These things happen in cycles
National Bike Week starts on Saturday and there’s never been a better time to get back in the saddle
Not since the rare auld times, when those original trams snaked through Dublin’s streets, has cycling been so popular in our capital. According to the most recent set of census figures, there was an increase of 10 per cent in the number of people commuting by bike between 2006 and 2011 – admittedly from a very low base of less than 35,000.
There are other signs that the bike is making a comeback. The number of cyclists crossing the city’s two canals on their bikes each day has grown by almost 70 per cent in just over 10 years.
Then there is the wonderful Dublin City Bikes Scheme. Before it was launched, many people (including Pricewatch) were convinced that the bikes would be trashed or stolen within hours of them appearing on our streets. But that didn’t happen and the scheme continues to grow in popularity. Around five million journeys have been completed in less than five years, which makes it the most successful city bike scheme in Europe.
It is still early days in the bike revolution. Cyclists, especially those who have pedalled their way through other countries, talk about how much potential there is to increase the number of cyclists in cities here, particularly the capital. Dublin is relatively flat, making it ideal for cyclists.
There are a number of reasons cycling is more popular now than at any time in the last 30 years. It appeals to people who have become more health conscious, who want to exercise but don’t fancy spending what money they have on gyms. It’s also an eco-friendly way of getting from A to B. And then there are the monetary implications: once you make the initial investment, you will be quids in.
Annual service costs should be no more than €30. You will never have to pay for parking or worry about the cost of fuel; you will never be clamped, and you will never have to deal with an NCT. And you won’t have to spend money on bus or train tickets, while taxis will be a thing of a more profligate past.
Despite the advantages, less than five per cent of Irish adults cycle every day – in Holland and Belgium, that number is closer to 50 per cent, although the Dutch did have a head start on us, having invented the Dandy Horse in Mannheim in 1817. And yes, of course we think it is one of history’s great tragedies that the Dandy Horse became more popularly known as the bike. Whoever thought that was a good idea?
All the excuses Irish people give for not cycling are as well known as they are spurious. The anti-bike brigade will tell you it is cold and wet and sweaty and dangerous. They are wrong.