Bike paths to somewhere

Olivia Kelly reports that the national cycle path network has been unveiled. As is all too common, there is no trace of this with the Department of Transport or the National Roads Authority. There is a powerpoint from January 2010, though, which is consistent with Kelly’s description.

I’m all for cycling. I cycle to work. I wish more people would cycle, so that there are fewer cars on the road (they’re a menace, not just to women). A proper cycling policy is one of the few ways in which carbon dioxide emissions can be cut fast.

The national cycling network disappoints. Its primary aim is to connect Ireland’s main towns. People do not commute by bike from town to town. The distance is too large. Bike commuters travel from the near suburbs to the city centre (and back).

The cycle paths are for recreation so. It is instructive to compare the NRA’s proposed network to the one proposed by Failte (page 19). The Failte one takes the cyclist through a scenic landscape from one place of interest to the next. The NRA one takes the cyclist on the shortest route from population centre to population centre.

Bikes are not cars. You use them in a different way for a different purpose.

27 thoughts on “Bike paths to somewhere”

  1. Yes I would agree it is a mistake to focus on a modal shift from cars to bicycles for middle distance journeys, especially when there are so many very short distance urban-based journeys that are still carried out in a car.

    Any middle or long distance journeys involving bicycles are mostly going to be multi-modal and therefore emphasis should be on the integration of the various modes, ie trains, LUAS, DART, buses etc.

    The NRA should be focusing on this and better layout of cycling lanes on roads, particularly junction layouts.

  2. Absolutely Richard. And the same applies to walking – we don’t have many footpaths either and the ones we do tend to be on the side of busy roads.

  3. In the town where I live they’re in the process of completing an extensive bike path project. In many respects it’s quite good and you can get to most places around the town by bike without having to share space with motor vehicles.

    However, not everything is rosy. For the most part they’ve just widened the footpaths and painted a white line down the middle. There are a number of problems with this. As well as a cyclist I’m also a pedestrian. I walk a lot, with my dog. Generally the cycle lane is on the outside nearest the roadway with the pedestrians being obliged to walk on the inside. That would be fine if the briars, trees, hedging etc were maintained by the council, but they are not. So this forces the pedestrians out into the cycle path causing frustration and danger for both.

    The other problem I have is that there are no ‘rules of the path’. On cycle/footpaths where there is no dividing line, which side should the respective cyclist/pedestrian be?

    Whilst cycling on the cycle lane, which side of the path should I be on – left or right? I meet other cyclists on either side comming against me. Are there written or unwritten rules in the Netherlands or Denmark?

  4. @Kevin
    They bred real men and women who don’t mind a bit of wind.

    @BigEnd
    In the Netherlands, bikes stick to the right (just like cars) while in Germany, bikes stick to the left (unlike cars). In both countries, pedestrians have learned to walk in a straight line, something the Irish seem to be incapable of.

  5. @Richard
    Can we please have a campaign to ‘educate’ Irish people on cycle/foot path etiquette? Maybe Michael O’Leary could help. After all he’s gotten Irish people to queue in a straight line without being told to do so!!

  6. Good post, Richard.

    We need a plan that focuses on shifting short commutes from car to bicycle, not this inter-urban plan.

    I note the powerpoint slide has pictures of on-road cycle paths, something Galway City Council and Dublin City Council are against. Instead they favour the “paint a white line on the footpath” approach. Indeed there is talk of Ireland’s *worst* cycle lane becoming a model for the country. See the link below. Take note in the photos, that at entrances to housing estates motorists must give way to pedestrians but cyclists must give way to motorists.

    http://www.galwaycycling.org/july-2010-cyclists-face-doomsday-as-director-of-services-says-doughiska-is-the-model-for-the-city/

  7. Agree with Eoin.
    In the long run, We need a top down strategy. A planning approach that would maximise commute cycling and public transport, while minimizing car journeys, particularly short distance ones.

  8. I dislike this business of asking people to walk in straight lines everywhere. It’s bad enough to be penned in to the footpath by cars whizzing by, but to have even the footpaths further enclosed by cycle lanes, means that walking now is rendered totally unnatural. It’s claustrophobic.

    I’ve no problem with people cycling slowly on the pavement, or cycling fast on the road, but I don’t see that the pavement should be converted to a race track for a handful of yuppies to whizz past pedestrians. When are we to relax for goodness sake?

  9. @Ger
    I often catch up with pedestrians walking in the same direction as I cycle. I try to overtake them without hitting them. This can be very difficult as Irish pedestrians often change direction without apparent reason — it may be that they think “my tax euros paid for a path this wide so I’d better use all of it”.

    Dutch pedestrians don’t do that, probably because they have been hit by a bike in the back once too often.

  10. Hold on – you are supposed to slow down, come to almost a grinding halt, when you come near a pedestrian. The safe braking speed applies to bikes too.

    There are a few urban design philosophies that Ireland should start taking seriously; Transport orientated development and New Urbanism to name two I have come across recently. ( I am a layman in these areas).

