Tuesday 25 October 2016

What the future holds for cycling in Dublin

Cycling accounts for 25pc of movement in the city centre, and the Council aim to grow this to over 30pc. But will cyclists embrace paid parking?

Jane with a citybike. Eileen McLoughlin Park, Foley Street, Dublin
Jane with a citybike. Eileen McLoughlin Park, Foley Street, Dublin

Dr Mark Delargy, a consultant in rehabilitation medicine at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, was knocked down while cycling last year.

His knee ligaments were torn in the accident and he was out of action for a few months. On top of that, he admits he's had many near misses.

He sees the casualties on our roads first hand, yet he cycles to work every day.

"I have been knocked down once and I've had many near misses. You're so shocked that you end up shouting at the car driver for their complete disregard for your safety.

"My knee ligaments were torn and I couldn't do anything for months. But I got good rehab and I can cycle again," said Dr Delargy (below), who is in his 50s.

Four cyclists have been killed on Irish roads this year to date.

Last year, 12 cyclists were killed, a jump from five in 2013.

"My belief is that the numbers are increasing. There are more cyclists on the road and there are more accidents," says the doctor.

"Currently on our waiting list we have an adult whose brain injury is so catastrophic that the person is most likely to remain in long-term care for the rest of their life. In our care, we have a series of very unfortunate sports cyclists, some of whom broke their necks and are paralysed for life.

"[Other] injuries I've seen this year include a broken neck with paralysis, the loss of a limb and devastating brain injury, rendering the individual into a vegetative state."

Around five of the 110 beds at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, are occupied by an injured cyclist at any one time.

The number of cyclists injured on Irish roads reached a 10-year high in 2012, when 630 cyclists were injured. Some 53pc (335) of these injuries occurred in Dublin alone.

There was also a 200pc increase in cyclists with spinal trauma injuries being referred to the National Spinal Centre over a four-year period, an RSA review found earlier this year.

"I personally won't leave the house without a helmet and I'm a proponent of helmets, but worldwide research on helmets is not crystal clear," said Dr Delargy.

"There are several views on helmets. One of the views is that helmets are not essential, and that I believe is true for low-speed travel. This is borne out by the practice of every major city in Europe. On the city bikes in Paris, Dublin, Marseilles, for example, you do not observe people wearing helmets.

"There are accidents where helmets are a great thing. There are others where a helmet doesn't work. When a truck runs over you, a helmet will not save you.

"If you're crossing a road and your wheel gets stuck in a Luas track and you topple over and your head hits the pavement, it would be very helpful to wear a helmet.

"When a vehicle hits a cyclist, I don't think it's ever been known that the driver comes off worse.

"Good roads, good bikes and courteous drivers - that's the green ticket," he said.

Cycling currently accounts for 25pc of movements in the city centre, and Dublin City Council aims to grow this to over 30pc in 10 years.

As the Dublinbikes scheme goes from strength to strength in particular - with 1,500 bikes and 101 stations - the numbers of cyclists will increase.

A staff of 50 people is employed on the Coca-Cola Zero Dublinbikes scheme, and a fleet of 20 vehicles keep the scheme maintained.

"At Heuston Station, one train would clear out the bikes," a Dublin City Council spokesperson told The Herald.

"And say you had 50 bikes going to different stations throughout the city - to gather up those bikes at various stations, and bring them back to Heuston again, it's difficult to do."

Around 1.23 million journeys have been made on Dublinbikes so far in 2015. Almost 10.7m journeys have been made since the scheme began in 2009.

Dublinbikes staff are on the ground from 5am to 11pm to maintain the scheme and keep the bike stations emptied or topped up, as the case may be.

READ MORE: Injured cyclist: 'My arm landed about 20ft away from me'

"There are about 15,000 journeys a day, so even if you had 1,000 vehicles going around 24 hours a day, it's not possible [to replenish the bikes all the time]," the spokesperson said.

For privately-owned bicycles, Dublin City Council knows it has to tackle the issue of theft if people are to have the freedom to cycle in the city. The council is formulating plans to bring in secure multi-storey bicycle parking which will both tackle bicycle crime and increase the number of spaces for bicycle parking. The multi-storey bicycle parking, already a success in Japan, will come into effect in Dublin within the next four years.

Michael Phillips, Dublin City Council's Director of Traffic and City Engineer, said: "One of the issues with theft is we're afraid we'll lose the cyclists if it continues.

"In Japan, there are dedicated multi-storey parks where you get a ticket and a machine takes the bike and parks it.

"We would minimise the price of it. But if you want to secure your bicycle, then I'm sure you wouldn't mind paying for the parking," Mr Phillips added.

Around 6,750 bicycles were officially reported stolen last year. Dublin Cycling Campaign estimates that the actual number is closer to 20,000, and it is currently conducting a survey to try and uncover the correct figure.

For the first time in Dublin, a coordinated multi-agency think tank is working to tackle bike theft.

Dublin Cycling Campaign, gardai, Dublin City Council, the National Transport Authority and trade websites are exchanging ideas on how to reduce bicycle crime.

David Timoney from Dublin Cycling Campaign said: "If people stopped using cable locks, it would make a huge difference. 'Soldsecure' is a lock standard system set up by police in the UK - and they recommend that everyone should have a gold standard lock."


'I feel much safer wearing a helmet'

Jane is a 30-year-old marketing brand manager who cycles into Dublin City to work from Kilmainham five days a week.

Why do you cycle?

I cycle as it's faster than getting the Luas or bus, and it's a little bit of exercise too. When the weather is nice it's a great way to get around.

How often do you cycle and where to?

I cycle every day to work from Kilmainham to city centre, there's a station right outside the office, it's around 4km and takes me less than 20 minutes. I cycle around the city centre to and from meetings during the day and at lunchtime.

How do you rate the Dublinbikes scheme?

Ten our of ten. It's really convenient, reasonably priced and there are five stations within walking distance of my house. I rarely have to walk past the closest station to get a bike. I also use the app to ensure there's a bike there, especially on Monday mornings.

Do you wear a helmet?

I always wear a helmet, I have done since I started cycling - I just feel safer. In fact, I feel naked without it.

Have you bought your own bike?

I almost bought a bike, but decided against it when I heard the Dublinbikes were coming to Kilmainham. They are so handy and I don't have to worry about getting it home or locking it up. Sometimes I walk or get the Luas if it's raining, so it gives me the option to do that.

How can the cycling experience be improved in Dublin City?

More cycle lanes. More DB stations.

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