Until next time

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As we prepare to leave Dublin for the last time, I thought it only appropriate that I take a look back at the great rides we have had over the last 2.5 years. To that end, here are a few of my favorite ride pictures. Obviously none of them are commuting, but all were taken from the bike. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Unbelievable, and completely pointless

This weeks blog was supposed to be about fall weather, back to school, etc. Maybe it would include a tiny poke at the “summer cyclist” species that goes into hiding during the winter months.

However, today we quite spontaneously decided to pedal over to Rothar. Now this is no small errand since we are coming from Enniskerry. But the weather was improving and we had nothing else on for the day but tidying the house and yard so away we went.

It was a pretty uneventful ride. I took the helmet cam because I know that city center is the best place to get prime examples of inadequate cycle lanes, potholes that take the whole lane, awkward intersections, etc. I wanted to capture these so I could use them to put together a small video.

But to my surprise we had an encounter with someone that I think was a Guard. I’m not sure, but the blue light on his car plus his idea that he knows all there is to know about who has rights to occupy which particular piece of road and how much of that piece of road is allocated to whom let me to believe he was a guard.

I want to apologize in advance about the poor quality of the sound. This is my first experience with my new helmet cam and it didn’t occur to me that I would have to put my head in the car to be able to easily understand what he is saying. Here is a transcript more or less of what was said. I must admit that in some places no matter how loud I made it or how noise-cancelling the headphones, I still couldn’t get word for word. I had to get the main idea and try to infer.

Me: What are you trying to do? Are you trying to hurt me?

Guard: You’re cycling down the middle of the road!

Me: I’m cycling in the bus lane!

Guard: Yeah, what’s the problem?

Me: Because you passed too close! You scared the hell out of me!

Guard: Because you should be cycling close to the curb.

Me: I’m cycling on the left side of the road!

Guard: Yes, but how hard is it to keep to the curb? You were miles away from it riding a bike down the middle of the street.

Me: He STILL scared the hell out of me.

Guard: But you’re still cycling down the middle of the street. He was within his right to take the bus lane.

Me: There’s no point in arguing with me, I mean with you. I mean, what’s the point?

From this point the sound gets very muddled and impossible to interpret even on noise-cancelling headphones, but he carries on to explain to me that the taxi driver was well within his rights to pass that close to me in the bus lane because I was not cycling sufficiently close to the curb and that I as a cyclist I should know to keep to the curb. I don’t have the right to take the road, even if I feel that potholes, broken glass or other obstructions on the left side of the road could be hazardous.

Me: Do you ever cycle on these roads?

Guard: I cycle all the time, yeah.

Simultaneously…

Me: So you would have seen the giant potholes and glass broken everywhere?

Guard: I cycle to work.

Me: I do too, and do you know that I know every pothole and every piece of broken glass on my way to work and back everyday but over here on this side of the city.

Guard: Taxis have every right to use the bus lane.

Me: I don’t care if they use the bus lane! I only care if they are trying to use the same space I’m using!

Guard: That man was kind enough to let you use the lane. You can’t give out on your bike.

>>Most of his speech about bus lanes here is unintelligible.<<

He proceeds to tell me that taxis have the right to use the bus lane and ask:

Guard: Is that right or what?

Me: I don’t know. Is it? It is absurd for you to tell me that I can’t cycle a comfortable space from the curb.

Guard: I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.

As we cycled away, hubby M and I discussed the reason they stopped in the first place. It is still a mystery. A case of mistaken identity? Were they planning to be much harder on us until they saw the helmet cam? This is our working theory at the moment. You can’t see the other guy in the car but he was very nervous during the whole encounter. So much for thinking that Garda is here to help.

As I understood it then, and after watching the video back dozens of times now, his main point was that the taxi driver had right of way on the bus lane and his secondary point was that we (cyclists) were too far from the curb. So what I understand from that is that the taxi driver had rights and I didn’t. We (cyclists) don’t. Do I have this right?

Now if you watch the video back again, you will notice a few things:

  • we only had trouble with those two cars (the taxi and the garda car)
  • all other cars including buses and taxis passed us without incident
  • there is a line on the road where the cycle lane used to be marked. At all times, we were inside the marked cycle track

 Go ahead 🙂 You know you want to. Watch it again, just for fun. Just to be appalled all over again. See if it is as shocking the 2nd, 3rd or 15th time. Believe you me, it certainly is.

