Was the lord mayor trolling people with disabilities and cyclists or was his statement just misguided?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: UPDATE: It turns out the lord mayor was trolling everyone — today he told theJournal.ie that his statement was a “hoax” to raise awareness.

At 10.30am on Saturday morning, Dublin’s lord mayor, Cllr Brendan Carr, issued what many think was a bizarre statement about people with disabilities using cycle lanes. The most bizarre part is that it included those with visual disabilities.

Some people have gone as far as suggesting that Cllr Carr was trolling, but was he well intended, just a bit misguided? The short statement, issued via the Dublin City Council press office, said:

The Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr has announced that he is considering asking Dubliners to vote on whether people with disabilities should be allowed use cycle lanes in the city. This is prompted by the increasing number of pavement obstacles that people with visual and mobility disabilities have to navigate in Dublin City on a daily basis.

“Currently, we are aware of the extent to which people with disabilities have to go to circumnavigate obstructions on the pavements. I think they would be better off using the cycle lanes and would like to ask what the people of Dublin think about this,” he said.

The reaction from all sorts of people was fairly stark, in summary: cycle lanes are not suitable or safe enough for cycling, and, in any case, the city should fix the problems on footpaths rather than moving the problem.

The policy of the NCBI, the sight loss charity, completely contradicts what lord mayor outlined. The NCBI looks for segregation between walking and cycling. As IrishCycle.com has reported many times, its representative on the city council’s transport committee has voiced opposition to shared paths and cycle paths which are not clearly defined.

Mixing people on foot with poor sight in lanes for people on bicycles often traveling at speeds of 15-25km/h and, in Dublin, these lanes are often exposed to motorists traveling at 50km/h and over — do you need much time to think that it’s a bad idea? The inclusion of visual disabilities was at best misguided or the statement was poorly worded (maybe trying to be overly inclusive?).

Next, there are people who have mobility disabilities. In this regard, electric wheelchairs are already allowed by law to use cycle lanes. Some people in wheelchairs already use cycle lanes (and general roadways) when footpaths are unusable, but the use of cycle lanes should optional, not forced.

IrishCycle.com tried hard to contact the lord mayor to seek a bit of context and understanding of his statement. We tried to contact him directly by phone and text message, and via the press office mobile number and email. We eventually got a text back with an indication that he would be getting back to us, but radio silence after we asked when.

Maybe the mayor was unavailable for a good reason, but the press office should be ready to act if that was the case, or not have issued the mayor’s statement at the time they did.

When we reported on the statement, we had no idea of the context. The context was a surprise, but it also gave us a possable reason for the statement — the mayor was in the Netherlands the day before. He had experienced some of what Dutch cycling had to offer and gave a speech to an audience of international cycling experts.

Unlike in Ireland, Dutch cycle paths are well designed — generally wide, well connected and segregated from heavy traffic. The excellent BicycleDutch blog outlines “Who else benefits from the Dutch cycling infrastructure”:

So, if the mayor wasn’t as some people think trolling, was he onto something? Did he just go about it badly?

In the Netherlands, Cllr Carr spoke at the Velocity cycling conference, run by European Cyclists’ Federation and which Dublin is to host in 2019. We have yet to see any full account of his speech but there’s nuggets of it on Twitter.

Examples of quotes or paraphrasing based on what he said, include: “We have to get more people interested in cycling“, “We have to encourage cycling, promote cycling and invest in #cycling“, “More cycling in our cities is the way to go“, and “I fell in love with an e-bike today“.

If he is standing by those words. If he wants more people cycling and to give people with mobility issues the option of using safe cycle paths, he must support better quality cycle routes. These include the Liffey Cycle Route Option 7 and a fully segregated two-way cycle path on the Clontarf to City Centre Cycle Route.

Even after he soon leaves the office of lord mayor, will Cllr Carr live up to his strong words he made in the Netherlands? If he doesn’t stand by his speech, it will be clear that he was trolling everybody: Irish people, the audience of international cycling experts, the EU transport commissioner, and the European Cyclists’ Federation

9 Comments

  1. Spot the moped in the background of the screenshot. A point that is often missed about Dutch cycling infrastructure is that when it was developed it was also intended for motorised two-wheelers below a certain engine size. There are now moves to remove mopeds from town centre bike paths but as designed the Dutch bike paths were intended for both non-motorised and motorised users.

