High-end retailer “horrified” that Liffey Cycle Route will take space from motorists

Car parks, a high-end department store and a travel agent are among the businesses and groups who have objected to making the quays safer and more attractive for cycling.

Planning for improvements for walking and cycling along the quays — now being named the Liffey Cycle Route — are due to be unveiled at the Dublin City Council traffic and transport committee this afternoon. The planning of the route proceeds the new city manager and is backed by the Dublin City Development plan and other policies approved by councillors.

Complaints against the route centres on an Irish Times report last June which claimed that the placement of a two-way cycle path would “restrict private motorists to one lane instead of two”.

Correspondences referring to the walking and cycle route sent to the office of Owen Keegan, the manager or CEO of Dublin City Council, were released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act to IrishCycle.com. The names of the businesses were redacted — we are querying the reason for this with the city council. Letters of him defending the route were also released.

However, the contents of the letters show that some of the letters were sent by Brown Thomas, Club Travel / Budget Travel, and a body which says it is “the representative body for all interested stakeholders in the [car] parking sector in Ireland”.

At least three letters sent to Keegan seem to use a template, with few edits. One of these were from a body claiming to represent 83 retailers; another from a group of car parks, and one from what seems to be a single business.

London recently approved similar cross-city cycle routes. While some retailers complained about the plans by mayor Boris Johnson, the route was backed by over 170 employers including large firms such as Microsoft, Deloitte, Penguin Random House, Royal Bank of Scotland, Coca-Cola and Unilever.

A letter from Brown Thomas to Keegan said that the retailer were “horrified” that Keegan would suggest that he did not have to apologise for planning a protected cycle route which would displace car traffic. Brown Thomas, as we have previously reported, wants cheap and easy car access, but it lends its name to one of the most expensive car parks in the city centre.

The letter from Brown Thomas includes the line: “I am all in favour of sustainable transport policies”, and ends by saying:  “These policies [which restrict motor traffic] are a sure way to drive retailers away”.

This push by some businesses against the quays route echoes a previous campaign against the College Green bus gate when retailers threatened to “go to the High Court” against that now-successful bus-priority measure. Large retailers have set up business on College Green since its introduction in the full knowledge that Luas Cross City will extend the bus gate to near 24 hour operation.

Many of the letters on the quays route mention surveys which show that car shoppers spend more, three letters contain the exact same phrase: “There are studies which which you may be aware of that show the car customers spend is considerably higher than that of customers coming by other transport modes” — however users of other modes of transport are shown to travel more often and spend more overall.

A recent survey by Millward Brown, conducted in November of last year for the National Transport Authority showed that cycling currently accounts for a low percentage of the economic contribution in the survey, just under 3 percent. However, people using “other transport modes” such as walking contributed €90,226 to the Dublin City Centre economy, which is more than the spend by those traveling by car (€85,559), and bus users contributed by far the most (€175,140).

According to the survey, car users represent less than 20% of the overall economic contribution. Previous surveys show that retailers underestimate walking, cycling and public transport use, while overestimating car use.

At this point we are unable to identify the group behind a letter claiming to be representing “1,500 retail company members”. Although most city centre retailers of larger goods offer cheap or free delivery, this letter claimed that “Many retailers in the North City area sell bulky goods which necessitate car journeys into the heart of the City Centre.” It said the cycle route would do “untold damage” to the city centre.

The name is redacted from a letter from Club Travel —  known for their Budget Travel brand — however, the letter footer includes the business registration number and list of directors which corresponds to Club Travel.

The letter says: “I am a City Centre business [owner] employing 140 staff & I feel strongly that the proposal is a bad idea for City Centre. While I think cycle lanes are a good idea this solution to reduce cars to 1 lane makes the North Quays virtually unusable for commuters.”

It adds that many commuters travel further than “is feasible by bike”, that “Many commuters what to shop in the City & without a car this is not feasible,” and the current plan will be “a death knell” for the city centre.

The author of the letter suggest putting the cycle lane on a boardwalk or the footpaths on the north and south quays which are “rarely used by pedestrians”.

The Club Travel letter was first sent to Cllr Tom Brabazon, before being forward to the city manager. He asks the manager to consider the alternatives “rather than closing off one of the traffic lanes on the North Quays, which would certainly add to the congestion here.” The Fianna Fail councillor represents the Beaumont Donaghmede area.

Brown Thomas also references its BT2 stores in Dundrum and Blanchardstown shopping centres as being “our highest performers”. But transcripts from the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation last year, show that under questioning from TDs the managing director of Brown Thomas, Stephen Sealey, confirm that the shopping centre locations are “our lower middle market sales” and that “top of our business, the designer business” is only available in the city centre.

MORE: Dublin City manager says quays cycle path will help traffic flow

4 Comments

  1. Undoubtedly there will be strong reaction to proposals, which have yet to be fully outlined, which curtail private car access to and through city centre. As pointed out in above article the economic spend of ‘other’ travellers to city centre is far greater than private car users.

    Dublin needs to grow its public spaces and provide greater accessibility for alternative travel modes, to ensure its long term economic viability. This is a recognised international dictum. Planning for a Liffey Cycle Route is only one of a large number of progressive transport related projects that need to happen to cement Dublin’s status as a thriving economic capital city.

    Well done for highlighting the ‘head-in-the-sand’ style opposition to these proposed changes yet to be fully defined!

  2. Until the Dinosaurs that constantly champion the supremacy of motor industry over all other forms of transport are challenged effectively improvements for alternatives will always be problematic. With over 96,000 cars sold in Ireland last year, there is a lot at stake for this lobby group. You would think that the degree of influence that this group exercises employed more than the 35,000 or so that they do. Unfortunately, to make matters worse Mr. Owen Keegan comes with a “Pro-cycling” Health warning after the mess he left behind in Dun Laoghaire. This means anything he is associated with must be treated with a degree of skepticism.

  3. Well done, Cian – good research in this article. Yep shopping without a car totally impossible – how do people shop on the internet I wonder!?

  4. I starved to death when I lived in the Netherlands because I didn’t have a car and was unable to go shopping at all.

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