An open letter to my fellow cyclists…

I am out there every day, rain or shine. Hubby M and I are the only ones crazy enough to cycle no matter what the weather.

And I see you every day too. Most especially on my way to work in the mornings. I see you pull up to red lights, look both ways (or maybe not) then pedal right through, even at extremely busy intersectionsMore. Times. Than. I. Can. Count. It’s to the point of absurd now. I am just embarrassed!

I see you riding two abreast on our tiny country roads.

You make me think that the cagers might have a point–a right to be mad. And that makes me very mad indeed.

For the love of GOD … someone please explain this to me? Why do some cyclists think the rules don’t apply to them (us)? Surely they realize that all those pesky rules of the road are for a reason, no?

Oh yes, do you realize that we represent eachother every time we are on the road? It might seem silly to say so, but consider this: as the only one of my nationality in my team at work, I am the de facto ambassador to those folks every day. In the same way, every cyclist represents every other cyclist on the road every time you, the cyclists, have an encounter with a cager. Just like every cager represents every other cager every time they get in their car and have an encounter with a cyclist, or a lorry, or an equestrian, etc.

This is another cause for me to get mad and loud. When you jump red lights, when you are inconsiderate on the road, when you jump out in front of a car because you can’t be bothered to look over your shoulder, you have just set up a potentially hostile situation for me when I encounter that cager that’s now pissed off at cyclists.

You see, he won’t be mad at you. He will be mad at all cyclists in general.

What would you do differently in your daily life if you knew that you represented a huge group of people? Would you be more courteous? More safety conscience? What if our lives depended on it?

As your representative, I try to be all those things. I don’t always succeed, but I do at least try.

On our narrow, winding and hilly country roads, I signal the cars behind me if it’s safe to pass or not. I have lights: oh, so many lights! I am doing my best to represent you. Now will you do the same? Think twice before jumping the red light, going the wrong way on a one-way road, or preventing the normal flow of traffic on purpose.

I know this is going to rub some of you the wrong way and I don’t appologize for that. The space available on the roadways is limited, and we have to be wise about how we behave for everyone’s sake. That goes for us all… cars, lorries, bicycles, motorcycles, buses, equestrians, pedestrians. I mean seriously, the pedestrians have the ultimate and permanent right of way. What if they all suddenly started walking down the middle of the road all the time? I realize that it all sounds a bit Cumbayá but as rational and thinking humans we must find a way to share the same space in relative peace. We can do that, right? If we can, it has to start somewhere. I don’t mind if it starts with me.

Why we ride

I am hyper-aware that my last two posts have been quite wordy and even, if I’m honest, a bit bitchy. I won’t appologize–I do get mad. I get VERY mad sometimes. So if anyone actually reads this blog, they probably wonder why I keep at it.

Well, there are many reasons I don’t want to drive a car and cycling is the sweet spot. First, I really hate the people who are getting filthy (in more ways than one) rich off petrol. Second, cars are bloody expensive–too much for my taste especially in Europe. Mostly, though, I hate what they do to the planet. I really think if we are to preserve the earth for the next generations, each of us has to do what we can.

Ok, enough of the hippie it’s-not-easy-being-green speech. I promise.

You want to know why I cycle, here it is. It’s the feeling you get from knowing you have arrived at these places under your own steam. There’s nothing like this kind of freedom. It’s much bigger and better than that keys-to-your-first-car feeling.

So here are some of my favorites. Enjoy! Sunday will probably be wordy again. I will be twisting off about my fellow cyclists.

Glendalough
 I had to put several pictures together with software to get this nice panoramic photo.  

The view of Dublin from the Hellfire Club

 

St Kevin's Way

Loch Tay

We took a three day tour of north Leinster. This picture is from day one of that tour:

Somewhere near Portmarnock

All the pictures above were obviously posed and taken with a proper camera. However, cycling we get to see scenes like this that are so fleeting it could only be captured with a cell phone in low resolution. The poor camera quality means you can’t really see it, but it was a perfect double-rainbow:

Seen on the way home from work one random evening

How many good samaritans does it take?

