On walking, cycling and liveability: What’s your hope for life after lockdown?

While the COVID 19 crisis is an awful situation, it also gives us time to ask what’s going to happen next and question how we’re going to get there.

Sometimes change is sparked off in different countries because of a crisis — in both The Netherlands and Denmark today the level of cycling can partly be linked back to the oil crisis in the 1970s. But another part of the story is people had to demand change and argue that it was indeed better than the status quo, there were mass protests in Amsterdam. Like modern climate protests, children were involved in making Amsterdam less car-centric. While protesting on the street is out of the question for now, what else are you willing to do how if you want positive change and is anything holding you back? Is it fear that your town is too small or that it’s all pointless because city centre car parks have too much power? Or what?

In terms of walking, cycling and liveability: What’s your hope for life after lockdown? How much are you willing to fight towards more sustainable transport and liveability measures?

Please use the comments section under this article (not on Facebook or Twitter) to say what what’s your hope and how you’re going to look for it… or maybe you feel there isn’t hope… why not?

We want to hear from local perspectives in different places across cities and all over Ireland and beyond…

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.

15 Comments

  1. Tristan Dunne May 21, 2020 at 12:11 am

    Seeing hundreds of morons queuing in their cars at McDonalds in Nutgrove today on its first day of opening since the Covid shutdown, I have little hope for the future, sorry!

  2. The levels of speeding traffic in the Sandyford area since Monday does not fill me with hope I’m afraid. I can’t see any measures in the area to allow for safer walking/cycling being ripped out. I have little hope that things won’t just go back to the way they were :(

  3. *rolled out

  4. I, too, have little hope for where I live (Dublin). I think the proportion of people active in the cycling community is too small compared to the number of small-minded motorists harboring an anti-bicycle obsession. I wasn’t aware of the online community until recently when I happened across a fb page, and I know none of my cycling friends are.

    Whilst positive cycling-friendly changes are occurring in the city centre, I don’t think the people are the top with power to enact more meaningful change are proponents of cycling, unfortunately.

    If my uncle who cycled to work every single day of his life can still curse out the window at cyclists and pass dangerously at 60km/h… what hope is there?

  5. Stephen McManus May 21, 2020 at 9:09 am

    The wrong people are running the show, they are unable (as in lack of incompetence) to drive the changes that Dublin requires. If we can’t even stop cars from encroaching on space needed for social distancing during a pandemic as a life saving measure, how can we even talk realistically about liveable cities?

  6. Ok so while I have the sentiments of the above comments, I also believe now more than even in the past 40 years attitudes are turning towards a sustainable life. This includes cycling. A big part of the problem is that as a consumer capitalist society we were time poor, rushing around competing in the rat race. While this is still going on, it has also slowed down. People are itching to get back to work but will they want to give up on home life as much as they had before COVID-19? The people I speak too don’t want to do that they want a more balanced less stressful life. The big picture questions are: has life slowed down? Have distanced we travel shrunk/ for for sure but also going forward I’d like to think yes.
    In Co Cork there is a council led Reactivation Town Teams project ACT. the council are bringing local community and business representatives together. Widening paths for queuing outside shops. The document says space for people over cars. Possibly this is nation wide, ask you councillors and TDS about it. Have a voice.
    The design manual for urban planning 2019. Is a step in the right direction.
    With widened paths and people stepping into the Road for social distancing the a reduced speed limit makes sense. 30km I believe will come to all our Urban areas, it just makes sense. See The love 30km campaign Love30.ie
    Healthy streets and people first are growing movements. Transformations in this direction are happening all over the globe. It’s only a matter of time before Ireland joins the party.
    Write to your councillors and TDS. Look at your area and make some first step suggestions.
    Everyone I speak to wants change it’s coming whether we like it or not.
    We can all help to speed up the change.

