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Eamon Ryan 'Shane Ross doesn’t seem to realise he’s Minister for Transport'

After 25 years of polite argument and positive suggestions it’s time for the cycling campaign to step up a gear, writes Eamon Ryan.

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS I joined the Dublin Cycling Campaign to try to make our city a safer and better place. Cyclists were losing out at the time as car sales surged, councillors were bribed by developers, and city managers were still intent on knocking the old town down.

We wanted Dublin to be more like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where they’d shown that designing streets around vulnerable road users worked out better for everyone in the end.

Rather than just shouting from the sidelines, we got stuck in by talking to officials, and working with engineers on what could be done. It was a street by street fight and bit by bit we started to make progress. Short sections of cycle lane began to go in and while the quality of the design and the lack of continuity would make you cry, there was at least a sense that change was coming.

I kept repeating the same message: “Dublin is about to change. A safe cycling network is on its way.”

95,000 Dubliners cycle every day

Sure enough we got the Bike to Work scheme introduced and the Dublin Bikes were a runaway success. The Grand Canal and Howth greenways showed what could be done and similar paths were planned for the rest of our canals, rivers and coast. Cycling numbers increased and there are now 95,000 of us Dubliners out on a bike every day. Double those numbers again and suddenly our city will be something wonderful to behold.

I am afraid though that my confidence in that outcome is now somewhat shot. Despite all the positive developments of recent years, the truth is that we are back to square one.

Cycling infrastructure for Dublin is underfunded, lacks political support and is stuck in a never ending design process. We are due to host the big international “Velocity” conference in 2019, where we should be a showcase of how you can turn a city around.  Instead we are going to be a worst case example of what can go wrong.

Pulling of funding for Liffey cycle route

The pulling of funding for the Liffey cycle route last week is just the latest example of what is happening. It is meant to run along the North Quays from the Phoenix Park to Dublin Port, which is currently a nightmare to ride. It’s been on the drawing board for the same length of time it took NASA to design, build and execute the whole Voyager space programme.

They sent a spacecraft around four planets and out into the universe while we seem unable to achieve the rather more simple task of running a cycle lane five miles along a gently flowing river.

It is even worse when it comes to the building of the south side coastal cycle route. That project has been ten years in planning and we are no nearer ready to go. All sorts of excuses are being offered but if we really wanted it we would designate it as a critical infrastructure project and get it built in the next five years. This is not rocket science. It’s a three or four metre wide path that everyone agrees would be a real boon for our city.

It is worse again when you look at what has happened with the building of the Luas Cross City project. The Cycling Campaign pleaded for the engineers to take cyclists into account and use the introduction of the tracks to allow all sorts of new safe cycling movements in the city centre.

They were ignored and we are only starting to see how bad the outcome will be for anyone on two wheels. It is not just that your tyre can get caught in the tracks but also that you are being forced into narrow bus lanes at critical junctions around College Green and Stephen’s Green.

Nothing is happening

I could go on. We aren’t developing safe routes to school, despite all the talk about combating childhood obesity. A simple proposal for a quiet cycling route connecting schools in the south side suburbs was immediately shot down. Nothing is happening with the myriad of the cheap design fixes we have been pointing out for years.

Meanwhile car sales are on rise once again. The M50 is gridlocking and traffic jams are back to their Celtic Tiger best. The biggest threat to the future success of our city is that it will be increasingly hard to get around. Getting people cycling is one of the few immediate solutions we have but no one in office seems to care.

Paschal Donohoe says everything is fine, while Shane Ross doesn’t seem to realise he’s Minister for Transport. Our Taoiseach is into high end triathlon cycling but I’ve never heard a single idea from him about making the city a better place for the everyday cycling commuters.

After 25 years of polite argument and positive suggestions it’s time for the cycling campaign to step up a gear. We are fed up and shouldn’t take it anymore. It’s long past time for a cycling revolution.  

Eamon Ryan is a TD and leader of the Green Party.

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