02 July 2010

Dublin Rolls From Past to Future

Dublin Cycle Chic - Skirting
I was in Dublin two weeks ago, for the Cycle Chic fashion show, sponsored by the Embassy of Denmark and Dublin City Council.

I can say that I was stunned by the numbers of Citizen Cyclists on the streets and bike lanes of the city. Absolutely stunned. It was brilliant to see. Not just commuters, but citizens using the bike for short trips. Bikes parked outside flats. Bike racks filled near shops.

Dublin was once considered the third great cycling city of Europe, after Amsterdam and Copenhagen...
Dublin Cycle Chic
... so perhaps the journey back to the bicycle is not that strenuous. Who knows. What is certain is that there are positive forces at work in the city.

The two main reasons for the wonderful levels of cycling are both the work of City Councillor Andrew Montague. He brought the city's bike share system - Dublinbikes - to the streets and he implemented 30 km/h zones in various areas. Both good measures to get bicycle culture going again. City Cycling Officer Ciarán Fallon works hard for the same goals.

Dublin Cycle Chic - Dublinbikes Dublin Cycle Chic - Suitable
Here's the Dublinbikes in action. They've been a massive success. The expected number of subscribers was set at a modest 1500. There are now over 30,000!

Dublin Airport Bike Lane
There was a positive sign only metres after getting off the plane at Dublin Airport. I snapped this out of the window as I headed for arrivals. A bicycle lane. At the airport. I'm assuming that it is primarily for use by airport employees to get around - feel free to fill us in, Dubliners. Nevertheless, it is great symbolism.
Dublin Cycle Chic - Bike Lane
Heading into town, more bicycle lanes appeared. I was travelling with Sussi, from Biomega, and I was staring at the painted lane for a while before I realised that it was bicycle infrastructure. "Hey... is that a bike lane?!", I was heard to remark.

The mere fact that Dublin City Council and the national government backed a Cycle Chic event shows that they all are thinking out of the box and eager to embrace Bicycle Advocacy 2.0 in order to mainstream urban cycling. All the players feature in this film about the Cycle Chic event.

Dublin Cycle Chic - Infrastructure
The infrastructure was primarily painted lanes, but that is a brilliant start and clearly the citizens of Dublin felt safe enough to use them.
Dublin Cycle Chic - Yellow
There was a general level of traffic calm throughout the city centre.

Dublin Cycle Chic - Style
Where there was infrastructure, it was used. Where there wasn't, the cyclists - being regular people on bicycles - were cool about it and riding sensibly.
Dublin Cycle Chic - Afternoon Traffic
Like I often say in my presentations, when you get higher levels of non-sub cultural cyclists, they behave much like pedestrians. I hardly saw anyone blowing agressively through red lights, and certainly not cyclists like these ones.

Dublin Cycle Chic - Pensive

I've been asked a few times in interviews about what the Next Big Thing is. The next city that will muscle it's way from single digit modal share to, say, 15%. I have been working on the Copenhagenize list in my head for a couple of months. At the moment, Dublin ranks high on the list.

Well done, them. Brilliant stuff.


Brendan61 said...

I just returned from a week in Ireland. I too made a note of the infrastructure elements around the city of Dublin. One thing that struck me however was aggressiveness of the drivers. Obviously, not being from there, it was a little tricky figuring out what the unspoken "ground rules" were for traffic behaviour, but the folks on bikes seemed to be taking all in stride. My hat is off to Dublin for making bikes a part of the system.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this up.

I have to say that in my experienced opinion, the cycling infrastructure in Dublin is largely garbage.

I've never used the lane in the airport you photographed, but I did try to use another one, and nearly hit a pedestrian, because the sight lines were so bad.

The 30km/h zone is a great idea, on the other hand.

And the growth in cycling is wondrous to behold, for whatever reason it happened. If cycling numbers get up to certain level, I think that great things will happen to Dublin as a liveable city.

Anonymous said...

I think you've been a bit selective in what you've photographed as well. Helmet-wearing in Dublin around the city centre is very high. I'd estimate around 40%. Flappy hi-viz vests adorn about 50% of cyclists.

droid said...

I wish you were right, but taking a few photos on Camden street, one of the slowest and most cycled streets in the city centre gives a very false impression.

Dublin is full of appalling infrastructure and aggressive drivers. And whilst there are worse cities for cycling, if you commute any distance at all on a bike you find the infrastructure is woefully inadequate.

It is true that some progress is being made. We're now probably only about 20 years from having decent, well maintained and safe cycling infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

FYI - re bikes about Dublin Airport for Staff..proving very successful amongst staff to date.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment about Dublin being about 20 years away from having truly useful infrastructure.

It's obviously been a slow learning curve, since they started building the infrastructure in the late 80s, and I think most of it dates from the 90s.

So only about half a century to figure out how to make useful infrastructure.

In the meantime, what are they going to do with all the crap they built in the 80s and 90s?

Anonymous said...

