There was a whole culture around cycling in Dublin in those pre-Celtic Tiger days - everyone cycled, no-one had a car (students or young Civil Servants or nurses) and the buses were never going where you wanted to go. This was generally from one suburb to another on the Southside, but all the bus routes worked on a hub and spokes basis (no pun intended!) - with the City Centre (An Lár) as the hub and the routes to the suburbs radiating out as spokes - which added cost and hours to a journey of maybe a few minutes by bike, as you had to go everywhere off the bus route via the City Centre.
The first intimation I had on the demise of the bike as an essential mode of transport was when I returned to Ireland in 1980 from Bangladesh, took up the two wheels again to traverse the city when I started agency nursing,and realised every nurse in Ireland seemed to be driving a car. Even though the 80s is generally decried as the decade of the first recession, it heralded a shift for the bike's place in Dublin society as far as I was concerned, and when I left the country in early 1982 for the next 16 years, I had resigned myself to a four-wheel future.
So now the two wheels have come full circle - bikes are eco-friendly, recession-proof, and more popular than ever - and I am delighted with my new bike. We chose it yesterday from a small specialist bike shop in Fermoy, after looking at a big chain store (another unintentional pun?) where we felt the spotty youth didn't really seem to care whether we bought or not and certainly wasn't offering much in the way of service or information. The other shop had a different take on customer service - I got to ride a few bikes up and down the street, the pros and cons were detailed, my dumb questions about gears and ratios and different types of bikes were patiently and unpatronisingly answered, and I felt they weren't just about selling the dearest bike but more about what I wanted from a bike - not a mountain bike, not a "High Nelly", but something in-between.