“The Irish Times view on cycling in Dublin” includes too much misinformation

— Accepting motor traffic reduction is key to building bicycle network but The Irish Times seem interested in the status quo.

COMMENT & ANALYSES: A newspaper editorial published today, “The Irish Times view on cycling in Dublin”, is more misinformation and poor coverage from the ‘newspaper of record’.

The Irish Times editorial lambasts that “The fact that it has taken seven years to finalise a plan for new cycleways along the Liffey quays tells us a lot about the trials and tribulations of transport planning in Dublin.”

And does the editorial writer think that The Irish Times’ has no roll in all of this?

The newspaper first reported negative on the route as if it was some brain wave from Owen Keegan — the project pre-dated him getting the job as city CEO and was started after its inclusion in the Dublin City Development Plan.

Keegan — who is often portrayed as car-hating in the media — only got his job in 2013. The Liffey Cycle Route was kicked off in 2011 with a workshop aided by the Dutch Cycling Embassy — I covered this for the Sunday Times (no link the The Irish Times) and the workshop findings were also outlined the next day on this website.

While the newspaper praises cycling campaigners for “demanding safe routes” it has turned a blind eye to cycling concerns in plans for this route and others — its journalist spidey sense is only set off by others being effected. Others usually being motorists.

It has also covered a number of high-profile cycle route mainly by reference to their price tag without clearly or prominently outlining that the price tag is partly due to elements like new water main pipes.

The newspaper of record claims the National Transport Authority taking over the Liffey project “showed that there was little support for a series of options” — this is factually incorrect. Early public consultation showed large support for what would have been a premium cycle route.

The Irish Times was criticised recently for being at the forefront of spreading misinformation on BusConnects, and it continues to spread misinformation on the Liffey Cycle Route.

It mentions previous options — first, “diverting cyclists off the quays to preserve road space for motorised traffic” and this is something it didn’t bother to cover. Nor did it cover an idea to mix cycling and walking in a criss-cross motion on previously planned boardwalks.

The second option it mentions it said was “obviously unworkable – such as re-routing that traffic through residential areas.”

This was Option 7. The picture is painted of nice, narrow residential streets but one of the alternative routes was actually the current inner orbital route, which has heavy traffic on it.

Claims that all traffic on the quays would or could divert to the northern inner orbital route were beyond reason. In fact, impossible. More on that later.

Most of the city and city centre is a residential area (including the quays — more people live along the quays than in many towns), but The Irish Times has little coverage of the ill-effects motorised traffic has on these areas. When something might change the status quo, for good or bad, the spidey sense of The Irish Times goes into overdrive.

Despite deaths link to it, air pollution is hardly covered in the Irish media, and lower speed limits — which help liveability — up to recently was still getting the misinformation treatment. The Irish Times has more than one or twice implied 30km/h was to cover large areas blankety when most main roads are kept at 50km/h.

Although, the recent 30km/h coverage is a stark a step down from the attacks The Irish Times news section made on 30km/h on the central quays when the limit was first introduced there.

Option 7 was not just a cycle route plan but a traffic reduction measure.

Despite local and international examples, understanding of traffic reduction is very poor. There is an active denial of “traffic evaporation” despite clear evidence of fewer cars, and more people traveling sustainably.

If you want to see active leadership in this regard go no further than Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (who by the way is not directly elected to the position).

Hidalgo has closed sections of the motorway along the Seine in Paris, giving the space over to walking and cycling, and city life. This was fought all the way to court. People said that public transport was not good enough to outer areas where metro lines do not reach.

But Hidalgo has not stopped there. She has also added a two-way cycle route to a parallel street a short distance away from the river and, now, along the river at street level above the former motorway another two-way cycle path is being built.

The City of Paris has found the theory of “traffic evaporation” working in practise.

The Irish Times also praises Seville for building a “160km cycleway network in just a few years” — BusConnects is the closest thing we have to this in project scale and The Irish Times’ coverage of this is far too negativity overall and with little regard for cycling or the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan.

Then we get more I’ll-informed half-baked nonsense from The Irish Times: “The NTA’s latest plan is far from ideal, however, as the twin 5km cycleways would not be consistently linear, switching from left to right on the north quays to avoid a bank of bus stops along Bachelors Walk.”

The switch happens on both the north and south quays — it’s a measure which has been used to create segregated cycle routes in London recently and similar switches are common on the Dutch cycle network.

The newspaper is correct that the route is “far from ideal”, but its reasoning is wrong. The Irish Times claim that “at least the routes would be segregated, with a continuous concrete kerb to safeguard against encroachment by traffic” — drawings published the other day show that this is not true.

People cycling — at least with the draft design — are left exposed way too often. Left hooks are built into the design and people on bikes are places in unprotected cycle lanes along the route including between traffic lanes at different points. There are other problems too, which we will cover.

Hopefully — not like with cycling and Luas Cross City — it doesn’t take the route to be built and injuries to happen for The Irish Times to start taking details of the provision for cycling seriously.

The Irish Times is spot on mentioning skewed priorities for transport funding, but like a councillor who talks out of both sides of their mouth there is also skewed priorities at newspaper of record.

Why is all of this important? Without properly accepting traffic reaction measures, traffic evaporation and modal change, talking of 160km cycle networks is cheap. To make the current Liffey plan half decent more space and junction time will have to be given over to cycling.

And what happens if the boardwalks for pedestrians are deemed unworkable due to the heritage of the quays? Or unworkable due the strength of the quay walls? Or, indeed, the likely high cost of the boardwalks which will probably push the project towards €30m+?

What then? Back to Option 7? Back to actually dealing with motor traffic reduction and the politics of space?

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the post. This piece like most cycling coverage from the Irish Times is really sub par. The quays now are an extraordinarily dangerous place to cycle, and while this plan has weaknesses in it, it certainly doesn’t deserve the ill-informed the Irish Times offers.

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