6 problem areas with cycling in Ireland today and the solutions

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Here’s six problem areas for the promotion of cycling as everyday transport in Ireland and some solutions…

Along with an edited version of our article, 10 reasons why cycling is Ireland’s only hope for low-carbon transport, the following is part of the IrishCycle.com submission to the National Mitigation Plan for Climate Change.

...I'm sorry to disrupt you while you're reading this article, but without messages like this, IrishCycle.com's reader-funded journalism won't survive. With 676k views so-far this year, it's not just "avid cyclists" that this website reaches. But the number of subscribers is around 0.6% of readers. This large gap between readers/subscribers is standard for non-paywall reader-supported journalism, but IrishCycle's journalism needs more support. Don't delay, support monthly or yearly today. Now, back to the article...

1. Poor planning, design and implementation

ISSUE: Cycling infrastructure built as cycling projects, road projects and other construction (ie housing, business parks) continues to be designed in a way where it is not attractive to cycling for all ages and abilities and does not amount to a well-connected, safe and attractive network. Left unresolved, it will stop cycling from fulfilling its potential.

Not a single town or city in Ireland has a comprehensive cycle network which is attractive or suitable for all ages and abilities. The so-called networks in Ireland remain disconnected and of a poor or very poor standard.

SOLUTION: Update planning and design guidance to follow the best international practice — cycling policy and design from the Netherlands. (a) Implement traffic circulation plans (including cycle network plans), starting with all urban areas and area of urban influence and inter-urban links, and (b) intergrade common Dutch cycling elements — as per the Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic, CROW, 2016 language edition — into Irish design guidance.

2. Low level of funding

ISSUE: There is not enough funding allocated to cycling to build current planned cycle route, parking or bicycle share projects, and thus there is also not enough funding to expand cycle provision quick enough to have a significant impact on climate change emissions.

SOLUTION: Increase the funding for walking and cycling to at least 20% of the Department of Transport’s capital budget for transport projects.

3. Access to bicycles

ISSUE: While access to basic bicycles is not a problem to many people, it is a problem for some people. The affordability of electric bikes and cargo bikes is also an issue — especially for those who have no access to the Bike to Work scheme and low-paid workers who do not benefit much or at all from the scheme.

SOLUTION: A number of different solutions are required, these could include:

  • Follow the example set by a number governments who are giving incentives for the purchase of electric and/or cargo bicycles. For example, the city of Oslo are giving residents a grant of 25% of the cost of an electric cargo bicycles (up a maximum of 10,000 Norwegian Krone, which is around €1,000); and the island of Jersey offers a grant of £300 for electric bicycles over £1,500 and a 20% discount below £1,500. Oslo uses its Climate and Energy Fund to give its grant, but there is no reason why such a grant should not also apply to non-electric cargo bicycles which have in their own right the potential to replace many car trips for parents with children and others in need of extra carrying capacity.
  • According to the EU-funded CycleLogistics project, cargo bicycles have the potential to be able to transport 25% of all goods and 50% of all light goods in urban areas, so the above mentioned grant for cargo bicycles should also be open to businesses or a separate scheme should be made available to businesses.
  • Investigate the possibility of supports for the purchase of bicycles, safety equipment and child seats for low-paid workers, those on social welfare, and people who are retired.

4. Poor integration of cycling and public transport

ISSUE: In the Netherlands 40% of daily users of the rail network travel to bicycle, but in Ireland there is poor integration between the public transport and cycling: there is limited parking at train and bus stations; bicycle theft is a large problem at suburban and city centre stations; and carrying bicycles on intercity public transport can be expensive and suffers from capacity issues.

SOLUTION: Public transport planners and companies need to see the parking and carrying of bicycles as helping gain bus or rail passengers they would not otherwise have. A number of different solutions are required, these should include:

  • Large-scale investment in high-density, secure and free or very low cost bicycle parking at the main city train stations, bus stations, and other transport hubs. The preference for this is that it is guarded when the train station is open. This could be trialled at Pearse Station in Dublin where there is currently a large and mostly underutilised area at platform-level (mainly used for staff / company car parking).
  • Secure and free or very low cost bicycle parking at intercity and suburban train and bus stations.
  • A public transport bicycle share system (separate from local bicycle share) rolled out nationally to all city stations, most suburban stations, all regional towns and even villages where there is demand. The system should be similar to OV-fiets in the Netherlands and be mainly aimed at allowing railway users to rent bicycles use them for the duration of their trip away from their home station — this is opposed to city bicycles which are aimed at a fast turnover of bicycles.
  • The fee carrying bicycles on intercity trains and buses should be reduced to zero or at the very most a nominal daily cost (ie €5 per day) and not be based on a per trip cost. The price of carrying bicycles on intercity and regional services in off-peak and on low demand routes needs to be fully waved.



5. Promotion of unproven safety gear vs promoting cycling

ISSUE: There is little to no promotion of cycling as a form of transport, while the promotion of unproven safety gear usually takes central place.