  7. There is a narrow cycle lane painted on the footpath across from where I live. During full lockdown many more people cycled along here than in pre-covid days. The majority were on the road rather than the cycle lane as it is far too narrow for pedestrians as it is, (regardless of cyclists using it as well.)
    During lockdown motorists gave cyclists space people were generally polite and patient with each other. Since Monday the majority of motorists are now beeping and close passing these same cyclists. Politeness has gone out the window.
    If this scenario is common across the country, I think it will be a difficult fight to change peoples attitudes.

  8. How can we counter the argument that we have to use our cars to maintain social distancing with COVID19 ,which impacts negatively on public transport and prevents better access to road space for cyclists and pedestrians?

  9. Trying to be hopeful but then you remember ‘people’.
    While the desire is there (and would be greater if people saw wider footpaths, better cycling infrastructure, more pedestrian areas) it unfortunately has to be led by the Councils who seem unduly scared/reticent to change.
    Katie’s comments above do give hope as these changes make sense and can be planned for. Courage and conviction to implement is key. Just do it.

  10. @Katie Mann
    Thanks for bringing a little optimism to the discussion. The points you make are very valid and more significant than the anecdotal gloom of other respondents.
    The fact is that there is a sea-change underway whether motorists or anyone else likes it or not. In Ireland particularly, the stars are aligning in favour of cycling in a way that they have never done before. Covid is only accelerating a process that was already in progress.
    The pandemic itself still has a very long way to run. People are getting a little giddy at the prospect of easing restrictions, and it’s hard to blame them, but a second (or third) wave is very likely, and there might well be more caution when emerging from lockdown next time around.
    The city center is clearly changing, and now is the time to do so, but it is in the suburbs that the next wave of changes will need to be and that may be more difficult to bring about given how wedded people are to their cars for school runs and shop visits, but this can change.
    Regarding the countryside, just today the EU introduced CAP reform proposals that will see farmers receiving payments for nurturing the biodiversity on their land or growing forestry rather than being paid to raise animals at a loss. This is a game changer.
    In the longer run, there are a few factors that are likely to be very significant:
    1. Less commuters: Offices that can only allow 30% of workers at any one time and a desire to work from home mean that commuter levels to the city are unlikely to return to pre-covid norms any time soon, if ever.
    2. Policy direction: There is a worldwide move towards more environmentally friendly policies that Ireland will not be able to resist and to which we are signed up.
    3. Greens in power: If the greens do enter power with FF/FG, expect significant changes in transport funding.
    4. Progressive councillors: Dublin has had a clear out of many of the old school councillors that plagued the implementation of any initiatives that remotely threatened the domination of cars. There are only a few left (I’m looking at you, Mannix). the current councils are far more progressive and cycling friendly.
    5. Public appetite: More and more people acknowledge that things cannot continue as before and are willing to make more of an effort to change now that they have had a taste of a different world. There is also a younger generation that are far more clued in to the potential impact on their lives in the future that are finding their voice.

  11. In the parts of the city near me, everything seems to have very quickly reverted to pre-lockdown. Traffic jams, vehicles encroaching on cyclists space, cars running red lights (way way after the light had turned red, so dangerous – my personal bugbear as I’ve never seen anyone pulled for this).
    There were so many families out cycling on the roads with their kids during lockdown, it showed great potential, however unless some big changes are made fast these possibilities will fade so quickly. If only the decision makers commuted by bicycle….then perhaps some change might happen.
    Sorry to be negative

  12. I would echo those remarks about the increase in traffic on the 18th, I believe the light traffic and high speeds will quickly reinforce the position of the car as the only ‘safe’ way to get around and erode the progress made in cycling.

    Areas with segregated Cycleways should see an increase, particularly the canal routes, however some of those were already at high occupancy and social distancing won’t be easy at pinch-points.

    I expect that the best course of action now would be to put all effort into recruitment.

    Connect with those who got back on a bicycle, stir the competitive regional/national nature by publicising what’s happening elsewhere.

    Get kids asking parents when that type of family cycling can happen again.

