Dublin in the Cycle Top 10

Good news is always welcome. Dublin is the 2nd most Intelligent Community. Who cares it’s Dublin, Ohio? There is a chuckle in the capital, an opportunity to bitch, and as not too many people know about the other Dublin, its reputation adds to ours.

Dublin (Ireland) is ranked 9th (out of 80) on the list of most Bicycle-Friendly Cities in the world. The Lord Mayor rightly called this astonishing. I agree. Any town (that I’ve visited) in Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands is more friendly to cyclists, including Hamburg (ranked 13th).

The list was put together by Copenhagenize. They do not reveal their methods. Dublin got 12 bonus points for trying, without which it would not have been in the top 20. Dublin’s high ranking is explained by “a wildly successful bike share programme” (true), “visionary politicians” (since booted out of office) “who implemented bike lanes and 30 km/h zones” (although the 30 km/h zone is fiendishly hard to navigate by bike), and “a citizenry who have merely shrugged and gotten on with it” (although the few available statistics suggest that people cycle less and less).

Copenhagenize claims that “[t]he new cycle track along the [Grand] [C]anal is brilliant”. It sure looks shiny and new. It has a small ridge between the road and the cycle line, the sort that was abandoned elsewhere because if you’d hit it accidentally, you’d go head first into traffic. Right of way is confusing. I use one crossing of the new cycle lane on my way back from work. In the few months since it was opened, I’ve spend some 10 minutes there and witnessed four near misses as cars turn on bikes. Fortunately, Dublin bikes are equipped with above-average brakes.

Copenhagenize has used the old let’s-rank-something trick to generate publicity. Unfortunately, they did not add to our understanding of what makes a city friendly to cycling.

24 thoughts on “Dublin in the Cycle Top 10”

  1. One of the big pluses for cyclists in Dublin has been the Dublin Port Tunnel, which, along with numerous other motorways and dual carriageways built in recent years, has taken thousands of heavy lorries off the roads in Dublin, and led to a massive reduction in fatalities among both cyclists and pedestrians. The road deaths rate in Dublin is now one of the lowest in the world, and this, in turn, is giving people the confidence to cycle as they are in far less danger of instant death than was the case a few years ago. Naturally, this being Ireland, as with every other major project capable of bringing such benefits, the tunnel project was delayed for years by the usual nuts, who claimed that most of north Dublin would fall into the sea if it was built, while the “visionary politician” who pushed the project through is demonised by those same nuts in their respective media outlets.

  2. @Richard

    What makes Dublin a city friendly to cycling is that it’s flat and small (short distances between key points).

    As a user of the Dublin bike scheme, I have to say I’m very happy with it and have reduced my personal ‘carbon footprint’ considerably since it came into being. However, the economic impact is that of course I no longer use the LUAS or taxis.

    To those of you who aren’t familiar with it, have a look at this (especially the taxi driver talking about it approx. 2 mins 40 secs in – who is hilarious):

  3. Though I agree with the post…. I can’t help but smile at the worlds 171’st best * economist commenting on the “lets rank something” trick. 🙂

    * cant remember what the ranking was for Prof Tol and cant be bothered going back thru the archives but it was somewhere around there…..

  4. @JohnTheOptimist

    Yes, I would agree with you that fear of instant death has reduced considerably due to these factors. Though there are still enough idiots out there (and in fairness, they are usually old people who really shouldn’t be driving at all… like my father-in-law).

    But come on…. Visionary? Politician? In modern day Ireland? Surely an oxymoron?

  5. although the few available statistics suggest that people cycle less and less

    Which statistics are these? Dublin City Council’s annual canal crossing count shows a 50% increase in cyclists entering the city from 2004 to 2010.

    When the 2011 detailed census reports are published next year, we’ll know whether the ‘cycle-to-work’ scheme has been effective.

    The segregated canal bank cycle track is appropriate for children and novice cyclists. Signalised junctions, with lights for bikes, have been placed in locations which previously had no signals. Education and enforcement help compliance.

    The Dublin Bikes rental scheme has been successful at attracting large numbers of cyclists and obtaining efficient use of the bikes, but the city appears, again, to have agreed to a terrible contract. The deal is a complicated contra arrangement where the provision of advertising space by DCC is bartered for planning permission compliance, bikes, maintenance, new signage, toilets and advertising for the council. The contract is secret but one advertising manager has estimated that the advertising spaces provided by DCC for 15yrs have a market value of 100m. 450 bikes for 100m doesn’t sound so great any more.