As per our usual, the hubby and I set of on a Saturday morning for a nice ride in the mountains. It was threatening rain and a bit cold (despite it being June!) so rather than going to Sally Gap, we opted for a quick trip by Stocking Lane, over the mountain and back home. It was to be a quick trip in order to get back home before the rain comes.

Because of the rain, we thought it was safer to take our commuters. They are much much heavier, but have mountain bike gears so, though it takes longer, the effort to get over the mountain is about the same. Away we went: me with one small waterproof pannier carrying our emergency kit and my wallet, and hubby “M” with no panneirs.

It was a pretty normal ride: I moan and huff and puff up the hill until we get to Glencree. We stopped for a short break at the German graveyard in Glencree and had an eye-opening conversation with a motorcyclist who thinks that the economy in America is a facade and “much worse than the economy in Ireland.” Ok, I consider myself an open minded individual, but seriously? Anyway, politics, economy and social commentary are a subject for another blog. 🙂

By then it was already starting to rain, so we decided it best to push on in case the rain got worse. Let me say at this moment that the rain in Ireland is in dribs and drabs all the time, so what they call “lashing rain” in Texas we call “rain.” What they call “rain” here in Ireland, we call “sprinkling” in Texas. Lucky Ireland: they don’t get rain that actually washes cars off the road!

We headed further up into the mountain where there are no more trees for protection from the wind and rain. Now there’s a serious topic in Ireland: the wind. It’s brutal. Brutal! And constant. It is relentless, it just never stops!

So we pushed on down Stocking Lane. Then it catches my eye: a tiny white head in the tall grass on the side of the road!

Me: STOPPING!!!
Hubby: Why, what’s the problem?
Me: there’s a kitten in the grass!
Hubby: A WHAT?
Me: Yes, a kitten! We need to catch it!

I dropped my bike on the verge of the road and stepped off into the knee-deep weeds to find the little cutie. Of course, as luck would have it, he took off, jumped to the other side of a ditch full of water, and went into a hole in the ground. I hadn’t noticed, but I almost stepped on another one: a little grey tabby that would have been lost in that tall grass if it weren’t for her white-headed brother.

She was already so cold that I just bent down and picked her up. She didn’t resist, didn’t make a sound. I put her inside my jacket to get her out of the rain and wind. It was great to rescue this one, but now two things went through my mind: how many are there and how is M going to catch them alone?

Now, as I was holding this kitten in my jacket, other cyclists and cars were passing, and a couple of people stopped to ask me if I was ok. It took me several minutes to realize that it probably looked to passers-by like I was nursing some kind of injury on my ribs! Then one cyclist called “B” passed, and when I showed him the kitten in my jacket and told him our dilemma with the little white one in the water, he offered to help.

B and M climbed down in the ditch after the little white one. Of course, the kitty jumped into a hold and went deep so that he was completely out of reach! Finally, in desesperation, M launched himself across the ditch (at the risk of going face first into ice cold and quite dirty water!) to get the kitty to come out.

Vóila! Finally the white one jumped out of his hiding place and straight into B’s arms! Result!

I handed my little tabby off to M and B handed me the little white one. M wouldn’t hold the white one inside his jacket because he was stinky. And I can attest to it: he was stiiiiiinky. Quite smelly indeed.

Oh dear. Now what? Here we are, middle of nowhere, with two kittens, one of them skittish as hell. How in the world will we get our newfound little treasures two miles down the road to the SPCA?

Que A. I call my friend and colleage A to come pick them up.
Me: Hey A. Are you busy? Can you come out here to the mountains and take two little kittens to the SPCA?
A: What? Where are you?
Me: I don’t know. We’re in the mountains on the road to Glencree.
A: Where?
Me: I don’t know. Let me ask.

Me: B–do you know the name of this road?
B: I have a GPS. Wait…
B: Yes, R116. Yes, R116.

Me on the phone: R116. Do you know where that it?
A: No. Ok, give me some time. I’ll be there as quick as I can.
Me: Thanks!

We thanked B profoundly (and I would take this opportunity to thank him again) and he went on his way.

So there we were, bikes abandoned in the grass, each of us with a kitten under our jackets. Every cyclist that passed us stopped to make sure everything was ok. In retrospect I can probably guess that we both looked as if we were nursing broken ribs! But everyone was appalled at the idea that someone had dumped the poor kitties in the bog to freeze.

