— Cllr claims northsiders “can’t drive over to the southside anymore”
— Another states that “cyclists too must obey all rules and all laws”
— Both sides of the debate say motorists should not be demonised
Twenty councillors on Dublin City Council attempted to have motoring “recognised” in a sustainable transport policy in the city’s development plan. They were, however, voted down by a majority of councillors.
Policy MT2 in the draft plan states: “To continue to promote modal shift from private car use towards increased use of more sustainable forms of transport such as cycling, walking and public transport, and to cooperate with the NTA, the NRA, the RPA and other transport agencies in progressing an integrated set of transport objectives. Initiatives contained in the Government’s Smarter Travel document and in the NTA’s Draft Transport Strategy are key elements of this approach.”
The change was put forward by Cllr Nial Ring (independent), who has objected recently to more than three cycle routes, which qualifies him as a serial objector. One of his objections was to save the “mental health” of motorists, while he called the Liffey Cycle Route “madness” and claimed this month that he thinks nobody is in favour of the most popular option.
Cllr Ring wanted the following wording added to the policy: “…but also recognising that private motorists need to be facilitated and that the important economic contribution of private motorists is understood, considered and valued.”
Cllr Ciaran Cuffe (Green Party) said: “For far too long we’ve put the needs or so-called needs of the private motorist ahead of public transport users, pedestrians, cyclists and others, and I think the pre-draft development plan has struck a reasonable balance of the needs of all transport users in the city.”
Cllr Damien O’Farrell (independent) said he supported the motion. He said: “I think we can do a lot for cyclist and we are moving that way. In previous years we were not doing enough, but now we are. I think we also have to recognise the interest of private motorists.”
Cllr O’Farrell added: “I know motorists on the northside can’t drive over to the southside anymore — they have been nearly attacked. There’s a new cycleway planned in Fairview there and they are introducing five pedestrian crossings that will make the area I live into a big car park. I think motorists have to be recognised and the value they bring to the city for shopping… Not everyone can use can use cycles — it rules out quite a proportion of the population.”
He said that motorists need to be recognised and that this is not the case in this or previous development plans.
Fellow independent Cllr Ruairi McGinley disagreed: “The reality is that we are setting out to support a modal shift [to sustainable transport] and that does mean less cars in the city. The reason for that is congestion, increasing population and also to improve the liveability of the city.” He added that his view are “notwithstanding that I’m a motorist.”
Another independent councilor, Cllr Christy Burke said: “…motorists have added to this economy with insurance, with taxes, with car fines, with clamping [fines], with petrol, etc, etc… and the industry of mechanics, and the whole lot.”
While he said motorists paying “car fines” and clamping fines were a positive thing — both of which require motorists to first break the law — he said that people who cycle must obey the law.
“And there’s been a driven policy of this council to remove motorists and introduce cycle lanes. I’ve no problem with that, as Cllr Cuffe knows. But cyclists too must obey all rules and all laws made within the land. But I certainly would not hang the motorist out to dry as they have been to the forefront of very difficult times. For that reason I’m supporting the motion,” said Cllr Burke.
Cllr Patrick Costello (Green Party) said research shows that the overall benefits of motoring are lower than the costs of motoring — including climate change, pollution, building roads, collisions and childhood asthma. He said: “These cost society significantly more than anything motorists contribute… we are in effect subsidising motorists for every kilometer they drive.”
Cllr Daithi DeRoiste (Fianna Fail) said: “I really don’t like the idea of demonising motorists”. Referring to what Cllr Patrick Costello had said, Cllr DeRoiste said, “I’d add the economic value that motorists bring — they purchase their cars, they pay for insurance, they pay extortionate amounts for petrol, do their NCTs, pay tax, pay insurance.”
His fellow Fianna Fail councilor, Cllr David Costello, said: “I’d like to speak in favour of this motion as well and I agree with Daithi that we don’t need to demonis motorists. I’m a motorist and use the city on a daily bases, I go from the Mater Hospital to UCD to my constituency [Cabra-Finglas]… there’s many people in this chamber who need their car to do their job and there’s many people around the city that need their car to do their job.”
Cllr Larry O’Toole (Sinn Féin) said: “We lose the run of ourselves sometimes. The way some people are talking in here you’d think that cyclists are after taking over the city in some shape or form. That is not the case. Compared to some other cities we have a miniscule amount of people using cycles here. The motorists here are well served in this city, and I’m not saying they should not be well served, but not at the determent of cyclists and other road users — pedestrians and public transport users.”
Cllr O’Toole added, “You’d think that cyclists are the new motorists in the city, but that isn’t the case at all. There’s very few people cycling compare to what it should be… “We’re only starting to provide facilities for cycling.”
Cllr Andrew Montague (Labour) said: “I don’t we should demonise motorists. The car has been a great benefit to society. But we have tried to make our city work around the car and it has not worked. It has been a major failure, because when you try to build a city around the car you just can’t get enough road space and you can’t get enough car parking space without destroying what makes a city worth living in and that’s what we’ve done.”
He added: “And we’ve tried to pull back from that and shift our emphasis towards public transport, walking and cycling. That’s where the development plan is going — it’s not demonising motorists. It’s just saying that we’re changing our emphasis to promote what actually works in reality.”
Cllr Paddy Bourke (independent) claimed that motorists spend more in retail and said that “We should not be targeting the motorist”.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) said: “I cycled in today and drove in yesterday, and reading through the motion, I can’t for the life of me see what role it plays in the development plan. I’m not for or against it, I think it’s a kind of meaningless motion.”
Cllr Paddy McCartan (Fine Gael) said that he is sometimes seen as anti-car and that he gave up driving 12 years ago, but he strongly supports the motion.
WATCH: The debate in full (starts at 00:32:00)