2023 Year in Review: Another year where the potential for cycling is undermined by slow progress and poor quality routes

2023 broke records in terms of extreme heat linked to climate change in Europe, and, in Ireland, the EPA warned that targeted emission reduction will fall short, with transport as one of the worst sectors. Cycling is nowhere near to playing its part in emission reductions — the speed and quality of the roll-out of route just isn’t up to the job.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan had called on councils to progress Pathfinder Projects which show the way forward. But, so far, these projects are proving to be delayed or of low quality or far lower impact than you would expect.

...IrishCycle.com's reader-funded journalism won't survive without your help. With over 762,000 views so-far this year, it's not just "avid cyclists" who read this website, but, if you want it to keep going, more support is needed from readers like you. Now, back to the article...

Red C research commissioned by the Department of Transport found that 60% of respondents are willing to change their transport choices to reduce carbon emissions but campaigners questioned the availability of alternatives to allow people to change.

At the start of the year, IrishCycle.com reported that quick-build cycle routes to Ranelagh and Ballsbridge were expected to be rolled out in 2023 but have still not been built. The route to Ballsbrisge has also been cut into two halves.

This website also reported on a Pathfinder plan to rapidly reallocate Dublin City Centre space to boost walking, cycling, and buses. This too is behind its original time frame and as reported in January, it likely was delayed already at that stage — a central backing for the changes, the City Centre Transport Study was to be made public in Q1 2023 but it was flagged a number of times including in June and it was then eventually only published in September.

After that, this website also covered what is included in the plan and then also focused on the cycling elements of the draft city centre plan.

Planning also continued for Dublin’s MetroLink project — at the start of the year, campaigners highlighted that stations are to have bicycle parking for just 28% of the predicted demand. Last month, in their official response to issues, the MetroLink project team said that they’d told An Bord Pleanála that bicycles on board isn’t a planning issue.

In February, IrishCycle.com reported how Minister Eamon Ryan confirmed details of €290m walking and cycling funding for 2023. While in October this website was able to report how Active Travel spending by Irish councils hit €310m in 2022, up from an initial budget of €289m.

Officials in Dublin said this year that there is not enough funding for crossings or traffic calming, but, very strangely, the 2022 funding included using €27 million of ‘Active Travel’ funding for enabling works on Waterford’s car-focused North Quays. While the council claimed that this was for the bridge which would form part of a walking and cycling route, after quite a lot of work on this story, the NTA confirmed that the funding was for general enabling workings for the site.

The Waterford Quays project is also billed as a Pathfinder project but it’s unclear how when the non-waterfront part of the development is bordered by a four-lane road which is being expanded as part of the project.

There was some progress in Cork on the reallocation of space to cycling but, as covered, Cork City Council is kind of fudging design work at junctions. The multi-million euro revamp of Cork’s MacCurtain St is still being treated as a car park.

Also back in February, in the case of the Strand Road cycle route trial planned for Sandymount, the Court of Appeal Justices outlined how there was a “critical issue” that the then High Court Judge disregarded evidence that the cycleway would be temporary. We’re still awaiting a written judgment in the case.

In the meantime, Irish Water ended up closing Strand Road in the northbound direction, but despite the closure northbound, Southsiders still found Dublin Airport. Traffic counts later showed increases, decreases and balancing of traffic in the area.

Another issue the Court of Appeal Justices complained about the lack of Government guidelines covering Section 38 of the Road Traffic Acts. This was fixed in October when new guidelines clarified Irish councils’ powers to install cycling and bus priority measures permanently or as a trial under Section 38. There was a bit of disbelief about the guidelines but it turns out the guidelines said exactly what IrishCycle.com had reported.

These are national guidelines covering Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, which was last amended by Section 46 of the Public Transportation Regulation Act 2009. So, the law, approved by the Dail, hasn’t changed in 14 years but some Dublin councillors complained strongly. At least Cllr Mannix Flynn is nothing if not consistent — he has been complaining about Section 38 since 2016.

This denial that the law says what it does has now been the subject of hours of council meetings, a High Court Case, a Court of Appeal case… and it’s maybe going to rumble on legally or in political rhetoric terms for a while longer.

There was also a lot of denial of the price tag of €30.8 million for a 2.1km section of the Royal Canal Greenway. In March, this website covered some of the complexity which explains the price. That includes a large amount which was set aside for contingency and risk, but it’s also because the project is not just expanding paths but includes bridges, complicated structures and crossings of three busy main roads.

