Archive for January, 2007

The comments of Dublin cyclists

January 19, 2007

This clip is a recording of cyclist having been asked what it like to cycle in Dublin

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/6441513/view]

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Dublin’s long distance courier

January 19, 2007

Sean O Tuathail is one of those unassuming people who don’t say every much unless they have to. What isn’t difficult is to think of questions to put to Sean, because he done things most others just read about.

Two years ago he cycled to India from Dublin. Previous to that he’d cycled around Spain, Morocco, China and Dublin, where he worked as a courier.

His big trip took eight months. Two of those were spent in Budapest, where he over wintered, supporting himself by reverting back to couriering and teaching English.

On the road his choice of lodgings was basic. Working on a shoestring budget and not having brought a tent, to reduce the weight of the bicycle to the absolute minimum, more often than not he slept in disused garages, half constructed houses, or weather permitting, under the shelter of the heavens.

Only once, when on the shores of the Caspian Sea, did he regretting the security that four walls and a roof provide. His campfire that night attracted three local men. Next morning Sean discovered they’d made off with his cycling shoes. This represented something of a minor disaster as the pedals of his bike were designed only to work with those shoes. Barefoot he walked to a near by village. The elders shocked to here what had befallen him, wasted no time in apprehending the wrong doers and reunited Sean with his footwear.

Near the Afghani border his trip almost came to a premature end. A motorcyclist collided with him from behind. This necessitated a stay in hospital and considerable repairs to the bike.

In Afghanistan he was advised not to go alone and especially not by bike. He travelled from Herat to Kandahar and then to Kabul by putting the bike on a bus. Every few miles he saw from the window roadblock, where the militiamen of the local warlord extracted a fee for travelling on. The buses never moved at night, they stopped at hotels that were often nothing more than ruins. Kabul wasn’t much better. The UN and the other western officials in their land cruisers stood out as being the only sign of wealth in a city that had been bomb back to the middle ages.

Contrary to its reputation for banditry, Sean found Peshawar so relaxing he stayed there a week. After that it was a direct run down to Lahore and from there a quite hop over the border to India.

Sean O Tuathail is currently writing a book in Irish about his travels.

Garda Bikes

January 19, 2007

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Bicycles have made a comeback in the fight against crime. Having been decommissioned 50 years ago in favour of squad cars they are once again on our streets as police vehicles.

Ironically its cars that have been responsible for their reintroduction. Police chiefs considered the bicycle to be the most efficient and fastest means of response in a city center locations. It’s faster than a Garda pounding the beat or a patrol car that’s marooned in traffic.

Bicycles also have an advantage of being almost silent. When approaching a crime scene they give police officers the benefit of surprise.

Bicycles also help foster community relations. Police cyclists are closer to the public than officers who are encased within squad cars. They are every bit as visible as a police officer on foot while been much more mobile.

A Postman and his bicycle

January 19, 2007

The bicycle has disappeared for most workplaces having long since been replaced by motorized transport. Postmen are one of the few that still use the bike. In this audio clip a Fairview Postman tells why the is still of use

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/6442813/view]

Green Party Bicycle Election Promise

January 17, 2007

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On Sunday next the Green Party will unveil their transport strategy in advance of the upcoming election.

Eamon Ryan, the party’s Transport spokesman, spoke prior to the launch about the section dealing with cycling.

Changing the mindset of road planner is what Eamon Ryan says he wants to do. An example he uses to show how cars have dictated transport planning is the spread of one-way tariff flow systems. These, he says, are nonsensical for cyclist. The party are proposing that like buses a contra flow scheme should operate for cyclists

Ryan also wants to see reductions in car numbers. To achieve this he believes many city centre multi-storey car parks will have to go and car parking places gradually phased out. He also reiterates a long standing Green Party demand for the reinstatement of the Lenister House Law.

To allow for adequate funding for cycling infrastructure Ryan said his party will allocate 2.5% of Local Authority Budgets specifically to cycling.

Other initiative include for bicycle transport on trains, adequate parking facilities at all LRT station and the development of a secure ‘route to school’ network for school children

The Bicycle Restaurant

January 17, 2007

Romano Morelli doesn’t hide his passion. He hangs it up for his customers to see. On a partition between two tables, in his Capel Street restaurant, called Romano, stands a racing bike. That was his first bicycle.

At least once a day it is not unusual to see a cyclist wheel their bicycle out past the diners. That individual is Romano himself. He is going to, or returning from his regular spin to the hill of Howth.

