The micro tour of Dublin, Ireland that I did yesterday (Sunday, 8/31) with Dublin councillors Andrew Montague (podcast I did with him, a former Lord Mayor, and arguably the top bike activist in the world) and Ciaran Cuffe (another two-wheel powerhouse who I will be interviewing soon, and his two young teenage sons, Cúán and Mobhí) showed me a lot about Dublin and two bike activists who are changing the landscape of their Irish city as their work sets an example for the rest of the world to follow.
L-R: Ciaran, Andrew, Cúán and Mobhí
We rode from the Heuston train station, adjacent to the River Liffey on what is called the North Wall Quay for a mile and a half to the Grand Canal very near the Port of Dublin on the Irish Sea. A big loop, we came back on the opposite side of the river several blocks from it. We could not have picked a better day! The sun was shining and there were cyclists everywhere.
We passed bike station after bike station (there are 102 of them in the city) and saw several large trucks in action as they kept the rental hubs stocked. We rode by the massive Guiness Brewery which still gets its water from the River Liffey along which we were riding as Andrew explained to me it was the early monks who created beer as a way to expunge impurities from the water they drank.
Wantig to make sure I had heard Andrew right, I googled for more information. I discovered that Saint Arnold, a bishop born in 580, is considered the patron saint of beer. He encouraged people to drink beer instead of water during the Plague. Indeed, the Plague suddenly disappeared once his word spread (though some suggest because beer was boiled in the brewing process, it would have been safer than water, which had previously spread the infection).
On a ride that was so chock full of historical buildings that I could not keep up with all the sights they were pointing out to me, here are the highlights of what I remember. We stopped at Smithfield Square, a several block long esplanade where a couple times a year, people come from all over the country to buy and sell horses. In the middle of the part of the city that falls within Ciaran’s jurisdiction. Andrew and Ciaran pointed out the policing nightmare of having such big animals and the trucks and trailers they require in the middle of the city. It was also at this stop that Ciaran said his 70,000 constituents, 40% of which are non Irish immigrants also get free wifi access from the city.
We all got off our bikes at the General Post Office Building (GPO) Michael Collins made famous on Easter Monday almost one hundred years ago, in 1916, where he ordered the bloody uprising against English rule that ultimately floundered. Also on the wide promenade, O’Connell Street Lower, that separated the traffic, a stainless steel spire rose so high (300 feet) that I could not take a picture and give the power it exuded any justice. We did however,take group photos in front of the GPO and moved on.
On well thought out bike lanes and in lanes we shared with buses, we continued our ride to the Grand Canal. To get to it, we crossed the river on the beautiful Samuel Beckett cable-stayed bridge on which the side that hung over the water had been outfitted with a handsome two-way bike lane.
We enjoyed lunch in the outdoor seating of a deli on the Grand Canal Quay. As we sat, overlooking a small yacht harbor the sun shone bright and people went by on bikes, on foot, and in small boats in the water beyond.
After just a few blocks of the Grand canal, marked by a cobblestone road bed, we made our giant U-turn, turning away from the giant Aviva stadium complex. Almost as soon as we did, we came upon a church that the road, Mount Street Crescent, was forced to go around. An oddly shaped building, the dome that sat atop it looked like a Peppermill. And even more unusual was the sign that stood in front of it. It read “The Pepper Canister Church“. A bit of Google research now tells me that is also known as St. Stephens Church and is the last of a series of Georgian Churches built by the Church of Ireland.
We cycled next to Trinity College, a university dating back to 1592!! Put in perspective, this institition of higher learning began life almost two decades before the British empire settled its first permanent colony at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607! Soon, we came upon a game of cricket being played on a huge green in the middle of the campus. One of the teams was interested in my bike. We took yet another group photo.
As we rode the many campus paths through yet even more buildings that could tell the tale of time, everywhere we looked there were people. There were so many tourists at one of the school’s entrances, in fact, that we all had to get off our bikes.
Back on the streets, not far away, we rolled past another historic building, Dublin City Hall, where Andrew and Ciaran do their work. It wasn’t long before I then pedaled for a few blocks on one of the oldest streets in the world. Called Fishamble Street, at over a thousand years old, it dates back to Viking times as it gently winds back down to the River Liffey.
Andrew rode me the rest of the way to the train station as Ciaran and his very well-behaved and intelligent boys said good-bye. They had a swimming date to go to! With our first Tour de Dublin complete, my next mission was to file this report so I could get back to working our American Mayors’ Ride. I got on the train and starting loading this to my iPhone.
What a day! What a great bike city, which I would say, holds as much, if not more, to its cycle visitors than San Francisco. And, thanks to Andrews and Ciaran’s great work, including the 20-mph city center speed limit they fought for and the absence of hills and rail tracks, Dublin is easier to ride than the Golden Gate city. That said, I hit Dublin on an uncommonly warm and sunny day. One can only wonder what all of Dublin’s cycling wonder is like in the year-round wind and rain that make up probably 20 % of the summer’s days over here and a fair amount more during the fall, winter, and spring.
What an amazing, amazing ride!!
Note: I also learned that Ciaran Cuffe is one of my two-wheel TransAm brothers. He biked across the USA in 1985, a year before I did my second TrasAm. He did 100 miles a day for the whole ride!!