COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Cllr Mannix Flynn is a bluffer and blusterer. On issues relating to cycling and walking, the level of bad faith arguments he has put forward is epic.
When council officials were recently outlining upcoming walking and cycling projects, Cllr Flynn recently asked officials how he could object to them all.
Regular readers should know he is a buffer — the news reporting on this website shows that, and it shows that he’s not just interested in objecting to cycling projects.
He has argued for pedestrian priority at traffic lights to be reduced, this website has reported on such here. But this isn’t something he has raised once or twice, he keeps bringing this up at council meetings.
Not only did he join in the court case against the Sandymount cycle route trial, but he also made vague threats that Dublin City Council’s pedestrianisation plan will face a Court challenge if done quickly.
But many others who are not following walking and cycling issues as closely may not know that Cllr Flynn has a chip on his shoulders about bicycles and people who cycle. But not just that. He has also objected to changes to the streets relating to pedestrians and public transport (because he sees it as being privatised). Newspapers and radio stations are often only happy to platform his bad faith arguments.
His arguments in an article he wrote for today’s Sunday Independent should be read as if foaming-at-the-mouth… and shouting now and again. You don’t have to do much to imagine this — he regularly reacts angrily at council meetings on different issues when his views are challenged.
Cllr Flynn wrote: “Is it now time to regulate the owners and users of such vehicles [scooters, electric bikes, cargo bikes] in a similar way to motorbikes on the road, as has been done in the UK and around Europe?” This is simply an argument made in bad faith or with an inability to understand facts.
Normal electric bikes and cargo bikes are not being treated like motorbikes anywhere around Europe and the debate/promised review in the UK is a hate-filled one pushed on by the hatemongering Daily Mail. We don’t need to be importing that nonsense from the UK.
“No licence is necessary, no form of vehicle registration is required, no training, no age restriction. All you need is the ability to pedal and away you go – most of the time free of any consequences or rules,” wrote Cllr Flynn. When he mentions age here, is he talking about 5-year-olds on bicycles?
Not likely. He’s more likely talking about the inner-city children and teenagers on bikes etc, some of who are out of control (added for clarity: that’s not to say all inner city children on bikes are out of control). Is licencing really going to fix that issue? No, it’s not. It would more likely distract from the policing and social interventions needed.
“How do you make it safer”, Cllr Flynn asks as if he hasn’t objected to projects which make cycling safer.
And then he adds “…and ensure those who are using this form of transport are responsible and accountable on the roads and in our streets? You must have a TV licence, a dog licence, a busking licence, but you don’t need a licence, or indeed any form of registration, for a vehicle that can travel at substantial speeds, can be powered by batteries and can cause serious injury to individuals.”
Ok, let’s say for a second that nobody has thought of this idea before. Let’s pretend that countries and cities have not looked at licencing bicycles and/or their users and let’s pretend that it isn’t unworkable and ineffective.
Let’s pretend that it’s 2024 and there are number plates on all bicycles. Now, what happens when Cllr Flynn starts reporting cyclists for running red lights? We don’t need to imagine we know that the Gardai often dismiss lawbreaking of motorists. It varies from division to division but people with camera evidence are often turned away or it’s dismissed by their bosses.
Even when the Gardai bring issues to Courts, many District Court judges are far too sympathetic to people who have clearly been caught breaking the law while driving. Worse still, they are strangely sympathetic to many repeat offenders who have racked up points.
There’s no denying that there are “reckless and anti-social behaviour and disregard for safety displayed” by all road users, including some cyclists. But when Cllr Flynn claims: “In the case of a poor motorist, you can get the registration, you can hold a person to account, you can identify them,” that’s at best a simplification.
He also claims that there “there’s no legal instrument that actually holds [cyclists etc] to account” — this is simply not true. There’s a big difference between a level of enforcement and “legal instruments”. There are “legal instruments”, ie laws, to hold people on bicycles to account.
Cllr Flynn wrote that “I’m not going to bamboozle with statistics around accidents on our roads and fatalities; we know it’s dangerous and many people get killed and seriously injured” — there’s a reason for this the statistics are not on his side. The statistics show — as they do across the world — that motorists are the main danger, not just by a slight bit, but massively so.
Sadly, in the last decade, a pedestrian was killed and a cyclist killed in two different walking/cycling collisions in Ireland in the last decade.
In the grand scheme of things, people walking and cycling cause around the same level of risk. This is often denied by people who don’t cycle (and by some who do).
This year over 100 people have been killed on our roads, a significant increase from recent years and months left for things to get worse.
The bad faith arguments from Cllr Flynn only get worse.
He tries to counter any criticism by saying that he’s “well aware there are those who will see this as an attack on cyclists. They will argue it is a disincentive to people giving up their cars…” and then goes on to write: “In terms of cycling being egalitarian, it is worth noting that very little cycling infrastructure is deployed in working-class areas.”
This claim from Cllr Flynn that working-class areas are not getting cycling infrastructure is one he’s made a few times. But the reason why it’s so bad faith is that when cycle paths and walking improvements were provided on the Sean Moore Road, Cllr Flynn falsely claimed that residents (in cars) are “hostages in their own homes”.
If people in blocks of flats are looking for secure bicycle parking, as he says, why then as a councillor is he not looking to improve their situation, rather spending so much time objecting to cycle routes?
Cllr Flynn wrote: “The simple bicycle is no longer a passive instrument, it is being weaponised by political parties and elites who constantly try to shame us when we challenge them about the reality and impact of certain cyclists’ bad behaviour.” But, yet again, this is loaded with bad faith. Cllr Flynn has devoted far more time and energy to objecting to cycle routes than he has challenging bad behaviour.
Many of Cllr Flynn’s proses ring hollow compared to his record. He writes that “People with disabilities, elderly people, children and vulnerable individuals are placed in danger on a regular basis by unregulated cyclists”, but the truth is that those people are let down even more by Cllr Flynn — and fellow councillors — who hinder the provision of safer infrastructure which properly separates people walking and cycling.
Of those who do cycle or who would like to cycle if conditions were better, they are poorly served by the action and inaction of Cllr Flynn and fellow councillors. This includes disabled people, and people who are young and old.
Lines such as “We must address this as we make the switch to carbon neutrality…” ring as hollow coming from Cllr Flynn who has previously said he’s all for walking and cycling while continuing to object to projects which make both safer.
At one point in the article, Cllr Flynn argues that “Looking down the road, the private sector rent-a-bike and rent-a-scooter markets are going to explode on our streets, and if we don’t have clear legislation in place, chaos will ensue”, yet, what he calls the “private sector rent-a-bike” sector, has been operating in years now and there has been little to no chaos evident.
Nobody is denying that there is some problematic behaviour by many cyclists. Nor is anybody denying that there are some reckless cyclists who need to be sanctioned. But licence and registration is a solution in search of a problem.
It’s a solution that may be understandably put forward by some people who are frustrated by the behaviour of some cyclists. But, for anybody who has thought for more than a moment about it, it should be clear about how impractical such a system would be to implement, how unlikely it would be to be effective, and the very likely waste of policing resources if it was implemented. The data, practical experience, and relative levels of risk we’re talking about means licence and registration for bicycles would go against logic and reason.
CORRECTION: This article has been edited to reflect that a pedestrian was killed and a cyclist killed in two different walking/cycling collisions in Ireland in the last decade.