Sitting in the restaurant enjoying a pasta dish you can’t help but wonder what is the connection between the proprietor and the gaunt faced athletes that stare down from the pictures on the walls. Morelli, who was born in Malahide, isn’t from a family of cycling champions. He was a runner and only took up the bike to help heal an injured ankle in 1983. Once in the saddle he got bitten by the bug. Now in his 60s he proudly admits to still racing in the senior league.

All of the pictures on the walls of the small Italian restaurant have to do with cycling. The large black-and-white photographs above each table are mostly from the 1924 Tour de France. Romano bought the entire collection and had them imported from New York. Other pictures are of patrons or their relations on cycling holidays; there are photographs of the greats of Irish cycling and one or two are of Romano heading off to some race on his faithful charger.

Romano justifies the memorabilia by saying that many of his customers are cyclists. On this particular afternoon the clientele scattered about are what you would expect to find in any city centre restaurant. There are secretaries, business people, shoppers and the odd pensioner. Nobody is wearing cycling shorts or has a helmet lying on the table as they gobble down pasta.

Whatever the explanation is that Romano feels he needs to give for the decor, the food in his restaurant speaks for itself. All of the pasta is homemade, as is the dough for the pizzas.

The dish I had was Pasta al Pollo. It was a simple arrangement, Apart from black olives, it consisted of granular pesto. The salad starter came with balls of mozzarella cheese. On the table there were ample supplies of olive oil and vinegar. The cost of this authentic Italian experience, even if he didn’t have a bicycle locked up outside, was nine euros 95 with coffee.

Dublin’s Cycling Activist

January 17, 2007

Mike McKillen is one of the few people in Dublin who think that traffic congestion is great. He is also one of the few in the capital that cycle to work.

It’s only fair to point out that the chairman of the Dublin city cycling campaign isn’t gloating when speaking about drivers stranded in traffic. What he is praising is the safety benefit for vulnerable road users that comes with traffic having to travel at a snail’s pace.

The obvious downside to congestion is pollution. While this puts cyclists, pedestrians and motorists at risk, McKillen , who is a chemistry professor at Trinity College, says it is the motorist that is at greatest risk, due to their stationary position on the road.

The solution to cleaning up our streets and making them safer according to the Dublin city Campaign is less cars. They want to see the introduction of car tolling and the managed phasing out of car parking spaces. For those cars that are allowed they want the maximum speed limit set at 20 kph.

What the campaign doesn’t want are more cycling paths. These are the cycling strips found on footpaths. Rather than promoting safety they considered them to be a hazard. What makes them dangerous is that drivers believe that cyclists will remain on them. This isn’t so, says McKillen. ‘Many of the paths are littered with broken glass and rarely cleaned, others are illogically designed having telegraph poles in the center of them. What this leads to are cyclists being forced onto roads when a driver least expects it.

When asked the question why more don’t people cycled to work McKillen blamed the weather, or rather what people have to say about it. ‘People believe they will be dumped on, but this is not true,’ he says. Being a scientist he is in the habit of backing up any pronouncements with data. In debunking the weather myth he lists off statistics from the meteorological office that show, he cheerfully points out, that there are only a handful of times in the year that it rains during a daily commute in Dublin.

The other reason he gives for peoples willingness to remain behind a wheel is that they find their cars just too comfortable. What it is will drive them out of their cars, he believes, is the unsustainable levels of frustration that are being caused by having to sit in traffic. Increasing lengths of time spent sitting in clogged up roads and the resultant health problems will, he says, bring more people around to thinking that there is a better way to travel around their city.

The Dublin City Cycling campaign is not just relying on negative factors in recruiting more to their ranks. Much of their campaign is about extolling the virtues of Dublin as a place to cycle. McKillen uses another one of his positive adjectives in explaining why Dublin is such a great place to cycle. ‘It’s perfect’, he says. ‘The Tolka and Liffey deltas have provided us with a flat plain and the hills that are there don’t require one to be a marathon runner to scale them, so there is no excuse for not cycling.’

Cycling Programme for Schools

January 17, 2007

Noel Connelly believes that he has a solution to traffic congestion and the rise of obesity among the young. His idea is to encourage children to cycle to school.

He is pioneering a course for primary schools called Cycling Safety Training. The course is aimed at children from third class upwards. During six lessons children learn basic bike maintenance, helmet adjustment, the rules of the road and road position.

