Friday 21 October 2016

Imagine a Dublin free of cyclists and the ESB chimney eyesores at Poolbeg

I'm in a quandary. It's proving difficult to decide which is worse, those proselytising for pedal power or the eejits who applaud the ESB's failure to demolish the chimney eyesores at Poolbeg.

I was afraid to leave the house yesterday in case vast peletons of bus-deprived commuters would be swarming around every corner, crushing all before them in giddy abandon as they relished their new-found two-wheeled liberation.

But make no mistake: long before the bus strike forced disgruntled commuters to drag their rusty old Raleighs out of the allotment shed, the capital's bicycle menace had proved itself a growing threat to safety and decorum.

The number of cyclists in Dublin has doubled in the past decade. Now PR gurus try to convince us we should be "celebrating" the cultural milestone of "10 million journeys of Dublin's public hire bike scheme".

As a committed pedestrian, I count 10 million chances of being knocked down by some over-enthusiastic twit unused to handling handlebars.

Don't get me wrong. Bikes are fine, mainly in black and white war movies where the heroine pedals furiously around Paris (usual filmed in Prague for reasons of budget) in an attempt to save some resistance fighters. But apart from that? Leave it out.

Own up. How many times have you been nearly tipped into the canal by a two-wheeled tourist wobbling along as confidently as Shane MacGowan on a highwire? How often have you had to jump in front of a juggernaut to escape a demented wheelman treating the footpath as a personal velodrome?

The Minister for Transport might tell you evidence of the attraction of cycling can be witnessed in the diversity of people pedalling. "Dublin is perfectly suited to cycling," Paschal Donohoe said last week. Paschal, old bean, it's not. Dublin was built for the horse and carriage. So sort out proper bicycle lanes, licensed training courses, proper bicycle bays and so on. Better still, ban the bikes altogether.

Spare me the old "healthy exercise" routine. Everyone knows that a bicycle fetish is a gateway to substance abuse. Just look at the cut of that Lance Armstrong.

And not once have I mentioned Lycra or middle-aged men striving to cope with a midlife crisis. It's more buses we need. And fewer bikes. Dublin could be heaven if all on bicycles - couriers, High Nelly riders, rickshaw enthusiasts and Green Party members included - were sent to, say, Connaught. The Wild Atlantic Way? It's a perfect fit.

Cycling in Dublin should be confined to one day. Bloomsday. Consider what an attraction the annual Messenger Bike Rally could become.

Oh - and another thing.

There's a rump of public opinion that would have us believe that those crumbling stacks that blight the city skyline at Poolbeg have become historical landmarks.

We all hooted with laughter when the Wolfe Tones' A Nation Once Again was voted ahead of Elvis and the Beatles in a BBC poll for the world's favourite song. That was a jolly jape.

Insisting that the ESB chimneys - Ireland's pathetic attempt at urban brutalist Chernobyl chic - are of cultural merit is beyond irony. Instead of doing a Nelson's Pillar on them, cash-strapped ESB wallahs claim they're distinguished because "Dublin does not have significant high-rise development".

"They're our Twin Towers," bleat the hipsters. No they're not. They're a couple of dilapidated chimneys that look more like straws in a sludge shake than an architectural marvel or conceptual piece of art. The fact that they appear in some early U2 photos is argument enough for their demolition.

If we want to celebrate the Béton Brut school of architecture ,we should encourage the city fathers to press ahead with plans to turn the area into a giant waste incinerator. They might find some use for the chimneys then. Otherwise, like the Spire, they'll continue to be a drain on resources.

Meanwhile, as in the old song, some of us will continue to pine for "a couple of sticks of gelignite and an auld alarm clock".

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