I don’t know how long we stood there, but during a later conversation with A I knew that the SPCA would close at 4, so now we have a time constraint. One girl in a Toyota stopped and when she saw our dilema, and the time (must have been about 3pm or so by then) she offered to take them to the SPCA on our behalf.

WHEW!! What a doll. Are you sure? If you really don’t mind, that would be great. I think my friend A is lost or something since she’s coming all the way from the other side of town.

Ok, so she and her friends agreed. Whew. That’s that sorted. M handed over the docile tabby to the guy in the back seat and I handed the mental little white one off to the girl in the front seat.

Of course, the little white one has to cause trouble again and take off like a maniac and crawl up under her dash into the heating vents.

OMG! Is this little bugger serious? He really does not want to be rescued!!

So now, all four doors open, all three people out of the car, here we go, upside down under the steering wheel. Que now a guy in a Subaru pulling up behind.

Man in Subaru: Is everything ok there?
Someone in our group: Yes, there’s a little baby cat in her steering column.
Man: Sorry?
Our group: Yes, this litte kitten by the side of the raod…. etc.

You know the story.

In the end, we all decided that the kitten would be fine under there until she got to the shelter. Luckily for us, the man in the Subaru knew where the shelter was on Mt Venus road.

About this time, my friend A and our other friend O arrived in As car.

A, O, the girl in the Yaris, her two friends, and the man in the Subaru all head off (led by the man in the Subaru) to the shelter.

M and I have to go on the bikes, but hopefully we will get there and they will have some expert there that will have already rescued the kitty out of the steering column and we will all go on our way.

Off we go now back on the bikes, rushing off to the shelter.

We finally make it to the shelter, but that little white bugger is still under her dash. She called a friend of hers–must be a mechanic or someone who has at least a nice tool box and a bit of knowledge– to come along and remove her dash! REMOVE HER DASH! What a brave girl!

After several people’s attempt over about a hour to remove the kitty from the Yaris steering column, everyone gave up and sent the girl home with the kitten in her car and a cat cage full of food. Hopefully the kitty will come out overnight.

Overnight? Did I hear that right?

Hopefully the kitty won’t crap and pee all over her car overnight!!

Oh, what a brave, brave girl! I know she didn’t have much of a choice, but wow!

I didn’t get the girl in the Yaris’ name or phone number. I wish now that I had done. But I heard from the shelter that the kitten came out in the night and she brought him back the next morning.

Whew.

So, to answer the question: How many good samaritans does it take to save this little white kitty?
M
Me
B, the cyclist
The girl with the Yaris, her friend and her American boyfriend
The man in the Subaru
My friend A
Our friend O
The mechanic of the girl with the Yaris
3 people from the SPCA

Or put another way, it was an example for the UN:
1 Brazilian
2 Americans
1 Swedish
9 Irish

It was all far too much drama for a Saturday morning!

The kitties were not old enough to be weined yet, so they have gone to a kitty nursery where they are being bottle-fed and will be up for adoption in a few months. According to the people at the shelter, they would not have survived one night in that environment. If I hadn’t seen that little white head bobbing in the weeds, they would have died out there and no one would have known.

Madness

This weeks blog is dedicated to my friend and colleague who was involved in a car-on-motorcycle accident. He has been in hospital for two weeks already, and could potentially stay there for quite some time to come. We hope for his speedy and complete recovery.

My husband and I are in the habit of going on the weekends to cycle in the mountains. It’s nice for many reasons: it’s a nice challenge, there are only few cars, only few roads which minimizes the chance of getting lost, and the scenery is outstanding.

The problem with this route is that, coming out of our house, there’s a long descent of about 1 kilometer and as it’s always shaded–in the summer by the trees overhanging and in the winter by the mountain–it’s always cold. Always. Even in summer by the time we get to the bottom, my quads and knees just are not working properly any more. Then, just when you get to the bottom, there’s a climb. Not just any climb: 172 meters up in 0.6k distance. It’s really painful. Quite cruelly, seperating the descent and the climb is a stop sign. Sigh.

It’s also quite normal on a Saturday for this road to be full of cars. I don’t really know who all these people are or where they are going, but they pass nearly right in front of our house. This means that on the descent, the pressure is on for the cyclist to keep the speed of the car, even if you’re freezing. Sometimes the road is wet and covered with moss: when it’s like that, I act like the old woman that I am and ease along at almost no speed at all!

