Cyclist.ie and its member groups were well represented at the “Accelerating Active Travel for 2030” Transport Forum held on Wed 22 March 2023 in the elegant Regent House in Trinity College Dublin. Our attendees included Mairéad Forsythe, Dr. Mike McKillen, Colm Ryder, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama (National Cycling Coordinator with An Taisce & Cyclist.ie), Conor Cahill, Una Morrison, Eric Conroy and David Timoney.
The overarching message from the event was that we are now, finally, beginning to make good progress in the development of our active travel infrastructure in Dublin City and other built-up areas, but we also need to ‘up our game’ over the coming years if we are to humanise our cities and decarbonise our transport systems.
Joe Seymour from the National Transport Authority (NTA) argued that the 2022 Active Travel budget of €290M is being spent on increasingly better quality schemes. We are seeing the results with, for example, BusConnects schemes, which include significant cycling provision, the Fairview Public Realm / Bus Priority / Active Travel scheme, the Dodder Greenway Route, the 11km long D24 cycle route in Dublin, the Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway and the Bilberry to Rice Bridge link in Waterford. Challenges do remain however in dealing effectively with the many protests against change, and with the re-allocation of public road space.
Claire French, Senior Executive Engineer in Dublin City Council, provided an historical perspective on the subject. She emphasised how, initially, some of the public were apprehensive about schemes such as the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street (1970s – 80s), the banning of left-turn motor vehicles at the northern end of Dawson Street (early 2000s), the creation of the College Green Bus Gate (around 2010) and, most recently, the removal of motor vehicles from most of Capel Street. In all cases, these traffic management interventions / public realm schemes have improved public life and business activity in the city.
Further positive examples, which Dublin Cycling Campaign has strongly advocated for over the years, include the creation of the (still temporary and unfinished) Liffey Cycle Route measures, the contra-flow cycle facilities on Nassau Street, Parnell Square (East) and on Werburgh Street, and the filtered permeability schemes in Grangegorman and on Pigeon House Road. Claire acknowledged the need for the City Council to continue to improve in its processes of public consultation.
Dr. Robert Egan, Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, drew on the work of the late Prof. John Urry in his presentation – and, in particular, on his thinking around the creation of the ‘system of automobility’ and the discourses which have naturalised car-centric planning over the decades. As we seek to rapidly decarbonise our transport systems and revitalise and rehumanise our built up areas, we now need to marginalise automobility and centralise ‘velo-mobility’. Shaping the discourses through the media and in other ways is central to this mission. Robert’s comment that we are “currently cycling within a driving system” but need to change to “driving within a cycling (and public transport) system” struck a chord with the audience.
Martina Mullin, Operational Lead in Healthy Trinity, gave a terrific overview of the work that Trinity College has focused on so as to make bicycle journeys safe on and off-campus. Much of the latter efforts have focused on engagements with Dublin City Council and the NTA, so that there are safe routes for Trinity students and staff coming in from the suburbs and into the city centre. Much credit is due to Martina and her group on this work. TCD is concentrating on the routes to and from the main campus to its developing estate towards Ringsend, the Health Sciences at St. James’ Hospital and residences at Trinity Hall (Dartry). Both Dublin City Council and the NTA are aware of this requirement for safe segregated routes.
Finally, Willem Frederik Metzelaar from the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Urban Mobility, provided the European context, reminding us that 23% of the EU’s transport emissions come from the transport sector. Clearly, we need a new mobility paradigm in which active travel is front and centre. EIT are funding EU start-up businesses and promoting active travel through a variety of programs.
A lively Q&A session followed. One of the main points stressed by audience members was that there needs to much greater engagement from An Garda Síochána on the matter of traffic law enforcement – in particular in relation to illegal car parking on the cycle tracks which have been created specifically to make cycling safe and easier for those new to cycling (and those considering cycling) in the city.
Cyclist.ie and Dublin Cycling Campaign send its congratulations to Trinity College Dublin on running the event and we look forward to further engagements on the topics in the near future.
Formal info on event: