The bicycle recently celebrated 200 years since its invention in 1817. It is considered the most ergonomic means to move weights (people) over a distance with the least energy possible. It is reckoned that it helped the emancipation of women in the 19th Century, by enabling them to live more independent lives. What’s not to love about a bike? An Taisce has much to say on cycling and we have our own in-house expertise in our cycling officer – Dr. Damien O’Tuama. Here is a link to his work.

I’ve been cycling for many years now and own 3 bikes – hybrid, racer and e-bike. I do virtually all my journeys in Dublin on 2 wheels. There are many reasons we should get on our bike –I set out with an aim of coming up with 15 and here they are:

  • Reducing our carbon footprint. No fossil fuel to move them, with small embedded production element compared to cars. Even electric bikes have much less battery power than e-cars.
  • Health benefits. Cyclists have better health outcomes over their lifetimes than drivers.
  • Fitness benefits. Active cycling can form part of the 150 minutes exercise recommended per week to keep fit. Using the work commute to aid fitness is a win-win situation. However, less so on an e-bike, as it does so much of the work!
  • Energy efficiency v. other modes. It takes less energy to bicycle one mile than it takes to walk a mile. In fact, a bicycle can be up to 5 times more efficient than walking. If we compare the amount of calories burned in bicycling to the number of calories an automobile burns for the same distance, the difference is astounding.
  • Much less costly than operating a car. The purchase price of a car is many multiples of a bike and there are no energy costs on the road.
  • Certainty of travel time. This is important to me – I’m punctual to a fault. On a bike, you will know precisely how long it will take to make a journey, so little stress in travelling. You can leave the house later and one can park right outside the destination. You won’t miss an interview and you will be in good time for a concert, when friends are still parking their cars! In addition, this also beats public transport.
  • For urban journeys less than 5-6km, especially during rush-hours, the bike will be quickest door-to-door. Traffic congestion will impact car journeys and walking and waiting for a bus on both legs will add journey time here.
  • Scenic route. With more greenways and routes through parks and along water courses, you can enjoy a more scenic route on your journey than in a car or on a bus.
  • Inner satisfaction. With you in full control of your travelling and completing the journey efficiently, this leads to inner satisfaction and general positivity in your life. I get a kick out of passing expensive cars and SUV’s stuck in traffic jams while cruising down the cycle lane.
  • It’s more sociable. You can stop for a chat when spotting people you know. This can’t be done by other travel means.
  • More enjoyable journey. On the way, one can stop or explore a short detour to view something interesting. The bike can be locked if needed (and unlocked) quickly at the side of the road.
  • One can make 3 or 4 events in one overall bike trip because of the ease of moving from one event to the next in a city environment. This would be impossible in a car or on a bus.
  • Shopping is a piece of cake with a couple of pannier bags. You can park near the supermarket entrance. You will be amazed at the bulk and weight that 2 panniers will take. Bottles of (non-alcoholic!) wine and beer are no problem. Absolutely no need for a car!
  • Cyclists are saving the public purse by millions of euro by not using cars. This means less investment in roads and motorways and their ongoing maintenance. A km of cycling lane is much cheaper to install than a km of road for vehicles.
  • Reason no. 15 – to be worked on!

It’s not all positive – yes, there are some negatives!

  • Rain. It doesn’t rain too much in Dublin, but it is a drag when cycling. On average, Dublin has 128 rainy days in a year. Given that it doesn’t rain all day, this means many rain-free journeys for cyclists. Good rainproof gear is a must. However, feet can still get wet, so consider using rubber boots with a change of shoes in a pannier.
  • Puncture. It’s a real nuisance, especially when it happens a good distance from home and you have to wheel the bike back. Again, it doesn’t happen very often. Invest in good puncture-resistant tyres. I avoid bicycle shops that don’t actually repair your tube and give you a new tube instead. This is not part of the circular economy. Paul McQuaid with his repair shop on Usshers Island, used to do this, but is now restoring old bikes given to him, for use by Ukrainian refugees, which is great.  So, I went and repaired my latest puncture by myself – the first I ever did! It was the front wheel which is a bit easier than the back one (with the gears).
  • Bike theft. This is a sickener when it happens. It’s more than the actual loss – one gets attached to your bike and it becomes part of you. Have your bike well locked and don’t sport a top-of-the-range model which attracts thieves. As your bike gets older and more worn, there is less risk.
  • Accidents. Luckily, I’ve not had too many falls in my time, and was not hurt by them. Safer roads and more protected cycle infrastructure would greatly help.

However, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks many times over. The positives are there all the time, while the negatives happen occasionally and also can be minimised. I’m not a great fan of helmets, and not wearing them is not illegal. To me cycling is an extension of walking, and in a safe cycling environment, they should not be needed. Virtually nobody in Amsterdam or Copenhagen use helmets. The requirement to wear them, like in Australia, is an impediment to cycling uptake. Using lights is more important for your safety after dark.

Therefore get up on your bike and don’t look back!