PART 1: If we want walking, cycling and liveability to thrive, leadership is needed from more of the people we elect

— When issues are the standard recurring ones, leaders address concerns themselves. They don’t push “alternative” options by groups who share anti-cycling rants.

COMMENT & ANAlYSIS: Last week The Guardian reported that in the UK: Despite a loud opposing minority, low-traffic neighbourhoods are increasingly popular.

In Dublin, we have RTÉ and The Irish Times reporting on public consultation on a trial cycle path in Sandymount which found a clear majority but still reporting the trial was going ahead “despite opposition”.

The Guardian went onto say that a YouGov poll found positive views on low traffic neighbourhood (LTNs) are three times higher than negative ones. It’s usually billed as a fight of cycling vs residents. In Dublin, it was up to people supportive of cycling to note that Dublin City Council’s consultation report said: “It is also worth noting that considerable numbers of submissions were received in favour of the scheme from residents within the Sandymount area and especially on Strand Road.”

The STC group — set up just to oppose the cycle path on Strand Road in Sandymount — are the more they go on, showing their true colours. For example, retweeting raving mad Daily Mail articles with disinformation and the efforts of anti-cycling groups in the UK as if they were freedom fighters.

The reality in the UK is closer to this where objectors are engaged in a range from heated arguments to even criminal damage and threatening people:

Political sources in the UK have also said that the opposition is spurred on by Russian-like troll farm accounts poisonings the discussion online. It is their goal to sow discontent generally and experts have found them engaging on ultra-local issues… so, why not cycling? It’s already a divisive issue given the way it’s covered by the media on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Whatever about troll farm accounts, it’s becoming clear that the far-right in Ireland is talking an issue with cycling. Sometimes very obviously from high-profile accounts, but other times trying to look a bit more sensible.

In one case we know of the person on Twitter who also shared far-right content claimed to be a shopkeeper, but we had known them from a previous interaction where they said they worked elsewhere and the switch was unlikely. Others claim they share far-right content but aren’t far right, yeah right.

In another case we know of a very vocal person against cycling infrastructure who owns a house in a north Dublin suburb but actually lives abroad. This person claims to cycle all the time, but people who know him claim when he did live in Dublin, they hardly every seen him out of his car, even for very short trips.

These kind of people are fairly clever in how they approach councillors as concerned residents who support cycling but that this one project is wrong or there hasn’t been enough consultant (which is sometimes true, but usually not).

Too many in all parties also don’t get that concern often equals opposition. Sadly the case even when a councillor proposing cycle lanes was called a “racist” towards residents because cycle lanes are for “foreigners” or when group opposing cycling infrastructure are sharing ranting anti-cycling Daily Mail articles.

Some in all parties have a mix of support, from none to light to strong. Many councillors and TDs gave light support for active travel where it doesn’t effect motorists too much.

***

So, it was disappointing but not highly surprising that a councillor in Dublin, who is supportive of cycle routes, last week defended sending an anti-cycling rant half disguised as questions to council officials.

IrishCycle.com is republishing the rant for clarity to show how bad it is — it’s full of:

  • generalisations (ie evidence shows cycling law breaking is not as bad as motorists and mainly motorists clearly park illegally along the road),
  • logic fallacies (ie if a visitor cannot park their car directly outside your house that doesn’t mean they cannot park further away and walk a bit),
  • misinformation (ie there’s no such thing as road tax), and;
  • concern trolling (ie opposition to cycling infrastructure posed as concern for trees or emergency access, a classic used by people objecting to street changes.)

Here it is in full:

On observing cyclists on Griffith Avenue they fly up and down without regard for cars or pedestrians how will a cycle track improve matters it will make matters worse not better.

Cyclists do not observe traffic lights they sail through them how will this stop that?

I cannot see readily a costing for this can you supply same. DCC at the last meeting said they would run at a deficit for the coming year and this will inevitably impact on funding for life saving emergency services? How can the cost of this cycle track be justified under any circumstances?

Griffith Avenue has parking outside your home for visitors, the nature of this proposal means this will be removed so therefore people are not to have visitors anymore?

