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.
With National Bike Week just five days away we may as well remind you of just some of the reasons you should get on your bike.
What’s another year (or seven)
A gentle cycle at just 15km/ph burns around 400 calories in 60 minutes, and if you pick up the pace by 7km/ph, you will shed 700 calories. By cycling, you dramatically increase your aerobic fitness, reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes, lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol, while boosting your energy levels. If you don’t believe us, ask the Danes. Danish research has shown that its cycling citizens live seven years longer than its non-cycling ones.
Traffic jams disappear when you’re on your bike and when you get to your destination relaxed and happy and on time, there’ll be no need to worry about finding a parking space – although the State could do more to provide secure parking for our bikes.
When you cycle, the commuting time is consistent and reliable so you get more precious time in bed of a morning.
The last great tax break
One of the best legacies of the Green Party in government was their gift to cyclists. It was behind the Dublin City Bikes Scheme and the Bike to work programme (biketowork.ie). Through this scheme you can get a decent bike on the cheap.
It covers bicycles and accessories up to a maximum of €1,000. Your employer buys it and you pay for it, tax-free, over 12 months, which effectively knocks around 40 per cent off the price.
Don’t fear the rain
One of the common misconceptions about cycling is that you will end up arriving to work absolutely saturated three days out of every five. This is not true at all. According to Met Eireann if you cycle to work every day you will only get rained on four days out of 100.
It saves you money
A bike good enough for the daily commute will cost anywhere between €250 and €500. Add the cost of the lights (€25), helmet (€35), rain gear (€100), and lock (€50), and you will spend around €600. If your commute is just 8km each way and you usually drive, then you will save around €400 in petrol costs alone over the course of a year. The savings on tyres, servicing and repairs will be around €300 a year.
Depending on where they live and how they commute, the average Irish commuter will spend anywhere between €600 and €1,200 each year on bus tickets, train tickets or petrol. Commute on your bike for just three years and you will save yourself nearly €3,000.