Dublin needs to “aggressively restrict” road space for cars if it wants to be a cycling city, says Keegan

If Dublin wants to be a cycling city it needs to “aggressively restrict” and reallocate road space for cars, Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, told an event at the council’s Wood Quay venue this morning,

Lord Mayor Cllr Alison Gilliland (Labour) said that 20% of carbon emissions in Ireland were from transport and cycling has a role in reducing that while also increasing the quality of life for residents.

She said that the city of Amsterdam being Dublin’s mentor as part of the EU Handshake project allows Dublin to “learn from one of the world’s leaders on how they overcame the many challenges that we currently face in Dublin” and she said that even the “shortest of discussions” with the Dutch contingent currently visiting “was so insightful”.

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Cllr Gilliland said: “The impetus to realise this vision [of a citing city] is urgent now more than ever as climate change screams disaster at us”.

Owen Keegan said that Dublin has “prioritised car traffic over people”.

He said that if the city is to develop an attractive vision for the future it will need to “aggressively restrict the road space for traffic to relocate this space to improve cycling and pedestrian facilities”.

He said that a significant reduction in on-street car parking and traffic lanes is needed for a reallocation of space to cycling. In the past, he said that cycling was only provided where there was space without affecting cars.

There is widespread public and political support for cycling but, he said, this weakens when projects affect car parking or traffic lanes.

Keegan said that councillors are on the frontline of facing the public on issues and it’ll be up to councillors to support, or not to support, the changes ahead. He said that it was encouraging that there has so-far been little demand to remove the cycle paths and related infrastructure installed over the pandemic.

He joked that when he was appointed as director of traffic in 1997 and that in a “fit of youthful enthusiasm” that he said that car traffic was “a sunset industry”, but since then it has been a “gloriously prolonged sunset”.

Brendan O’Brien, head of the traffic and transport section of Dublin City Council said that Dublin was supposed to built and have its metro open before Amsterdam’s metro opened in 1977, but that the city is still relying on buses as the workhorse for public transport. He said because of this, changes on streets also have to be mindful of keeping bus priority.

He said that car use is nearly back up to the pre-pandemic levels and that both bus and cycling use at commuting times is still down, their use is increasing and off-peak and weekend cycling is up compared to pre-pandemic levels.

O’Brien said that hosting the international Velo-city conference in 2019 helped to prompt the city into doing more quick-build projects.

He said the recession which caused a lack of funding resulted in nearly a lost decade of progress.

O’Brien said that the city used to operate a policy of not trying to inconvenience motorists but that led to cycle lanes that motorists could drive on.

He added that while plastic bollards are disliked by some, they allow for quick protection of cycle lanes that were previously “hidden” under cars a lot of the time and have known been discovered. Changes are then made afterwards where possible, including switching from bollards to planters or kerbs.

O’Brien said that people who are against things know who they are against, but often you don’t hear as much from people who generally support projects and objectors are more likely to contact councillors.

He said that the council’s court appeal against the Sandymount cycle path High Court judgement is expected to be heard in June and the council expects a judgement later this year.

O’Brien added that the council does not expect everybody to cycle and knows that some people won’t or are not able to cycle and that car access will be maintained while providing for cycling.

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