When spectators return to GAA Inter-county matches held in Croke Park what measures are you taking to prevent parking on the grass verges

Kindly provide a picture of this mini ocra that you will be using according to the plan.

In the response so far you mention you are using bollards, please indicate exactly the location of the use of these, and provide a picture of same. I note residents have already objected to the use of bollards and I agree they are unsightly and will have an impact on the aesthetics of the Avenue.

Also provide information and pictures in relation to the physical buffer that I note is positioned across the access to my drive. Can you please tell me how am I going to access my driveway from the road?

In line with the DCC Dublin City Tree strategy 2016-2020 3.5.9 how are you going to ensure that the trees will not be damaged as a result of using de-icing salt when used on these cycle tracks?

Why was a leaflet drop to all residents informing them of this proposal not completed? The construction of this cycle track was decided without the input of residents. We live in a democracy the last time I checked and the first port of call is to determine if the residents firstly want such a track. As a resident I have not received any information in relation to this proposed cycle track. If you did issue notification can you provide evidence of such.

What consideration has been given to the implementation of road tax, insurance and licencing on bicycles and cyclists. If they use the road they need to contribute to its cost of upkeep. Cyclists do cause accidents and injury to others and therefore as road users they need to have appropriate insurance and take responsibility for their actions. If they are not going to have personal insurance then can you provide me with a copy of DCC insurance policy that covers this issue.

Was a survey completed showing the number of cyclists using the Avenue between the hours of 7.00am and 9.00 am and between 4.00pm and 7.00 pm. Can you provide copy of the survey and results?

Can you clarify if the existing pedestrian island at the crossing at the old Garda Station will be remaining under the new proposal? If not what will the timing of the pedestrian lights be for elderly people to cross this junction?

The right filter lane onto Drumcondra Road is to be 2.8m wide as per your plans , how is this adequate when a Dublin Bus is 2.51m plus wing mirrors wide? And what about lorries that are even wider?

How will the turn from Drumcondra Road to Griffith Avenue be sufficient for a bus/lorry to turn under the new proposed measures? Or will we have gridlock when they get stuck that regularly happens at the other junction the other side of Griffith Avenue (heading into town turning left from Swords Road to Griffith Avenue.

The councillor responsible was Cllr Allison Gilliland (Labour) and when IrishCycle.com contacted for comment, this is what I got back:

“I think it rather unfair and divisive that you focus on this particular question that I submitted on behalf of a disgruntled resident. I support the Griffith Ave cycle way and called for better communication with local residents on its introduction to ensure local residents were supported in becoming aware of what was happening. Following this request a leaftlet is being dropped to all residents so they know the facts about the new cycle ways rather than leaving them to make assumptions. Heretofore DCC used its online consultation hub for communication and interaction which excluded those who were not aware of it and those who do not have online facilities.

As a public rep I am asked all manner of questions on a variety of issues I may or may not agree with. In some cases it’s more effective and expedient to simply ask DCC officials to respond to them via our meeting questions facilities which I did in this case. I recognise that I should have taken the time to redraft the pertinent fact seeking questions from the correspondence but time pressures can sometimes be the enemy of perfection.

Those who know me would know that the queries did not come from me and that I am fully supportive of the significant cycle infrastructure we are introducing across the city.

I actually withdrew the question the day after I submitted it as I was able to attend a briefing on the cycle way in question so was able to answer the factual questions myself so no Council official had to undertake answering the queries.

If your intention in focusing on this Q to DCC is to blacken my name and paint me as an anti-cyclist and someone who indulges the anti-cyclist views of others then that is your prerogative. However, I would not view that as a productive way to examine the challenges we all face in balancing concerns and challenges with making an effective inclusive transition to a safer more cycle friendly & infrastructure resourced city. Nor is it a productive approach to encouraging an honest, open and balanced civic engagement with citizens that may have concerns, well founded or otherwise, and with public reps who seek to progress an increase in cycle infrastructure and cycle safety across the city.

