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Dublin: 21 °C Tuesday 19 June, 2018
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Cyclists hold protest over Luas Cross City signs telling them to dismount and walk

The cyclists held the protest this lunchtime.

Cyclists during today's protest.
Cyclists during today's protest.
Image: Ciarán Ferrie

A GROUP OF concerned cyclists took part in a lunchtime protest today against new Luas Cross City signs that urge people on bikes to dismount and walk.

They also wanted to raise awareness of the impact of the new Luas Cross City layout on those who cycle around the city centre.

The event, organised by I Bike Dublin, saw over 35 participants dismounting near College Green, one of the busiest parts of the city centre, and walking up and along part of Nassau St. This section of the road, along which buses, the Luas, and pedestrians can pass, is where cyclists are asked to dismount.

A transport official told TheJournal.ie that these dismount signs are advisory signs and were erected for safety reasons.

Stephen McManus, one of the co-founders of I Bike Dublin, told TheJournal.ie they were trying to send a message to those behind the Luas Cross City project.

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“It is quite obvious that cycling was a complete afterthought, that no planning was put in place and it is today very dangerous as there were a number of accidents,” he said. “And now they have decided to make themselves safer they put signs saying cyclists dismount, so basically exonerating themselves of any responsibility.

So what we are doing is making a statement here by dismounting. There is nowhere to go so we are going to be walking on the street and making a point that it is an absurd policy. They can’t just turn their backs and close their eyes on the issue.

He said that cyclist deaths increased 130% this year on 2016. “We would prefer if there were none but we are already actually 60% up on last year and if you consider last year only seven of the 10 deaths involved motor traffic, we are actually 130% up on last year because every single of the 16 deaths involved motor vehicles this year.”

“It’s a crisis, a 130% increase in anything should send alarm bells going off but it doesn’t seem to be happening. We are hoping we won’t see any more for a while but the environment is there for creating more tragedies unfortunately.”

Avoiding issues

IMG_5828 The cyclists meeting before the protest. Source: Aoife Barry/TheJournal.ie

McManus said there are things that could have been done to avoid the issues with the new Luas Cross City.

“At the very least start with education and awareness,” he said. “But there are also technical solutions like a rubber insert that actually makes it safe to cross the rail line at key points. And also there could have been options of creating a dedicated space for cyclists to bypass all of this.”

He said that I Bike Dublin had invited the National Transport Authority and the Luas Cross City project to come together and run a series of workshops with cyclists so they can experiment and see what causes a bike to slip or get stuck, and what causes accidents. “They didn’t even respond,” he said.

 It’s not lack of knowledge, it’s lack of will.

McManus said that there is “no social awareness in this”.

“‘It is ‘our job is to put rails and we put the rails’. You forget you are working in the context of a city, with pedestrians, with blind people and so on,” he said.

He said that in other cities, cycling is treated as a preferential mode of transportation, but not so in Ireland. “Obviously the priorities are wrong, there has to be a big shift on that, it should be pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation and [then] private cars. It’s the opposite.”

“Cycling has a positive economic impact due to the health effects, improved quality of life and reduced stress levels,” said McManus. “It’s a sensible thing but there is an education process that people in positions of power need to be educated about.”

Direct action

I Bike Dublin is a direct action group, said McManus, which believes that people in positions of power, and politicians, need to become more aware and conscious of pedestrian and cycling issues, and that cyclists need to communicate with politicians on the issue.

Louise Williams, another member of I Bike Dublin, said that all of the cyclists gathering together for the direct action sent out a strong message. She said that cyclists are treated “as second-class citizens in the Dublin transport hierarchy”, but that they want to make the city “much more liveable in”.

“We shouldn’t be dismissed,” she said.

“If all of us here today had travelled in in cars, there would be chaos,” said Williams, emphasising how little space cyclists take up on the road compared to cars.

“We are here to make life easier for everybody.”

It took three years to construct the huge Luas Cross City system, and it led to significant changes to lanes and traffic flow in the city.

As the new tram lines were set to be launched, Colm Ryder of the Dublin Cycle Campaign told TheJournal.ie they were worried about how many incidents had occurred before the trams started running on the new tracks.

Concerns were raised earlier this year, during the construction phase, around cyclists getting stuck and falling on the tracks on O’Connell Street.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) – which manages the Luas Cross City project – originally attempted to ban cyclists from certain areas where the Luas would be in operation. However, Dublin City Council said that it would not enforce this ban, and put in place ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs in a number of areas, including at College Green and on Dawson Street.

An NTA spokesperson said that cyclists were being asked to dismount and walk from the stretch of Luas tracks running from the Molesworth St junction on Dawson St through to College Green.

“In this area, cycling in the tram line involves dealing with a restricted width between kerbline and tram track, with a high number of trams, buses/coaches and taxis which will all be using the same street space,” the spokesperson said.

“This gives rise to the possibility of bicycle wheels becoming caught in the groove of the tram track leading to accidents and incidents.

For that reason, the NTA believes that, particularly at the busiest times of the day, cyclists are best advised to dismount for these sections.

In response to queries from TheJournal.ie, an NTA spokesperson said that there were no plans in place to restrict cyclists in Dublin city centre, and that it was important in preparing for Luas Cross City to ensure cyclists could move around the city safely.

- With additional reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald

Read: The Luas Cross City starts today – but there are concerns for Dublin’s cyclists>

Read: 14 cyclist deaths in 2017: ‘Yet we victim blame cyclists who don’t opt for DayGlo clothing’>

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