Reframing public image of cycling will help with cycle route rollout, say TCD researchers

Analysis of objections to cycle routes in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area was used by researchers at Trinity College Dublin to develop a number of suggestions for reframing cycling which were published in a report today.

Cycling needs to be rebranded to show how it can be used for a variety of everyday tasks and imagery used by authorities should include cycling as an “all-purpose, all-weather, all-day activity”, according to a report titled ‘Exploring Public Opposition to Active Travel Planning in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown’.

The suggestions from the Centre for Transport Research at TCD include reframing cycling as part of the traffic system or avoiding using the phrase ‘traffic’; tackling the assumption that car-based mobility is an unchangeable substance that must be diverted elsewhere; and not letting claims that active travel schemes are a source of danger or emissions dominate by measuring, quantifying, and publicly communicating the dangers and emissions from existing high car use.

Other suggestions from the researchers include focusing on the ‘decide and provide’ approach rather than forecasting endless car growth; outlining how a focus on car growth is fundamentally unsustainable in urban areas with population growth; and showing driving rather than cycling as being dependent on so many other factors.

Dr Robert Egan, co-authored the report who is a postdoctoral research fellow from Trinity’s Centre for Transport Research and School of Engineering, said: “Cycling is first and foremost a practical mode of transport that can, with the right conditions, be used for a variety of everyday tasks by a wide variety of people. However, public spaces need to be developed in such a way that makes cycling – as part of a multi-modal system – more accessible than driving, at least in urban areas for shorter journeys, many of which are still undertaken using the car.”

“Decades of investment in a car system has pushed cycling and walking to the margins, but now we need to radically change these spaces to support multi-modal travel, of which walking and cycling play an important role. In this research, we have identified how underlying assumptions around transport planning and everyday mobility practices can lock-in planning practices the continue to prioritise the car. These assumptions are incompatible with national decarbonisation targets for the transport sector,” he said.

Egan added: “On these grounds, we propose several recommendations for framing active travel planning measures – with a focus on cycling – that firmly position these measures as genuine, plausible and critical transport interventions rather than discretionary additions to an existing car system. A transport system that continues to prioritise the car in towns and cities is no longer sustainable from a climate perspective but also from the perspective of everyday urban mobility in light of population growth and policy goals for increased compact development.”

Professor Brian Caulfield, from Trinity’s Centre for Transport Research and School of Engineering who co-authored the synthesis report, said: “The climate action plan requires a 50% increase in daily active travel trips in order to meet our transport emissions targets. However, across Ireland, many cities and towns are struggling to construct the infrastructure required to enable this target.”

He added: “Our research demonstrates how local authorities can improve their means of stakeholder engagement and consultation in order to expedite the delivery of these projects.”

READ MORE: Exploring Public Opposition to Active Travel Planning in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.


  1. Hmm… listen to the radio any day of the week for half an hour and spot just how many car ads there are – likewise on TV (queue open road desert landscape with no pedestrians or cyclists anywhere to get in the way).
    When have ever seen a bike ad on radio or TV?

    It’s cars that need rebranding, not bicycles.

    • @ Mark – you may have read about the French (?Belgian) bike ad that showed negative (but to my mind as someone who drives, accurate) imagery of travelling in car-dominated places – pollution, noise, stress, road rage. They were told to take it off as it was biased.


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