Council bosses shouldn’t sound like talk radio texters on cycling rants

IMAGE: Cycling infrastructure in Cork needlessly blurs the line between walking and cycling space.

— Council CEOs should be leaders, failing that, they are legally obliged to follow national policy on promoting cycling, and morally obliged to keep people safe

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: When Cork-based cycling campaigners had a meeting last week with Cork City Council they might not have been expecting miracles, but they shouldn’t of had to face a response which sounded like a Newstalk texter.

IMAGE: For some reason instead of leadership, under the current CEO Cork City Council continues to refuse to protect cycle paths subject to chronic illegal parking.

Every local authority in Ireland should be unlocking the many benefits of cycling including health and quality of life of residents, greater transport capacity in towns and city centres, reduced emissions, and tourism.

When radio shows are covering issues like better quality cycle routes or illegal car parking in cycle lanes, a recurring text message read out on Newstalk and other radio stations is that cyclists need to first start to obey the law.

The hard facts is that motorists break the law more than cyclists including not just speeding, but also running red lights. More importantly, it’s unfortunate but true that that motorists are involved with the deaths of other road users on a weekly basis (thankfully, it’s been nearly two decades cyclist in Ireland was in that same position).

IMAGE: Campaigners have pleaded with council officials to tackle at least the illegal parking hot spots.

That doesn’t excuse misbehaving cyclists. The point is that when a new road or other benefit for motorists is discussed, there’s no discussion of motorists’ behaviour. It would be silly. It’s just as silly for similar discussion on cycling behaviour when infrastructure is discussed.

If anything — proper cycling infrastructure will help improve cycling behaviour. For example, when cycling infrastructure is safe for children, younger children and teenagers will use it rather than the footpaths. Make no mistake: often when we’re told of older people encountering “cyclists on the footpaths”, they are referring to teenagers or even younger children.

The type of cycling infrastructure which is continued to be provided by councils — such as Cork City Council — is designed in a way with shared paths and shared bits at junctions which blurs the lines between what’s pedestrian and what’s cycling space.

So, when campaigners Sam McCormack and Majo Rivas last week had a meeting with Cork CEO Ann Doherty, the meeting should not have started with Doherty reading out an email from a resident giving out about cyclists on footpaths:

https://twitter.com/sammccormack97/status/1198964992537767936?s=21

For some reason instead of leadership, under the current CEO, Cork City Council continues to refuse to protect cycle paths subject to chronic illegal parking.

IMAGE: The illegal parking in cycle lane hotspots are well known in Cork.

The excuses for not acting (see this echolive.ie article) coming from Doherty’s executive team on the council are at best weak. Cork was first with a decent amount of contra-flow cycle tracks, but now it’s behind overall and it could take not how Dublin City Council has started to show the way in providing segregation at points where needed — a limited amount of “Dublin Orcas” or similar products would quickly and inexpensively solve chronic parking on cycle lanes on a number of streets in Cork.

The problem isn’t money. Is it that the council’s CEO doesn’t want to annoy car drivers or business owners? The problem seems to be the same problem Dublin is suffering from — the politics of space. Doherty’s team are making a judgement call that it’s too much hassle to annoy the motorists who park illegally and too much hassle to stop a cycle track from turning into a taxi rank at nighttime.

Echolive.ie have a quote from an unnamed Cork City Council spokesperson: “The needs of all road users must be considered including pedestrians, public transport users, cyclists and motorists” — just in case anybody reading this is confused: Cork has a few unconnected bit of segregated cycling infrastructure of mixed quality. That’s all there is of note. The city is car-dominated.

The inaction of Doherty’s council management team on this shows that the safety, comfort and convenience of people who cycle in Cork is not high on her agenda, nor is unlocking the potential of cycling for Cork, it’s people and businesses.

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.

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