Wednesday 7 August 2019

When we talk about bikes

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. 
Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. 
Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.
Iris Murdoch. 

Were we on [about] our bikes? We were. The thing is that you can fix your bicycle. It's just cogs, wires, nuts & bolts. Between 1990 and 1996, living outside of Dublin, 12km from my place of work in the city centre, I clocked up 40,000km on my bike. If I'd been less locked into going to&fro to earn an honest crust at the frontiers of science, I could have cycled round the world! It was a good solution. Except at 0430hrs or on Sunday morning, my bike was the fastest way to get to town: the bus didn't even cross the Liffey and I had to walk the last 10 minutes. We had a car and free parking but with each passing year, I would have to leave 5 minutes earlier to start work close to 0900hrs by car. As an academic researcher, there was no clocking in, which meant that if it was raining stair-rods after breakfast, I could wait 20 minutes for the shower to pass through.

Did I mention that my running costs were, like, zero? That my calves were like knotted cords? That one of my three original ideas in science came to me as I labored through Artane on my way to work?

I wasn't obsessive, but I maintained my wheels at weekends and replaced brakes, cables, tires, tubes myself. There were limits: after about 20,000km, I broke a spoke on the front wheel whacking into a pot-hole. I bought a new spoke and a spoke-tensioning key and fixed on the replacement but getting the wheel in true just transferred tension to another spoke elsewhere in the assembly which went sproinnng on me a few days later; and that fix cause another break. My pal Pepe Malpica was on his sabbatical year in Dublin and he asked "Why don't you just buy a new wheel?" Smart boy wanted! I obeyed and that wheel lasted for the neext 20,000km until it (and I) became a road traffic accident. I survived with broken bones but my reliable, trusty, cheap-and-cheerful pink roadbike was gePretzeled.  I had come off my bike unexpectedly before - when a rush-hour car driver abruptly changed lanes in front of me - but I haven't owned a bike since, It's not really feasible to cycle 40km to work with my old knees; although I have done the round trip once.

Solutions for car-free cities: Utrecht - Groningen - Nijmegen - Amsterdam [prev] - Copenhagen
In Netherlands 75% of 2ndry students cycle to school. In Ireland it is too dangerous so The Mammy drives them, which causes a log-jam in morning rush-hours; makes walking to school too dangerous for kids; and piles on the flab. Wired list of 20 Top Bike Cities.
Last word to Chris Boardman.

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