#VC19 briefing on Dublin for international Velo-city delegates

IMAGE: O'Connell Bridge and O'Connell Street, Dublin's main street, in the background.

If you’re an international Velo-city conference delegate, this is your independent briefing on Dublin — covering everything from history to cycling stats to practical things.

First off — IrishCycle.com is a news and analysis website covering cycling in Dublin. If there’s anything not answered here please comment below.

Quick reference guide for the week

  • The main conference hashtag on Twitter is #VC19.
  • The official conference website is at velo-city2019.com.
  • Some of the main side events and pre-conference events are listed at velo-city2019.com/velo-citysideevents
  • The Amsterdam-based BYCS are running events in Dublin all week long, details are listed at bycs.org/velo-city — most of these are open to members of the public too.
  • Trinity College Dublin is also running events open to the public — their seminar is sold out but details of other events can be found at tcd.ie.
  • It is also national Bike Week, details can be found at bikeweek.ie.
  • Dublin-based bicycle tech company Liberty Bell has put together a nice map list of places to drink and eat at libertybell.ie/dublin/map
  • The Dublin Cycling Campaign has a list of post-conference tours.

Tips for cycling around Dublin

  • On-street bicycle rental is provided by DublinBikes system which uses docking stations, and Bleeperbike.
  • Check out: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Dublin’s cycling infrastructure
  • It is safer to presume that drivers and pedestrians have not seen you.
  • Remember: We cycle and on the left hand side of the road in Ireland.
  • Using cycle lanes is not mandatory in Ireland.
  • Regularly it is safer to avoid cycle lane, especially where the cycle lane narrow and right beside parked cars.
  • Cross tram tracks at close to 90 degrees as possable.
  • The “no bicycle” signs on recently installed on pedestrian bridges in Dublin actually mean “no cycling”. You can dismount and walk bicycles over these bridges.
  • Full-sized bicycles are not allowed on Luas trams or city buses. Folding bicycles are allowed on both.
  • Bicycles are allowed on Dart and Commuter trains off-peak. For details, look at the bicycle page on irishrail.ie. Folding bicycles are allowed on all services.

A brief history of Dublin

Dublin is believed to have been founded before the Vikings invaded around 795 AD, the city was later invaded by the Anglo-Normans (the English) in 1170.

According to Dublin.ie (where you’ll find more on the history of Dublin), “The 1800 Act of Union which created the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is considered by many to have had an enormous impact on Dublin and been the cause behind its decline. Its Golden Age was over. The loss of the parliament in Dublin meant that much of the Ireland’s governing class, the aristocracy and gentry left for London”

The early half of the last century saw massive change in Ireland starting with the 1916 Rising. Ireland gained a level of independence in the years following the Rising, but officially the country only declared itself a republic 70 years ago.

Independence did not straight way lead to economic success but in recent decades Dublin established itself as a hub for international financial services in the IFSC and later tech companies.

An overview of Dublin today 

Today, Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. The city’s urban area has a population of 1.17 million people.

The administrative area of Dublin City Council accounts for less than half of the city’s urban population — this excludes commuter town where there is a gap in 200 metres in the urban fabric. It is widely viewed that that Dublin City was or at least is kept split in four to weaken the city’s power by central Government.

Ireland has a population of 4.8 million people, while the Greater Dublin Area (county Dublin and the counties around it) is nearly 40% of country’s population in a fraction of the country’s overall land mass.

There is a myth in Ireland that Dublin is a low-density, but this is not the case. Dublin is medium density and comparable to most European cities with a similar population. Dublin’s overall urban population density is slightly greater than that of Amsterdam or Copenhagen, and marginally lower than Stockholm. We have covered this in detail here and here.

Some people in Ireland will also claim that there’s many people with longer commutes, but a common example of that Lonford to Dublin is little different in distance from Eindhoven to Amsterdam. What Dublin lacks is the required level of investment in commuter rail.

A brief history of cycling in Dublin and Ireland

For most of the last century Dublin was a cycling city. The humble bicycle gave freedom to its residents. The bicycle also inspired famous Irish writers, including Samuel Beckett.

Dublin is also host to a significant bit bicycle history — Dunlop House at the corner of Westland Row was the former headquarters of Dunlop Rubber, the address at which the pneumatic (inflatable) tyre patent was drafted in 1893.

Although, only a name plate on the outside of the building celebrates its tire history — the truth is that the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland probably celebrates inventor John Boyd Dunlop more than Dublin does. Dunlop was actually Scottish but he invented and died in Ireland.

Mass bicycle use in Ireland also expanded the reach of rural Ireland. As the National Museum of Ireland describes: “People had always walked great distances but the bicycle allowed for even more ground to be covered. Its introduction dramatically changed the social life of ordinary people in rural Ireland. It was the primary means of transport for many people travelling to school, work, religious services, shopping in the larger towns and to dances near and far.”

However, from around the 1970s cars started to dominate in a larger and larger way. Ireland slower to heavy car use but by the late 1980s the move to the car was stark.

Around 25% of university students cycled in the 1980s before that started to sharply decline, only levelling off around the 2000s at around just 5%.

Data from national Censuses shows that secondary school students followed the same trend, going from 15% in the 1980s to flattening at around 1-2% at the dawn of the century.

Cycling today — cycling on the rise but a frustration of problems

In took more than a decade later for a significant bounce back for cycling. That has mainly happened in Dublin and to a lesser extent in other cities.

Dublin has increase year-by-year to a point where 7.1% of residents commuters in Dublin City and Suburbs cycle daily and 10% in the city council area. This excludes longer commutes such as train commuters who use a bicycle and also excludes people who only cycle one or two days a week and drive the other days.

A mix of a confined city centre streets, a ban on larger trucks off the city centre streets, a tax scheme for new bicycles and a bicycle share system has lead to an increase in cycling in Dublin in the last decade.

It’s hard to say that Dublin’s basic cycling infrastructure did not at least invite some people to think cycling might be for them, but Dubliners are said to cycle despite the poor cycling infrastructure.

Cycling infrastructure in Dublin is mostly non-segregated cycle lanes, shared bus lanes and non-continuous sections of segregation. There are a number of Greenways, usually shares walking and cycling paths, along rivers and canals but their potential is often hampered by barriers or not being connected to property to homes and workplaces.

There is still not a single segregated or low-motor-traffic route which runs continuously from any suburb the full way into Dublin City centre, the largest centre of employment. But there’s some hope around the corner — most of the northern section of the S2S route around Dublin Bay was finished recently, and construction is to start this year to link it to the city centre and beyond.

Dublin has excelled at making plans, but a number of factors has delayed implementation. These include the 2007-2011 economic crash, a lack of funding for cycling and the debate over taking space from cars.

There is also hope ahead for funding — in its recently published Climate Action Plan the national Government promising 10% transport funding to be allocated to cycling. Meanwhile the Green Party has gained seats on Dublin’s councils and councillors from other parties are also starting to see cycling as an election issue.

Dublin is relatively flat and it rains slightly more in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. But even in the rainier west of Ireland, the Galway Cycle Bus has proven that it’s the lack of high-quality segregated cycling infrastructure (not the weather) which is the main factor putting Irish people cycling. The group has run ‘cycle buses’ protecting school children cycling their own bicycles on all but the worst days of winter, such as when there was storms.

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. Andy Mac Unfraidh June 24, 2019 at 2:12 am

    Crazy that you cannot bring a bike on the intercity train during peak hours. They have bike racks on those trains for a reason :(*

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