Opinion Piece:  Cyclists to face further restrictions on the roads of Ireland

From:  Robert Fitzsimons

Date:  Thursday 26 May 2005


Cyclists to face further restrictions on the roads of Ireland

With Dublin hosting the international cycling conference Vélo-City [1]
at the end of the month, the government has announced more money to
provide more cycle tracks.

So instead of using the conference to renew the public debate about the
future of cycling policy in Ireland, the government continues the
current policy [2] which has only marginalised and decreased cyclists'
numbers [3].

This policy is that the only way to promote cycling in Ireland is by
building more cycle tracks, the theory being that cycling on a cycle
track must be safer then cycling on the roadway.

Many international research studies [4] have found that by using cycle
tracks, the likelihood of a cyclist/motor vehicle collision are
substantially increased when cyclists rejoin the roadway or by
motor vehicles turning into the path of cyclists.  These studies are
being ignored by current policy.

The current standards in cycle infrastructure design [5], construction
and maintenance provided in Ireland are extremely low, possibly verging
on the negligent.

Off-roadway cycle tracks are beset with hazards to cyclists.  They
routinely have undulating surfaces due to crossing driveways,
inappropriate location of street furniture, rubbish placed for
collection, sudden endings, sudden sharp turns, loss of right-of-way at
side roads.  All this on top of the failure to enforce parking
legislation, remove debris or repair the surfaces.

On-roadway cycle lanes fare no better, enduring many of the problems
listed above.  With cyclists forced to the extreme left of already
narrow traffic lanes where road surfaces are the worst, operate only for
a limited period of time, or direct cyclists into unsafe positions at
junctions and roundabouts.

Existing and future cycle tracks should be evaluated as whole routes
with standards based on safety, priority, directness and comfort.  All
substandard cycle tracks should be removed. [6]

Some examples of good cycle infrastructure include, off-roadway cycle
track routes which provide a shorter route then using the roadway, over
or under passes which bypass complex junctions and cycle lanes which
allow cyclists to bypass congested traffic safely.

Current road traffic legislation only compounds the problems faced by
cyclists.  Cyclists are required to use a cycle track when provided [7],
even when they are manifestly unsafe.

This mandatory use restriction puts inexperienced cyclists in danger due
to the false sense of security they have about the safety of the cycle
track or lane they use, and removes the choice from experienced cyclists
to pick their own safe road position.

Legislation excludes motor vehicles from driving or parking on some
cycle tracks and lanes, though motorist compliance is poor and
enforcement is nonexistent.  With the design of some traffic lanes being
so narrow that the only way to use them is to also drive on the cycle

Many motorists comment about the bad cycling habits of some cyclists
who break red lights and cycle without proper lights.  These are only
further examples of the inadequate enforcement, which has allowed
inappropriate speeding and dangerous driving to kill hundreds of people
year on year [8].

The public road is for all road users.

Making the the public road safer for all road users will not be
accomplished by restricting cyclists from using the roadway, but by
improved cyclist and motorist education, improved enforcement of
legislation and new approaches to transportation policy.

I urgently request that the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts
review the public money which has been wasted on unsafe cycle tracks and
the Oireachtas Committee on Transport to review all aspects of the
current and future policy on cycling in Ireland, an audit of the
existing infrastructure is clearly not enough.

[1] Vélo-City 2005 Dublin Website, http://www.velo-city2005.com/
[2] Programme for Government 2002
[3] 48% Decrease in persons using a bicycle between 1996 and 2002,
    Central Statistics Office
[4] John Franklin, Research Summary,
[5] DTO, Cycle Track Design Guidelines Manual, 1997
[6] Dublin Cycling Campaign, Infrastructure Position Document
[7] Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations,
[8] Garda Collision Statistics,


(This document is personal opinion and does not necessarily represent
the opinion of any other group or person.)

About the Author:

Robert Fitzsimons has been regularly commuting by bicycle for work and
pleasure on Dublin's roads for a number of years.  In recent years he
has joined Dublin Cycling Campaign and has become more aware of the
issues facing Irish cyclists.  As part of his membership to DCC he has
had the opportunity to represent Dublins cyclists on the Dublin
Transportation Office Cycle Forum and the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County
Council Transportation Policy Committee.  Robert is looking forward to
and will be attending Vélo-City as a delegate.

Robert Fitzsimons
26 Blackthorn Green
Dublin 16
+353 87 7930467

CC: DoT, DTO, Dublin's Council's, CoPA, CoT, ECF, News Media

Briefing for the Committe of Public Accounts
in response to correspondence from
Mr. Robert Fitzsimons, Dublin Cycling Campaign,
in relation to cycling

1. Government Cycling Policy

The Government is committed to promoting cycling, as is made clear in the
Programme for Government [1].  It is government policy to make provision for the
bicycle as a separate mode in the desing and maintenance of roads.  However,
the provision of cycle ways and cycle parking is, in the first instance, a matter for the
relevant local authorities.