  2. @Shane: Utrecht and others seem to be trying to remove mopeds from some cycle paths in non-city centre environments, at least away from main roads. It seems faster electric bikes will have to follow the moped rules nationally.

  3. Having watched Cllr Carr (natch!) getting through the S2S opening photoshoot looking like a bulldog chewing wasps, I really hope he has had his Road to Damascus

  4. Cycling infrastructure (with it’s broad variety) was/is NEVER introduced, developed, improved for any motorised user. However the appearance of Italian mopeds, scooters, electric wheelchairs, etc could not safely be mixed with motorcars unless the local road authority (municipality) was able to effectively bring the speed of motorvehicles down to 30 km /hr (at MAXIMUM), preferably in residential streets and school streets to 10-15 km/hr. That is why all Dutch cities and towns are filled up with speed breakers / humps / bumps. All these non-bicycle-small-motorised vehicles should NOT be on cycle paths and cycle lanes, they are a nuisance. So local authorities have convinced Dutch minister of Transport to change the law in favor of cycling (and via that for all road users) and therefor Amsterdam and Utrecht have started an experiment to sweep all fast riding non-cycles from the cycling infrastructure. Handicapped people om small / specialised vehicles can be mixed with pedestrians, and that needs broad / wide pavements and footpaths and broad crossing, nog mixed / shared with cycling.
    However it’s good the Lord Mayor was here in The Netherlands, but it’s important / crucial he knows the background / Dutch law / etc to better understand what he has seen and should see again. I’m ready to guide him all over the place…

  5. With regret I think some people need to check their facts.
    This is taken from the 2009 SWOV Fact sheet “Moped and light-moped riders”
    Quote
    “Mopeds are delivered with a maximum speed of 45 km/h, which is termed the ‘design speed’. Light mopeds have a design speed of 25 km/h1. According to current legislation, moped riders must ride on the carriage way within urban areas (since 1999), with a speed limit of 45 km/h (since March 2008). On bicycle paths within urban areas and in 30 km/h zones, the speed limit for mopeds is 30 km/h. Outside urban areas, moped riders should ride on the bicycle path, with a maximum speed of 40 km/h. On roads outside urban areas (when no bicycle path is available) the limit is 45 km/h. Light-moped riders should ride on the bicycle path both inside and outside urban areas, with a maximum speed of 25 km/h.”
    End quote
    Comment
    After 1999 “heavy” mopeds were switched from the bike paths to the roadway but light mopeds remained legally obliged to use bike paths in various circumstances. It is very clear that there is a long history of Dutch bike paths being used by certain classes of motorised vehicle. Wether this is popular or not is a different issue, whether this is a good idea or not is a different issue, whether the primary design user was on an unmotorised bicycle is a different issue. The fact remains that the legal situation for many years required Dutch designers to assume that some level of motorised users would be, and still are, present in many situations.

  6. @Shane, I’m not seeing a huge amount of difference between your last post and the post above it.

  7. What part of the word “NEVER” is not clear?

  8. The first EVER designed urban cycling network in The Netherlands, in the sixties, was meant for cycling and cyclists of all ages, NOT for mopeds. However the private motor vehicle lobby of those days has caused the shift of mopeds from the main carriageways towards cycling infrastructure. The shift in real practice was then soon supported by changes in Dutch Traffic Law (and the SWOV only did research…). Roads and streets of Dutch town and cities anno 2017 still (!) face this influence of motorcar lobby and other lobbyists for all kinds of (light?) motorised (small?) vehicles.

  9. So it is still correct to state that for many decades, at least from the 1970s, mopeds of various types were assumed users of the majority of Dutch cycle paths. It is also the case that Dutch cycle paths can be used by certain types of petrol driven microcars such as the Canta. These have “car like” bodies and small <50cc engines and have speed limiters. They are considered in the same category as mobility scooters. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canta_(vervoermiddel) this is directly relevant to the discussion about whether disabled people should have use of cycle facilities.

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