Galway is a death trap for cyclists
After years of getting around Galway by foot, bicycle, car and bus, I feel the need to publicise my growing concern. This concern is, in so many words, a fear for my life. Most days I cycle on the city roads, and on almost every occasion I am witness to driving that puts me in immediate bodily danger. I see the same impatience that is evident all over the country and is responsible (along with drink-driving, phone-driving, bravado, tiredness, etc,) for the depressing statistics of carnage we hear and forget, week in week out.
Given the cityâ€™s frustrating lack of properly-designed cycling paths, and the emphasis placed on automobiles in the general publicâ€™s daily lives, it is inevitable that cars and bicycles will get in each others way from time to time. However, I donâ€™t accept that this entitles motorists to take casual risks with my well-being. Rather than wait five or ten seconds to pass safely, many drivers take a chance on a blind corner or a busy or narrow road, and put the foot down.
Some drivers wait for an opportunity to overtake safely. Too often, however, I feel the need to ensure such a wait by cycling well out from the kerb. This is where less-assertive cyclists must feel the fear, as to offer even minimal passing room to many motorists encourages them to whip by at high speed. I know several people who do not cycle in Galway because they are nervous or terrified of sharing the road with motorists.
Studies into road rage reveal that it arises partly from a sense of inviolability. Cars are designed to be safer to those inside them at the expense of those outside. Drivers cannot easily make eye contact with other road users, and hence tend to view them not as other humans with friends, families and fragile organs, but as inconveniences to their primitive sense of territory on the road, and to the perpetual rush they are in. This haste is very evident at junctions: not only do most cars not slow down and stop as the lights turn amber, they speed up as the lights turn red.
Iâ€™m not trying to start a war of words. Cyclists can be lunatics too, while many drivers are cautious and decent on the road. Though I currently cycle and walk around town, I drove for several years. It was convenient but it made me impatient, lazy and dependent. I understand the temptation to take risks. I know how easy it is to forget the constant dangers, to convince ourselves weâ€™re in a constant hurry, and to consider the possibility of an accident as a remote horror that does not apply personally. Such complacency is a grave mistake.
I just want to ask for a little more courtesy from all road users, so that I donâ€™t feel a creeping sense that the next spin into town, to the shop or the sea might be the one that leaves me crippled, brain-damaged, or dead.
(Name and address with editor)