Dublin drops in list of cycling friendly cities due to “apathy”

Apathy in pushing cycling ahead and the use of substandard infrastructure are the main reasons listed for why Dublin has dropped to 15th on the Copenhagenize Index of cycling friendly cities.

Dublin started at 9th on the 2011 version of the index — partly due to large growth in commuter cycling and bonus points for ambitious projects which were planned, but few of which have yet to progress to construction. The decline for Dublin started in 2013 when the city dropped to 11th on the index.

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The authors of the index praised the National Transport Authority (NTA) for “putting their back into it” but added that “the City of Dublin hasn’t been lifting their share.” The authors have been previously employed by the NTA, but they have publicly critical of projects when things go wrong.

Mikael Colville-Andersen, the CEO of Copenhagenize Design Company who are behind the index, previously criticised the plans for the Dodder Greenway for including shared use sections, where cycling and walking is mixed. Today, the index criticised Dublin City Council for choosing “sub-standard infrastructure” on the planned Liffey Cycle Route — a possible reference to use of sections of shared use footpaths on options for that route.

The Copenhagenize Index section on Dublin said: “Choosing sub-standard infrastructure along the Quays is not exactly the way to go if you’re trying to develop a cohesive network for the next 100 years. The bike share rocks, but now a your network and bicycle strategy should be developed and followed to the letter. You’ve come so far but you’re not there yet.”

The criteria includes looking at 13 areas including: bicycle culture, bicycle infrastructure, use of bike share, gender split, modal share for bicycles (the percentage of people who cycle rather than use other modes of transport), the modal share increase since 2006, perception of safety, and social acceptance.

After previous coverage of the index, some readers on this site and other questioned how Dublin even made it onto the list. The same apparently has happened in other cities. The criteria / Q&A page of the index today addresses that question, in Q&A format it asks: “WTF! I live in XXXX city and there’s no way it’s bike-friendly!” and answers that question: “Okay. Thanks for sharing. Applying a sober ranking system eliminates the personal perception that is often fueled by emotions that run high. If we did a ranking based on the perceptions of individuals, it wouldn’t be very credible. Also, nobody says you have to agree with us.”

Ranking Dublin, the index said: “Dublin has been a darling on the Copenhagenize Index since 2011 and the city has been inspirational for the rest of the world in its efforts to increase cycling levels. Once the third great cycling city in Europe after Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Dublin has the historical background for bringing the bicycles back. Dublin seems to be suffering from the same malady as other cities that have made impressive progress. They have seemingly slipped into apathy – and a few places down the Index.”

It added: “What Dublin has achieved over the past few years is fantastic. The perfect cocktail of politicians who get it, investment in infrastructure and facilities, traffic calming measures and an epic bike share system accelerated the city’s journey to urban modernisation. You can’t take that away from Dublin, but you could wish for another period of concerted effort.”

MORE: 5 reasons why Dublin City should not be on a best cycling cities list
IMAGE: Copenhagenize.eu


  1. “Okay. Thanks for sharing. Applying a sober ranking system eliminates the personal perception that is often fueled by emotions that run high. If we did a ranking based on the perceptions of individuals, it wouldn’t be very credible. Also, nobody says you have to agree with us.”

    Ironic since the absence of hard metrics means that I think the index is Colville-Andersen’s personal perception. An index based on the perception of individuals is very credible provided you get a large enough sample size. Far more credible than this in my opinion.

  2. I’d love to see a detailed breakdown of the rankings for each city.

    A lot of it is subjective regardless and people or city councils in lots of cities could argue point by point — that would be a lot of feedback to take on board but maybe that should be the way forward?

  3. @Conchúr — The companies international experience? As with any list which is not just straight metrics, there is a lot of subjectivity and it’s up to readers to trust any list or not.

    Giving out bonus points for strong growth and plans and policies is also a point of contention with many of the critics of the index.

    I’m afraid I’m not as internationally experienced or traveled as the authors of the report, but the downward moves for both Amsterdam and Dublin seems to correspond with what local cycling groups say (people who don’t always agree with Copenhagenize).

    What’s your main issue with the list besides transparency? Mine is the lack of more Dutch cities on it.

  4. Transparency would be #1. There’s absolutely no detail given on the number of “points” awarded for each of the dozen or so categories.

    I am intrigued by the Euro-centricism of the list too. Where are Chinese and Japanese cities? Dublin gets mention because of its (relatively small) bike share system. Not a peep about Hangzhou with a bike share system of over 66,000 bikes, the largest in the world.

    It seems as though the list is designed to be somewhat controversial. What purpose does it serve, beyond being a bit of a “shock” list and a way to get the company in question into the media?

  5. “…the downward moves for both Amsterdam and Dublin seems to correspond with what local cycling groups say…”

    I don’t think this is accurate. I don’t feel that the Dublin authorities have gotten more apathetic and I don’t feel that things have gotten worse for cycling in the last few years. Things are certainly no worse but with increased modal share and the recent major expansion of the bike share scheme it is hard to argue that things are not better. Who is saying that things are worsening for cyclists in Dublin? You might not be happy with the Liffey cycle route but are you seriously claiming that any of the options are actually worse than what is currently there?

    If Dublin had dropped because other cities had gotten better this would be reasonable. If Colville-Anderson admitted the earlier high ranking was a mistake then that would make a lot of sense.

    A ranking created without any metrics is worthless. Having a lot of experience producing such lists doesn’t make you an authority. Frankly it does the opposite in my opinion.

    I’d like to see how many km of cycle paths there are, how many chunks they are split in to, how many of those km are shared use. What is the modal share, the median distance travelled on a cycle journey, the accident rate per 100,000km. How many times are cyclists mentioned in the media and what percentage are positive versus negative. What cycling specific legislation is there. A survey of peoples attitudes to cycling including both cyclists and non-cyclists. Unfortunately that would require a lot more work than just picking a number out of the air.

  6. It’s not so much that things have got worse, it’s that the bonus points previously given to Dublin for the city’s plans cycle route and cycle network have been reduced or removed because of inaction. Many of the planned major route are a year or more behind their original construction dates.

    I’ve already agreed here and elsewhere that there needs to be more transparenty on the list.

  7. I lived in the Netherlands for a number of years. Wherever I cycled, I was sure that there would be a cycle-way to use. In fact I was never anywhere that didn’t have a cycle-way. And when I say a cycle-way, I mean a properly constructed, well-marked (and for the most part, completely segregated) route. Here in Dublin it’s a shock to the system to come across a proper segregated cycle-way that’s not mixed in with pedestrians or cars at high speed (actually not sure I know of any that are comparable with anything in the Netherlands). To have placed Dublin at 9 on the list of cycle-friendly cities was a joke. I could name many Dutch towns and cities that should have been well above Dublin on the list and yet didn’t get a mention.


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