That Saturday was pretty much like any other. We always have a good lie in, then breakfast-at-lunchtime, then we’re off.

When we pulled onto the main road and began our descent. It didn’t take very long before a car pulled up behind us. There’s nothing unusual about that, only she didn’t pass us. Well, I can honestly say that I have done this as a motorist too, because you just can’t see around the curvey roads! Only I know that, as a driver, it doesn’t bother me to stay back a bit. But I began to imagine the person, getting wrestless, desperate to pass, and in the end doing something stupid like passing on a blind curve or on the “traffic calming” bumps.

So when we got to the bottom, I was in quite a hurry to get to the other side of the stop sign where the road widens a bit and the visibility is better. As I pulled up to the stop sign I could see a VW in the oncoming lane. It’s a “T” junction, so the VW only had the choice to go straight or turn right. The car did not have any blinker on and was, in fact, on the left side of his lane, so I stopped but did not put foot on floor and then carried on through the stop sign.

Now let me say at this moment that I did have a stop sign, so I was meant to put feet on the floor. So, for that, my bad. But what happened next was completely unexpected: the Volkswagen in the oncoming lane approached the intersection and then suddenly made a left hand turn almost on top of me. He turned so bruskly that his tires chirped. When I shouted (nothing bad, just Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh)he rolled down his window and shouted at me “Get out of the road you fat bitch!”

How rude is that? What a cheeky bastard. The backtalk in my mind was shouting “I might be fat, but you’re stupid and I can diet. There’s no cure for you!” but I thought it best not to provoke.

My husband was, as usual, right behind me. Because he was behind me, he slammed on his brakes and also nearly missed the maniac in the VW. As per usual when something like this happens, he shouted Are you trying to kill us? or something similar. To our surprise, the woman in the passenger seat, with a full mane of grey hair, flipped my husband off!

I’m not necessarily international, I’ve traveled a bit, but I don’t think I’ve seen a woman in her 70’s flying the bird to anyone, least of all in suspect circumstances.

I have to think, if something similar was to happen with someone else, this jackass would just run them over! Unfortunately the whole thing happened so fast, I don’t think even my helmet cam would have captured the license plate number. It would have captured the event, but not the plate number.

It reminded me of an incident that happened when we first moved to Dublin. We were going through Stepaside, and just at a bend in the road, a cyclist coming in the oncoming lane was being overtaken by a car behind him at the same time that a car coming up behind us was trying to pass. The end result was that the car going the other way pushed the cyclist going the other way into the curb–and then kept on going!! Can you believe it? I was dumbfounded. It turns out that the guy was ok, he landed in the grass and his bike was no worse for wear, so in the end he got back on his ride and pedaled away.

I think I’ve seen that guy again, later in the week. Of course, I can’t be sure it was him, but it was a car just like the one he was driving, and he passed us so closely on a part of the road where there’s a blind climb, even us on the bikes can’t see over the hill. He really took many people’s lives in his hands when he passed us on that particular part of the road. On that same piece of road, another car, another day, another driver did the same thing and almost hit a Dublin Bus head on. I wonder if these people don’t think about the potential consequences of their actions? What will it take?

Fetching for the dog

When you see kids, that is to say “adolescents” making bad decisions on the road, you think they are young: there’s still time.

When you see old people making bad decisions on the road, well, let me say I wouldn’t have seen this very much in the states. Generally speaking, the older they are, the slower they drive, the more space they give when they pass. Sometimes, even when they could pass, they simply don’t see the need to go that fast. My grandfather said (when Henry Ford made cars availalble to the masses) “I just don’t know why people want to go tearing around the country at 20 miles per hour!”

You tell ’em gramps. 🙂

My husband and I regularly take the tandem out, with a small square trailer on the back, to go fetch things, most regularly 15kilo bags of dog food. We used to go to closer to town for our dog food, but about a month ago we found a local place that has similar food for cheaper. We pedal the tandem down the road–not more than a couple of miles–trailer in tow, to get the dog food. We really wouldn’t get the car for a trip like this even if we had a car.

