Reeling in political breakaway on cycling issue a worthy exercise
Time to focus minds on preventing lethal free-for-alls on public roads not closed off
Cyclists make their way past Dunluce Castle, on the Antrim coast, Northern Ireland, to celebrate the arrival of the Giro d’Italia cyclists. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP
The Giro D’Italia starts this Friday from the Titanic Museum in Belfast. And it’s too easy to rip the pee. There’s no gain in flippant one-way-ticket gags or pink tutti-frutti puns about grey tribal-fanatic land. It’s like shooting meluzzo in a barile. And if we want there could actually be more of a context to cycling’s latest Grand Tour excursion to Ireland than the usual corporate buck-fest.
The sport’s second-most famous race is spending a couple of days in the North of Ireland, with a third stage finishing in Dublin on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if forecasts of spectators coming out in droves prove correct, as will projections about increased tourism to our benighted rock. But at least reports of 400kms of road closures over the weekend sound logistically impressive.
However, a much more immediate traffic consequence of this rigorously corralled La Corsa Rosa is likely to be some very sweaty faces on our open roads long after Dan Martin & Co have headed for the Amalfi coast.
There’s nothing like a high-profile race rolling across screens to get us clambering on to bikes. In fact a combination of summer heat, flabby guilt and Sean Kelly muttering about “handlebaaars” appears to have a Pavlov impact on otherwise sensible people who normally can be relied upon to stay well clear of Lycra.
And while that might be aesthetically dubious, in absolutist terms it’s hard to argue against the pursuit of good health. Happiness is a bugger to argue with too. But happiness at a cost of someone else’s unhappiness is a lot easier to pick apart, no matter how sound the theory behind it.
Peddle power on the Emerald Isle
A lot of grandiose claims are being made for the Giro’s potential impact here, although it’s hard not to suspect most of it will come down to a bunch of tourist board suits pointing to increased B&B occupancy rates. However, it provides an opportunity to focus minds on the broad context of cycling in Ireland beyond the tiresome “them and us” headline-grabbing crap between cyclists and drivers as to which are the bigger eejits.
In reality there’s no simple two-wheels-good and four-wheels-bad division: the mode of transport doesn’t matter: if the world could run on eejitry we would have an inexhaustible energy supply. Just because you pay car tax doesn’t entitle you to the road, just as indulging in carbon-free movement is no entitlement to monopolise smug righteousness.
However, it is interesting how the debate around cycling invariably revolves around cities and towns, accompanied by urban myths of crusty cyclists careering through traffic lights before flicking the finger at frothing commuters just aching to get a bike into the sights of their huge armour-plated Nazi phallic symbols.