21 June 2010

Pedaler en grand braquet

At aged 37 I have discovered that I am a cyclist. This was not by design, or at least not by my design, but the truth of the matter is that for the last month or two I have been traveling almost everywhere in the city by bicycle, more specifically by dublinbikes. The Very Understanding Girlfriend, in a moment of inspired genius, gave me an annual subscription to the service as a present, and after an initial test run around the Phoenix Park on the May Bank Holiday Monday I have now been almost inseparable from the solid little blue bundles of transportation joy.

Living as I do between the two canals, there are a plethora of Bike Stations within a stone's throw of my house, and almost every place that I would want to go to in the city centre is similarly blessed. Given that any individual journey of less than 30 minutes is free with an annual subscription, and that a 30 minute journey by bike would almost certainly get you from the furthest station north to the furthest station south, as long as the good weather continues to hold the effect on my daily life has been, without exaggeration, transformational.

I offer this preamble by way of explanation for what will surely come as a shock to many of you who know me in the really real world, that I have just returned from a solo cycling holiday on Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands.

I leave that to sink in for a moment or two.

Cycling, on my own, in an Irish-speaking area, with no internet, for fun.

Did I mention I was on a bicycle?

To be honest it wasn't that epic, less than 30k a day all told and mostly in hour long trips interspersed with much hiking, but the cumulative effect on my calves of this and the previous few weeks' city-centre commuting has been impressive.

And how did I celebrate my return to Dublin, why with a two-hour round-trip cycle from Portobello to the M50 and beyond along the new Green Route on the former tow-path of the Grand Canal, of course.

Running from Inchicore to Lucan the Green Route is the first section of a proposed dedicated off-road cycle route running from Adamstown to Howth, the next section of which will run from Portobello to Bull Island and will open possibly sometime next year. With the exception of some unusually placed gates that force you to dismount at every intersection with a road, and a rather psychopathic 10 year-old at Bluebell who decided to chase me down, Robert Patrick/Terminator 2-style (or perhaps more accurately Robert Carlyle/28 Weeks Later-style), the whole experience was rather pleasant indeed.

The Green Route only opened on Saturday and still has sections in a decidedly unfinished state, but it is really nice to be able to write about something altogether positive going on in Dublin for a change. The City Council have an embryonic web site for Cycling in Dublin with info on cycling routes, parking stands and updates on public cycling programs, all at an early stage but a good beginning nonetheless.

More on Inis Mor later, I just thought it best to ease you into the concept of me on a cycling holiday somewhat gradually. Do not be alarmed, no cycling shorts were involved at any stage of the operation.

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