How to be cool with Conor O’Toole

 
 

The Art, Design & Technology Director takes time out of his busy schedule to talk about cycling or whatever

Everybody hates cyclists. Motorists hate cyclists. Pedestrians hate cyclists. The government hates cyclists. The weather hates cyclists. Odin hates cyclists (probably). Cyclists hate cyclists. I cycle everyday, and let me tell you, nothing grinds my gears more than a cyclist cycling too slowly and delaying me, or a cyclist cycling too fast and making me feel like an unfit square. Not to mention cyclists who cycle at the same speed as me, creating the impression that we’re racing or something. We’re not.

I think the reason cycling causes such exaggerated reactions from people is all your blood is going really fast through your body when you’re on a bike. If you cycle every day, you’ll almost-die a startlingly number of times. I won’t cycle at rush hour any more, because it’s complete lunacy to do so.

I can either get to work an hour early or an hour late, and I work here, at the University Observer, so I always choose the latter. During rush hour, the ‘cycle-lane’ between my house and UCD is the gap between the curb and the second double yellow line.

On one side, I run the risk of falling onto the footpath, taking out any auxiliary children on my way, and on the other side I may well destroy a number of wing mirrors, resulting in seven, 14 or even 21 years of bad luck.

I don’t blame motorists for hating cyclists. After all, we’re like motorists; we enjoy travelling by machine. But we don’t have to deal with nonsense like traffic jams, motor taxes and those colouredy-light-things. I think of the roads as being like oceans. Cars are like big fish, tuna or something I haven’t fully thought this through.

Taxis are definitely sharks, though. I think of buses as being like whales. They’re huge and generally well meaning. If I was killed by a bus, I wouldn’t be as annoyed as I would be if I was killed by a car (in a hypothetical situation where I can feel emotion after my death).

If you were killed by a whale, it would be vanity to think it had any interest in killing you, as you are tiny and whales don’t think about you. Unless you work in SeaWorld, in which case orcas are thinking about killing you literally all the time. They’re usually just too good-natured to bother. Also, they’re not whales, they’re just large dolphins so are not subject to this metaphor. I suppose Orcas would be like private hire minibuses. They’re both morally neutral.

Cyclists and pedestrians have a strange relationship. Pedestrians like to put their baby strollers into cycle lanes before they cross the road. Cyclists like using footpaths as shortcuts. Either way, the cyclist and pedestrian’s encounter is always extremely short, and any verbal communiqué explicit.

Explicit words are usually the most efficient. It is humbling to think that a cyclist is never more than a flat tire away from being a pedestrian, and a pedestrian is never more than a health kick or a government incentive from becoming a cyclist. It could happen to anyone.

For all their pro-cycling schemes, that is to say, schemes that promote cycling, not Tour de France attempts, the government does not want people to cycle. They make this very clear by constantly digging up cycle paths, dumping glass in the lanes and ritually sacrificing a cyclist every year to keep the Luas working, although no one ever talks about that. At least not in the liberal media.

Bicycles, having limited to no suspension and small to non-existent leather seating, are very sensitive machines to ride. You feel every bump, every crack. You don’t need to be able to read Braille to know that a lot of Dublin roads have ‘AVOID’ written all over them. I imagine the roads make very little sense in Braille anyway.

The bicycle logo painted on the cycle lanes is a classic example of how little anyone thinks about cyclists in Dublin. Never mind the non-round wheels and the lack of a chain, the paint they use is so thick you can feel it. It actively slows you down.

Clearly what we should do is ban cars and turn all roads into cycle lanes. That’s what they did in France and things seem to be going well over there.

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