A bit of a sting is left by the fact due to concerns about the loss of trees and the constraints of the canal, the final product was narrowed and will include sections of 1.5 metres for footpaths and 2.5 metres two-way cycle paths, which is inadequate for this kind of urban area.

On the other side of the country, Limerick’s South Circular Road project gained approval from councillors. After a long drawn-out battle, a plan was hatched so that automated bollards would allow for car parking and two-way cycling on a shared surface on a contentious part of the route.

IrishCycle.com covered how the Liffey Valley BusConnects project should be a wake-up call for better design for walking and cycling — that project included trialling bicycle lights at the back of bus stops. The first full implementation of a scaled-down version of traffic lights at bus stops is due to happen on the Clontarf to City Centre plan, a plan for which includes two traffic lights at most of the 12 bus stops along the route.

Most of the inbound section of the Clontarf route is now open, with fitting for the traffic lights to be installed later.

The quality of walking and cycling projects was again a recurring theme in 2023 — for example, South Dublin County Council’s Grange Road walking and cycling project had some constraints to deal with but there’s no excuse for most issues. Choices are being made at the design stage of projects that don’t add up.

The lack of progress the quality of projects prompted IrishCycle.com to pen a letter to Minister Ryan covering how no one expects micro-managing, but how he is are responsible for how €1m per day on walking and cycling is spent.

Census 2022 data released in May showed that nearly 100k people commute by bicycle daily in Ireland, with a large jump in children cycling.

IrishCycle.com’s most read article — by a long shot — was also published in May: News of Fingal County Council opening Ireland’s first Dutch-style roundabout in Dublin 15. Another Dutch-style walking and cycling priority roundabout is now proposed in Dublin 16 by South Dublin County Council.

Also in May, the car-free Capel Street was marked as a success after its first year. While, at the other end of the scale, the launching of mostly sign-posted only Irish EuroVelo 1 route still leaves people cycling using busy 100km/h national roads for sections of the route.

In June, IrishCycle.com covered how city councils were still struggling to hire staff for rollout of walking and cycling routes.

Plans for making Dún Laoghaire’s Coastal Mobility Route permanent were released in July. 75% of public consultation respondents supported making it permanent. While the council also opened an extension of the route to the Dublin City boundary.

A pro-high car use meeting in Dundrum ended with a Gestapo jibe left unchallenged by the meeting’s organisers. Later in the year, there was also trouble at a council meeting covering the Living Streets Dún Laoghaire project and a councillor walked out of the meeting after refusing to withdraw a “propaganda” comment because of his annoyance at a video produced for the council.

In August, IrishCycle.com started a series giving you an insight into the views and backgrounds of some of Ireland’s cycling campaigners — you can read back on those articles here.

The long-awaited Cycle Design Manual, which replaces the National Cycle Manual, was published in September after the councils had given it around a month before. But low-quality designs are still being planned by councils.

One example is another Pathfinder project — the Beaver Row and Beech Hill Road project which this website said is not fit to be a Pathfinder project to the extent that it should be defunded. Another, is a new 200m cycle path in Dún Laoghaire which will have shared footpath-like surfaces at both ends.

Minister Ryan did however remove a project from the Pathfinder programme after it was found that it would not be finished in time. But the Minister has yet to pay as much attention to the quality of routes, at least not publically so.

Freelance journalist Claudia Dalby covered a number of issues in more depth for IrishCycle.com this year: Why won’t councillors let slip lanes slip away; what’s next for the planned Rathmines bus gate; and is it possible to roll out quick-build cycle paths that are more pleasing to the eye.

An “accident waiting to happen” that happened

Councillors were seeking traffic calming what they called the “Mondello-like” Crumlin Road in Dublin but at a meeting back in July officials reminded them it’s an “arterial route”.

Then in November, Rosilaine Ribeiro, a 36-year-old Brazilian who was living in Dublin and working as a carer, was killed in a collision between her bicycle and a truck. The collision happened at the city centre end of the Crumlin Road on the bridge crossing the Grand Canal. Councillors linked the lack of action and the death of the woman.

Literal barriers to cycling

Besides safety, another barrier to cycling is actual barriers on routes. While guidelines say restrictive barriers should not be used on cycle routes, restrictive barriers are still being installed which hinder or fully block routes for bicycles, including blocking children’s route to school due to “anti-social behaviour”. While, soon after, this site reported how the sod was turned on Royal Canal Greenway between Phibsborough and North Strand Road which will remove barriers to cycling along the route. It seems to be a cycle of up and downs in terms of progress on cycling.

