Limerick is apparently a city with no bicycles that a Minister for Transport could borrow

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: “Pete Buttigieg’s dog and pony show. He gets out of [the] car to ride his bike a few feet, pretending to save energy,” is the text on a now-deleted Facebook video about Buttigieg, United States Secretary of Transportation.

The claims about Buttigieg faking a bike ride were spun by Trump supporters and others in 2021. But Snopes, the fact-checking website, came to the conclusion that: “In sum, no, Buttigieg was not caught staging a bike ride after riding in an SUV. Countless headlines, YouTube video titles, and tweets were misleading and false.”

Fastforwared to last week: Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue, a member of the Rural Independents Group, said: “The Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, came to Limerick on a train and sent down the State car with his bicycle in the boot. That is what he does while he is talking about carbon emissions. He sends down a State car. He cycled down the main street of Limerick thinking he was a great man.”

And he said that not on Facebook, but in the Dail.

A spokesperson for Minister Ryan said he does not even have a state car or driver and that he drove his own electric car to Limerick where he borrowed a bicycle to join with children and their parents in the Limerick Cycle Bus on their cycle. The Minister even took to Twitter to clarify this.

The Times today covered how O’Donoghue told them he was willing to clarify that Minister does not have a state car. But then he added he didn’t say what date he was referring to, that Ryan has visited the city more than once, and that “people have seen him come off the train and been collected so the only thing I can clarify for them is that he doesn’t have a state car but does he get collected in a government-owned car that’s paid for by the state?”

Caught in a lie and doubling down on it.

What O’Donoghue spouted out was a version of this lie that has been slowly spreading on social media for some time… which is in turn all too close to the misinformation about Buttigieg….

Just the other day somebody — who honestly believed it to be true — told me in person that they had read something very similar on Facebook.

It could be that people are trying to repackage the misinformation about Buttigieg, or just that some idiots are just looking for a ‘gotcha’ moment for a Minister they don’t like and don’t care if it’s true or not.

The main image above is of Eamon Ryan cycling down O’Connell Street on May 28, 2013. I took the photo of what I thought was a random man in a suit cycling in the city while I was searching for an image for the cover of the Cycling in Dublin newspaper (Ryan didn’t make the cover, a photo of two people in nearly on the same spot did).

Denying Ryan cycles around the place or claiming or implying that he just does it for show — even if he might sometimes use a car or be given a lift — is bonkers. You might as well deny that it frequently rains in the west of Ireland.

Besides some other media outlets covering this in a way as if O’Donoghue was not talking nonsense, the worst part about this is that it’s totally and utterly horse manure.

If Minister Ryan was getting the train to Limerick why would he send his bicycle down in the boot of any car? It makes zero sense over the other options: Bringing the bike on the train, borrowing a bike in Limerick, renting a bike using the on-street rental or renting a bicycle from a local shop.

As Mark Twain, in 1924, wrote: “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.” And this is about more than Ryan. It’s about populist politicians like O’Donoghue using cycling as a tool of populism.

O’Donoghue also said in the Dail: “He does not understand transport in Ireland. The Minister should take up my offer to come to Limerick for a week. I will educate him – bicycle and all – and I will educate him on what it is like to live in a town or a village in rural Ireland with no transport.”

If the humble bicycle is being used as a prop here, it’s by O’Donoghue trying to weaponise it as something that is not part of transport in the “real Ireland”. While no mode of transport is for everybody, cycling’s mobility, health, tourism, and social benefits is an untapped potential for towns, villages and even rural areas around Ireland.

Many rural politicians are loved for apparent “speaking their minds” or “telling it like is it” or “saying the things nobody else will” etc etc. But if you dare to suggest that some people would be better off in all sorts of ways — from health to their pockets — if they cycled a bit, just some of the time and just for the people who it suits and for the trips it suits, you’ll be made out as if you had just made yet another attack on the modern rural way of life.

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