COMMENT & ANALYSIS: This year’s Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities is out on June 2, and there’s every chance that Dublin will slip from its previous 9th position on the list.
Some people who cycle in Dublin did not think 9th place was justified then, but the last Copenhagenize Index called the city the “Great Bike Hope among Emerging Bicycle Cities” and ranked it highly for bonus points. It also mentioned “larger-scale infrastructure projects and a city-wide cycling strategy can take the city to the next level” — along with high growth in cycling, solid plans and strategies were some of the top factors as why Dublin scored high on bonus points.
Cycling is still booming in Dublin, but with so many projects delayed and heel-dragging in other areas, Dublin no longer deserves most of those bonus points. Here’s five reasons why:
1. Key cycling routes keep getting delayed
A large number of key routes around Dublin City including routes along the River Liffey, the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal, Dublin Bay, the River Dodder are all notably delayed, mostly by a year or more, rather than just a matter of months. A major segregated route along North Strand Road which should link the S2S at Fairview to the Liffey is also delayed.
A Dublin City development plan objective promised to “provide a continuous cycleway connecting the Phoenix Park and Heuston Station to the proposed S2S route along the city’s quays” by 2017, but this is looking more and more unlikely. Meanwhile work on the northern section of the S2S Dublin Bay route has begun after delays of months which turned into more than a year — the southern section has not even reach route selection stage.
This isn’t just a local issue, the Dublin Cycling Campaign has highlighted a number of times recently how funding from national sources has been cut. The national-level recruitment ban also seems to have put the transport section of the council under considerable pressure.
2. The city keeps mixing cycling and walking on shared footpaths
Despite conflicts between walking and cycling being a top complaint from councillors and despite a sight loss charity asking Dublin City Council to stop mixing cycling and walking, Dublin City Council and other agencies such as the National Transport Authority continue to mix modes on sections of shared use footpaths.
We’re told that at a recent conference, obesity expert Dr Donal O’Shea mentioned the roundabout on Dublin City Council’s Rialto Area Improvement Scheme as a prime example of how providing facilities to combat the problem of physical inactivity is not taken seriously. The roundabout in a very urban area mixes bicycles on footpaths outside the doors of shops in Rialto village on the South Circular Road.
Shared use is also needlessly included in the design of projects under construction such as the northern section of the S2S and another project linking Palmerstown and Chapelizod, both will make cycling mid to long distances into the city less convenient than it could be. With the Palmerstown to Chapelizod project, for the most part it’s hard to see the space issue beside a 6-lane dual carriageway, but even at a pinch point we still think segregation could be accommodated.
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The mistake of common use of share use is also planned for the National Transport Authority’s planned BRT route to Dublin Airport and onto Swords, and for the Dodder Greenway, against the advice of Copenhagenize.
3. The city has dragged its heels on contra-flow
Progress has stalled or even reversed on making Dublin City more accessible to cycling using contra-flow. No on-the-ground progress has been made on a 2010 plan to install new contra-flow arrangements in the city centre. Meanwhile, a programme of works to fix faults in or finish older designs around the city, included closing off an apparently half-finished contra-flow arrangement at St Stephen’s Green West leading up to bicycle parking at the corner of Grafton Street.
While there’s questions over the use of contra-flow without lanes or paths, with those contra-flow can be done in many places now.
Cities across Europe from Amsterdam to Paris to Berlin have made it clear that contra-flow is an important of cycling when a city has many one-way streets… What is holding Dublin back so much?
4. Many quiet street are allowed to be rat runs
In 2013 we reported how councillors’ calls to tackle rat runs fall on deaf ears. This is a common problem in central areas as well as further out. But the truth is that these rat runs are sometimes design or at least left that way because they add to car capacity. The disruption of neighborhoods is hardly taken into account. Dublin’s approach is in contrast to many other cities in Europe of similar size which design smaller streets to be less attractive to rat running and more attractive to cycling and local street life and activity.
5. Major projects allowed without cycling elements
Last year we reported how it’s time to act on Luas Cross City design for walking, cycling and street life, but the question looking back on this is how did a major plan for changing many city streets not include high-quality provision for cycling? The same could be asked about other projects such as Dublin City Council’s plan for the Grafton Street Quarter. And, while cycling included in the above mentioned BRT to the airport, the mix of design — from segregated to shared use to mixing with buses — it’s not clear that it would make anybody happy.
Cycling is on the increase but Dublin needs to try harder to provide for cycling for all ages and abilities.