Pioneer Irish Women

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

Birr in County Offaly is famous the world over for having at one stage the largest telescope in the world.  The 3rd Earl of Rosse was a science pioneer and set an example that has been carried on by his family to this day.

In August 1869, in a sad accident, one of the cousins in the family, Mary Ward, became the first confirmed person in the world to die in an automobile accident.  The Earl’s sons built a steam car and Mary was racing around County Offaly with them when she was thrown from the car on a bend and fell beneath the wheels.

Then, in August 1896, another Irish woman became the first pedestrian to die in a car accident.  Bridget Driscoll was run down by a petrol engined car in the grounds of Crystal Palace.  She also became the first person in the UK to die in an automobile accident.

At the inquest into her death the coroner said that he hoped “such a thing would never happen again”.

I ran over a guy in my car once.  He was on a bike, in the rain.  I pulled out from a side road in front of him.  He crashed into my bonnet and went over the top.  I got out and asked if he was all right.  He got up and said he was fine.  Then he apologized for crashing into my car.  I got off lightly with that one!

Joyride 2; by Aram Stefanian

As she wrapped her car around a tree
A weird thought ran through her mind:
‘If I’m feeling no pain, then my soul is free
I’ll have to part with the daily grind”

She tried desperately to get out of the car
But the door was smashed and didn’t obey
Seeing on her arm an ugly bloody scar
She fainted, wishing she was melted away

When the cops were towing her car out
They were amazed to find no driver inside
Though one of them had a gnawing doubt
That he heard a woman crying over a joyride

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Biker Gang

Cyclists

When you drive you drive alone.  When you ride you are part of a tribe.

As I cycled through Dublin earlier this week I observed something profoundly interesting.

A lady on a bicycle had an accident.  She caused the accident in fact.  She broke a red light and cycled into a taxi that was turning right.  She hit the front of his car from the side, tumbled over the bonnet and landed hard on the road.

At this point I hopped off my bike, placed it against a lamp post and ran over to see if she was hurt.  She was fine, just a little shocked.

Then I looked around and realised that five or six other cyclists had done the same as me.  She was surrounded by a lycra clad, high viz vest and bicycle helmet gang.  The driver of the taxi stepped out of his car.  Although he was totally in the right he was visibly nervous of the situation.  He was in the right but alone.  She was blatantly in the wrong, but she had a gang.

Other drivers did not get out of their vehicles to support him.  They were frustrated at the stoppage.  They just wanted the accident cleared so they could get to work.  One driver even began to honk his horn.

This little moment highlighted for me the key difference between cyclists and drivers.

Cyclists are engaged in the real world.  We are in constant danger from drivers and we can’t rely on the drivers to look out for our safety.  Our lives are in our hands.  As a result we are wide awake to our environment.  We are not enclosed from the world, we are out in the open.  We can make an easy transition from cyclist to pedestrian and back again.

If something happens nearby the cyclist is part of it.  If someone falls over they may check to see if they are OK.

Drivers are enclosed in a glass and metal box.  They are in their own private world.  They look at our world through a window.  They see it but are not part of it.  They are physically and psychologically disengaged from the reality of life outside.  They are possibly elsewhere, on a phone call, or listening to the radio.

If someone falls nearby they observe it as though they are watching it on TV.  It is not a part of their reality.  Besides, it is a lot of trouble for a driver to disengage from the vehicle, to become a pedestrian, to walk over to the person who fell, and to see if they are OK.  And if they do that the other drivers will get frustrated with you leaving your vehicle.  They will honk at you to get moving again.

It is easier to sit in your vehicle and wait for some passing pedestrian or cyclist to check out the situation.

When a driver has an accident the other drivers nearby do not empathise with the driver.  They do not get out of their cars and stand around in a group, unless it is a particularly unusual situation.  in the normal day to day world of fender-benders you stay in your car and wait it out.

If a cyclist is in an accident the situation is very different.  Other cyclists seem to appear from nowhere.  They come in droves.  They are like white blood cells racing to a point of injury in the body.  Before you know what has happened there is a gang of yellow, pink and orange people in strange space-age outfits.  They identify with each other.  They are a flock, a band, a gang.

What is true for cyclists is doubly true for bikers, and may explain a lot about why biker gangs seem so threatening.

Life should not be a journey to the grave

with the intention of arriving safely

in a pretty and well preserved body,

but rather to skid in broadside

in a cloud of smoke,

thoroughly used up,

totally worn out,

and loudly proclaiming

“Wow! What a Ride!

Hunter S. Thompson