One of the worst things about the weather this godforsaken summer is that I can’t cycle into work every day (well, I could, if I wanted to cycle in lashing rain, but I don’t). When I got my bike last year and started cycling regularly for the first time since I was in college, a few people told me that once you start cycling, you realise how often it doesn’t rain, and over the winter months I discovered that they were right. I actually cycled to work more often in February than I have over the last month.
So, although I did take the bike to work yesterday and today, I feel like I’ve been on the bus far too often recently. I miss my bike. As someone who can’t drive, I was surprised by how liberating it was to get back on the saddle last year. Back in the late 19th century, the bike was seen as an important tool in the cause of women’s emancipation – for the first time, ordinary women could travel under their own steam and go where they wanted. When I started using a bike again, I understood how they felt. At last I was free from the tyranny of Dublin Bus and its whimsical attitude to timetables! If I left the office at 5.40, I knew I’d be home by ten past six at the latest. Sure, I’d have to cycle up a hill to get there, but it was better than standing at a bus stop for up to forty minutes and then squashing myself onto an overcrowded bus.
Cycling would, of course, be easier if it weren’t for all those pesky cars. And potholes. I don’t really know which is worse. Potholes are bad enough when you’re actually in a car, but on a bike they’re potentially fatal. Also, whenever there are roadworks that are covered over in tarmac, the workpeople seem to have given up on, I dunno, smoothing the tarmac out and seem content to let it just lie in whatever lumpen state it lands on the ground. That’s the only reason I can come up with for why there are so many random lumps and dangerous bumps on the verges of our urban roads.
And then there are the cars. I’ve got to admit I was secretly almost glad to have my prejudices confirmed when I realised that the most arrogant, cyclist-unfriendly drivers seem to drive vast SUVs. There are a lot of SUV drivers on my route to work, and they do lovely things like drive in the bike lane (perhaps because their ridiculous tanks take up most of the road), park in the bike lane, and drive so close to the curb that a cyclist is in danger of being pushed off her bike.
Of course, the real danger comes from the huge articulated lorries that rumble through Dublin suburbia, unable to see small cyclists trundling along in their blind spot. The first time I cycled to work last year, I was so freaked out by every lorry that tore past me that I was tempted to just dump the bike at the side of the road and start walking. But I persevered, and now they only scare me a little bit, instead of sending me into a state of mortal terror. Progress!
Despite the potholes and the arrogant drivers and the vast trucks of terror, I love my bike. It’s served me well over the last year. And although there are few experiences more miserable than cycling uphill in pouring rain, there’s nothing more exhilarating than zooming down a hill on an empty road on a fresh sunny day. Now all I need are a few more of those…