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