The Irish Times take on cycling infrastructure: a tipping point


For decades, cyclists have called for safer road infrastructure in cities. All they got, for the most part, was a splash of white paint, which isn’t a hindrance for the determined motorist to park or drive on a cycle lane. Although neglected in providing adequate road space and enforcing existing infrastructure, cyclists have used the roads in record numbers. This is particularly evident in Dublin, where their number has grown from less than 6,000 on morning trips in 2006 to over 13,000 today.

Yet plans to create safe and separate routes have remained mired in years of endless consultation, revision and deadlock. Until now. The coronavirus pandemic has changed things completely. With amazing speed, local authorities in Dublin have started to install secure and separate cycling infrastructure with physical barriers that effectively prevent motorists from claiming the space for themselves.

The logic behind these initiatives is indisputable. Public transport cannot accommodate the numbers it used to do under public health guidelines, but road capacity does not exist for all these bus and train users to transfer by car, so Dublin must have more commuters by bike and on foot.

Sadly, that was a lost logic for the new Minister of State at the Bureau of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan, who has insisted in recent weeks that the Phoenix Park return to full access for cars. A vocal minority opposes cycling and walking initiatives, but this is not indicative of the mood of the public. A study released by the National Transport Authority last week found that 84% of Dubliners were in favor of building more of these lanes, even when it would mean less room for other road traffic.

Dublin City Councils are on the rise to advance the continued development of safe road spaces for cyclists and pedestrians. Critics accuse them of exploiting the pandemic to rush into long-standing anti-car policies, but if they are, it’s high time.

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