Cycling and traffic congestion

 

Sir, – Colin Walsh is of course correct to point out that many people who would be willing and able to cycle do not do so because of the hopeless inadequacy of the available infrastructure in Dublin (Letters, February 16th).

The relative danger of cycling is certainly a considerable factor weighing on the decision of many not to do so.

Indeed its dissuasive effect is likely to be greater for particular categories of person who, while not so infirm as to be unable to cycle, might have legitimate doubts as to their ability to nimbly avoid an oncoming lorry.

This represents something of a collective action problem because although we might all be better off if there were far fewer cars on our streets, the fact that there are lots of people driving reduces the incentive to deviate and use a bicycle, because the large amounts of car traffic make that decision less safe.

There are considerable benefits to fewer cars and more bicycles for society at large, but the individual incentive to change one’s own behaviour is far weaker.

It is in precisely these circumstances of tension between public and private interests that government action can help. If Mr Walsh’s assessment of the situation can be faulted at all, it is in neglecting to mention that other crucially important factor leading people to decide to take the car into the city centre rather than cycle – the fact that they can.

Limiting the availability of this option within sufficiently large areas of Dublin City to those for whom more ecological means of transport, such as public transport, walking or cycling, are not viable options might therefore offer a welcome solution to this problem.

The area between the canals might offer a suitable boundary for such a measure. – Yours, etc,

CHRISTOPHER

McMAHON,

Oxford,

United Kingdom.