While in Ireland this past week, I took the opportunity to make an in-depth study of the differences between Cycling in America and Cycling in Ireland. I will be publishing this study next week in the Journal of Comparative Sociology, and expect to win a Nobel Prize for it. Or at least a copy of their home game.
For those of you who don’t subscribe to the Journal of Comparative Sociology, I will summarize the state of cycling in Ireland:
It could be worse.
First off, as you can tell by the above picture a lot more people get around by bicycle in Ireland than they do in the United States. This is in Dublin, and most of these people were in town doing errands, hitting the stores, or watching sports and drinking in the pub. Basically, doing the same things that we do in the states on a Sunday, but their carbon footprint was much smaller.
By the way, I'm not sure what sports they were watching over there. I could recognize cricket and soccer (although over there they call it "KillTheBloodyBastard!!!" ... or maybe "football"). There was some other game that we were pretty sure wasn't rugby, but had people running with a soccer ball and kicking it through uprights or into a net. I don't know what it was, but the Irish seem to love it.
There was even a tandem chained up outside of a department store.
We ran into the couple on this tandem later (I think), and it was cool to see that the woman was the captain and the man the stoker. They both looked very strong. I regret that I did not have the presence of mind to yell to them, "He's not pedalling!" It would have been petty payback, but payback nonetheless.
In spite of the gender confusion, this tandem is indicative of something else about the State of Cycling in Ireland: They need mechanics. For instance, you'll notice that the pedals are not in sync, so that the captain's pedals are almost vertical and the stoker's pedals are closer to horizontal. Now, you can do this with a tandem, but you usually offset them at 90-degree angles to avoid the "dead zone" in the stroke. These are just plain out cat-e-wonkus, as my grandma would say.
Here's a bike shop in Dublin. I went in there Monday (they were closed Sunday) and they had a mechanic. He seemed busy.
I saw a lot of people on bikes that were not set up correctly for them, with rusted chains and filthy drivetrains. Most of them had fenders (or at least what Bike Snob NYC calls a "filth prophylactic" like the one at left), to pay homage to the wet (and nasty, at least in Dublin) condition of the roads. And, while this will keep your clothes dryer, putting fenders on a bike in that climate -- particularly as close to the ocean as Dublin is -- but not regularly cleaning it and lubing your chain is classic penny-wise and pound (or Euro, now) foolish. It's like chewing gum instead of brushing and flossing your teeth: Sooner or later, things will fall apart, but before they do they will begin to creak and smell bad.
Which probably explains this view from the Millenium Bridge.
It's weird to see such a "disposable" mentality surrounding bicycles in a country that digs a five-mile tunnel to keep from disturbing old neighborhoods. I guess a castle is something that should be preserved, but (at least from a RandoBoy perspective) even a beater bike deserves a proper burial.
- Fixed gear bikes (cool, if they had brakes, since skid-stopping into the rear of a bus is always a bad idea)
- Women biking in high heels (cool, since they seemed to make it work in a very "Euro" way)
- City bikes with chain guards (very cool, if you want to keep chain grease off your pants ... assuming your chain had grease on it)
- Cyclists with both ears plugged by their iPod ear buds (way un-cool ... leave that crap for solo rides on empty roads)