  6. Just to put some extra meat on my earlier point, these are the figures for the number of road deaths, population and road deaths rate per million population in Dublin county between 1997 and 2010:

    1997 num death: 84 , pop: 1,072,200 , rate per million pop: 78.343
    1998 num death: 73 , pop: 1,081,400 , rate per million pop: 67.505
    1999 num death: 58 , pop: 1,086,100 , rate per million pop: 53.402
    2000 num death: 69 , pop: 1,097,300 , rate per million pop: 62.882
    2001 num death: 53 , pop: 1,108,200 , rate per million pop: 47.825
    2002 num death: 49 , pop: 1,122,821 , rate per million pop: 43.640
    2003 num death: 37 , pop: 1,133,200 , rate per million pop: 32.651
    2004 num death: 45 , pop: 1,144,800 , rate per million pop: 39.308
    2005 num death: 41 , pop: 1,160,600 , rate per million pop: 35.326
    2006 num death: 34 , pop: 1,187,176 , rate per million pop: 28.639
    2007 num death: 35 , pop: 1,210,300 , rate per million pop: 28.918
    2008 num death: 22 , pop: 1,217,800 , rate per million pop: 18.065
    2009 num death: 31 , pop: 1,211,500 , rate per million pop: 25.588
    2010 num death: 21 , pop: 1,207,300 , rate per million pop: 17.394

    reduction in roads death rate 1997 to 2010: 77.8 per cent

    I think this is by far the single biggest factor in the resurgence of cycling in Dublin. No matter how many free bike schemes or cycle lanes are introduced, people aren’t going to cycle to work in the morning if they think there is a high risk that they will be returning in the evening in a hearse. A 77.8 per cent reduction in the road deaths rate in Dublin county between 1997 and 2010 is a phenomenal achievement by the last government, and the result of the priority they gave to road infrastructure. Let’s hope the present government can build on this. During their last period in office, they neglected the roads and, in total contrast to the period 1997 to 2010, the number of road deaths in Ireland actually increased between 1994 and 1997. Let’s hope that they learn from their previous mistakes.

    The 77.8 per cent reduction actually understates the improvement. First, for the reasons gone into in other threads, the preliminary population figures for Dublin were revealed as too low by the census, and the figures given above for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 will have to revised up (by no less than 5% for 2010). So, that will further reduce the road deaths rate given in the above table. Second, so far in 2011 road deaths in Ireland are down another 11%. While there is no regional breakdown for 2011 yet, it is reasonable to assume that Dublin has shared in it. So, It looks as though (touch wood) the road deaths rate for Dublin county in 2011 will be around 15.0 per million pop. This is phenomenally low. Sweden has the lowest road deaths rate in the world and it is 30.0 per million pop, although I don’t have a breakdown as between its urban and rural regions. If Dublin county was an independent country, it would have the lowest road deaths rate in the world.

  7. When we can get from the end of the grand canal lane to the super path out to sutton cross it will be a wonderful addition to the city and a real option for a sunday afternoon family outing.

    I dont know how the pros do it on Paris Roubais but the bit of cobblestone going under the rail bridge (near grand canal dock) scares me loads.

  8. @Ossian Smyth

    The segregated canal bank cycle track is appropriate for children and novice cyclists

    I am unconvinced by this, I use the canal cycle path most days and it seems to me to be a design failure for many of the reasons Richard Tol mentions, it also presents a further barrier and risk to pedestrians who now have to change the direction in which they look for oncoming traffic four times when crossing the canal and cross two sets of kerbs. Pedestrians are Dublin’s worst treated travellers.

    My preferred option of wide brightly coloured cycle paths on either side of the canal’s inner road is made difficult to implement by the continued indulgence of private on street parking, however I hope that the cycle path’s designers will replace the kerb with a textured and brightly coloured demarcation line on any future bicycle highways with a strictly implemented license points penalty for motorists who cross it.