I replied: “Thanks for your reply… I’m not trying to paint you as anything or blacken your name, I’m just doing my job by reporting the facts — to me it seems very newsworthy to report on such an anti-cycling rant being sent in by a councillor even where it’s on behalf of a somebody else, even if the main focus is you explaining why you done such when you’re supportive of cycling (as you’ve done above).”

And then Cllr Gilliland further replied:

“By default you are Cian. As you will note the twitter threads focused on me, my professional capacities, my party and general negative personal commentary against me and not on the substantial matter of how we (local representatives & the cycling community) can constructively overcome local residents negativity towards cycle infrastructure. An article in the same vein re-runs the extensive negative commentary against my person and my professionalism, which is not a pleasant experience.”

I responded saying that I cannot be responsible for what others write on Twitter. But then I searched what people were saying to her on Twitter and it was mostly mild.

So I said the main thing I can see is shock from people that a progressive councillor would forward on such an anti-cycling rant to council officials.

I looked and the main comments about Labour and such seemed to be from Labour voters or former Labour voters. Another person who I don’t know what party he votes for seems to be jokenly making a generalisation (ie making the point that you were making generalisations).

One of the more personal comments about your profession is from an older lady who’s a cycling campaigner — I’m guessing she was shocked the anti-cycling rant and was trying to understand it. This lady is very mild mannered, so, the councillor’s actions likely shocked her.

Others are just asking why Cllr Gilliland had said such (wronly thinking it was her own words, and others were just saying it was wrong or they are shocked etc.

After explaining the above I asked: Do you understand how bad the rant was that you sent onto officials? It’s the kind of thing that the people tweeting you hear from ranting motorists with road rage who try to run them off the road? No reply on that.

My mistake might have been adding this: “Two people commenting on Twitter I forgot to mention — Cllr Dermot [Lacey] and @WatchPopulistIr — both of whom will do you no favours with their types of comments or Dermot’s history of voting against cycle routes.”

The Labour Party is on the face of it pro-cycling more than most other parties, but for too many of their elected members it’s conditional on not interrupting cars enough.

>>> READ PART TWO NOW

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.

6 Comments

  1. I have Never voted against a cycling lane. Never. You should get your facts right.

  2. Dermot, I know of no-one in the ‘cycling community’ who thinks that you’re on the side of promoting active travel. Sure, you consistently claim you are, but when it rubs up against the wishes of those who don’t want any restrictions on their car travel, then you’re very much in the camp of looking for compromises (ie status quo not impacted). As I say, you consistently claim that you’re pro-cycling, while everyone else in the broader community who wish to enable active travel regard you as not being on their side. When two diametrically opposed views bang up against each other, one has to consider if perhaps you’re you’re just simply wrong in your opinion of yourself.

  3. The Only occasion on which I have “voted against cycling” was when along with a majority of Cllrs I voted against the premature consultation on the ill thought through Quitetway. The main two proposals in my electiral are have been the S2S which I have aleays supported though not on that Committee and the Dodder Greenway which I have actively supported. The next one is the Clonskeagh to City Centre scheme which in principle I support but I understand some cycling campaigners have problems with.

  4. It’s not clear why you think it wasn’t ready for public consultation — routes cannot be perfect before they get to public consultation.

  5. Dermot, you claim to have always supported the S2S. Ok, let’s take your word on that. You claim to have always been in support of the Dodder Greenway. Concerns about shared spaces aside, let’s also say that’s true. But there’s a huge difference between saying you’re in support of something, when it doesn’t cost you any political ground, and actually going out and actively pushing for the project to happen. Lots of people are ‘in support’ of combating climate change, but then do feck all to actually help combat climate change and carry on driving around in SUVs and flying to Greece on their holidays. Now, we can probably say that you were never elected on a cycling ticket, so it’s not up to you to actively push for better cycling infra. And if that is what we were dealing with, then I don’t think too many people could argue with that. However, you have repeatedly made out that you’re wholeheartedly on the side of enabling and pushing for better cycle infra, when those in who really are actively pushing for such change, not only see you as not being on their side, but often actively frustrating such goals. Once again, as I’ve said before, here and on social media, you may well feel that you’re on the side of the cycle community, but I’m telling you as clearly as I can that you’re regarded as an obfuscator.

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