ANDREW WARREN argues that cycle lanes need to be properly constructed if they are to succeed in getting more people to cycle to work.
One thing’s for sure, if the North Quays cycle lane project is to go ahead, it must do so with real commitment to achieve the goal of getting the “unbrave” onto their bikes – to quote Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan. It’s the only way to increase the rate of cycling from the current 4% to the targeted 10%. But to do this, there must be the political will to ensure that priority is given to the cycling infrastructure. In London, Mayor Boris Johnson has made a commitment to make sure cycle facilities are built to Dutch standards, and in the Netherlands they achieve cycling rates in excess of 22%. Unfortunately the plan is off to a bad start – it doesn’t have the support of the city’s Lord Mayor, Christy Burke: “I think it would be a disaster, to be honest, the road is narrow enough”.
I’ve project managed a number of public realm projects in Limerick City and one in Dundalk: traders are up in arms if a single car space is lost, and the resulting compromised solutions satisfy no one.
Reducing energy consumption
Modal shift was cited as the primary objective for a number of cycle infrastructure projects announced in 2012 by Alan Kelly, the then Public Transport Minister, and €4.5 million was sanctioned for a number of regional projects, which included Alan Kelly’s constituency town of Nenagh. And in April this year, Alan Kelly said that the Government’s investment amounted to €25m as part of its agreed commitment to invest €65m in sustainable transport to 2016.
Why is sustainable transport so important? The average European (and this is true of Ireland) consumes 125kWh of energy per day; the same American uses 250kWh, primarily in transport, heating and electrical usage. The average diesel or petrol car uses 80kWh to transport one individual 100km, and is only 25% efficient in energy use. An electrical car would be 80–90% efficient and would use as little as 6kWh for the same 100km journey and a cyclist uses none, and will stay fit and healthy in the process.
The Government has set a target for 2020, in line with EU law, of reducing energy consumption by 20% compared to 1990 levels. The EPA has said the target should be 30% for the same period, and even more significantly it has said that the Government could fall significantly short of achieving the 20% and have a cumulative excess of CO2 emissions of up to 20Mt. This would expose the country to heavy EU fines, which were reported earlier this year at €300 million. To prevent severe impacts of climate change, the
international community has agreed that global warming should be kept below 2ºC compared to the temperature in pre-industrial times. That means an increase of less than 1.2°C above today’s level, and EU leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
The only way to cycle safely in Nenagh is to ignore the cycle lanes and cycle ‘bravely’ in the centre of the town’s carriageways. The project is waste of scarce public funds.
You might have thought the cycle infrastructure project completed in Kelly’s home constituency town might justifiably be an ‘exemplar’ project to set the standard for other county councils to follow. Unfortunately not: it’s an embarrassment to the idea of modal shift from car to bike. It only provides fragmented sections of cycle lane, where cyclists are forced to give way to traffic before they can reenter the main carriageway. At pedestrian crossings the cyclist is forced to stop because the cycle lane is blocked by a raised kerb, and from a standing start has to change direction and move into the traffic. Parking facilities always take priority over the cycle lanes and there is no contra-flow for cyclists on Nenagh’s only one-way street as promised. The only way to cycle safely in Nenagh is ignore the cycle lanes and cycle ‘bravely’ in the centre of the town’s carriageways. The project is a waste of scarce public funds.
If modal shift is to be achieved, we need to build cycle infrastructure to Dutch standards with proper segregation. New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Melbourne have all opted for segregated schemes, and the 2010 Montreal Study says that 2.5 times as many cyclists rode on segregated cycle tracks compared to non-segregated roads and the risk of accident was significantly lower.
Serious political will is needed to tackle our legal EU energy reduction targets, with genuine projects that will take people out of their cars and onto public transport and bicycles, and also an energy efficiency retrofit programme to standards of success achieved in Germany – which is another story.