Sometimes cyclists are in the wrong

When having discussions about conflicting road usage, it's often happens that we blame the 'other side'.

Cyclists blame motorists, and motorists blame cyclists. It's easy to demonise a different 'group' of road users, when in actual fact it's never just one 'side' that's in the wrong. Normally there's problems on both sides.

Most motorists are careful and considerate drivers, most of the time. They act with consideration to the rules of the road, and for other road users. But then there is the visible minority that place their own convenience over the potential risk to the lives of vulnerable road users – and they are the ones that do things like dangerous overtaking, running red lights, and illegal parking.

In a similar fashion, most cyclists are careful and considerate road users, most of the time. They act with consideration to the rules of the road, and for other road users. But within cyclists there is also a visible minority that place their own convenience over the potential risk to other road users – and they are the ones that run red lights and cycle on pavements.

It's these people who behave badly that give everyone else a bad name. We use examples of this bad behaviour to criticise the 'other' group, and if we're being lazy we attribute those behaviours to the entire group. After all, it's easier to demonise all cyclist or all motorists rather than acknowledging that it's all a bit more complicated than that.

So what do we do about it?

Well, there are a number of possible responses:

  1. We take matters into our own hands – we get aggressive and confrontational in a bid to enforce our own views on the situation. However actions like motorists trying to run cyclists off the road, and cyclists banging on the side of cars, never seems to end up doing any good. People get angry with each other, and often entrench their negative views rather than acknowledging they are in the wrong.
  2. We get the authorities to police bad behaviour – we could lobby for road traffic offences to be policed more rigorously, and prosecuted more fully. This might work, but you end up criminalising people who don't necessarily think they're doing anything that wrong. And, of course, you can't put a Guard on every street corner – and some might say it would be better to use their limited resources for dealing with more serious crime.
  3. We could accept the situation for what it is – and accept that some people are always going to behave selfishly. The very definition of stress is getting upset about something over which you have no control, and we have no control over how other people act. So rather than getting angry over the actions of others – especially people who often have no clue you are upset with them – you can decide to change your reaction to the situation. Once you accept that others sometimes act with disregard to you, and stop trying to 'change them' in your mind, you'll feel a lot better about it!
  4. We could educate people to be more mindful of others – rather than demonising and criticising people because of their actions, try instead to explain the consequences of their actions on others. Try to get them to empathise with how others feel, and people will in themselves begin to act less selfishly. A driver, who understands how their bad parking puts cyclists in danger, would hopefully decide to park with more consideration in the future. And a cyclist that runs red lights, who understands how it might frighten drivers and pedestrians trying to cross their path, might decide to stop and wait at the lights.

Personally I'm more of a fan of responses 3 and 4, as they involve changing the hearts and mind of all road users – and teach us to share the road and be considerate of all road users.

Some thoughts on Irish Citizenship for a British person

As a British person living in Ireland, I am afforded all the “freedom of movement” rights of EU citizens to work and live wherever I want in Europe.

I am free to reside and work in Ireland, and can travel without restriction in and out of the country. I don’t need to apply for visas or work permits, unlike non-EU migrants. And as such, I’m treated pretty-much as if I was an Irish citizen.

The freedoms are so universal that it’s hard to come up with many tangible differences between being an Irish or EU citizen. Here’s the only restrictions I can find:

  • I’m not allowed to vote in Presidential elections
  • I’m not allowed to vote in any referendum votes
  • I can’t stand as Irish President, or become a member of the Dáil or Seanad

I place quite a lot of value on the voting rights – as I’ve missed out on numerous referendums since moving here – and I feel a bit disenfranchised by not being able to vote on constitutional changes that will have a direct effect upon my life.

But are the voting rights on their own worth the €1,125 naturalisation fees, and the 6 months of bureaucracy and paperwork?

Personal Experience

For the last couple of years I’ve been pondering the idea becoming an Irish citizen. I’ve been living here over 8 years, my wife is Irish, and Ireland looks like it’ll be my home for the foreseeable future. I have deepening roots in this country, and yet sometimes I still feel like a foreigner.

I don’t know if citizenship will help me feel more Irish. I guess my British accent will always set me apart from those who grew up in Ireland. But maybe an Irish passport will help me feel less of an outsider.

Any maybe how I “feel” is what it all comes down to. With few tangible benefits, the major driving force to go for naturalisation would be to feel more at home.

The Numbers

I was hunting around the web for some statistics about the number of British people that apply to Irish naturalisation, but couldn’t find any breakdown of naturalisation by country. The naturalisation numbers just don’t appear to be published anywhere, which seems strange.

There are loads of figures about immigration , and the census breaks down the population by country of origin. Indeed, the last census recorded 390,000 EU nationals resident in Ireland, which amounts to about 8% of the population.  But I suspect that the number of those people applying for Irish citizenship is tiny.

A suitable punishment for drivers that use their mobile phone

If you take a look at the passing traffic in Dublin, it generally only takes a minute or two until you spot a driver using their mobile phone.

Clearly some drivers are not worried about the prospect of 3 points on their driver’s licence, or a mandatory court appearance and fine of up to €1,000 if they’re caught texting.  Or the fact that they’re 4 times more likely to crash when distracted on the phone.

So I got thinking about a more suitable punishment, that would be reasonably easy to implement, and would be an added deterrent to people. The Garda and courts, in addition to the other penalties, would be able to enforce a 6-month outgoing call/text ban on an offender’s mobile.

The ban on outgoing calls/texts would remove the temptation from drivers to pick up their phones when driving, and it would be an enormous inconvenience to offenders generally. Incoming calls/text would still be allowed for safety purposes, as would outgoing calls to the emergency services.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping people switching to a new phone number, but that’s a massive inconvenience in itself, and would be embarrassing to explain to friends and family.