Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Active Travel and Urban Planning Focusing on Cycling: Discussion
I thank all witnesses for their presentations. I want to go back to infrastructure, because we need to start with the basics. In the past 20-odd years, Dublin has developed apartment living, which is something we are not used to, yet there is nothing for bikes. Bikes dangle precariously from balconies and terraces, and it is difficult for somebody to think about getting a bike if they have to take it all the way up the stairs and back down again; it is easier in a house. Even here in Leinster House, our bike stand has no cover. We have not got as far as thinking of it as a priority or encouraging it.
The Luas has transformed our city andma de it look very smart, and we are very proud of it. However, I have fallen off my bike and there are many instances of broken limbs from bikes getting stuck in the ruts of the tramlines. That was not thought about 15 years ago, and the accidents are still going on today. In trying to accommodate the Luas, the traffic and the buses in the infrastructure, the safety of cyclists is not even thought about. We need to prioritise that and perhaps deprioritise the car.
I am cynical about regulations. The panel said that they would not say publicly, but privately, what should be regulated? Scooters are becoming popular in Dublin and there are now more than 2,000 of them, unregulated. I have seen only a handful of e-bikes; they are not that popular. Of the handful I have seen in the city, about three of them were homemade. They are important but the cynic in me worries that if we regulate them, it leaves room for commercial insurance interests to lobby for the toughest regulations, which we do not need. We need to allow people to discover these new modes from transport, which are tweaks from previous modes of transport. As with cycling, there is the potential for risk and danger, but I do not want us to have to answer to insurance companies; although it is a greening of insurance companies, it is also a way of making an awful lot of money from helmets and so on. We will wait for the RSA to come back with its recommendations, but the cynic in me thinks this is an opportunity to be jumped on to make more money out of people, when really we have cycled for hundreds of years and this is just the further mechanisation of it. It is important to watch out for that.
I want to go back to the weather as well. The weather in this country is miserable most of the time, and I do not want to cycle in the rain. We need to think about what happens when I and thousands of others stop cycling and decide to use public transport.
How are public transport systems coping with that? Do they make adjustments regarding the weather on a day-to-day basis because it is very unpredictable? Yesterday, we had a community walkabout where the Luas runs. It is where the new children's hospital is so there is a lot of interest in being shown to be community friendly. We are getting some community benefits from the provision of cycling and walking facilities combined with the Luas. We as a community have an opportunity to say what we want. We spoke about covered cycle lanes. I do not know how feasible they are but they would be in certain pockets so we are looking into that. Certainly in the Liberties where we are looking to create permeability. As the leading investor in housing there, Guinness is interested in providing covered walkways so that we can walk when it is pouring out of the heavens, which happens fairly often.
I am interested in talking about women's cycling. Going back to the research, it is very interesting for everybody. Bloomers were very good for women. The introduction of bloomers allowed us to cycle and got rid of bustles, heavy material and long skirts. There is still a reluctance on the part of women. This is replicated in women's reluctance to be in public places on dark evenings because they do not feel safe, so we need to address that. Women take on most of the burden - perhaps that is the wrong word - of dropping off and collecting children. There are questions about accommodating small children on bicycles and how safe that is. We do not just hop on our bicycles and go to work. We do about 20 different messages before then.