Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dublin Bikes Are Great

The Dublin Bikes scheme is a triumph. There is no other word for it. Glitches aside, it’s hard to think of anything that’s been introduced in the city of Dublin that’s added so much to living in the city since Mary Harney did for the smog over twenty years ago.

An Spailpín Fánach spent his tenner on a year long ticket and seldom have ten notes been better invested.

Getting around between the canals has been a curse of the city. Walking is exhausting and worse, criminally boring. The buses would be grand if they turned up, but waiting in the rain at a bus stop for a bus that doesn’t show is not the best way to spend one’s day. If you take the car you either have nowhere to park or else pay shocking fees for the privilege.

Dublin Bikes knock all that on the head. Simply visit the bikestand, key in your details and you’re away. The extra charges only kick in after half an hour, and in half an hour you’ve cycled to where-ever you wanted to go in the first place. Any longer, take the bus.

It takes a while to get used to the bikes, of course. They’re quite heavy, and balanced towards the front. This makes the initial spin quite a wobbly one but, like so many things in life, you get used to it. And then a tremendous sense of liberation overwhelms you, as you realise that travelling the city has suddenly become simple and painless.

For instance, suppose you are standing outside the Mountjoy Hotel, feeling rather grateful that you are not incarcerated therein, when an urgent text is received that the choice and noblest spirits of the age are drinking that strong, sweet porter served by the white-shirted, bow-tied chaplains of Neary’s of Chatham Street. Crossing the street to the Mater gives you access to the bike, and ten downhill minutes later you are parking it in the rack shown in the photograph at the top of this post, lips being licked already in eager anticipation.

There are thorns on the rose, certainly. The relationship between the bus lane and the bike lane is rather like the relationship between Mrs Cheryl Cole and the rest of Girls Aloud. Of equal status in theory, but if La Cole ever throws a strop there’s only going to be one winner. This makes cycling up O’Connell Street somewhat fraught as the buses loom over the shoulder, but the traffic restrictions that more or less ban anything but buses and bikes from O’Connell Street do make it easier to deal with.

Tremendous caution is also advised when crossing the LUAS lines, a manoeuvre that should only be performed at right angles. Your correspondent had the misfortune to cycle parallel to a LUAS line in the IFSC last week, and ended up by jamming the front wheel in the sunken track, thus catapulting myself off the machine and coming to a hopping stop some yards distant, like an American football wide receiver trying to stay inbounds after a catch.

But these are minor matters compared to the incredible freedom of being able to traverse the city quickly and painlessly. The editorial in the Sunday Times called for the Dublin Bikes scheme to be expanded all over the city, and An Spailpín is happy to second that proposal. Like the iPhone, once you sign up its impossible to imagine how you ever managed without one. Roll on, Dublin Bikes, roll on.

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