Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my bit to become a carbon footprint reducing columnist.
Incidentally, the fact that I saw ‘The Incredible Hulk’ last Saturday has nothing to do with my wishing to pursue greener pursuits. After all, who’d like me when I’m angry?
Between meeting new Waterford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald (see Sport 4) and catching up with magician Keith Barry (see Entertainment 3); I’ve been taking to work by pedal power.
However, the daily three-mile trek from Chez Keyes to Munster Express Towers is not without its odd hairy moment.
While the modification of the Ardkeen Roundabout is greatly assisting the flow of inbound morning traffic along the Dunmore Road, it does pose problems for those on two wheels.
Getting onto the inside lane is a tad tricky at the WRH junction. Between those who now automatically swing out of Viewmount ignoring the ‘Stop’ sign and those all too anxious to go through the gears despite pending deceleration, the obstacles are considerable.
Don’t get me wrong – the traffic moves incrementally better along this busy route than it did up to last winter, but cyclists clearly didn’t merit that much consideration when this modification came about. Ditto for the roundabout in front of the Broadcast Centre.
Now that could well have something to do with the fact that, and this is based on anecdotal evidence recorded while on the bike, this is a city decidedly light on school or work-bound cyclists.
The only cycle lanes in my immediate living vicinity run between Knockboy and Earls Court and grind to a halt in advance of the Waterford Castle junction. Now, if you only cycle daily between Knockboy and Earls Court, you’re onto a winner.
But finding someone who exclusively uses this stretch of bike lane is about as likely as Brian Cowen and Declan Ganley singing a duet in next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
To give the City Council its due, the ‘Green Route’ plans, long since revealed, do include provisions for greater bike lane coverage on designated routes in the city.
In fact, on the very route I use to work, a city-bound bus and cycle lane is planned to operate between 7 and 9.30am and 11.30am and 7pm.
It’s also envisaged that cycle tracks will run from Island Drive to the Park Road and from Kilbarry Cross Roads to Rice Bridge.
Now this all sounds great, and as an aspiration it’s to be commended, but there’s one major stumbling block to quality cycle tracking in the city: space.
One cannot imagine a scenario unfurling where the City Council will be issuing Compulsory Purchase Orders to residents and businesses along the Dunmore Road any time soon.
Yet, without knocking considerable stretches of wall and annexing some front garden space along the road in question, how can adequate provision be made for an improved public transport service and better conditions for cyclists?
Currently, and through no fault of motorists (most of the time), there are occasions where cyclists have no choice but to dismount due to space simply evaporating.
Unless you’re auditioning for the next ‘Jackass’ movie, the prospect of being sandwiched between a truck and the city arms-clad bars on the William Street footpath ain’t too appealing.
As a few letters to this newspaper have pointed out in recent months, there are parts of both prospective Green Routes which, due to their narrowness, are less than suitable for differing designation from their current status.
As an occasional cyclist aiming to use the bike on a more regular basis during the longer days of summer, my experiences of taking to the city’s streets have been largely positive.
I’ve only been honked by presumably narky motorists on two or three occasions in the 15-odd months that I’ve taken the environmentally friendly option to work.
Bus drivers are most courteous in allowing the slower moving pedaller to pass by while they wait to pull out from bus stops. And, to give car drivers their due, when they can make space to let cyclists proceed, they do so.
But, given the narrowness of some of our streets, motorists cannot always leave a gap for cyclists to pass by on the inside, which sometimes leaves two-wheelers taking to the footpaths – not ideal by any means.
With two Government Ministers and a Minister for State cycling to work and the publicity the sport has gained from the Sean Kelly Tour and the Tour of Munster, the promotion of cycling can only be welcomed.
Quite how the City Council can set about promoting cycling as a way of getting to work and improving health given how narrow many of our ancient city’s streets are, is a different matter entirely.
* If you do cycle, please wear a helmet. While hardly fashionable, the benefits of wearing one hardly need to be pointed out.