Manager of Dublin City Council Road Management Department
Dear Sir/ Madam,
Please allow me to extend my heartfelt thanks for your work on the city roads and more than that, the ingenuity displayed by your staff. Dublin and to an extent the whole of Ireland is being kept safe, thanks to the work of your Department, from Japanese Army invasion. Or any other cycle-born troops.
I must admit I was not expecting to find that people working for the local authority had studied the Imperial Japanese Army assault on Singapore in 1942 and who had learned from it. If only there were more like your staff in the rest of Ireland! But no, complacency rules. “Ah, sure it’ll do” is the order of the day.
Few people now seem to recall the complacency with which Lieut. General Arthur Percival faced the Imperial Japanese threat to Singapore in 1942. Almost an island, Singapore had massive artillery pointed out to sea, ready to pound the Japanese invasion fleet. No artillery of any size was pointing towards the mainland. The jungle there was impassable to an army of any size, apparently.
Unfortunately someone neglected to tell the Imperial Japanese Army that. They sent their soldiers on bicycles down jungle trails, moving thousands of troops into position in days. Then they stormed across the Causeway and attacked Singapore.
Lieut. General Arthur Percival surrendered an estimated 85,000 soldiers, most of whom had never fired a shot in Singapore. The Japanese had nothing but contempt for these soldiers and officers who had been surrendered by Percival, not only that, but had done so for the most part without putting up any kind of resistance at all. That was part of the reason they treated the prisoners so badly.
Had the British command in the region not been so complacent, they would not only have turned some of Percival’s big guns around to fire on the mainland but would have sent sappers – British and Commonwealth Armies’ engineers — out into the jungle to dig bicycle traps. Like your engineers have installed on Dublin city streets, roads and laneways.
How Lieut. General Arthur Percival could have used your engineers, if only he had realised the danger in time! But your engineers have used ingenuity above and beyond anything that British sappers might have thought up. A simple hole in the road after all is visible, even at night in dim Dublin street lighting — and may be avoided. But your engineers are more skilled than that – they consider: “OK, so the invading cyclist will see this hole and swerve to avoid it. He’ll swerve on the inside, so he doesn’t get hit by a passing vehicle. So we’ll place another hole, a little further on, on the inside.”
Now, a rather pedestrian (if you’ll forgive the pun) engineer, might very well leave it at that. But no – your engineers ask themselves: “But after a number of disasters, jarring bumps, split tires and crashes, won’t the invading cyclists automatically swerve to the outside when they spot a hole ahead?” And so naturally, just to vary the rule, the engineers put another hole on the outside of the first from time to time.
Your engineers go yet further. “Wouldn’t it be better if they couldn’t see the hole at all?” they ask one another. After all, this is a common feature of traps – almost obligatory, one might think — so no great credit to your engineers in thinking of that. No, their genius is in how they carry out the disguising.
Normally, on a jungle path or trail, a pit (or a land-mine) would be covered over with loose earth and dead leaves to disguise it. But on a tarmacadamed road such is not possible (and even if it were, might claim the lives of innocent pedestrians or even motorists, for example trying to pass other traffic on the inside). This is where the true genius of your engineers is displayed.
Firstly, they place the holes in dark places – e.g where street lamps are not functioning, or under shade of trees. Sometimes instead of a hole, they construct a sharp dip in the tar macadam. And aware that cyclists often look ahead, see darker patches in the shade and swerve to avoid them, thinking “Aha! The sappers have placed a hole in the shade!” (sorry, I don’t know how to say that in Japanese) – yes, imagining that, your sappers darken a small area of road a little before a real dip! The cyclist sees the darker spot, thinks “Aha!” etc, swerves to avoid and, a moment later, hits the real dip. Masterly!
Of course, holes and dips are not the only useful anti-cycling device – ridges function quite well at times and can take unawares a cyclist who has been on the lookout for holes. Another clever ruse is the one of making the ridge small, therefore not too destructive to ride over, but placing a number of ridges beyond it, so that the cyclist experiences a shuddering sensation going over one ridge after another. He might even be induced to swerve here, when a passing vehicle may obligingly side-swipe him.
Then there is the principle of distraction. I don’t know what Percival’s engineers might have done, perhaps placed pictures of disrobing geishas near a pit but your engineers are more prosaic. Besides, exposure to many pictures of disrobing geishas might dull the effect over a period, or even become unfortunately forever associated in the minds of Japanese soldiers with pits and horrible crashes. No, your engineers think to themselves: “At what locations are the eyes of all cyclists likely to be diverted from the road surface straight ahead?” And they hit upon the answer, of course (perhaps they even had some cyclist double-agents working for them?).
Cyclists take their eyes off the surface of the road ahead when approaching traffic lights, or intersections, or crossing intersections or just having crossed one. They want to be sure that they obey the traffic lights and even more than that, that they don’t get hit by a vehicle coming from another direction, or side-swiped by one as they swerve out to avoid a parked vehicle just after having safely got across another intersection. So holes, dips and wheel seizing cracks are placed in shortly before traffic lights, in the middle of intersections or just on the other side!
There is also an economic benefit to all this necessary work of cyclist-trapping, and it is in the saving of the Motor Tax allocated to the local authority. The money saved by not filling in these holes goes to pay the Water Charge – a worthy recipient and appropriate diversion of revenue, if ever there was one!
There is even, dare I say it, a greening side-benefit, for inside those holes, little plants, grasses and even shrubs can take hold, bringing more green to our sometimes too grey city.
In days to come I hope that the work of your engineers, ably led and directed by yourselves, of course, may become properly recognised. Some recognition is surely due to men (and women?) who toil in anonymity to save us from a bicycle-mounted troop invasion. Besides which we don’t want to have to learn Japanese, being already fluent in another conqueror’s language – we have enough difficulty ordering food by numbers in Chinese restaurants. And if were taught Japanese in school, we wouldn’t want to have to actually speak it (as can be seen from the case of our National Language).
For appropriate recognition of the work of your Department, a public monument could be considered – perhaps one constructed from crushed bicycles. And plaques – perhaps set into roads at appropriate places or on signs as one approaches traffic lights and junctions. One can only hope. Keep up the good work!