Then there’s repeated silliness such as telling cyclists to pointlessly dismount beside €215 million upgrade to Cork motorway junction. While staggered barriers installed on the upgraded Galway city centre canal route are causing conflicts according to users of that route.

Dave Corley covered the issue from a Galway perspective in a comment article and asked: Can you imagine the uproar if car drivers had to navigate similar obstacles?

Bicycle parking where there’s no access to sheds

Bicycle parking for people who do not have easy access to a rear yard or shed was also a recurring issue — early in the year Waterford City looked to provide bicycle for residents on public streets using bike bunkers. Then in June, this website reported how An Bord Pleanála went against its inspector and rejected a bicycle bunker in a Clontarf front garden.

The Department of Housing said in July that it is “exploring” a planning exemption for bicycle storage at the front of houses. But, in the meantime, Cork City Council in September rejected a bicycle shed in the front driveway. But, in September, despite strong demand from residents and support from councillors, consultants recommend outsourcing Bike Bunker and reducing the target by 100 bicycle lockers.

Cargo bike schemes

Access to bicycles themselves can be a barrier especially when people are not sure about buying more expensive electric or cargo bikes — Budget 2024 didn’t bring any progress on grants for bicycles but there’s some good results from try-before-you-buy cargo bike schemes.

70% of participants in a scheme run by Limerick Cycling Campain said they are buying a bike, and a business-focused scheme run by Dublin City Council found that 90% of business participants indicated that they could see a use for cargo bikes in their business and 40% of participants have already taken the leap to integrate cargo bike use in their businesses.

And in other news…

Some of the non-cycling stories covered by IrishCycle.com which maybe didn’t get the attention they deserved included how Dublin City Council said that a car park cannot be used for housing as it’s too close to train line, and how Irish Rail’s chairperson hit out at bureaucracy delaying approval of rail projects and new trains.

Key IrishCycle.com stats for 2023

  • 480 articles
  • 307,100+ words
  • 640 average words per article
  • 749,000 visitors
  • 96/97% increase in views/visitors vs 2022
  • 354 paid subscribers
  • ~58 extra paid subscribers in a year

Top 20 most-read articles on IrishCycle.com in 2023

  1. Ireland’s first Dutch-style roundabout opened in Dublin 15 (74,942)
  2. Bicycle industry shot itself — and others — in the foot with 45km/h electric “bicycles” (46,311)
  3. Work stalled on busy Dublin cycle route as construction firm goes into liquidation (39,411)
  4. Footpath protest held on narrow northside Dublin residential street (36,693)
  5. It looks grand, so, why won’t some cyclists use this cycling infrastructure? (25,970)
  6. Threatening cyclist with prosecution after reporting motorist’s close pass is part of policing “strategy”, says law lecturer (25,215)
  7. “As 1950s 12-year-olds, we cycled from Dalkey den to Powerscourt to camp… That’s a measure of how much we have lost of active childhood since” (19,814)
  8. Plan for 47 tables and 94 chairs for dining on busy Dublin footpath “madness” (17,826)
  9. Greenway bridge dropped in place between Phibsborough and Drumcondra (14,298)
  10. New bicycle taxi service to start in Dublin City Centre this Thursday (13,496)
  11. An Bord Pleanála goes against its inspector, rejects bicycle bunker in Clontarf front garden (12,619)
  12. Dublin City Council says car park cannot be used for housing as it’s too close to train line (12,380)
  13. “Hot topic” of ‘Living Streets’ Dún Laoghaire will see pedestrianisation of George’s Street, modal filters and renewal of Clarinda Park (11,983)
  14. Full list of 2023 greenway funding for routes across Ireland (11,968)
  15. Passengers get a sneak peek of new Irish Rail carriages which will increase bicycle capacity (10,955)
  16. 70 bollards illegally removed from protected cycle lane in Waterford City10,252
  17. Three sections of Dublin City Council wash their hands of traffic issues on Richmond Road (10,074)
  18. Why is a 2.1km section of the Royal Canal Greenway costing €30.8 million? (9,568)
  19. 21,341 fines issued for illegal parking in Dublin City as council ramps up alternative to clamping (8,912)
  20. Department of Transport needs to intervene in scaremongering-led design for cycle paths at bus stops (8,016)
  21. Electric bikes with motors which exceed 25km/h must be registered as e-mopeds in 2024 (7,535)

Number of updates per day in 2023

Total views per month in 2023

Average views per day in 2023

Articles, comments, words, and WordPress user ‘likes’ per year

(Likes = from WordPress users, WordPress ‘like’ button was disabled in redesign in ~2021, so, likes after that only from people reading via WordPress app)

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