Friday, May 16, 2008

Recalling The Rising

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey is putting forth a concept that could not be more timely.

Two years ago, only 2% of the population did much touring by bicycle, not counting those too young to drive one must presume. Mr. Dempsey would like that number to climb to 10% by 2020. An action plan will soon be put into place to promote cycling as a form of transportation, all sustainable and eco-friendly. But what about putting an historical spin on the notion?

Twelve years on, just over one hundred years since the Easter Rising, Mr. Dempsey believes that cycling will make a resurgence. Why drive a car when you can pedal your way from Rathkeale to Newcastlewest, or wheel from the Four Courts to Boland's Mill? What better time to recall the day when those very trips were made by leg power, petrol free?

How many women were recruited by the rebels because they had a bicycle? Messages flew from one side of the island to another, carried by young women who rode two wheels because few people had four wheels and a motor.

There's the biggest stumbling block in this scheme to get more people moving under their own power. When Ireland was poor, and that's not so long ago, bicycling was all the rage because there was no other choice. To listen to Mr. Dempsey promote cycling is to awaken some memories in those old enough to have lived through a time when owning a car was a mark of status. Riding a bike? Who wants to go back to that era?

The younger generation, those who know of nothing but prosperity, should be the target audience for the cycling promotion. They could be swayed by a marketing campaign that would apply status to the most expensive, elaborate and quality-engineered bicycle...something that costs as much as a car. Good luck getting them to actually use it.

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