Twenty five years ago, after briefly looking out on the Pacific Ocean, Ciarán Cuffe got on his bike, and started to cycle back to the Atlantic Ocean.
The previous eight months, Ciarán had been working in an architect’s office in mid-town Manhattan . He had experienced the American city life seen on television. Now he was eager to experience American life not portrayed on tv. He had come out to Seattle and then travelled on to Neah Bay; the most north western point of the United States. Barely there, Ciaran turned around and started cycling back to where he had come from. Crossing the continent – over the Rockies and through the prairies – he heard the American life stories not told on television, and was inspired to get into politics.
Today, the Minister of State still cycles, but not from coast to coast. He now travels along the coast, from Dun Laoghaire to his office in the City Centre. His trip starts in Dun Laoghaire’s Patrick Street; passing multi coloured shop fronts of butchers, bakeries, barbers. Soon, cycling downhill to Monkstown, Dublin Bay comes into view. Ciarán has a picture of the Bay hanging over his desk. On it, you are out at sea, looking back at Dun Laoghaire. A swelling wave obscures the city. Two church towers are the only thing rising above the wave’s crescent, like sails on a ship, turned blue by dark clouds above.
photo of Dun Laoghaire, Ciaran Cuffe in reflection
From Monkstown, Ciarán cycles along the coastline until – just before Blackrock – he comes to a one-way street. It can be a nuisance on the return journey, which is why Ciaránis pushing for a contra-flow cycle lane in that spot. If it goes through, the lane will help create an uninterrupted cycle route all the way from Sutton to Sandycove.
Past the one-way street, Ciarán is in the heart of Blackrock, and soon in Blackrock Park, where swans and green fields are the last quiet interlude in his journey. For as soon as Ciarán leaves the park, he is on Merrion Road; the main road into the city centre. Its cycle lanes appear and disappear like fata morgana’s. There is work for cyclists to be done here too, once the contra flow cycle lane comes through.
Ciarán continues straight on, and as the coast recedes, the scenery becomes more city like. His trip leads to Lower Mount Street, past Merrion Square, and finally onto Clare Street. There, to obey the law, Ciarán gets off his bike, and walks the last meters before turning left on Kildare Street.
the old 'no bikes sign' - now an office trophy
At the Department of Transport, beside a spot where a sign ‘no bicycles allowed’ used to hang (Ciarán removed the sign on one of his first days of office), he locks his bike to one of six new bike stands. Then he rushes inside. All the impressions of his cycling trip have made him eager to get to work.