On cycling: “Dublin is like London 15 years ago — Dublin really hasn’t up its game”

— Central Dublin still has “four lane highways on bridges” that “could be put on a road diet”.

“I’m definitely shocked by how feral the roads are,” was the reaction from UK-based journalist Carlton Reid when this website asked him at the Velo-city conference earlier this year of his impression of Dublin. It should be a shock to the system that even UK-based cycling experts are shocked at Dublin, but what will be the legacy of Velo-city 2019 in Dublin?

Reid is a cycling journalist based in the north of England, who writes about cycling as transport for Forbes.com. He has also written books such as ‘Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling’ and ‘Roads Were Not Built for Cars: How Cyclists Were the First to Push for Good Roads & Became the Pioneers of Motoring’.

Reid and fellow cycling journalist Laura Laker covered Velo-city with a podcast series called Virtual Velo-city, now all but bonus content available for free at virtualvelo-city.com where you’ll hear even more people express shock about Dublin.

“Going from Temple Bar [to the Convention Centre], walking in the morning and cycling on the way back. It’s just awful — and you think: ‘how can they do this, how can they let it happen,” said Reid. “I’ve heard a few Dublin City Council people saying we cannot do much because we’ve got such narrow roads and then you look at the four lane highways on bridges. These are massive roads that you could put on a road diet.”

But Reid said that when he asked Dublin’s lord mayor, Paul McAuliffe, if he and fellow councillors going to take the criticism from local campaigners and international delegates to spur them into action or was it just annoying them — Reid said: “It was the latter, it wasn’t that ‘we we’re going to take that on board’, it’s that ‘we are really annoyed'”.

Back in June, just before Velo-city conference, the Government published its Climate Action Plan with a suggestion for congestion charging not present as expected in the final document. It was again in the media recently as a suggestion for Dublin. But it has hardly gained traction beyond academics, think tanks and agreement from campaigners.

“I’m shocked that it’s not on the radar to have congestion charging” said Reid. “At traffic lights in the morning, I’m counting how many people there are in cars and it’s one person for every single car for 30 cars. That’s unsustainable. You cannot do that continue to do that in the long term.”

“You cannot keep depend on being a motor-dependent city”

“Dublin is like London 15 years ago — Dublin really hasn’t up its game. The amount of trucks and buses. You cannot keep depend on being a motor-dependent city” he said. “We [conference attendees] see this everyday and we’re all shocked.”

London has started to build a network of high-quality segregated cycle routes which have taken space from cars, with quite a bit of opposition as each bit is added to the network.

Asked about traffic dispersion and the lack of understanding around it, Reid said: “Braess paradox — that’s not a theory, it’s mathematical. You can show in any network, even a road network that if you remove links in doesn’t do what you intuitively think it would do. In many cases it will improve connectivity. By having so many roads, so many options, motorists are going to displaced everywhere. That means much more channeling and stopping [at junctions].”

“Every single time… there’s a massive amount of Nimby complaints”

IMAGE: Tavistock Place in London was made one way for motor traffic to made segregated space for cycling in both directions. (Photo: IrishCycle.com)

“Everybody knows the evidence, there needs to be some sort of rhetoric, some sort of overarching story, that they can tell themselves and they can tell their citizens about why they need to change. Because the evidence is overwhelming, he said. “As Chris Boardman says at every speech — we know what works, we know what the evidence is, we now have got to do it. And every single time these sort of changes are made, there’s a massive amount of Nimby complaints.”

“Obviously in a democracy you have to listen to all voices, but when the evidence for climate change, for health, for social cohesion is so strongly opposed to mass motorisation, you have got to start to say that you’ve got to be a benevolent dictator,” he said, adding that or at least “politicians have to be brave”.

The high level of shock at Velo-city, Reid said, might have been “partly because it’s Velo-City and you normally come to Velo-City and see the amazing transformation that has happened somewhere. You don’t come to Velo-City to see a 20 year programme [of future plans].”

Reid ends on a positive point: “It’s amazing how many people are cycling here — there’s a very wide demographic of people cycling here, in front of buses. In London you’ll get the Mammals, the Lycra-clad guys, in front of a bus. But you would not get the mom on a bike in front of a bus, but here you do — that’s been surprising. The amount of cycling that goes on clearly shows there’s a huge demand.”

This article is part of IrishCycle.com’s extra coverage of the Velo-City 2019 conference, which saw international cycling experts meet in Dublin. You can find more of our Velo-City coverage to date here

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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