Does Dublin need safer cycle paths, away from motorists?

Man on bicycle looking at bus on O'Connel Street
Cycling in Dublin - Photo credit Robert Taddeo (Flickr)
Man on bicycle looking at bus on O'Connel Street
Cycling in Dublin – Photo credit Robert Taddeo (Flickr)

In early January, Dublin City Council opened a new cycle lane on Camden Street Upper. Unsurprisingly, this  update to Dublin roads isn’t solely for the convenience, let alone safety, of cyclists as a bus lane has been added alongside. When will the Dublin City Council learn that buses are one of the greatest threats to Dublin cyclists?

Putting it simply, buses are big and bicycles are small. In addition to this, buses overtaking cyclists tend to cut back into the lane quickly rather than gradually and cautiously. Everyday we see motorists and buses forcing cyclists up onto paths.

I experienced this myself as I decided, for one week, to take my life into my hands and cycle to college. I soon realised that it wasn’t my hands that my life lay in but rather the hands of motorists. Twice in one week, a bus squeezed in in front of me forcing me up onto the pavement. However, one positive outcome of my dance with death was the realisation of the “cycling community”. Cyclists all over Dublin are standing up for one another on the roads but, is this herding effect enough to save lives?

According to, in 2014 vulnerable road users (cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians) accounted for a quarter of the 196 deaths on Irish roads. Although the majority of the vulnerable road user fatalities were pedestrians, the number of cyclist fatalities increased from 5 in 2012 to 12 in 2014. It seems that as long as motorists and cyclists share the same roads, cyclist fatalities will continue to rise.

The Solution?

The future of cycling - photo credit Luz Adriana Villa (Flickr)
The future of cycling – photo credit Luz Adriana Villa (Flickr)

We could take example from London and its variety of proposed utopian cycle paths. Foster and Partners recently suggested plans for a network of cycle pathways, Skycyle, which, as the name suggests, will allow London cyclists to take to the sky and avoid the potential dangerous roads that lurk below.

Foster and Partners propose to follow existing suburban railway corridors and construct a wide, secure deck above the trains to create new the cycle routes throughout London. The proposed SkyCycle network will follow existing suburban rail services and provide over 220 kilometres of safe, car free cycle routes which can be accessed at over 200 entrance points. Each route could accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and speed up journey times by 29 minutes.

Fear of heights? Plans proposed for undergroud cycle highway - photo credit Paul Tridon (Flickr)
Fear of heights? Plans proposed for undergroud cycle highway – photo credit Paul Tridon (Flickr)

But, if the words sky and cycle together are causing an onset of acrophobia, never fear as other plans have been proposed, by Gensler architects, to turn unused networks of the London Underground into “a stylish new subterranean route for pedestrians and cyclists.” The proposed subterranean cycle system, the London Underline, would reclaim the disused metro tunnels and surplus infrastructure around London. These spaces would be turned into a network of pedestrian and cycle paths with retail spaces, all powered by a kinetic energy system which converts footsteps into electricity.

Unfortunately,  in Dublin there isn’t the luxury of  abandoned metro systems, let alone operational ones, so this option can be swiftly crossed off the list. And it is doubtful that Ireland has £220 million, the estimated costs to build Skycyle in London, to spare for Dublin cyclists. Dublin doesn’t need exorbitant plans to protect vulnerable users; all that is required are safer paths away from motorists. So what possible system can Dublin put in place to prevent cyclist fatalities?

More Cycle Highways

Cycle highway Grand Canal, Dublin - photo credit Giuseppe Milo (Flickr)
Grand Canal – Giuseppe Milo (Flickr)

The existing Canal Way Cycle Route offers safety for cyclists as it is off-road, clearly marked and has its own traffic lights at junctions. It is ideal for young people cycling to and from school, business people and even tourists, being a part of the larger Grand Canal Way.

Cycle routes like this make Dublin far more cycle friendly. We need more routes like this that keep motorists, cyclists and pedestrians separate. The current flaw in the Canal Way Cycle is the abrupt end to the cycle path, forcing cyclists onto the nearby roads or even paths which can put pedestrians at risk. A continuous cycle route along the Grand Canal is crucial for the safety of all road users.

Boardwalk Cycling

Boardwalk cycling Dublin - photo credit Tinou Bao (Flickr)
Boardwalk- Tinou Bao (Flickr)

Fancy cycling over Dublin’s beautiful River Liffey to work? Although it is a rather romantic way to commute to and from work, it seems this idea is the least probable  as plans are already in place to construct a segregated two-way cycle route on Dublin’s quays this year.

The cycle route is planned to link The Point with Heuston Station and the Phoenix Park. Unfortunately, the boardwalks will remain pedestrian-only and will be used on north quays, such as Arran Quay and Ellis Quay where congestion occurs. Perhaps boardwalks are best left to pedestrians as hearing the constant thump, thump of the boards may be slightly unnerving, especially on a Monday morning.

Cyclist Rights Awareness

Cyclists Awareness - photo credit Andreas Kambanis (Flickr)
Cyclists Awareness – photo credit Andreas Kambanis (Flickr)

As a cyclist, it is a jarring experience being overtaken by motorists. Bicycles are not as sturdy as cars and sometimes swerve or lose control when hitting a bump or pothole. Cyclists need space to accommodate the unexpected and for this reason, the 1997 Road Traffic Regulations set out penalty-point offences regarding overtaking cyclists. The law says  “A driver shall not overtake, or attempt to overtake, if to do so would endanger, or cause inconvenience to, any other person.” Breaking this law carriers 2 penalty and a fine of €80. However, it is up to the cyclist, or other road users endangered by a driver, to bring it to the attention of the Garda.

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