In the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), funding for cycling is provided to local authorities
in the area through the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) traffic management
grants scheme.  Some €28.9m has been provided by the Exchequer, for the
provision of cycling facilities in the GDA, since 1994.  Overall, there is now 300
kilometres of a cycle network in the GDA.

The Government continues to support "A Platform for Change", the DTO strategy to
2016 for the GDA.  This support includes the annual provision of €40m for the Traffic
Management Grant programme, part of which funds actions under the DTO cycle
policy.  Ongoing development of cycle facilities has also been taking place in recent
years in conjunction with the implementation of bus priority schemes.  To date in
2005, grants to the value of €1m have been approved by the DTO Traffic
Management Grants Committee for expenditure on cycle provision in the GDA over
and above those facilities provided as part of bus prioritisation schemes.

As regards developments in other cities, it should be noted that in Cork the planning
and implementation of Green Routes, which are being funded by the Department of
Transport, incorporates the provision of dedicated space for cycle lanes as well as
improved facilities for pedestrians.  In addition, the Cork City Council is engaged in
discussions with the Department of Transport in relation to the development of
dedicated cycle paths in Cork arising from the recommendations of the Cork Area
Strategic Plan.

Other cities are developing their public transport strategies, including the provision of
cycling facilities.  For example, Limerick City Council approved a Cycle Strategy for
Limerick in May 2004 while the Galway City Development Paln and the Waterford

[1] "We will invest in expanding the national network of cycleways in order to encourage more people to
cycle and to promote cycling as a safe and healthy mode of travel", Programme for Government,
Page 14 June 2002


Planning Land Use and Transportation Study 2003 include proposals for improving
facilities for cyclists.

2. Traffic Management Policy of the DTO

Overall, the traffic management policy of the DTO is to "optimise road network for all
road users".  Within that, the policy encourages the separate management of each
mode on the road network, so that each mode operates independently to the
greatest extent.

DTO traffic management policy is not to deliver any one mode at any cost, or
regardless of the impact on other modes.  Rather, it is to deliver attractive and viable
alternatives to the car and reduce overall car dependency.

3. Cycling Policy of the DTO

DTO policy is to position cycling as a modern effective choice of transport, especially
for short trips.  This includes the roll-out of strategic cycle network, which is not
merely a matter of "building more cycle tracks", as has been suggested.  In essence,
DTO cycle policy can be summarised under two headings, namely, "facilitating the
bike" and "promoting the bike".

Cycling policy is not being designed in a vacuum, but in the context of the
considerable increase in transport demand on the existing road network.  The DTO
has introduced a plicy of integrating the bicycle into new traffic management and
transport projects including:

* Quality Bus Corridors
* Local street traffic calming
* Environmental cells
* Railway and bus station design.

4. DTO Cycle Facilities Guidelines Manual

In 1996 the Cycle Facilities Guidelines Manual was published by the DTO.  This
manual recognised that the technical task of delivering cycle facilites within a
congested and limited urban network o roads and streets was not straightforward.
Specific cycle provision was almost non-existent, and all cyclests were expected to
share road space with ambient traffic, regardless of volumes, speeds or available
width.  In the absence of a tradition of cycle design, the manual was developed to
provide guidance to designers based on best European practice and cycle user

Much experience has been gained since 1997 in the provision of nearly 300km of
cycle network.  A new edition of the cycle manual is now being drafted by the DTO,
which will address inter alia:


* Compatibility and integration with the DTO Traffic Management Manual 2003,
especially in the area of road hierarchy, road layouts, parking etc.
* Exmaples of poor and good cycle facilities delilvered in Ireland since 1997,
including photographs and commentary
* Clarifications in relation to legislation etc.
* Design-specific issues such as cycling and bus stops, cycle parking
development, roundabout detailing, cycling and trams, cycling and trucks,
cycling and bus lanes
* Expanded junction design guidance
* Clarification on cycle planning and basic requirements of cyclists.

The key issue of segregation will also be expanded.  This will clarify best European
advice in relation to the unsuitability of certian traffic regimes to accommodate on-
road cycling.  It will also outline suitable junction arrangements when approaching
cyclists are segregated from traffic.

