviously you also have right wing views. This is not a coincidence. It’s all about thinking you’re special and everyone else is worse.

          11. Rob_G

            Well, even though we disagree, at least you gave a reasoned response:

            Yes, roads are paid for by everyone, but people who drive cars make disproportionate use of them, compared to people who cycle and take the bus, etc. Which is fair enough – but then if a large proportion of people decide to drive, this has lots of implication for society at large (congestion, pollution, etc).

            Why can’t people with kids cycle? Well, probably because all of our infrastructure is geared towards people driving their cars; if this wasn’t the case, maybe people would start cycling their kids, as as the case in many cities.

            There are lots of things that the government should subsidise, but the use of cars in our city centres should not, in my opinion, be one of them (with the exception of the elderly and disabled).

  13. SB

    I think the cycling infrastructure would be improved greatly if the children of politicians\councillors\road designers were forced to cycle to school/college. I know I would never let my children cycle on the roads, it’s far too dangerous. It’s the mentality of “sure there are loads of cycle paths and they don’t use them” that gets me, obviously stated from the point of view of someone who never has to use them, when they exist, and then get squeezed onto a road beside an articulated lorry or speeding coach.

    Reply

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