5 reasons why Dublin City should not be on a best cycling cities list

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

Shared use is to be used along the Dodder even where there's space for segregation
Shared use is to be used along the Dodder even where there’s space for segregation

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

A section of shared footpath on the Grand Canal cycle route

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.

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

Contra-flow sign
Contra-flow warning sign

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.


  1. The changes to the roundabout in Rialto also mean that the cyclist loses priority. The route I usually take requires me to cycle up on to the footpath using the ramp which very often has a car parked on it, yield to cars which were probably behind me on my road and cars approaching from the left which I wouldn’t have to yield to if I was on the roundabout proper, get past another car parked on the access point so I can get back up on to the footpath and then go back on to the road (for some reason cars don’t park on this one) literally 5m later.

    Perhaps Dublin is the 9th best city in the world. I don’t have enough experience with other cities to know. This would be a sad statement on the quality of cycling facilities around the world rather than a positive statement about Dublin though. The Copenhagenize index doesn’t tell me anything since it seems they just pull numbers out of the air.

  2. They the Council seem to be afraid to upset the Motoring Lobby at all costs. They provide infrastructure but if it in any way inconveniences Motorists they just put in shared use facilities.

    They have some kind of a fear of contre flow and do not want to correct any mistakes they have made like the contre flow on St Stephens green. They have to get over this fear and provide proper infrastructure.

    As to Greenways along the Canals and Dodder where there is enough room for Segregated lanes they just seem too lazy or again there is some kind of fear about putting in proper facilities. In spite of all the Data coming from other Cities around the World especially European Cities, they seem to have some kind of Mental blockage there.

  3. Cork has a network of contra flow lanes, which I know may not be perfect in design and I understand are plagued by illegal parking. But at least they built them. Dublin City is not serving the needs of the people who live in it. It seems stuck in the past. All about moving traffic instead of people. Complete inequality regarding the allocation of space. Why should motorised vehicles get all that time at junctions while there are loads of people waiting to cross the street ?

  4. Still do not understand that Dublin can be the number nine city as all cities in Belgium and The Netherlands would already top them. They must have a very narrow sighted selection method.

    I would also add to reasons why Dublin should not be considered bicycle friendly is that there is no understanding by other road users regarding cyclists. They do not account for cyclists on the road and seem to be unable or unwilling to give us the space we need. This behaviour can turn quite aggressive at times. I would even dare to call this the number one thing holding back more people grabbing a bike for short distances as they do not feel safe.

  5. Spot on Cian.
    It annoys me to see some cycling groups praising politicians and claiming we have made great progress in Dublin. I was involved in a campaign back in the 70s called Bring Back the Bike and much of what we looked for then has still not been delivered.
    Where half decent facilities are provided, there is virtually no maintenance. Much of the Clontarf to Sutton S2S was built on the back of a main drainage scheme and we have lived with promises about the missing Dollymount link for over a decade.
    There is still very little political will or understanding of the real needs of cyclists.

  6. Spot-on Cian.

    I have been calling for a paradigm-shift in traffic management that ensures that cycling is promoted as a safe, healthy and non-polluting legitimate everyday transport mode.
    I point out that the higher the proportion of males you have cycling then the more hostile is your traffic management regime. Once you add in the extent of hi-vis vest and helmet wearing you drive further nails in any suggestion that our city ic cycling-friendly.
    Finally if you have a high extent of pavement cycling then you can forget about being a cycling city! [And I know that George Hook is right to bang-on about this but he never asks why cyclists would want to be on a pavement when it confers no advantage to the rider!]
    Finally we have a police force that is unwilling to enforce traffic law dealing with motorised drivers parking willy-nilly in cycling infrastructure or enforce dangerous overtaking.
    We must not discommode drivers! [And I am a driver]

  7. Unfortunately all the comments are accurate how Dublin ever got on a list like this is bewildering. There is a strong motor lobby in this country that wields a disproportionate influence over our Law makers.Coupled with the equally active and disproportionately influential anti-cycling lobby, championed by the likes of Finnian McGrath et al., it will be a long hard struggle to get “equal rights” to our road ways, but these issues have to be confronted and challenged at every turn. Eventually we will prevail and it will be equal rights for all road users, just not anytime soon. Rating Dublin as any sort of cycle friendly city only delays the real change in attitude that is needed.

  8. Nasty road there Astrid I hate it ,extremely wide. Have not been there in 8 years. The road is too wide lots of fast moving traffic . Rather nasty if coming from City and you want to turn right at Newlands cross for Clondalkin Village.

  9. I forgot to add in another parameter that should count in assessing bike-friendly cities and that is proportion of students cycling to schools rather than being taken by private car.
    We need to curtail the school run by car.

  10. the so called copenhagenize index is about cities across the world,
    should be renamed ànd `most bike freindly and making progress towards bike freindly`
    it mostly looks at how much money is being invested in improving cycling infrastructure and increased their cycling mode share in the last 2 years,
    taken together this was valued at 9th place with the index released every 2 years
    last one in 2015 for the period 2013/14.
    id be surprised if Dublin didn`t slip a few places down or possibly off the list in the 2017 index,


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