    Far from being the end, this may just be the beginning..

  13. In Wexford Town, there is little hope of any improvements in the cycling infrastructure here, because it doesn’t exist in the first place.

    Like in the new cycle lane on the north quays in Dublin, or like on the Lower Kilmacud Road heading into Stillorgan, the infrastructure here just disappears at a certain point.

    For us, it disappears at the turn for Crosstown on the Castlebridge road (just beyond the Riverbank… and even then, the cyclelane is only maybe a kilometre long), at Murntown coming in from Drinagh, in the middle of the Newtown Road coming in from the hospital, there are no cyclelanes on the road from Ferrycarrig, while none of the roads up around Wexford Park seem to have any cyclelanes.

    Recently, when the County Council began to allow cars back onto the Main Street for the first time in a number of years (why??), their Twitter account began to randomly “like“ anti-cycling tweets in a conversation about stopping cars from driving on a pedestrianised street i.e. they were “liking” a load of whataboutery that just so happened to be anti-cycling.

    Who knows who runs the account, might have SFA to do with the councillors, but it says something about officialdom down here.

    The WexCyclingBug has a facebook post this week about a new mobility plan in response to the current health crisis – let’s hope there is some light at the end of that tunnel.

  14. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    I think the timing would be great to promote and push local councils to properly support cyclists..

    The last 10 weeks have been brilliant as all my children have experienced cycling and getting onto roads.

    The down sides have been lots of unpleasant stares from walkers and motorists still driving too fast and dangerously

    For example Malahide Castle near where we are could easily put in a dedicated cycle path all around the perimeter and where the paths are narrow there is ample space on the pitches and fields.

    It would be good to have a full traffic management plan within 2km or so of the Village to include more room for cyclists.

    Also to have warning signs for motorists to take care. The behaviour of motorists passing parked cars and allowing cyclists space continues to shock.

    All cycleways should be distinct from mechanical/powered traffic as per the one in front of Robswall Park between Malahide and Portmarnonock.

    How about a full cycle way from Swords to Malahide.

    A full Cycleway to Fairview

    A full Cycle way from Portmarnock to Malahide.

    Remove parking and put in cycleway to St Oliver Plunkett’s and the other National Schools. 

    Cycleway to Community School.

    Enforcement of cars speeding in the village boundary.

    This has benefits for mental and physical health, reducing carbon footprint, making it easier to do incidental shopping locally and creating alternatives for everyone

  15. Oisín O'Connor May 23, 2020 at 8:58 pm

    My hope and my expectations are quite different.

    Hope:
    a number of “temporary” space reallocations on main roads become more permanent.
    Residents fight back against rat running and secure more “quiet” streets.
    Lower car traffic for a while and changing attitudes gives councils and NTA the OK to go ahead with otherwise “disruptive” schemes.
    More people go from “cyclist who wants better” to “cycling advocate dedicating time and effort to a collective and concerted effort to put the pressure on the authorities to do more.
    More “occasional cyclers” who at least have a taste of what it’s like. Less of a market for “anti-cycling” councillors.

    Expectations:
    A big imbalance between what Dublin City Council do and what all the other councils do. Some other councils like to do bits and pieces around the edges but the choice is simple: Take space away from parked and moving cars or you’re just barely improving things.

    One thing is certain, if we don’t get more active cycling advocates from this and a big step up from cycling advocacy in general, we’ll barely improve things. We need to get more ambitious in our demands and more intolerant of delays and fudges from councils. As soon as we can, we need to get out on the streets to exert sustained pressure on any obstacles to progress. In the meantime, anyone who wants change, can set their baseline of expectations low and get the pressure on accordingly if you want better than that. Email your Councillors, email your TDs, email your local council traffic department. Organise your neighbours, your colleagues, the parents at your kids’ school, tell all of the local business that you frequent that being able to cycle safely there makes you more likely to shop there than getting in the car to shop further afield.

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