Comment & Analysis: If an article in the Irish Daily Mail is correct about what Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sources have said, those parties need to worry less about the opposition to walking and cycling projects and rather focus more on the hyperbolic members of their own parties.
I stress if because the article by former Renua spin doctor and current political journalist, John Drennan, is full of unnamed sources and Drennan is nothing short of a dirtbag when it comes to the issue of cycling.
With a toxic mix of projection and hate that’s the norm in an anti-cycling rant, in 2013 Drennan wrote: “Drive over all of those suited hippies …. and let the magpies or the road-kill department sort them out”… which he later added “…I would like to apologize to the magpies, cyclists are terrible road-kill, very grisly and scrawny with a strong after taste of self-righteousness and clean-living.”
Another crude tweet about cycling of his said: “Was half watching one of those road-safety campaigns for cyclists – apparently when opening car doors look carefully… And if a cyclist is heading towards you at speed open it… But don’t use an expensive car; cyclists can do an awful amount of damage” which was posted on May 20, 2014, when he also said: “Also when two cyclists are together make sure to herd them closely into the grass verge, it breaks their fall.”
Drennan, in 2020, said: “That’s cyclists for you – as dangerous to civilized society as polar bears are to seals” and in 2019: “What is this flat earth concept of vulnerable cyclists. The rest of us are the vulnerable ones when it comes to all those hepped up cycling cyborgs.”
Another choice few tweets from different years include: “On to more serious matters – who to annoy this week – sinn fein or cyclist fanatics”, “recession tip – Set up a safari tour shooting cyclists in Dublin. Very popular and as most are civil servants the taxpayer wins too”, “Which leads me to believe cyclists are a far greater threat to democracy than Sinn Fein”, and “Personally were they ever in their cycle lanes instead of speeding through red lights trying to maim pedestrians cyclists should share their lanes with large tanks driven by psychopaths”.
In recent years he complains too how he can apparently no longer troll cyclists on Twitter. You’d nearly wonder how many of those tweets were intended for a troll account before he realised he was logged in as himself and bullishly kept the tweets online.
So, when you see Drennan writing an article about cycling, this is the kind of context you should know. I spotted one or two of his tweets over the years, but didn’t bother with him in the same way most people try to move away from a hateful pub bore.
The Dail Mail article is a bit of a mess itself — if you want the displeasure, you can read it in full on the Daily Mail’s Irish website Extra.ie. The Daily Mail’s Irish content is too good for the newspaper group’s main website. That, or there are too many cases where they run drastically different slants on stories to suit English and Irish readers… in print at least, they do it with Scottish readers too.
Back to the article in question… One quote was loosely attributed to a Fine Gael source or maybe just line of thinking: “Ryan’s cycleways are making our cities impassable. It’s worse than the Berlin wall in some places.” That’s right cycle lanes are like the Berlin Wall, where at least 140 people were killed or died trying to cross it.
But Drennan and his apparent sources don’t stop at distastefully comparing things that shouldn’t be compared.
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He wrote: “One senior Fine Gael source warned: ‘These cycleways have cut off access to whole hosts of people, especially those who are going to hospitals or emergency vehicles.'”
This claim is just a pack of lies. Nobody is cut off by cycleways, and there’s no emergency vehicles cut off. The fake concern (concern trolling) about the emergency services and people going to hospital is only even applied to measures making streets safer and more attractive, and never at motorists who are blocking those people.
And while there are lies spun, there’s just daftness too, such as the apparent source saying “…the Environment Minister appears to believe that 80-year-old ladies should get on their bikes and cycle through the city, avoiding trucks and buses.”
I mean, it’s really daft to complain about segregated cycle paths taking up space in one breath and, then in the next, to imply that Minister Ryan thinks 80-year-old ladies should be cycling through traffic with trucks and buses.
The projected fear that somebody wants everybody to cycle is bad enough. The idea that you can both complain about cycle paths taking up so much space and also that people cycling need to mix with trucks and buses is a level of daftness… well, that’s at home in the hate-spreading Daily Mail which championed the daftness of Brexit.
Although constituency clinics are an example of places where vocal minorities can seem very loud, when a source compares anything to the Berlin Wall, they are likely also taking liberties when they say it’s a “huge issue in the constituency clinics” and that “cycle lanes will cost us seats in the election”.
The truth is that cycle lanes — especially in Dublin — are highly popular and opinion polls show that cycle lanes and similar measures are wanted by the majority of voters. Most people will naturally complain while disruptive construction work is ongoing and some will resist change. Once projects are put in place they have proven to be really popular.
The anti-cycle lane niche is mostly already carved up, that’s why most on-the-fence politicians try to play it both ways. Going against cycle lanes is likely to be more of a risk than an advantage.