SOLUTION: Alongside the rollout of safe cycling networks, measures must be taken to promote cycling and its benefits. However, as per international examples (Australia, Copenhagen, etc) the promotion of safety gear which is unproven or of limited benefit, can have the opposite effect and decrease cycling’s attractiveness to few beyond committed individuals.

The message should be about the advantages of cycling, including that cycling faster many areas for many trips, that cycling can give freedom and that it is a relatively cheap form of transport. Environmental and health benefits should be part of the messaging but only a secondary part as there’s evidence that few people are motivated mainly for these reasons.

6. Law, policing and enforcement

ISSUE: There are a number of issues in regards to law, policing and enforcement. Some of the main ones include:

  • (a) a number of UK police forces in the UK have started to implement checks on motorists dangerously overtaking cyclists and growing number of counties have a minimum passing distance in place where motorists must give cyclists at least 1.5 metres in speed limits beyond 60km/h and 1 metre in areas with lower speed limits
  • (b) cycle lanes are often blocked by motorists who are dropping off, parking and loading, and, in some areas, too much leeway is given or a blind eye is given to the policing this issue; and
  • (c) some Garda officers need a culture change in terms of victim blaming (as shown most lately by the focus unproven safety gear by a Garda representative body).

SOLUTION: The proposed minimum passing distance should be supported; there must be an acceptance that discretionary policing has gone too far in allowing illegal parking and loading to continue unchecked, and treatment of cycling issues should be addressed as part of the wider planned culture changes in the Gardai.


The bicycle is Ireland’s best or only hope for a low-carbon transport future in the short to medium term. Some of the issues may seem like these go beyond climate change mitigation, but these are the issues in the way of cycling having a positive effect as much as, for example, planning or tariffs issues hinders low-carbon energy generation — it is for this reason that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and anybody interested in low-carbon transport cannot leave the detailed issues unresolved.

ALSO SEE: Submission to Draft NMP consultation (PDF)


  1. Great piece, hits all the major nails hard on the head, all that’s needed is the relevant parties to listen and act!

  2. And bicycle theft, which is epidemic and endemic – so much so that it is deliberately left out of the annual crime statistics. A real stamp-down on stealing bicycles, and on buying stolen bicycles, would do a huge amount to get people on the road who may have bought one bike, got it stolen and shrugged and stopped cycling. It would have the beneficial side-effect of stopping a lot of kids getting into crime.
    A Garda initiative bringing kids who have stolen bikes into cycling, and gradually introducing them to cycling clubs and to the cycling culture, could be a real game-changer, as was a similar scheme in the 1980s/1990s where car thieves were given mechanics and advanced driving courses – on the strict condition that they kept clean of crime.

    • @Crois — I had planned to include theft into the policing section but didn’t in the rush to finish up and send the submission. One of the largest solvable problems relating to theft is reuniting bicycles with their owners — a unified database and city storage area would help a lot.

  3. There is no charge to bring your bike on the train to Cork these days. I had assumed this was standard across the network. You also don’t pay to bring your bike on the Dart, when they let you.

    My primary issues with bikes on trains are first that the booking system is bad, you can’t tell if a train actually has space for bikes before you go through a whole process, only to find out that you need to start again because this train has no bike spaces. Which leads in to secondly, the number of bike spaces on intercity trains is dreadful. Generally two spaces for a train that might have 500+ seats.

    Finally something that isn’t directly the responsibility of Irish Rail. The passengers (ie: the good old Irish public) consider the bike spaces to be a luggage rack. The two spaces often get used to store bags. I’ve seen people get pissy when they’ve been asked to move their bags. Their attitude was that goddamn cyclists are taking up valuable space. Particularly annoying when there is FAR more space devoted to luggage on trains, luggage which you get to bring for free when I had PAiD for my bike space. I’ve also seen people shove their suitcases on top of and into bicycles that were already racked. Which actually brings me back to the booking system. Why on earth, when you book a bike space, does Irish Rail not sit you somewhere close to this. I’ve been seated in a different carriage to my bike which is not ideal considering the possibility of theft or damage when some asshole crams their suitcase between the wheels of my bike and the adjacent one.

  4. I think that we should be looking for 10% of the transport budget allocated to cycling rather than 20% to cycling and walking. There is a danger of the bulk being spent on walking and cycling continuing to get a miniscule proportion. Furthermore Shane Ross is fond of quoting Smarter Travel, active modes, sustainable modes – anything rather how much he allocates to cycling. Cycling is going to get additional funding later in the year but I think that we should be looking for a roadmap to the 10% as it isn’t going to be given in one budget.

    • In relation to returning bikes to owners, apart from the frame numbers some garda stations – Donnybrook, maybe Kilmainham, can’t remember the others – are registering bikes (with a photo of owner and bike and a copy of the receipt); the Gardaí are also occasionally running sessions where they’ll engrave ID on people’s bikes.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.