A virtuous cyclist, for one day only

How much longer does it take to commute if you stick to the Rules of the Road?

Losing time: Colm Keena on Samuel Beckett Bridge, in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Losing time: Colm Keena on Samuel Beckett Bridge, in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


I’ve been asked to set aside my bad cycling habits for a day, obey the rules and sample what it’s like to travel the way I’m supposed to.

I set out from Glasnevin for the office at 10.27am. At the end of my road the lights are red. The junction is at the bottom of a hill, and my turn is to the left. But I stop.

I wait and I wait and I wait. I decide the lights are broken. Still I wait. Just as I’m about to fail my first test the lights change and I set off again, wondering whether my research is affecting my perception of time. I have lost about a minute.

At the bottom of Washerwoman’s Hill the pedestrian lights are red, although no pedestrians are visible. I stop.

On Drumcondra Road I take an elevated bicycle lane alongside Archbishop’s Palace. On the far side of its gates two vans and a trailer block the way. I pause to ask a workman why he has parked in the bicycle lane. He says if he had parked in the bus lane he would have blocked the buses.

On North Circular Road the lights are red. Again the wait is long, but I resist the temptation to slip around to the left.

The lights are green at Summerhill. Cars are parked in the cycle lane on Portland Row. (This is legal after 10am.) The lights are green at Amiens Street, and I continue towards Convention Centre Dublin.

A new off-road bicycle lane on Guild Street, alongside Spencer Dock, is a popular parking place for taxis and delivery vans. The junction with Mayor Street has traffic lights, pedestrian lights and bicycle lights. The bicycle lights are red, so I stop.

The lights are green for the traffic going my way. They change to green for the traffic on Mayor Street but stay red for me and my bicycle. A male cyclist passes me. The lights change again, allowing the Guild Street traffic to move again but not the bicycles.

Soon the pedestrians are given a green light to cross Guild Street, but the light for cyclists wanting to cross Mayor Street remains red. Another cyclist passes, giving me an odd look. At last the lights change for cyclists. I have lost more than 1½ minutes.

A few metres farther along I am stopped again by bicycle lights, at North Wall Quay. The lights are green for traffic going in my direction. Another cyclist whizzes past, ignoring the red light.

I press the button for the pedestrian lights, unsure if it affects the bicycle lights. I wait.

A taxi drives through a red light. The lights change for the cars, allowing them go in various directions. I am joined by two other cyclists, who also wait. More than a minute has passed by now.

A bus goes through a red light, hotly pursued by a small car. The lights change to green for pedestrians but stay red for bicycles. Then, after the pedestrians are told to stop, the cyclists are green to go.

I cross Samuel Beckett Bridge and turn right, using pedestrian lights, on to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and the cycle lane on the campshire at City Quay. This lane is popular with pedestrians, and cyclists have to be careful. Many people seem startled to see a cyclist passing. Some are abusive.

At Matt Talbot Bridge I stop again for the lights, then turn on to Luke Street. At the far end I walk my bike along the pavement to ‘The Irish Times’.

It is 10.55am. My journey has taken 28 minutes. The trip usually takes 22 minutes.

So will I be a model cyclist in future? Sticking to the rules doesn’t take much more time, but it takes a lot of the fun out of cycling. Following the rules helps prevent accidents, but if those rules make the bike wait for everyone it becomes frustrating. I think I’ll still find those easy left-hand turns hard to resist.