What does good cycling infrastructure look like?

This is a typical cycle lane in Dublin city centre. It consists of a bit of paint at the side of the road.

Technically it’s an offence for motor vehicles to drive or park in a cycle lane, but enforcement is very rare, and all too often motorists stray into these painted cycle lanes without thinking.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that most of these painted cycle lanes have limited hours when they are in effect, which means that these cycle lanes are often blocked with parked cars in off-peak hours.

Dublin road with painted cycle lane and queued cars invading the space

So what’s wrong with this situation?

Well let me ask you a few questions:

  • Would you be happy to let your 7 year old child use that cycle lane during rush hour?
  • Would you be happy to transport your kids to school in a cargo bike on this route?
  • Would you be happy with an elderly or disabled relative using their adapted tricycle on this cycle lane?

I’m guessing the answer to all of these questions is probably no. It would not be safe to have children, elderly and disabled people cycling on this route.

So if it’s not safe for everybody to use, then why do we think it’s adequate cycling infrastructure?

It’s clearly a hostile environment where there are real and present dangers from passing motor vehicles; where even the most adept and experienced of cyclists feel in danger from inattentive or aggressive motorists.

So what’s the alternative?

Cycle campaigners have long asked for safe cycling infrastructure that is suitable for all ages and abilities. This means cycle lanes that young children would be safe in. It means cycle lane that accomodate all types of bicycle, including cargo bikes, recumbents, and adapted bikes for people with special needs.

We need infrastructure where all ages and abilities can use the space safely.

And that means having a physical separation from motor vehicles. That means separating the cycle lane with more than paint. It means kerbs, it means grass verges, and even using parked cars as a physical separator between cyclists and motor traffic.

Segregated two-way cycle lane along the Grand Canal on Wilton Terrace
Artist’s impression of the proposed “Parking Protected” Fitzwilliam Cycle Route

The segregated cycle routes also need to be wide enough to accommodate all kinds of bicycles, and also to allow bikes to overtake each other safely.

This is the kind of cycling infrastructure that exists in place like The Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling flourishes.

It’s the kind of infrastructure that requires a lot more than a bit of paint at the side of the road. It’s the kind of infrastructure we need to be building in Dublin right now.

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