I am a dublin cyclist (although probably a "sub-cultural" one, in the ridiculous term you use) and have to say how delighted I am with the general uptake in cycling in Dublin over the last number of years. Too many people will harp on about cycling infrastructure being sub-standard, or the aggressiveness of drivers, but trust me, it is no different from anywhere, bar perhaps Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Thailand and Portland, and the increased visibility of cycing as a mode of transport as opposed to a sport has made it far safer for everyone. I hope this trend continues.

On the other hand, I feel I should point out the reckless behaviour of a number of cyclists, particularly ones on the Dublinbikes (suggesting inexperienced cyclists). Breaking lights, cycling on pathways for pedestrians, swerving unpredictably and ignoring one way systems and other rules of the road, they are causing serious problems on the roads. I'd urge new cyclists to consider the way that they drive, or the way they'd expect other people to drive, and behave like that.

Anonymous said...

I should clarify that in my above statement, what I mean by "consider how you would expect others to drive" is to pay due attention and respect to other road users, ie, don't break lights, swerve across lanes, cycle past people stopped at red lights, shout at pedestrians, etc. Although I think that the author is extremely hypocritical (at best) on his views of "vehicular cyclists" (at worst I think he's downright idiotic, hopelessly idealistic and grossly self-righteous), I do agree that not everybody will be comfortable on roads at present, and this should change. I don't think it's through segregation, I think it's through understanding, something which may be damaged by inexperienced and naieve new cyclists.

Anonymous said...

If you think cycling is taking off in Dublin due to "infrastructure", you really need your head checked. It's cause of a government tax break, and the practicality of cycling as a mean of transport, plus the realisation that cars don't often drive into people, so roads are not dangerous. Come back to Dublin and have a spin on our so called infrastructure, cycle into parked taxis and massive potholes. On the other hand, cycle on the roads, and note how drivers are largely corteous, considerate and accomodating, and the roads are SAFE. In the mean time, ill informed and misleading articles like this are simply self serving rubbish.

David Hembrow said...

Mikael, I really think you need to exercise a bit of quality control.

The picture you snapped out of the window is a good example of truly awful junction design. Exactly how is anyone to get onto or off that cycle path, in that location, without doing something unexpected in front of cars on the road ?

I'm very pro cycle paths, but not just any cycle path. This is the sort of rubbish which gives cycle paths a bad name. You won't find "design" like this in the Netherlands.

Anonymous said...

David Hembrow,

I agree. But it's not even a particularly awful design by Irish standards.

Nothing compared to this one.


Note that both have the traditional Yield painted triangle at junctions. Almost all cycle facilities do that in Ireland. You never have right of way, even passing side roads and private driveways.

Rather too positive this post. Also, it seems to be giving quite a lot of credit for the current bicycle boom to the local authorities who built such crap as that facility in Galway to which I linked above. The local authorities, with fine exceptions such as Andrew Montague, deserve very little credit for anything related to cycling. They've been mostly unrelentingly hostile, and saw cycle facilities as a way of getting bikes out of the way of cars (hence the loss of priority at every junction).

Anonymous said...

Also, the lane you photographed on the way into town is obviously far too narrow. Look how close the overtaking car is passing the cyclist.

Mikael said...

goodness. quite a lot of negative comments. Rome, or Copenhagen, wasn't built in a day.

What I saw in Dublin was brilliant. Promising. Revolutionary.

Seeds have been planted. Your City council are lightyears ahead of other cities.

You should be proud.

Yes, the infrastructure is not up to scratch. We all know that. But it's a tough battle carving out space even for narrow lanes in a city that has forgotten the bicycle.

But they have been carved. People are using them.

For god's sake, look at what is happening in your city. Embrace it. Use it to work positively towards an even better future instead of complaining that Copenhagen-style lanes didn't drop out of heaven overnight. :-)

Anonymous said...

You are completely missing the point. The boom in cycling in Dublin has nothing to do with infrastructure. It is happening in spite of the rubbish infrastructure that is routinely put in place, and is happening due to an enlightened tax scheme, changing perceptions towards bikes as being worthy of a right to the road and out of sheer practicality. I think we are close to showing that cycling can become popular and feasible despite the lack of thought put into painted lines on roads, and that most of the time, a citizen with a reasonable level of cogitation can operate a bike in a safe manner on a road while sharing a space with other modes of transport. To attribute it to infrastructure is quite frankly not true, and I think you're only claiming it is, while showing some very questionable photos of said infrastructure, to further an extremely biased agenda that you adhere to. Cycle lanes may work in Denmark, but in Ireland, all we really need is an increase in mutual respect and understanding.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the boom in cycling in Dublin has nothing to do with infrastructure.

The Dublin Bike scheme made a very big difference, as quite a few people got to try out cycling for the first time in years on someone else's dime and found that they liked it, and that suddenly spontaneous journeys of a kilometre or more inside the city were feasible, quick and virtually free. Helpful also was the Cycle to Work scheme, which gave hefty tax breaks to people who bought bikes for the purposes of cycling to work. The very unfortunate recession certainly helped, and that cycling is undergoing a long overdue period of being in fashion certainly hasn't hurt (I'd give Copenhagen Cycle Chic quite a bit of credit for that).

