COMMENT & ANALYSIS: UPDATE: It turns out the lord mayor was trolling everyone — today he told theJournal.ie that his statement was a “hoax” to raise awareness.
At 10.30am on Saturday morning, Dublin’s lord mayor, Cllr Brendan Carr, issued what many think was a bizarre statement about people with disabilities using cycle lanes. The most bizarre part is that it included those with visual disabilities.
Some people have gone as far as suggesting that Cllr Carr was trolling, but was he well intended, just a bit misguided? The short statement, issued via the Dublin City Council press office, said:
The Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr has announced that he is considering asking Dubliners to vote on whether people with disabilities should be allowed use cycle lanes in the city. This is prompted by the increasing number of pavement obstacles that people with visual and mobility disabilities have to navigate in Dublin City on a daily basis.
“Currently, we are aware of the extent to which people with disabilities have to go to circumnavigate obstructions on the pavements. I think they would be better off using the cycle lanes and would like to ask what the people of Dublin think about this,” he said.
The reaction from all sorts of people was fairly stark, in summary: cycle lanes are not suitable or safe enough for cycling, and, in any case, the city should fix the problems on footpaths rather than moving the problem.
No no no no and no. Fix the paths and dishing of pavements – don’t put us out on the road. Eejitry https://t.co/xSfiLxfvTw
— Suzy Byrne (@suzybie) June 17, 2017
The policy of the NCBI, the sight loss charity, completely contradicts what lord mayor outlined. The NCBI looks for segregation between walking and cycling. As IrishCycle.com has reported many times, its representative on the city council’s transport committee has voiced opposition to shared paths and cycle paths which are not clearly defined.
Mixing people on foot with poor sight in lanes for people on bicycles often traveling at speeds of 15-25km/h and, in Dublin, these lanes are often exposed to motorists traveling at 50km/h and over — do you need much time to think that it’s a bad idea? The inclusion of visual disabilities was at best misguided or the statement was poorly worded (maybe trying to be overly inclusive?).
Next, there are people who have mobility disabilities. In this regard, electric wheelchairs are already allowed by law to use cycle lanes. Some people in wheelchairs already use cycle lanes (and general roadways) when footpaths are unusable, but the use of cycle lanes should optional, not forced.
IrishCycle.com tried hard to contact the lord mayor to seek a bit of context and understanding of his statement. We tried to contact him directly by phone and text message, and via the press office mobile number and email. We eventually got a text back with an indication that he would be getting back to us, but radio silence after we asked when.
Maybe the mayor was unavailable for a good reason, but the press office should be ready to act if that was the case, or not have issued the mayor’s statement at the time they did.
When we reported on the statement, we had no idea of the context. The context was a surprise, but it also gave us a possable reason for the statement — the mayor was in the Netherlands the day before. He had experienced some of what Dutch cycling had to offer and gave a speech to an audience of international cycling experts.
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— Velo-city 2017 (@Velocity2017) June 16, 2017
Unlike in Ireland, Dutch cycle paths are well designed — generally wide, well connected and segregated from heavy traffic. The excellent BicycleDutch blog outlines “Who else benefits from the Dutch cycling infrastructure”:
So, if the mayor wasn’t as some people think trolling, was he onto something? Did he just go about it badly?
In the Netherlands, Cllr Carr spoke at the Velocity cycling conference, run by European Cyclists’ Federation and which Dublin is to host in 2019. We have yet to see any full account of his speech but there’s nuggets of it on Twitter.
Examples of quotes or paraphrasing based on what he said, include: “We have to get more people interested in cycling“, “We have to encourage cycling, promote cycling and invest in
#cycling“, “More cycling in our cities is the way to go“, and “I fell in love with an e-bike today“.
If he is standing by those words. If he wants more people cycling and to give people with mobility issues the option of using safe cycle paths, he must support better quality cycle routes. These include the Liffey Cycle Route Option 7 and a fully segregated two-way cycle path on the Clontarf to City Centre Cycle Route.
Even after he soon leaves the office of lord mayor, will Cllr Carr live up to his strong words he made in the Netherlands? If he doesn’t stand by his speech, it will be clear that he was trolling everybody: Irish people, the audience of international cycling experts, the EU transport commissioner, and the European Cyclists’ Federation