Behind the production of the second edition of the cycle manual is recognitioin that
there is general scope for improved design, and that the increasingly pressurised
traffic environment requires the provision of a more user-attractive and safe cycling

5. Cycling Trends

It is recognised that, despite ongoing work and investment, the number of people
cycling to work and school in the GDA declined between 1996 and 2002 (2002
census figures are the most recent available).  The decline is particularly pronounced
for the journey to school.  There has been a decline in numbers cycling to work and
to school in every GDA local authority area.

The 2002 mode share for cycling to work was 3.4%, and for cycling to school it was
only slightly higher 4%.  Against a background of increasing travel to work, the
mode shares for cycling to school and to work have both declined by over one third
since 1996.

Cycling to school work in GDA 1996 and 2002
Year      Cycling to           Cycling to
          Work                 School
          Trips      Mode      Trips      Mode
                     share                Share
1996      25,567     5.3%      20,970     6.4%
2002      21,326     3.4%      12.562     4.0%
Source: Census 2002

Census figures show that there has been a significant reduction in cycling nationally,
with increased dependence on the car.  However, within this loss, the DTO argue that
its policy of active intervention for the bicycle has seen a higher retention rate for


cyclists in Dublin compared with other Irish cities, according to the last census.  For
example, excluding the DTO area, the national reduction in cycle trips to work
between 1996 and 2002 was 39%.  Within the DTO area, the reduction was 16%.
Again for schools, the DTO area's reduction in cycle trips was 41%, compared with
71% for the rest of the state.  In other words, assuming a similar decline as in the
res of Ireland, the Dublin region would have forfeited an additional 12,600 daily peak
cycle trips without the expenditure on cycle infrastructure and cycle integration
(almost €30m form 1994 through 2004).

The reduction in the model share of cycling, notwithstanding greatly improved
provision for cyclists, probably reflects a long-term trend, influenced by a number of
factors, including:

* Increases in rates of car ownership, which has been very significant over the
period nationally and in the GDA;
* Growth in road traffic, creating a perception amongst potential cyclists of a
more dangerous cycling environment;
* Longer average trip lengths to work, as a result of the spread of housing
* More safety conscious culture, particularly amongst parents and teachers,
* Cycling habit/culture many not yet be present in new areas and my have died
out in older areas.

According to the DTO, the decline in cycling as a mode of travel to school has been
an important factor in the overall reduction in cycling.  The Safer Routes to School
pilot projects, co-ordinated through the DTO, have included schools where the use of
the bicycle was identified as part of the solution.  While there is a positive disposition
towards the bicycle and significant expenditure on bicycle facilities, this has not
translated itself into additional bicycle trips in these schools.  The provision of cycling
infrastructure on its own appears not to be the sole answer.  Promoting cycling and
walking to shool needs a multi-faceted approach, requiring buy-in by parents,
teachers and students.  The DTO has recently provided a comprehensive report on
these pilots and the Department is reviewing this report at present.

6. Safety

Safety is a key issue in cycling.  Dublin continues to have more than half of all daily
cyclists in Ireland - the accident rate in Dubliin is substantially less then for the rest of
the country.  Nevertheless, continused efforts need to be made to improve safety and
take the opportunity further improve the standard of new cycle facilities.

The emerging implicatios for policy are that a more holistic approach, which
involves addressing the real and perceived safety concerns of potential cyclists, is
called for in order to create an attractive environment for cyclists.  In the light of this,
the Minister for Transport recently asked the DTO to advise on the future direction of
cycling policy for the Greater Dublin Area.


7. Design and Construction Standards

Mr. Fitzsimons contends that "...current standards in cycle infrastructure design,
construction and maintenance...are extremely low, possible verging on the
negligent".  The current cycle design guidelines (developed by the DTO and the
Department of Environment, Heritage, and Local Government in 1997) are rightly
very demanding, especially in terms of the requirements for cyclists, and providing
an appropriate environment for cycling.  In particular, the current guidelines demand
that cyclists be protected from general traffic in situations of high vehicular speeds,
high vehicular volumes or both.  This requires a significant permanent dedication of
space to cyclists, in a situation where demand for space is at a premium.

It is a matter for local authorities as to the extent they implement the guidelines.  They
may not always adhere fully to the guidelines, based on their assessment of the best
use of road space, prioritisation of modes and functions, and in particular, what
would be acceptable under public consultation.

The Dublin Cycling Campaign has assisted the DTO in providing reviews of the cycle
network in the run-up to Velo-city [2].  These reviews have identified many of the
problems at detailed design level, and will be forwarded to the local authorities for
remedial attention.

8. Maintenance

There are certainly maintenance problems on the road network in general, and for
cyclists in particular.  Poor drainage, broken glass, poor reinstatements, overhanging
foliage, and road debris are genuine problems.  The Department of Transport's
Traffic Management Grants only funds capital works and, accordingly, addressing
maintenance problems is dependent on the amount of funds being allocated at
annual estimate time by individual Local Authorities.

