— Is there enough political will among Dublin City councillors? Has COVID changed mindsets? Is it time to push them and see?
COMMENT & ANALYSIS: As a post-lockdown measure Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council planned and started to build it’s now famous coastal cycle route in a matter of just a few weeks, meanwhile Dublin City Council has yet to finish work on its ‘Interim Liffey Cycle Route’ measures which were approved before the lockdown.
The coastal route isn’t perfect, but it’s still amazing and it links in with the new measures put in place in Blackrock Village and existing route in Blackrock Park. The coastal route is continuously segregated and safe enough for children to cycle on.
The council has effectively put in place most of its length of the S2S Dublin Bay route in a very short timeframe.
The Interim Liffey Cycle on the other hand is very photogenic in a few spots, but, even when it’s finished, it will be disconnected, interrupted by bus stops and so narrow it parts that it blocks some types of bicycles. A significant section of the route eastbound will continue to mix with buses and an even larger length westbound is expected to also be shared with buses.
The Interim Liffey measures fall far short of what was suggested by the LiffeyCycle.com petition and, for the vast majority of parents, it would miserably fail the “Would I let my kids use this?” test:
This is amazing. When designing infrastructure, engineers should ask themselves "Would I let my kids use this?". If the answer is "No" then it's not good enough. https://t.co/E97zqPSnwZ
— Dublin Commuter Coalition (@DublinCommuters) August 12, 2020
Why should adults and children along the southside’s coast have such a route as part of COVID-19 mobility measures but nothing of the such for the inner city?
What’s proposed by LiffeyCycle.com is to trial a continuous and segregated cycle route. Yes, it will require disrupting car traffic. Yes, that takes political will… is there enough of it among Dublin City councillors and officials? I don’t know, but they have to be pushed to see if the majority of their cycling friendly is more that just surface-level support.
The number of councillors who claim to be pro-cycling and pro-liveable city is now much higher that ever before and support should be boosted by a number of pro-cycling councillors being elected as TDs.
I agree with them that the current #liffeycycle isn’t safe and isn’t accessible for all, and that more than children along the coast should benefit from COVID measures, it needs to be city-wide. But I know pushing for better will annoy a lot of others… what’s your view? (2/2)
— IrishCycle.com (@IrishCycle) August 12, 2020
Since tweeting the above, already a few people have referred to the ministerial intervention with the Phoenix Park gates debacle.
But if a decent version of the Liffey Cycle Route cannot be trialed now post-COVID with the Green Party in government without national government interference, I’d have to worry. But following the LiffeyCycle.com proposals is not like the Phoenix Park — the quays is just one of 20 regional routes which act as access points into the city centre.
And traffic management in a city centre where (1) nearly all the public transport in the city points to, (2) where residents who mostly don’t drive suffer from motoring-induced air pollution, and (3) where there’s already high cycling use and the most potential for a lot more, should be an easier sell than a park which has no public transport into the park and people drive there from all over Dublin and further afield. I’m not saying it would be a walk in the park, but that’s not a good reason why not to push for it.
If the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown route is not city centre enough for people then look to Paris where pre-COVID the city first closed it’s motorway-like road on one bank of its river and half of the traffic “just disappeared”. The plan is to get more and more people out of their cars, so then the city added a two-way cycle path to the parallel street. Post-COVID the city has just doubled the width of the parallel route and started to build 650km of segregate cycle routes as part of their COVID mobility measures.
Yes, Paris has a mayor. Anne Hidalgo has just been re-elected despite some very vocal objections to street changes she had made in her city. Bravery and leadership are required. But collective action from councillors is possable too, Seville and Ghent are both examples of that — and their politicians were rewarded too. Ghent literally done what their Dutch neighbours told them was impossible to do in one go in an election year.
LiffeyCycle.com is basically a repackage of what the city council’s traffic department suggested in 2016/2017 — its not like its a madcap proposal from a cycling website, it was first proposed by council officials as a logical conclusion to years of looking at the Liffey route and the pinch points on the quays. It didn’t go ahead when councillors spent ages deliberating and the National Transport Authorty stepped in to further delay the project by years.
If COVID-19 has not changed mindsets of councillors that more substantial action is needed, I don’t know what hope there is for politicians taking meaningful action on a range of things from cycling to climate change.
Liffey: Status quo VS LiffeyCycle.com proposals
Different visions: Quays as a car park once traffic is fully back VS having a bit of a car park and also people moving on a two-way cycle path.
Mobility: Current car capacity VS more people carrying capacity using active transport, making cycling attractive to many commuters and shoppers. Enabling greater mobility for car-less city centre residents overall and, for those with and without cars, creating the first sustainable alternative into the Phoenix Park and beyond. Even where that means disrupting some people using cars currently.
Air pollution: Status quo of pollution linked to cars by the EPA VS a reduction in cars and a reduction in pollution. This should be seen more important than ever as COVID-19 is worsened by air pollution.
Health: Status quo of active transport by cycling being just for the fit and brave VS opening cycling up to commuters and residents of all ages and abilities.
Young, old and people with mobility issues: Status quo of people only having limited safe choices VS giving people the choice to safely cycle and free up space on public transport.
An attractive city centre: Status quo of it already being unattractive to drive along the quays and that making the overall experience of the quays poor VS starting to change the quays, add an attractive option to travel. The city council is restricting car space in the city already, now it needs to add a choice which is attractive — LiffeyCycle.com is that.
This article was auto-published at 10.30am.
We should be cognizant of some of the comments by the project chief Robert Burns that implemented the Sandycove route on it’s temporary nature. The interview in The Irish Times from August 8th makes this clear:
“With the specialist surface, bespoke wooden kerbing, planting and seating, the scheme has a definite permanent feel about it. However, Burns is adamant these measures are temporary, although what he can’t say is how long ‘temporary’ is. ‘If somebody can tell me how long we will be living with Covid-19, I could give you that answer.’“
Hopefully it will become an essential piece of infrastructure and will be made permanent, but we know from experience that these things can disappear overnight.