Vicious Cycle

Barry brings his bike to a complete stop at the traffic lights. As he stands with his left foot resting on the pedal waiting for the sequence to change, next to him, a van driver rolls down his passenger-side window to shout abuse. Barry tilts his head towards the van driver and pretends to listen to the incoherent stream of rage and cursing. This is the same van driver who swerved into the cycle lane about three hundred metres back to undertake a right-turning car, narrowly avoiding crushing Barry to the kerb. Somehow, the van driver argues that Barry should not have been in his way, in defiance of the rules of the road and, indeed, logic. Barry doesn’t give any response. He sees the lights change and sets off again, not concerned if the van driver has more to say. This incident doesn’t worry Barry at all. Rather, it gives him that buzz he’s seeking every time he takes to the road. The thrill that cycling in Dublin town provides everyday…

In every other respect, Barry leads a quiet life. He works in insurance, specialising in risk assessment. It’s Barry’s job to identify areas of risk so that premiums can be appropriately adjusted. For the risks involved, occupations like airline pilot or bomb disposal expert are easy to flag. Barry never sees these kinds of applications. Most people fit into lower risk categories and that’s where Barry finds himself, also. Low risk. “If they only knew…” Barry sometimes thinks to himself, as he sits at his desk, looking around at his colleagues and management. Sitting among them with a low risk label, but to his own mind, Barry is a dare-devil. He’s a thrill seeker. He’s travelled far and wide: rode the world’s most terrifying roller-coasters in the United States, he bungee-jumped in New Zealand and sky-dived in Canada. Barry is more than a risk-assessor – he’s a risk-taker.

Travelling around, seeking danger and excitement, Barry finds his favourite thrill at home in Dublin. All he needs is his bike. Helmets seem to be optional and high-viz layers are too much clothing for others. Cycling in and out of work allows Barry to laugh in the face of Death twice a day. It’s a city that is changing, evolving, growing in every possible way to try and kill cyclists. The council order roadworks that change the available routes everyday. Luas construction works, ongoing since the dawn of time, restrict the space available to all traffic and force cyclists into the way of other larger vehicles. Add hundreds of thousands of daily commuters in buses or cars, on bikes or on foot, who all believe beyond doubt in their entitlement to go where they want without hindrance in this finite city space and you get more risk and danger than Barry has a formula to calculate.

It’s exactly what Barry needs in his life. It’s probably what that van driver needs, too, Barry reasons to himself. Plenty of opportunity to have those near-death moments that make you feel truly alive. After all, life can’t be all about paperwork and avoiding risk. Even his line of work, Barry knows that there’s such a thing as acceptable risk. Barry reads through his company’s list of high risk activities again, but ‘Cycling in Dublin’ is nowhere to be seen.

“If you only knew…” Barry whispers to the office.  “If you only knew…”