9. Role of Cycle Tracks

Experiences eleswhere in Europe demonstrate that segregated cycle tracks have an
important function to play both in (i) attracting new people to cycle and (ii) making
cycling safer.

The DTO does not support Mr. Fitzsimons's implicit suggestions that the all roads are
suitable for cyclists to mix with general traffic.  The DTO has recognised that there is
need for traffic segregation under certain traffic conditions.  Accordingly, this is a
port that will need to be reinforced in the second cycle manual currently being
drafted by the DTO (see Section 4 above).  In addition, the technical requirements

[2] In June 2005, Dublin hosted the 25th anniversary of "Velo-City", the premier international
cycling planning conference series that takes place biennially in a European city.  Velo-city was hosted
by the DTO, together with the Department of Transport, Dublin City Council and other state agencies,
and cycling groups (see www.velo-city2005.com).  This was the latest in a series of international
conferences focused, since 1980, on facilitating the bicycle as a sustainable mode of transport.


that are associated with such provision will need to be clarified, including
maintenance, enforcement, design detailing etc.

Rather than reducing standards, the policy of the DTO is to raise cycle standards
further, through revisiting and conrrecting past problems, and providing better cycle
facilities in the future.

10. Public Support

In a congested network such as that of Dublin, improvements for the bicycle are
generally at the expense of other modes (cars, trucks, buses, parking, loading etc).
That balance is determined at Local Authority level.  The Dublin Cycling Campaign is
represented on the Dublin City Council Strategic Policy Committee.  As such, it has
the opportunity to make its views known, as changes are brought about through the
consultaion process.

Critically, there is little or no support at local level for change to road and street
arrangements, wheather the change is for Quality Bus Corridors or for the bicycle
(where there is even more pronounced antipathy).  In general, and to the credit of
Local Authorities, cycle provision to date has generally been implemented in the
absence of public and local political support.

One of the purposes of Velo-City Dublin 2005 (see Footnote 2) was to focus on and
generate renewed public interest and support for the bicycle as a modern alternative
to the car, and therefore reduce opposition to bicycle provision at local level.

11. Evaluation

As pointed out in Section 4 above, the second edition of Cycle Guidelines Manual
Technical, currently under development by the DTO, will addres problem areas of
the kind described by Mr. Fitzsimons.  It is also intended to clarify and expand on
design principles that were perhaps not fully understood or implemented from the
first edition of the Manual.

Mr. Fitzsimons's proposal for whole-route evaluation is supported by the Department
and the DTO.  This approach has the potential to highlight the missing links or the
least attractive parts of the route from a cycling point of view.  However, these
are generally the parts of the corridor where provision for the bicycle is at the expense of
another strategic mode (bus for example).

It should be noted that the Department of Transport proposes to undertake an
expenditure review of the Traffic Management Grants Scheme, commencing in late
2005, and this will include a review of Exchequer assistance for cycle facilities.  This
is part of the ongoing Expenditure Review Initiative, in which all Departments
prticipate.  The purpose of these reviews is to evaluate the effectiveness of the
relevant public expenditure.


12. Legislation Review

Road Traffic legislation is in the process of review at present.  The current cycling
related provisions are being examined and amendments will be made where
deemed appropriate - one specific issue being considered is the removal of the
requirement that cyclists must use mandatory cycle tracks.  This review process is
part of a Department of Transport programme for 2005-2006 and is being
undertaken in consultation with the DTO and other agencies.

Enforcement of road traffic law is a matter for the Garda Síochána.  Local authority
traffic wardens/authorised persons have power of enforcement in relation to illegal

13. Future Challenges

Cycling has a much wider focus then merely being a means of transportation.  It is
now recognised as a key element in trying to alleviate issues of concern such as
obesity, enviromental pollution and community fragmentation.  There is real
potential to transfer significant numbers from the car to the bicycle, particularly in
urban areas.

The DTO strategy in refining it cycling elements in its overall strategy is likely to take
account of the deliberations of the Velo-city Conference.  The real challenge is to
ensure a strategy that enables cycling to make a even bigger contributions to the
health and well being of the nation, with due emphasis on safety, while contributing
to the de-congestion of our towns and cities.  The culmination of the DTO's
deliberations will result in a practical revision of the Cycle Guidelines Manual.

Public Transport Planning Division
Department of Transport
8 July 2005


Last updated 2006-07-24. Copyright © 2005, 2006 Robert Fitzsimons. robfitz at 273k dot net