Senator McDowell favours cycling only when cars are not affected, says Keegan

— Council, Govt policy supports aggressively restricting space for cars, says Keegan

Comments he made last week that Dublin needs to “aggressively restrict” cars and reallocate road space for cycling have sparked a useful debate, according to Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council.

Despite false claims from a national newspaper, was the first to report the comments from Keegan last week after he spoke at a cycling event at the council’s Wood Quay venue. The event was part of the EU Handshake programme which aims to share knowledge between member states. A delegation from Amsterdam, Dublin’s mentor, was visiting.

Sorry to interupt you, but please read this:'s reader-funded journalism now has 230 subscribers — getting this levels of support is great, but, if you can, please help us reach our short-term target of 250 subscribers, by subscribing monthly now at There’s lot more to come, but it needs readers like you to subscribe. Now, back to the article... reported on the comments on March 23 within an hour of them being made. The Irish Times followed this up five days later with an article with less context, fewer details and no mention of the Lord Mayor’s comments supporting change.

This was then followed in The Irish Times by a comment article written by Senator Michael McDowell claiming there was no mandate to restrict cars.

Yesterday, on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1, Keegan disagreed and said a quick move towards giving space to walking, cycling and public transport was backed by local and national government policy. He said increasing the delivery of good cycling infrastructure was needed to get more people cycling and space needs to be taken from cars to do that.

Responding to a question put by Byrne about Senator Michael McDowell disagreeing with his comments, Keegan said: “There is a very strong pro-car lobby and the pro-car lobby has determined transport policy for many decades. It’s only been in the last few years that there’s been a determined effort to push the sustainable modes.”

“I think this is a very useful debate, because at one level everybody favours better pedestrian and cycling facilities… council policy and Government policy is that we deliver a much higher share of trips by the sustainable modes, particularly walking and cycling, and BusConnects… but to do that, we have a finite road space, so that involves reallocating road space,” he said.

Keegan said: “There’s a lot of people who are all in favour of cycling as long as we don’t do anything about it — I think Michael is in that camp, he purports to be in favour, but then says ‘let’s put the cyclists on back lanes’, or anywhere it does not interfere with traffic. I don’t think that’s good enough for cyclists and I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Presenter Byrne asked about Senator McDowell’s points about bringing toddlers to preschool, people coming from Arnotts “with pots and pans”, and doing the weekly shopping, and she said “they just cannot be on the bus, it’s not going to work for everybody”.

Keegan said: “It’s not going to work for everybody and nobody is suggesting that it will work for everybody, but we find this all the time — people pick the examples of where there are realistically no alternatives and then they use that to defend their own single car occupant commuting.”

He said that he sees it every day on the route he cycles where there is a very good bus and Dart service. He added that such is “their choice” but there was a need to reallocate road space to move towards sustainable travel.

He said: “We’re not talking about stopping cars, we’re just talking about a more even distribution of road space towards the sustainable modes, including cycling. We will still accommodate car traffic, there’s no question about that. There will still be access to every car park and every shopping centre. It’s just that there will be better provision for other modes. and in this particular case, I was talking about cycling.”

Keegan added that there are councillors against the changes and they are but the majority are for them, otherwise the changes would not happen.

He added that most people “with some justification” think the current cycling infrastructure in Dublin is not safe and that’s why they won’t use it or let their children use it, and he said that’s why the city needs “a major upgrade” in cycle routes. That cannot happen without interfering with car parking or traffic lanes he said.

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Cian Ginty

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