More stories from commuter hell: ‘On the bike there is the constant battle between logic and chance’
Readers’ stories from around Ireland and beyond
The Clonmel to Dublin commute. Photograph: Anthony Lawler
We asked our readers to share their commuting stories. In response to our call-out, readers told us many tales of commuting woes, but also some stories of domestic bliss. Here is a further selection of our readers’ personal stories. The submissions have been edited.
A constant battle between logic and chance
“I lived in Killester (Dublin 5) for many years, recently moving to Beaumont (Dublin 9) only a kilometre or two away but pretty much eliminating use of the Dart for my partner and I, which, despite gripes from some customers, is a wonderful piece of public transport.
“I have always mainly cycled to and from work (Dún Laoghaire for a while, but now the city centre for the past seven years) and find that, no matter what time I leave to go to work or return, it takes around 30 to 40 minutes.
“On the bike there is the constant battle between logic and chance. Who will turn in, what car will open a door, which patch of cycle lane will have broken glass that I’ll need to somehow avoid while not spooking a car to my right etc. I see it all – pedestrians making questionable moves, cyclists rolling the dice far, far too many times, and cars disregarding the notion that a person on a bicycle is another piece of traffic and should be treated as such.
“I’d like the council to choose one or two of the arteries in and out of the city, and one or two roads within the city, and make them safer for me and other cyclists by taking us out of the car traffic. I’ll happily add distance and time on to my commute if it means diverting towards a proper, segregated, safe route for me.
“I’m also quite surprised by how narrow footpaths are in the city. Pedestrians deserve far better. Eat into the road space that cyclists and drivers use, give pedestrians room.
“I couldn’t drive in and out of work as my attitude would stink if I was sitting in traffic for an hour each way. Dublin streets are pretty good. Despite a remarkably common trope, they are substantially wide in many main artery instances and, if thought through, could probably help people out a bit more.
“As for people who say they have no seating on trains and buses commuting into Dublin, that is outrageous. Of all the things to fix, I’d probably make that my number one priority if I was a god of traffic management.”
– Gordon, Dublin
“We chose to live in Dublin’s north inner city, in Phibsborough, selling our suburban house in Raheny/Kilbarrack six years ago, so that we could avoid the stress of commuting into the city and enjoy city life. We have never looked back. The improvements to your quality of life, mental and physical health, as well as the convenience of being walking or cycling distance to anywhere in the city, are hard to quantify.
“I’ve changed job twice in that time, but it makes no odds as I can cycle to anywhere in the city centre within about 15 minutes, gaining exercise and feeling wide awake when I arrive. In my previous commute, from Kilbarrack), which usually took about 50-55 minutes, the Dart was not a pleasant experience.
“Besides having to stand usually, the pace of the train was so frustrating, often crawling into town, stopping in Connolly for an age, and the return trip seemed to take even longer, with trains often developing faults. Buses always got caught in some bottleneck when I tried them instead of the Dart. The odd occasion I drove to work, the traffic was so dire I found I was wound up before I even started my work-day.
“I really feel we Irish need to ween ourselves off our obsession with suburban living, semi-detached houses with gardens, etc. We are a European anomaly: most Europeans would kill to live in the city close to work and amenities, but here it seems to be the opposite.”
– Jonathan Healy
“I’ve been commuting to the city for over 20 years and cannot bring myself to calculate the weeks (months?!) of my life I’ve wasted aboard our miserable commuter services. A recent office move meant the Luas would now be added to the commute which I honestly found too depressing to endure.
“During Lent I took the plunge and committed to cycling to work at least once a week and I’m amazed at how well it has worked out, even with a crèche drop-off. I arrive at work and at home much happier than I would after emerging from a crowded carriage or bus.
“My commute is 36km in total and takes about 45 minutes each way compared to an hour. I also have the benefit of saving circa €900 on my annual travel pass which helps offset the significant cost of all-weather clothing and lights. Cars provide far more respect than you would think and the 1.5m legislation seems to have given drivers a sense of pride in sharing the streets with cyclists.
“As much I prefer cycling, however, I could never recommend it to somebody as it remains frankly too dangerous and I could not live with the guilt should something bad happen. Dublin needs segregated cycle lanes and improved road surfaces.”
Saving time, saving cash
“I work in an industrial park by Galway racecourse with one exit road for several thousand workers. My daily journey is around 10km each way which I do exclusively by bike. Gore-tex boots, pull-ups, jacket, gloves and cycling cap ensure I get to work dry.
“The laptop goes in a waterproof bike rack pannier. By the time I retire, I will have spent approximately 25 years commuting by bike. At an estimated annual cost of €5,000 per year to purchase and maintain a basic car just for commuting, I’ll have saved €125,000 by cycling instead of driving. For longer commutes of 20 km to 50km, an electric bike is the solution.
“For a €1,000 or less, you can purchase a bike with a 70km range. If a person’s company offers the bike-to-work scheme, it’s tax-free so an absolute no-brainer.”
