‘Open doors’ for cycling was mentioned a lot to us in the process of writing Cycling in Dublin in print, so we asked Mike McKillen, of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, for his view on how open the doors really are.
McKillen, who is also a member of the cycling campaign umbrella group Cyclists.ie, says when they met Minister Alan Kelly recently he told them that ‘cycling was the only game in town in terms of road based transport’. But overall he does not seem too sure about how open every door is to cycling.
“Just look at the Smarter Travel unit in the Department of Transport – it’s tiny in relation to the task they face and a lot more needs to go into the Smarter Travel unit. It’s inadequate for the task of getting 10% of all commuting journeys nationally to be done by bike by 2020. We’re nowhere near it,” says McKillen.
He adds: “The door is not open fully – the chicanery that took place over the cycling officer position [which is now gone]. If the door is open to cycling that should never of happened, so what went wrong there? And why does no other local authority or a collection of them not have cycling officer?”
McKillen says that’s the measure of government commitment to cycling. Munich, with a population equivalent in size to Dublin, spends “a fortune on cycling promotion.”
“In Dublin, where people are wedded to their car, we need to spend money to convince people to switch. The doors may be open but unless there’s promotion nothing is going to happen,” says McKillen. “To keep people in their cars and to keep people buying cars the motor industry spends €21m on advertising across all media – that’s the figure from the 2010 Nielsen ratings.”
The Irish bicycle industry can’t, he says, match that kind of spend on advertising and marketing, “so the government has to match it.”
“Sort measures, like convincing the RSA that it needs to implement the 1.5m overtaking rule and teach drivers that,” he says.
Is a 1.5m passing distance realistic? He replies: “It has to be; we will not get people cycling unless they see drivers giving them more space. We need a sea change at the Road Safety Authority – it still has a from the windscreen view.”
A “beefed up” module on interacting with cyclists needs to be included in driver training and the RSA needs to stop asking cyclists to “dress up like a Christmas tree.”
“More cyclists on the road automatically leads to safer roads – stop dangerising cycling. The number of fatalities and injuries has come way down – that’s because there’s more cyclists everywhere.”
He said they support the plans for green routes, including the canals and rivers, but that “We pleaded with the minister to stop putting money into infrastructure – that they have to concentrate on promotion and soft measures. Engineers will always want to build infrastructure and look for funding to build it – that’s what engineers do.”
This article was originally published in the print edition of Cycling in Dublin in June 2012.