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Friday 15 December 2017

Physical abuse, soakings from rain, crazy cycle lanes ... but yes, it's all worth it

It was around 5am as I was making my way through the early morning darkness into work. Stopped at traffic lights, I was vaguely aware as I pulled off that the VW Golf idling beside me didn't rush past as you'd expect.

A split second later I felt the full force of a shove from the teenager hanging out the passenger window. I just about managed to stay upright and gave them the finger as they sped up the road, no doubt laughing and slagging my assailant for not being able to complete the 'strike'.

The incident was the most bizarre danger I've experienced in my years cycling the city's streets, but not the only one. It's now three years since I availed of the Bike To Work scheme to reignite a forgotten love of cycling.

Between dodging various craters, errant taxi drivers and buses, I've managed to come off the bike twice.

Both were weather related and thankfully resulted in nothing more than bruised pride. So why do I do it? Health is the obvious reason. I'm no fitness freak, but I'm hoping the hours spent pedal pounding will keep me on the right side of healthy as I head towards the wrong side of my 30s.

Convenience is another. I'm a guaranteed 20 minutes door to door once I leave work. On the bus, you could double that at least. I should also admit that I'm something of a reformed kamikaze cyclist. In my younger years, I regarded the streets as urban warfare.

Breaking red lights, mounting footpaths, weaving in and out of traffic lanes -- nothing was off bounds.

Lights or hi-vis clothing? Sure, isn't that what street lights are for?

Not even a stern talking to from two of the city's finest traffic cops for breaking one too many lights could halt my progress.

Then, I learned how to drive, and the first time a cyclist came up on my blind side, I suddenly copped on to just how dangerous and stupid my actions had been. Now I'm a fully compliant, light-carrying, helmet-wearing model cyclist.

So is Dublin a safe city to cycle in?

Being relatively small, most areas are within reach for commuters.

And as the recession bites, I've seen more and more workers taking to two wheels. However, cycle lanes continue to baffle me. They disappear and reappear in a random fashion, sometimes filtering you straight back into the flow of traffic.

You also tend to find them on the widest, safest roads as I can only presume the more narrow and dangerous ones are too expensive and too much hassle to tackle.

I still marvel at one mere 10 yards of cycle lane in Drumcondra that appears out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly.

My advice to anyone thinking of taking to the streets would be not to let safety issues put you off.

The occasional stiff limbs and soaking from the rain are worth it. And just a little bit more awareness of what's around you -- from both cyclists and motorists -- would do us all a favour.

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