– Aidan Currie, Co Galway, Ireland
“I work in Blackrock and live in Swords, and my commute varies depending on whether or not I have parking on that day (we share the limited spaces). If I drive I have to leave well before 7am and, frankly, even at 6.50am the M50 loses its entire reason for existing in the first place.
“I notice the traffic going north at that time is much lighter proving my point about most of the better work being in a particular area. If I took the M50 it would almost always take 90 minutes, plus whatever extra time for the accidents which are now nearly every day there. So I drive via the city centre and through Ballsbridge – for some reason that is the quickest and if I leave before 6.50am it takes about an hour.
“Going home is difficult – unless I start before 7.30 and leave before 3.30 the M50 is unusable. There is the public transport option but it means a change from bus to train and that is far from adequate. Swords Express is a private operator competing with the dreadful Dublin Bus service in the area, but it is now so popular that even if buses are not packed full, the route it takes and the number of stops means a 20-minute trip to get out of Swords.
When I started this job there was a definite advantage in using public transport but that has now dried up. It is extraordinary that there are still politicians trying to argue that we don’t “need” the Metro in north Dublin because with it my commute would probably be under and hour and the roads saved for those who really need it. Cycling just isn’t an option because the shortest route is about 23km. What makes is feasible for me is that we are allowed work from home two days per week.”
– Laura Farrell, Dublin
Crippling location move
“I accepted a new job working for a company in Ashtown when I was living in Drumcondra. On the first day of the new job, they told me they were moving to Blanchardstown in just a few months. One of the biggest factors of me taking the job had been the easy commute – just a few stops on the train – but this new office move crippled me.
“My easy 30-minute commute was looking at stretching to over an hour and a half – a 30-minute walk, a 30-minute train, and a 30-minute walk the other side to the new office.
“I used to commute from Rathmines to Dalkey, which took nearly two hours each way and ruined my social life and mental health. The prospect of a similar commute to Blanchardstown caused a spike in my anxiety, and I knew I couldn’t continue with the job once the move was completed. This led to me leaving after just three months there. I now live in D7 and walk to my job in D1 every day rather than take any public transport.”
– Samuel Riggs, Dublin
“I live in Co Donegal and work in Co Antrim. My commute is 130km each way by car. I am aghast at the lack of government spending in Donegal. There is no train service and very little by way of public transport more generally.
“It takes nearly four hours to drive to Dublin, as there is no motorway for most of the journey.”
– Noreen Giffney
“A massive part of why the roads are gridlock throughout the city is due to motorists breaking the rules of the road. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting on one bus among a few in the bus lane, packed with people and not being able to move because one person in one car decided that the yellow box did not apply to them.
“Or because they are turning left but couldn’t wait until the bus lane ended to get in the left lane, and are now taking up space. Every December the gardaí implement Operation Freeflow.
“All it is is traffic police on the roads stopping motorists from breaking rules. It works miracles for the flow of traffic. We could have this all year round if we wanted.”
– Seán Quinn, Co Dublin
“The tales of terrible commutes are not limited to Ireland, or Dublin. In Stockholm my commute involved a bus, commuter train (a t-bana). On good days it took two hours, on bad days, longer. To take my children to school by public transport took an hour, and then another hour to get to work.
“So on days with them, I could have four hours commuting. When I lived in Dublin, I drove to work or took the Dart – it took 20 minutes by car and 35 minutes by Dart (with a 15-minute walk to the Dart station). Commuting is hell and it definitely affects mental health. It also can lead to physical as well as mental burnout.”
– Laura Egar, London
“I live in Leitrim and have commuted to work in Tallaght for the last 20 years. I judge my life by the amount of miles I clock up. In 2005, I bought a new Volkswagen Bora.
“When I eventually changed it in 2016 it had 580,000 km on it. Overall I am on my seventh car on this route and have easily clocked over one million kilometres.
“Some nights I travel up the night before and stay over in Dublin just to break it up a bit. The radio is a great friend and I have to admit that parts of the N4 are scenic and it can be a pleasant drive. I like driving and I like my own company, I would really love if they would extend the motorway/dual carriageway to Longford, it would take at least 20 minutes off my journey.”
– Paul Butler
“I travel from Clonmel, Co Tipperary to Dublin three to five times a week to get to college because I can’t afford the rent prices in the city as a freelance photographer and I also have a pet dog and cat and it almost impossible to find accommodation with them, so I’m having to leave my house at 1.30pm and I get home at around 2.20 in the morning and repeat the next day which is extremely tiring. Then I have to add assignments on top of that and work to pay bills.”
– Anthony Lawler
“My daily commute takes me from Dublin’s northwest to southeast. To describe it as a nightmare is about right – a huge amount of time is wasted every day no matter what form of transport I use.
“The bus services take the longest, with too many stops being served en route causing bus lanes to have little practical benefit. Driving is unpredictable and stressful. Train services are not frequent enough and need more carriages, as standing room only is available from my stop at Clonsilla.
“Cycling is not an option due to the distances involved. I spend 15-20 hours travelling each week. This is not sustainable – the city needs immediate expansion of the rail network to include all night trains and underground services.”
– Jim Higgins