But I have to tell you that the first time (the last time) I was in that feed store here nearby it left a bad taste in my mouth. I was asking the shop assistant for some assistance  (I assume that is his job) but he was totally put off to the point that he was tossing these 15 kilo bags of dog food around and just generally acting like a jerk. At this juncture I will resist the temptation to launch into a discussion about retail customer service. 🙂

Because that shop assistant put me off so much the first time I stepped foot in that store, I insisted that we go to a third place in Carrick Mines today to try to compare prices. For people who are not familiar with the terrain, the road to Carrick Mines shopping is all about managing your speed. On my commuter, I can easily get to the same speed the cars are keeping down that road. The problem with this kind of lovely descent is, of course, what goes down must go back up. And you should know that riding the tandem is not the same as riding your own bike: riding the tandem as stoker (the person on the back) is even different still. You can’t tell how much effort you need to give at any time versus how much effort your partner is giving.

This means of course, that I give more than I should all the time, then when I really need to kick in and help, I’m completely knackered.

So we finished our shopping in Carrick Mines, of course did not find the dog food, and started back up the hill. I have to say, hat’s off to all the drivers –including a city bus and a coach–that passed us on that climb today. Everyone was complete class, and we even got a “thumbs up” from one guy in a Volkswagen.

Then, totally unexpectedly as we got closer to home, on a road full of switchbacks, in the rain and cross wind, I signaled for the car coming up behind us not to pass as it was not safe (there was a car oncoming.)

As soon as the oncoming car passed but before we go to a part of the road where visibility was more than 1/8 of a mile, yer man in the Merc passed us honking like a madman.

Honking. Why do people do that? Did he think we didn’t know he was back there? What gives? And, when I looked, he was an old guy, what hair he had left was completely white, driving a Mercedes sportscar. Is he thinking he’s freaking Tom Cruise or something? Jeez.

This is not the first time I’ve seen an old person acting like a 17 year old that only just go their license (more on this to come) on the roads of Dublin. But the interesting thing is, I’ve been on the roads in the US, in Portugal, in Brazil, and in London, and I’ve never seen anything like it before. It just makes me think: if s/he hasn’t learned by now, s/he never will and the second thought that occurs to me is how did s/he survive this long? I just don’t understand it!

Our dog grocery getter

The Spitter

My husband and I use our bikes as a car for everything: to go to work, to the grocery store, go to parties. We are used to and prepared for cycling any time of the day or night any time of the year. Normally we prefer to cycle on the street, though in Ireland the law that mandates use of certain cycle lanes does interfere sometimes.

So a few weeks ago, we were headed to Dundrum to the grocery store to do our weekly shopping. Going through Stepaside on Enniskerry road, there’s a bike lane which ends then picks up again about 20 meters later.

So this car comes up beside us so close that I could see his door between my arm and the ground. What? Ok, there’s no mimimum safe passing distance but this is genuinely abuse! So I protested with my horn (a nice and loud airzound). Yer man stops at the roundabout and starts shouting at us:

Man: “When you’re in my country, you follow OUR rules. Use the fucking cycle lanes!”

Husband: “We were in the cycle lane until it ended. We have the right to be on the street as well.”

Man: “Shut up ye fucking Paki and go home!”

Husband: “I’m as European as YOU are! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Me: “You could’ve killed us! Do you even KNOW how close you came to hitting me?”

Man: “Go back where you came from you fucking Yank!”

Then after a few minutes of futile attempts to politely educate the driver, he SPIT at me. Yes, that’s what I said: S-P-I-T.

I thought for sure that my husband would lose it there on the spot but I’m so proud of him that he didn’t. The guy in the car peeled out as far as his tiny car could around the roundabout and sped away.

On the way back from the grocery store, we stopped in at the Stepaside Garda station to make an official complaint. According to the guard that took the report, the guy could actually be fined hugely or go to jail for spitting at me and cursing at me.

Huh?

For spitting at me? To be honest, it did take me by surprise. But what is even MORE surprising is that there is NO penalty for nearly killing us both with his car–a potentially lethal weapon– but apparently there is for being anti-social.

What? Are you kidding?

Nope, no kidding.

To close the thread, the Garda never found the guy. Turns out I should have spent the time taking down his license plate number rather than trying to educate him. What a jerk.

Have a similar story? Send it to me at dubbikecommuter@hotmail.com