The courses take place on the school’s playground, where public road conditions are simulated. The training staff provide bicycles and helmets, but encourage children to use their own if they’re roadworthy.

A survey from the Dublin transport office recently showed that less children are cycling to school than ever before. The main reason given for the decline was a belief among parents that roads have become too dangerous. According to Connelly this is a self fulfilling prophecy, because as more parents drive their children to school the busier the roads become for all.

Neol, who is a cycling enthusiast, trained as an advanced cycling instructor in the UK. The evidence from that jurisdiction he says needs to be used to inform the Irish situation. ‘In the city of York, the premier region in the UK for cycling awareness education, statistics have shown that the percentage of cyclists involved in accidents has declined’.

The other advantage of increasing the numbers going to school by bicycle are, according to Connelly, the health benefits. He sees it as providing an inexpensive means of exercise and transport for the young and will help to encourage a healthier more active lifestyle in later life.

The Safe Cycling Training program is integrated into the PE class of many of the participating schools. The cost to each child for the six sessions is €23. Each school receives a training video and on completion every child is awarded a certificate.

New Irish Cycling Trails

January 17, 2007

The development of a national cycling network moved one step nearer on Friday with the launch of the Irish trail is strategy.

The strategy, which was unveiled by John Tracy, the chief executive of the Irish sports Council, laid considerable emphasis on the need to improve cycling and walking facilities.

The document highlighted the importance of cycling tourism to the economy. In quoting Bord Failte figures it said that cycling attracts 100,000 visitors and is worth €90 million annually.

However poor infrastructure is placing this lucrative niche market in danger. The strategy said that Ireland is out of step with its European partners in not having a national cycling network. A consequence of this has been the rise of complaints from tourists about road safety and poor signage.

Working with a budget of €650,000 the national trails office will focus its attention on co-ordinating groups involved in constructing trails for walkers and cyclists. Later it plans to include within the scope waterways and horse riding tracks .

The type of trails that falls within its remit are varied. They include city routes, trails linking urban areas to the countryside, links between towns, mountain bike routes and a possible long-distance national network.

Currently Ireland has no official mountain bike trails and only a scattering of unconnected on road cycling routes. According to the strategy this deficiency in infrastructure has been one of the factors behind the decline in activity holidays here. It contrasted the Irish experience with that of Britain, where adventure holidays have been a growth area and where there has been a national cycling network for over 10 years.

The strategy also mentions a few other reasons why it would be good to develop a model similar to that of the UK. It said that a third of all trips on the British national cycling network were now replacing car journeys. It listed the health benefits and the need to cater for a public who have ever-increasing leisure time.

What the strategy did not do was to state when we can expect to have a dedicated cycling network that traverses the country. Northern Ireland possesses two such routes.

Irish Cycling Trails Strategy

January 17, 2007

The development of a national cycling network moved one step nearer on Friday with the launch of the Irish trail is strategy.

The strategy, which was unveiled by John Tracy, the chief executive of the Irish sports Council, laid considerable emphasis on the need to improve cycling and walking facilities.

The document highlighted the importance of cycling tourism to the economy. In quoting Bord Failte figures it said that cycling attracts 100,000 visitors and is worth €90 million annually.

However poor infrastructure is placing this lucrative niche market in danger. The strategy said that Ireland is out of step with its European partners in not having a national cycling network. A consequence of this has been the rise of complaints from tourists about road safety and poor signage.

Working with a budget of €650,000 the national trails office will focus its attention on co-ordinating groups involved in constructing trails for walkers and cyclists. Later it plans to include within the scope waterways and horse riding tracks .

The type of trails that falls within its remit are varied. They include city routes, trails linking urban areas to the countryside, links between towns, mountain bike routes and a possible long-distance national network.

Currently Ireland has no official mountain bike trails and only a scattering of unconnected on road cycling routes. According to the strategy this deficiency in infrastructure has been one of the factors behind the decline in activity holidays here. It contrasted the Irish experience with that of Britain, where adventure holidays have been a growth area and where there has been a national cycling network for over 10 years.

The strategy also mentions a few other reasons why it would be good to develop a model similar to that of the UK. It said that a third of all trips on the British national cycling network were now replacing car journeys. It listed the health benefits and the need to cater for a public who have ever-increasing leisure time.

What the strategy did not do was to state when we can expect to have a dedicated cycling network that traverses the country. Northern Ireland possesses two such routes.