KILDARE CYCLING COLUMN: Electric bikes and armadillos in Dublin

Take to the roads

Conor McHugh


Conor McHugh


KILDARE CYCLING COLUMN: Electric bikes and armadillos in Dublin

We face into a brave new future, my friends. All around the world experts are telling our political leaders that it’s now, officially, time to start panicking about climate change.

More importantly, voters are starting to pay attention and judge their politicians on the basis of whether they are or are not willing to stand up and be counted on the environmental and climate change front.

Our currently government is useless on climate change, but of course, that is a mere reflections of our awful apathetic selves to date.

They are unwilling to lead, so it is up to us, in civic society, to do so. In particular, I suggest, it is up to cyclists to do so.

And that’s where the fun starts...

Electric bikes, whether entirely powered by battery or power assisted by electricity, are having a moment.

They’ve become very affordable, very accessible, very good and, most importantly, very cool.

And if you spend any part of your day studying the world of cycling, as I do (for research purposes obviously) then you'll realise they’re becoming ubiquitous.

In cycling industry talk they are very much taking over, with the larger companies saying that analogue bikes (the word for non electric bikes) account for only 65% of their total trade.

Something else I've seen with electric bikes, and the same applies to electric cars, is that bike designers have realised that there is no need to try to just match an electric motor and battery to a regular looking bike.

Apart from anything, it's not all that easy to anyway, because they need to be substandtially redesigned to accomodate the motor and, more importantly the battery.

But the challenge has also become an opportunity. If you have additional power on the bike then the requirement to be able to produce prolonged power from pedalling becomes less important and, as you can see from the pic above, this has lead to some beautiful designs, and the expansion of the cargo bike segment is only a matter of time.

Something I'm really interested in is how much power we will see inn these bikes in the coming years.

Right now, they tend not to go above 25kph, but the technology is there to go far faster.

One of the effects of electric bikes is that they away take the work and sweat of getting around on a bicycle — and yet with the same ease and mobility of a bike.

That makes it more attractive to a large contingent of people who are, putting it gently, lazy feckers — and generally don’t like the whole sweaty-ness of cycling.

I know, weirdos!

But the biggest effect, which will be seen in the next 24 months or so is that they have the ‘cool’ factor and they will get large numbers of people out of their cars, which is of course is the whole point.

Another thing that is becoming ubiquitous is cycling lanes and greenways. It is now national roads policy that roads will have cycling lanes on them.

Even the other day I saw proposals going forward to create a cycling way from Prosperous to Clane.

It may not gain any traction immediately but the fact that locals are asking for it suggests that the tide is turning in the right direction.

If we take the idea one step further, how’s about all of the main urban settlements in the county, villages and towns were all linked by cycle paths. How’s about Kildare develop that as an ambition?

As I’ve said before, maybe it wouldn’t necessarily require to be along an existing main road. For instance, when the Grand Canal Greenway is completed, including the spur into Naas, then hey presto Naas and Sallins are suddenly connected to a huge chunk of the north and west of the county.

And a few short links from the canal to nearby towns would quickly make even more areas accessible.

I likes Armadillos

Now this is just brilliant. Dublin City Council have discovered a way to ensure compliance with their cycling lanes.

As we all know, lots of places have cycling lanes, but very few have cycling lanes that motorists play a blind bit of notice to.

So, starting on Leeson Street the Council has installed armadillos, which are a row of plastic bumps that are just the right size — big enough to remind motorists that they’re there, but small enough to not damage a car that happens to see it.

They’re big enough to be a bit of a thump, but a non-damaging thump, so that the anti cycling brigade don’t get their big frilly knickers in a twist.

They are also well spaced out, roughly a metre and a half if the pictures I’ve seen are an indication, which will allow cyclists to leave the lane.

And on top of all that, I’m guessing, they’re cheap and easy to install, or uninstall if need be.

It’s exactly the kinds of innovative and imaginative solution we need in our little two-wheeled revolution.