    Due to the construction collapse, this is an unfortunate time to talking about new buildings, but we need to come up with a well thought out plan for the future.

  11. “The Danes (and the Dutch) have excellent facilities for both recreational cycling and bike commutes.”

    I was really impressed by special cycle rack carriages on the S trains in Copenhagen. Definitely an example to follow. I believe that shower rooms are pretty common in workspaces there too.

  12. @Richard
    “This can be very difficult as Irish pedestrians often change direction without apparent reason — it may be that they think “my tax euros paid for a path this wide so I’d better use all of it”.”

    You’ve just experienced normal Irish begrudgery.

  13. Another cross-cultural anecdote: When a pedestrian crosses the road in front of bike in the Netherlands, the cyclist goes straight for the pedestrian — knowing that if you aim for a moving target, you will miss it. If you do that in Dublin, the pedestrian freezes.

  14. (sorry, pressed submit too quick)

    Do I actually agree with Richard Tol? I’m shocked.

    Getting rail and bus services to more easily allow bikes on them would be a better idea than intercity bike routes. The scenic bike routes are a good idea too.

  15. @Richard Tol

    I have no problems with cars, buses, boats, trains, trams, planes, space-ships, pedestrians …. in Holland – but those Dutch bikers terrify me as I anxiously look down and around to see if I’m on a ped-path or a bike-path – a road or a frozen canal. Not only that – but must also look out for the spear-thrower who may be sitting on the handlebars, the crossbars, the carrier-basket, or the mudguard waiting to pick off the first pedestrian who dares to freeze in the middle of a bike-path – terrifying, truly terrifying ….. and all those pavlovian bells are a nightmare …

  16. agree with @richard tol that pedestrians are lethal, four crashes in as many years and only one didn’t involve a pedestrian stepping out in front of me (and every time illegally crossing a road in the process).

    separately, we need a density of paths around the cities, ideally with a curb so that they are clearly distinguished as a bicycle path to itself and not just some spray paint on the ground (which deters nobody from driving in them).

    @sarah has a very good point, a carriage on the trains or luas catering to bikes could be done as a cheap experiment (if done for a short time with a stripped out carriage) and then see what numbers start to use bikes for longer distances.

    for my part I’ll continue to get knocked down due to pedestrians who travel erratically irrespective of cycle paths, i’ll remain a sui-cyclist.

  17. @Richard

    Tried the aim at the pedestrian on the Sunday spin – glad I unaimed and am able to type this morning.

  18. There is one MASSIVE problem with cycle lanes in Ireland and that is that they are usually SHARING the Bus Lane! Cyclists are forced to make their way crammed between the Kerb on the right and double deck busses passing ofn their left – It’s suicide!

    Having recently moved to the US I have seen much safer cycle lanes, where they share the road with busses, the cycle lane is on the OUTSIDE, so the turning busses DON’T injure or kill the cyclist and they are more visible to the driver of the bus. More often than not planning ensures that this sharing is kept to a minimum.

    Lets be honest here too, how many times have you seen a bicycle in the city with it’s wheels kicked into total uselessness. If you want people to cycle then you need places to park them where they won’t get vandalised or stolen – a kind of secure lockup simmilar to multi-storey car parks. Without a stub to proove you parked your bike in it, you will not be allowed remove it without proof of ownership.

    Next you need proper Right of Way laws…
    1). All traffic stops for any cyclist or pedsetrian.
    2). Any cyclist stops for any pedestrian.

    Pedestrians have right of way over any bicycle (Next in the heirarchy) which has right of way over any car.

    As far as I can see cycling is simply too dangerous, the lanes are poorly positioned for the most part, there almost nowhere to park it up safely unless your office provides it.

  19. I have to disagree with Adrian when he says that it is too dangerous to cycle. Although I do agree with the criticisms of our bike lanes. In fact we have some pretty awful bike lanes in Dublin and if we are going to attract large numbers of people to cycle in our towns and cities we will need much higher standards.

    However, I don’t agree that our cycle lanes are deathtraps or that it is simply too dangerous to cycle in our cities. Particularly in Dublin. The key to improving safety is not in the design of bike lanes, it is in improving junction design and lowering speeds.

    While it can be difficult to convince people that it is safe to cycle in Dublin, the accident figures show that there has been a dramatic improvement in the safety record in the capital in recent years. The number of serious accidents have decreased from 284 in 1997 down to 90 in 2007. The numbers cycling were at roughly the same levels in 1997 and 2007. There has also been a similar percentage reduction in serious injuries to pedestrians. So it’s not some statistical anomaly.

    The reality is that it’s never been safer to cycle in Dublin.

    The biggest danger to cyclists is being hit be a left-turning HGV. There has been a reduction of about 95% in the number of HGVs in the city since the HGV ban was introduced in 2007.

    Studies show that people who cycle regularly live an extra 10 years of healthy life. I would ask the question: Is it safe to drive?

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