The following is from Irish Times An Irishman’s Diary by by Frank McNally on the 11th December 2007, it certainly reads like Dr Crane now cycles in and around Dublin, one of the funniest pieces I’ve read in awhile.
I know that the central aim of Operation Freeflow is to keep motorised traffic moving. The plan may even work, occasionally. But as someone who cycles into Dublin most days, it seems to me that the initiative’s main effect is to increase the overall level of gridlock by ensuring bicycles have to stop too.
The fact, is that, regrettable as it may be, traffic lights normally have limited dominion over cyclists. In December, however, thanks to the presence of gardaí at most junctions, the lights acquire dramatic new powers. Suddenly cyclists are transformed into model citizens, rather like the couple in Father Ted who always stop fighting when the priest walks in.
Even bicycle couriers are affected. Chances are they haven’t so much as paused at a street junction since the last Operation Freeflow ended. Now they too are changed into law-abiding Scandinavians, waiting patiently with all the other bikes for the lights to change.
Of course, behind the pretence, the embarrassment can be excruciating. The feeling of hypocrisy is sometimes unbearable, especially when cyclists are stopped at a pedestrian crossing with no pedestrians. You see them manicuring their fingernails or adjusting items of clothing to avoid having to make eye contact with each other, which would only add to the humiliation.
What makes it worse is that the gardaí manning junctions are all fresh out of Templemore. When you spot a particularly baby-faced recruit waving his orange light sabre around, it looks like something he got from Santa. And yet, as far as the cyclist is concerned, it makes him all-powerful.
The car drivers behind, meanwhile, are smirking at the cyclists’ discomfort. This is arguably Operation Freeflow’s main contribution to motorists’ well-being. Drivers don’t get in and out of town any quicker, but the sight of so many cyclists forced to appear law-abiding adds twisted entertainment to their lives.
Please, cycling reader, do not feel the need to write in and explain how you personally always stop at traffic lights, in December and every other month. Of course you do. So do I. None of the foregoing applies to us. It’s other cyclists we’re talking about here: the ones who mount footpaths, weave between traffic, follow the invisible contra-flow lanes on one-way streets, etc.
The point is, I know how these people think. Some of them are my friends. I also know that even the best-behaved cyclists (again except you and I) will occasionally break the rules. Indeed, I was talking at the weekend to an acquaintance – ordinarily the most moderate and law-abiding of people – who told me of an awkward scrape he got into recently because of the same Operation Freeflow.
He was cycling into town one evening, late for something. It had started raining, and he had been in such a hurry leaving the house he didn’t have his wet-gear. In short, he was in a big hurry. But just as he approached a minor junction, the lights changed to red. And even though there was a garda on the opposite footpath, my friend – emboldened by a sudden intensification of the rain – decided he wasn’t stopping.
As he explained to me, he just couldn’t – on this occasion anyway – go through with the hollow sham of standing in the rain, pretending he always stopped, merely because there was a garda nearby. Also, he felt sure that the officer would understand – or at least that he was too busy with traffic to bother with him.
But my friend was wrong. He was already half-way across the junction when, out of the side of his eye, he saw the young officer raise his arm and move towards the road.
Now a much more appalling prospect raised its head: that my friend – a man of nearly 40 – would have to stand like a bold schoolboy and receive a lecture about road safety from someone young enough to be his son. And worse, that he would have to claim in self-defence that this was the first time he had ever done such a thing, and promise solemnly never to do anything bad again, before he was allowed to proceed.
He couldn’t face this. So instead he pretended he hadn’t seen the Garda, changed up three gears, and accelerated over the horizon like a shot off a shovel. No sooner had he done this than the enormity of his actions dawned on him. He had (sort-of) disobeyed a Garda order. More to the point, there were patrols at every junction ahead, presumably already in radio contact with their comrade.
Slightly panicked, my friend realised that, for the first time in his life, he was a fugitive from the law. Abandoning all thought of being on time for his appointment, he turned into the nearest alleyway and completed his journey by a circuitous route of back-streets and rat-runs. Every inch of the way, he expected imminent pursuit by Operation Freeflow’s 48 motorcycle patrols, followed by the Garda Mounted Unit, the 12 bicycle patrols, and air support.
In the event, he met none of them. But he was a nervous (and very wet) wreck when he finally made it into town. I told him it served him right and expressed the hope that he had learned his lesson. He insists he has, although I have secretly forwarded his details to the traffic corps just to make sure.