This week, our Chat on the Mat series, we chat to a good friend of mine, Killarney Cycling Club stalwart, Brendan Cassidy.
Cycling is a great activity where life long friendships are formed though a simple common activity of riding a bike. Brendan is one such valued friendship that I’ve been lucky enough to forge through cycling. Among events, that I have had the pleasure of cycling with Brendan include the Mount Leinster Challenge, The ring of Kerry Charity Cycle and the week long Raid Pyrenees.
This week Brendan shares his cycling experience with us.
I recently had an occasion that afforded me the opportunity to feel a rush of joy and pride the measure of which I haven’t felt since the birth of my children the youngest of which is now 26 years old. I walked my daughter up the aisle for on her wedding day and made a speech as the father of the bride at her wedding reception. Days like these are rare in a lifetime and it caused me to think a lot on my own life and the way I and life has changed since she was born and how I want to stick around for another while to see what more this life has to offer.
Even more recently I was part of a small group who were subjected to what is euphemistically called road rage all stemming from what was deemed to be “Holding up the traffic”. More on this later suffice it to say that it has caused further thought on my cycling journey through my life. I pulled out a picture taken by an adoring mother of a boy on a tricycle taken in 1962 I reckon, and I realised that on and off I’ve been on bikes since then for all the usual reasons, Fun as a boy, transport to school in the 60’s and 70’s and more recently for pleasure, sightseeing, company of others and fitness of body and mind.
My latest evolution in cycling started in the early noughties when I just got too old to be competitive in rowing a sport I was involved with as an athlete and as a coach. The unfortunate side effect of coaching was that I pilled on the pounds and lost my own fitness and needed to change. This realisation coincided with my local cycling club here in Killarney starting their evening rides in preparation for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. I pulled out an old bike and did it up and started cycling a couple of times a week. After a while I got the clipless pedals and a jersey and all of a sudden I was bitten by a bug. The freedom of cycling in an area of outstanding and famous beauty combined with the relative ease of the modern cycling machines made cycling a joy instead of the chore I had in my memory of cycling to school. Those were great days and by the way I did cycle the Ring of Kerry that first year and accomplished a goal as well as making a few quid for charity.
Since that start in cycling for pleasure I have experienced many many wonderful days with great friends on roads at home and abroad.
I have seen lots of change in these years as well both in terms of traffic volumes and driver behaviour. Unfortunately though I and our club have experienced first hand what it is like to loose members to road crashes as well. You will note that I will not refer to these incidents as accidents, why, because they are entirely preventable. The first crash involving a car took place about 26 months ago and the other crash involving a tractor happened on a fine evening last summer.
The loss of these two people have had profound effects both on me as an individual and on my group of friends within our club. Probably the greatest and most lasting effect is manifest in me every time I take to the roads for a spin. I feel that I have become what could only be described as hyper sensitive to what’s happening around me at all times and at all times I am cycling defensively. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy cycling any more, I most certainly do, but particularly when I am alone I am nearly always scanning and checking. I suppose this should be normal for any venerable road user but it’s hard to explain just how much more my internal radar works now in comparison to a few short years ago.
In my life I have seen some terrific changes in all areas of life but the evolutionary changes in transport have been vast and far reaching. Cars, trucks, busses, trains and planes have all grown bigger faster and there are far more of them. However roads and bicycles and the people who ride them have not evolved at the same rate. Neither have the rules both statuary and non statuary evolved to allow for the changes in size and speed. Sure road authorities now routinely install “Traffic calming” (a misnomer if ever there was one), roundabouts, traffic control lights and we live by rules governing their use but other than minor changes to allow for their use of this infrastructure rules protecting the likes of me don’t seem to have changed since I got my first bike in ’62. It’s high time now for our rule makers to take the next step in evolution and make the changes necessary to protect me, my children and hopefully my children’s children.
A big step will be the move to Minimum Passing Distance Law. This will put an onus on drivers to give me a wide birth while passing me and take away the threat that I often feel as modern heated, cosy vehicles pass way to close at speed…
Life and time have led to many changes some good some tragic but I want to stick around for some more of those proud magical family days….