But the infrastructure? No. There hasn't been a major increase in building of cycle infrastructure in years. The majority of it is from the 90s (which is also when it was last maintained). So how it suddenly in the last few years sparked a growth in cycling is beyond me.

Cian said...

Mikael, I'm not sure how much of cycle infrastructure you've seen in Dublin, but it's very depressing stuff. It is still unrealistic to be anything but negative about it.

And before anybody says otherwise, this is not a historic problem, some of the most recent designs are very, very poor.

Colm said...

Glad you seemed to have a positive impression of cycling in Dublin. But I have to ask, was it on a quiet holiday weekend or something?! I commute in Dublin by bike, through the city and suburbs, on North and South side of the city. I can assure you that the reality is very different.

The main problem is one of respect on the road. If you cycle with the attitude "Motorists hate me" ride defensively, and basically expect them to do the most stupid/aggressive things possible, then you might be OK.

As for the bike lanes... don't get me started. If they are in terrible condition or full of glass (Clontarf), or pedestrians (Phoenix Park on a Saturday), or just stupid (Try hopping over driveways on Leopardstown Road or Stillorgan Dual Carriagewey) I use the bus lane. Then the Bus Drivers whisk by leaving around 10cm of space on one or two occasions and the usual "Get off the f***ing road" argument ensues. (mainly Bus Eireann drivers - they are just psychos). As for Taxi drivers... well... Taxi drivers will be taxi drivers...

Having been to Copenhagen, all I can say is I envy your bike setup there. I also envy you because of the chilled out attitude of the drivers, and the way I didn't actually feel like someone wanted to drive over me!

droid said...
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droid said...

Someone comes to Dublin for a couple of days, hangs around on a sunny day in the city centre and takes a few pics of bikes with baskets on one street, and this is 'revolutionary'?

Please visit again in January and try my cross-city commute and we'll see what you think of our 'brilliant' cycling infrastructure then.

I commuted by bike for most of the 90s and strangely enough (other than in the city centre), almost nothing has changed on my routes since I started again last year - in fact its arguably far worse now as they are way more cars and loads of appalling cycle lanes.

droid said...
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Sean said...

Thanks for the write up on cycling in Dublin.

While no doubt further improvements can be made, cycling in Dublin is great. It is the most convenient way to get around the city.

Andrew Montague deserves the praise you give him, and his committment to improving cycling in Dublin is helping to improve things further. We are seeing the advantages of the DublinBikes scheme, the 30 km/h zone, and the bus gate on College Green.

Some cycle lanes are bit rubish, but there are plenty of other examples of cycle lanes that help make cycling easier.

Anonymous said...

Sean, what cycle lanes in Dublin do you believe make life easier?

I can think of two that are quite pleasant to use, but both border bodies of water and therefore have no junctions. It's very easy to have nice segregated infrastructure when you have no junctions. It's the most trivial case possible.

(Apologies to people who don't cycle in Dublin, for whom this can't be of any interest.)

Anonymous said...

Too Many negative comments, for international readers, this is an Irish thing, much whingeing. I cycle into work in town, every day for the past 5 years - its brilliant, bike never been robbed in the 5 years, hitch it up to the hitching post 25 metres from work. Get to work in 15 minutes - deadly! I've noted a bit more agression from taxis in the past year, but nothing that wouldput you off cycling,

droid said...

Pointing out the reality of the situation is 'whingeing'?

Typical Irish. ;)

If no-one complains nothing will ever change. Not sure what your bike not being stolen has anything to do with cycling infrastructure either...

Sam said...

The OP never said the infrastructure was anything other than "a brilliant start". I get the feeling that Mikael didn't do a lot of cycling here. Its not that pleasant. My main problem is not so much the tiny cycle lanes as the broken, potholed roads on the approaches to, and within the city centre.

The cycle to work scheme and Dublin bikes are getting the numbers up, and thats a brilliant start.

p gwynne said...

Hi - I was wondering where your information that "Dublin was once considered the third great cycling city of Europe, after Amsterdam and Copenhagen..." comes from. I'd like to look into the history of cycling in the city, but not sure where to start. Thanks!

p gwynne said...

Hi - I was wondering where your information that "Dublin was once considered the third great cycling city of Europe, after Amsterdam and Copenhagen..." comes from. I'd like to look into the history of cycling in the city, but not sure where to start. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The 30km/h zone are largely ignored, and theres little enforcement of speeding. However traffic is so bad, that it crawls at peak. So it much easier on a bike at those times. The bike lanes are poor overall. But its a start and every little helps.

Most of the people in dublin do not live in the city center. They commute from the suburbs. Most of the bike routes from the suburbs are quite poor. I'm lucky I have a decent route into Dublin city center. Its 8k and the bike is quicker than the car, bus or train.