Calls increase for Dublin cycling network plan to be implemented

Dublin area ‘sorely needs’ safer cycling routes, hospital chiefs say

Calls are increasing for the implementation of a cycling network in the greater Dublin area after two hospital chief executives recently said the capital “sorely needs” safer cycling infrastructure.

First proposed by the National Transport Authority in 2013, the plan would see the number of segregated cycle routes in and around Dublin increase fivefold.

In a joint letter to Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Lorcan Birthistle, chief executive of St James's Hospital, and Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of Children's Health Ireland, called for the plan to be established "without delay".

The two chief executives added that they aspire to be “cycle-friendly employers” but that they “also value the safety of our employees”.

Biggest barrier

“The lack of safe cycling infrastructure in Dublin city is the single biggest barrier to increasing the mode share of cyclists,” the letter states. “As acute hospitals we see directly at times tragic consequences of cyclists sharing the same roads infrastructure as cars and heavy duty vehicles.”

The chief executives also highlighted the health benefits of increased cycling, such as a reduction in air pollution and an increase in physical activity.

“As leading healthcare institutions we know that the increasing levels of inactivity amongst adults and children is alarming. Regular physical activity can help protect from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis,” the letter added.

“Cycling is an ideal form of physical activity but the lack of safe cycling infrastructure is a significant barrier to increasing the uptake of such an active means of commuting.”

The two hospital chiefs said the proposed plan will “serve to deliver the comprehensive and safe cycling infrastructure this city sorely needs”.

The letter was written on December 5th, one month after cyclist Neeraj Jain (34) died following a collision with a cement truck at a junction to the back of St James's Hospital and near the entrance of the new children's hospital.

Kevin Baker, chairman of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said the time to develop the routes was now, and that it could no longer be put on the long finger.

Segregated routes

“The biggest thing preventing most people from taking up cycling is that the roads don’t feel safe,” Mr Baker said. “The number one thing we can do to make roads feel safe for people is to build proper, segregated cycle routes on main roads, and that’s what this plan does.”

He said that the campaign group was “frustrated there hasn’t been more progress”, but added they are “cautiously optimistic” that authorities are beginning to act on the issue.

Separately, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council announced this week that it will be making funding available to cycle parking at primary schools in the council area.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said that both the Minister and his department are committed to improving road safety, “particularly for those more vulnerable road users such as cyclists”.

“In recent years there has been a significant increase in funding for improved active travel infrastructure in all our major cities,” the spokeswoman said. “This covers a wide range of projects including new segregated cycle lanes under the BusConnects programme, further separate funding for cycling as well as walking facilities, and additional funding for greenways projects.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times