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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 29 October 2020

'Fallen off a cliff': Committee hears of large drop in number of young girls cycling in Ireland

Cycling groups pointed to census data showing a drop in girls cycling to school.

Image: Shutterstock/Lolostock

AN OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE has heard there has been a significant downturn in the number of girls who are cycling to school in recent years. 

Representatives from cycling groups including I Bike Dublin, Cyclist.ie and the Dublin Cycling Campaign are appearing before members of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport this morning. 

Each group has highlighted concerns for the safety of cyclists and cycling infrastructure in Ireland, with some of them pointing to a downturn in the number of girls and women who cycle over safety fears. 

“In 2016, there were only 694 secondary school girls cycling to school, and over 2000 driving themselves, while in 1986, while I was in secondary school myself, there were over 19,000 girls cycling to school as per Census data,” Dr Damien Ó Tuama, national cycling coordinator at Cyclist.ie, said.

“We are particularly conscious that in many parts of Ireland – and in rural Ireland especially – that the numbers of children cycling to school have fallen off a cliff.”

“The proper resourcing and development of cycling nationally, as proposed in many government strategies, can have wide-ranging positive impacts on many aspects of Irish society,” he added.

In an opening statement, I Bike Dublin said: “Tens of thousands of people get on their bikes in Dublin every day. Tens of thousands more would do so if they felt it was safe. 

“Earlier this year, Moya Murdock, CEO of the Road Safety Authority claimed that Ireland has the second safest roads in Europe. If our roads are so safe, why are so few children and women cycling?”

Louise Williams, of the Dublin Cycling Campaign cautioned that “if we assume we’re catering to everybody there is a fear that by default we’ll be catering for men” adding that a holistic view of upcoming cycling infrastructure should look at making life safer for all cyclists. 

Social Democrats TD, Catherine Murphy called on the NTA to provide reassurances when its representatives meet with groups, adding there is a “conflict” between cycling infrastructure and other transport infrastructure in Ireland. 

“I am one of the offenders that primarily drives into town and I can see the growing number of people who are cycling.

“The reason there is a conflict is we’ve created the conflict, because we haven’t designed the city or designed our towns for a sustainable form of transport.”

“The numbers of people cycling to work outnumbers the number of people who comes in on the luas,” she said. 

“I’ve travelled to different cities in Europe and you tend to take photos of good ideas… you see large numbers cycling but you don’t see the conflict.”

Our colleagues at Noteworthy.ie have published a proposal to investigate which roads and junctions are the most dangerous for cyclists in Ireland. Click here if you wish to support their work.

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