By Peter Vandermeersch
For nine years, I lived in Amsterdam and every day I cycled from my apartment to my newspaper. Obviously, as a cyclist in Amsterdam you have to take care that you don’t collide with tourists who are either drunk, stoned, or just don’t seem to realise that you shouldn’t walk in the middle of the road. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Amsterdam city centre belongs to cyclists (and public transport). This is how it should be in 2020 in our European city centres.
After moving to Dublin in August last year, I decided to keep on cycling to work every morning. It’s about four kilometres from my home in Rathgar, south Dublin, to The Independent’s offices in Talbot Street. First I acted as if I still was in Amsterdam: no helmet, no fluo jacket… I got on my bike and started cycling. After just a couple of days, I realised that I was the only foolish cyclist in this city without a hemet or a fluo jacket. I soon found out why: Dublin does not care about cyclists; Dublin loves cars; Dublin loves trucks; Dublin loves taxis; Dublin loves motorcycles; and Dublin loves cranes. Above all, Dublin does not give a damn about cyclists. With only a couple of exceptions, cyclists do not have separate lanes. They have to navigate big potholes in the roads. They have to share the bus lanes with…doubledecker buses. As a general rule, they have to share the road with drivers who seem to despise everyone on a bicycle, fluo jacket or not. It means that every morning that I manage to arrive safely at the office, I’m happy that I haven’t been killed. Every night that I make it home, I’m even more happy that I survived the Dublin traffic. So, in the end, I gave up. Now I walk to the office. It takes me 50 minutes, but at least my life is not in danger
Okay, I have to admit that there are some nice stretches of cycling paths in Dublin, along the Grand Canal for example. In Rathmines, where I pass every day, the cycling path was improved a few weeks ago and is now a bit better than a simple white line. The new government has also promised to invest more in cycling paths. Yet in terms of looking after cyclists, Dublin is at the stage where Bruges, the city where I grew up, was 40 years ago. It’s where, Ghent, the city where I studied, was 30 years ago. It’s on an equal footing with Brussels. And believe me, you don’t want to be on the same list as Brussels.