Mr. Waffle was looking at the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035 (yes, our fireside is a forum for the wisdom of serene old age) and drew my attention to the following paragraph:
The number of girls aged 13-18 cycling to school in the State, has fallen from c.19,000 in 1986 to c.500 in 2011. Over the same period, the cycling mode share has fallen from 11.2% to 0.3%, or from approximately 1 in every 9 girls to close to 1 in every 30.
Funnily enough, 1986 was the year I finished school. I cycled in and out every day for my entire secondary school life, even when it was lashing rain and I feel it almost always was. Mr. Waffle also cycled to and from school. Now, as adults, we both cycle to work. I know there are lots of people who cycled to school who don’t cycle to work but I’m willing to bet that there’s no one cycling to work who didn’t also cycle to school.
So it was understandable that Mr. Waffle and I felt that the Princess might cycle to secondary school when the moment arose, last September. We felt some trepidation at the start of the year but it’s been fine. I must say that I hadn’t realised that she was one of only 500 in the State (although, numbers may, of course, have risen since 2011 and the trend is positive – I await the results of the 2016 census on this point with nerdy enthusiasm). I really wish that cycling infrastructure in Dublin were better and more people could feel comfortable getting out on bicycles. In particular I would love to be able to let my sons cycle alone to their primary school. But it’s just not possible. It’s pretty heart stopping even when I’m with them; I just couldn’t let them go alone.
I know this is going to make me sound like a smug cyclist (for the simple reason that I am, I suppose) but I am so glad that my parents made me cycle to school every day. It never occurred to me to stop cycling when I learnt to drive. Partly, I think because I saw my father cycling to work and around the city as an adult. He continued to do so into his 80s but he has been grounded now.
Cycling is handy and speedy in the city and it’s probably the only exercise I get with any consistency. I hope that I can make all my children lifelong cyclists too.
*I am aware that this comes from a speech before going into battle; sometimes cycling in Dublin can feel like that.