A new TV series highlights the lack of cycling lanes in Ireland compared to elsewhere in Europe, writes
“Pretty much every cyclist in Ireland drives, but hardly any drivers cycle,” says Bláthnaid Treacy, who wants to educate people about what it’s like to be a cyclist on Irish roads. That is the aim of . Now You See Me, a four-part series that she is fronting with Simon Delaney.
In tonight’s episode, on RTÉ1 at 7.30pm, Bláthnaid visits Copenhagen, the capital of all things bike-related in Europe. The experience, she says, was eye-opening. “The people in Copenhagen have nailed it; they are incredible,” she says.
“In the episode, I get to catch up with Irish people living there and see what it’s like cycling over there. The thing is, when I asked them if they would cycle at home, all of them said no, because it’s too dangerous for them.
If you are used to cycling on segregated tracks, in an environment that is set up for cyclists with proper rules, and you come to Ireland, where it’s almost a free-for-all on the roads, it is terrifying.
Bláthnaid is both a driver and cyclist, but fear stops her from using her bicycle more.
“I am a nervous cyclist here in Ireland. I prefer to cycle at a more leisurely pace, and so the city is a good place for me and my bike. If I had to cycle out to work in Donnybrook, I would be terrified.”
While Simon Delaney swaps his car for a bike during the series, Bláthnaid travelled to Seville, London, and Amsterdam to check out their cycling culture. The difference in the cities, she says, was astounding.
London was definitely the worst place for me to go cycling. It was just horrific. The pollution in the air is outrageous; you can actually taste it.
That said, the people of London have embraced cycling and there are some safe routes in the city. “They do have segregated cycling tracks, and they do use them. The problem is that the tracks are not connected, so what happens is you may find yourself sharing the road with a bus and a load of taxis, until you get onto your next tracks.”
Bláthnaid saw similarities between Dublin and Seville, and thinks that the latter offers a great blueprint for Dublin. “Seville was an interesting one, because they got the cycling tracks put in as a result of public protest and did it over ten years,” she says.
“It is a similar size and layout to Dublin; it has a Temple Bar vibe in the middle and there are lots of suburbs all around it. They managed to make it work, and, because of that, are almost a template for us. If they can do it, why can’t we?”
The answer to the countrywide aggravation that exists between cyclist and driver must be two-fold, says Bláthnaid. “We need segregated cycling tracks. That is a track that is separated from the traffic. In other countries, cyclists have traffic lights; they are given a head start, so they can make their turns in a safe way. Also, and very importantly, cyclists, just like drivers, have to follow the rules of the road.”
Now You See Me will examine exactly what the rules of the road are for cyclists. Do they have to stop at a red light, for example? Can cyclists drink and drive? “It has to come from both sides,” says Treacy.
“When you are driving on the road, you need to have a certain amount of lessons under your belt, but, as a cyclist, you can hop on a bike and start cycling. So we are asking, as a cyclist: what do you need to do in order to get on the road in a safe way?”
The purpose of Now You See Me, she says, is to give cyclists and drivers a little more insight into what it’s like on their side of the road. Particularly, Bláthnaid wants to humanise cyclists.
“It’s like we don’t see cyclists as humans when they are on the bike, but that’s someone’s mum, she is someone’s sister.”
The programme hopes to open the conversation for road-users in a way that makes our roads safer places to be, she says.
"Our aim is to make the roads safer and for people to open their eyes a bit more, so if we save one person’s life, then we have done our job,” Bláthnaid says.