The day he turned three, Thomas Pedoussaut got a small bike with training wheels. When he broke one of the training wheels in a childhood tantrum, his parents told him they weren’t going to replace it and that he would have to learn cycling without them. However, Thomas had gotten used to the stability of the training wheels and refused cycling without them. ‘Le jour de mes quatre ans’ (‘The day I turn four’), Thomas told his parents, would be the day he’d get back on the bike. And with that he went off to play in the garden.
For a year, Thomas went without cycling and his parents watched their son grow up without his new bike. Then on his fourth birthday, Thomas got back on the bike – just like he said he would.
It took him some time to learn how to keep himself stable and upright – the short experience with the training wheels had let him get away with unrealistic slow pedaling, slouching on his saddle and wobbling from one training wheel to the other like a rocking arm pump. But once he figured out all he needed was a bit of speed, Thomas never wanted to get off his bike again.
So when Thomas moved to Dublin 20 years later, for a job as software engineer at Google, he took his bike with him. He arrived in 2003, in a city at the height of an economic boom. He got to know the city by cycling to work, by cycling to the city centre, and by cycling to the beach. To his surprise, Thomas noticed cyclists were few. When stopping at traffic lights, he got the sensation he was being ignored or frowned upon. By talking to locals he became aware of the social signals his foreign eyes hadn’t seen at first; people saw cycling as an activity for those who couldn’t afford a car.
It prompted Thomas to join the Dublin Cycling Campaign. In a time where bike shops in Dublin were closing their doors, Thomas did anything he could to encourage cycling –shooting videos, rallying campaign members, and organizing social cycle tours. Later, when he met his wife (an Irish lady he got to know on Orkut; Google’s Facebook avant la lettre), he convinced her of the benefits of cycling. Later still, Thomas took his sons, Ryan and Tristan, everywhere by bike, telling Dubliners the joys of cycling when waiting for traffic lights to turn green.
Today, Thomas sees a different Dublin. Cycling infrastructure has increased, new bike shops are opening up and two weeks ago he rode into a traffic jam of cyclists – the first traffic jam Thomas was happy to get stuck in.
Recently, his son Ryan turned three. As a present, Thomas and his wife gave their son a draisienne – a walking powered bicycle for children. Without training wheels. There’s no need to risk wasting a year.