    To heretically agree with John the Optimist I have been cycling in Dublin’s city centre for more than twenty years and without a doubt the biggest improvement in safety came with the introduction of the five(?) axle ban and the opening of the Dublin port tunnel. It was unfortunate that the DCC had not got the gumption to stick witha wide and seriously enforced 30kph limit.

    Lastly, and perhaps trollishly, I think the main barrier to increased cycling is now the bank bailout. In places without newly surfaced roads or wide dedicated cycle paths the state of the sides of roads, where cyclists spend most of their time, is terrifyingly bad and a real deterrent to people joining the cycling community.

  9. @JTO

    Good stats (where do you find this stuff?).

    The jump from 1999 – 2000 53.402 to 62.882 per million is interesting.

    I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a load of people out showing off their swanky new 21st century licence plates, more interested in seeing if people were looking at them than in keeping their eyes on the road.

  10. @ Shay

    We have a canal on the northside too y’know.

    My son can now cycle all the way from sunny Phibsboro to Croke Park, along the canal bank, pausing only to clip Brendan Behan on the ear, as he passes.

    My impression now is that one of the great stoppers to more children cycling to school is the mighty weight of their school bags – never mind the days they need PE kit, etc.

  11. @Gavin Kostick

    My son can now cycle all the way from sunny Phibsboro to Croke Park, along the canal bank,

    That is tremendous, I moved away from the Drumcondra area quite recently, just before there was a Croke Park section of the cycle path (its news to me) and I always used the narrow and fraught Whitworth road so as to avoid pedestrian bowling (which remains a crime) along the canal.

    One of the sadder aspects of the Celtic tiger was how the increase in car ownership and road traffic seemed to discourage parents from letting/making their children cycle to school. It is an amazing way of getting your daily exercise as a child and I always feel sad when I see children being deposited from SUVs at school. Tomorrows cardiac patients, range rover drivers and climate change skeptics. Sorry, could not help myself.

  12. @PR Guy

    Thank you.

    For those particular stats, I combined the road deaths by county figures from the RSA web site (in particular, their annual publication called ROAD COLLISION FACTS) with the regional population figures from the CSO web site (section called Statbank).

  13. @JTO

    If the number of people cycling is increasing (as a % of the population) then the death rate per cyclist is dropping even more than the raw figures above suggest

  14. If some cyclists do not mend their bad ways – like Red lights are some sort of pre-Christmas illuminations – might be a few RIPs. Earlier this morning I saw three cyclists (likes ducks in a row) as they went through three different sets of lights, at three different intersections on the Merrion road. That’s dangerous driving by the way.

    All road users need third-party insurance – and that very definitely includes the Dublin Two-wheel Weavers and Dodgers Society, and mandatory registration of their machines. NO exceptions!

    Brian Snr.

  15. While I’d agree that there has been a major improvement in Dublin’s cycling facilities and culture over both the past couple of decades and particularly over the past couple of years, I’d also have to agree with Richard Tol that Dublin would not rank as a friendly cycling city in comparison to any Dutch city or most German cities that I can think of.

  16. @ Din

    Don’t say that, please, you will give JTO a sore head – plus a night of research when he should be sleeping or working as a 100kpa wage slave of evil American corporate capitalists whilst not seeing the big picture but thinking he does.

    Give him a break – Kit Kat?

    I’ll get the tea.

    To the point

    I was in London most of last week and only seen one crash – three bicyles at traffic lights at Old Street Hoxton/Shoreditch High Street.

    I’ll stick with the shoes and the tube – too much drama.

  17. Although there have been many improvements in the cycling infrastructure in Dublin and being loath to be negative towards something that is at least moving in the right direction, the idea that Dublin should be ahead of Hamburg or any mainland northern European city is ridiculous. Though no city is perfect the feeling of relative safety and the ability to get to nearly all points of the city by cycle path in these mainland cities puts them still way ahead of anything Dublin has to offer. There is also a huge difference with regards to the attitude of pedestrians and car drivers(note the parking comment above) who are more aware of cyclists. Of course, there are still idiots on the continent who pay no heed to cyclists but they are much fewer in number. As usual Dublin is late to the ball game as regards infrastructure of any kind. Also are there any long distance cycle paths with everything signposted and accomadation possibilites marked on maps etc. A bit of long-term global thinking is needed to get a well maintained interlinked infrastructure really up to scratch assuming of course that this would be something that the populace would want.

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