Archive for the 'Cycling' Category

Dominick’s submission to the Cork Cycle Network Plan

I am a daily commuter cyclist, living and working in Cork City. I have been cycling in and around Cork City for the past fifteen years or so.

Cycle Lanes and Routes
First of all there has been a huge improvement in recent years in cycling infrastructure around the city, and I hope this improvement continues. I regularly use the new cycle lanes on both Anglesea Street / Parnell Place and Pope’s Quay, and these are both excellent. I used to use the old railway line from the marina to Rochestown regularly, and still do occasionally, and this too is excellent. The biggest issue with this route is the state of the road surface on Centre Park Road, which you must use to get to and from the city, which is shocking in places. This causes a definite hazard to cyclists using this route, as there are often huge potholes to negotiate, and you can often be left with the Hobson’s choice of ploughing on into a pothole, or veering out in front of a truck. I hope that this road can get a completely new surface in the near future.

I fully recognise that the potential for developing a complete cohesive cycling route around the city is not practical, as many of the city’s roads are too narrow. One route that could be developed I think is a two way route across the North channel of the River Lee, either at St. Patrick’s Bridge / Bridge Street or at Brian Boru Bridge / Brian Boru Street.

Bike Parking
There has been great improvement in bike parking facilities around the city in recent years, with a number of excellently sited bike racks. However some key locations are still lacking. Topmost of these, for me, is the English Market. There is great potential to put simple racks, probably best parallel to the walls rather than perpendicular, to which bikes could be locked on some of the laneways leading in to the market, such as Market Lane on the Oliver Plunkett Street side, or on the lane that used to have the Vineyard pub (sorry don’t know its name) on the Patrick’s Street side. Other locations I have noticed a lack, or insufficient, bike parking are Opera Lane, in the vicinity of Dunnes Stores on Patrick’s Street, the bus station, around Merchant’s Quay shopping centre, around the Gate Cinema, and around Cork Opera House, and also around Princes Street and McCurtain Street.

Also large sporting and entertainment facilities around the city are generally lacking any bike parking infrastructure, such as at Irish Independent Park, the soccer stadium at Turner’s Cross and Pairc Ui Chaoimh (which I hope can be sorted out in its current redevelopment). Also the Live at the Marquee event during the summer, while it has some bike parking, could do with much better, and maybe the Coke Zero city bikes could set up temporary stands at events like this.

Bike Pods and Bike Lockers
It would be extremely useful for people who want to leave their bikes for a few days or similar, or who have a particularly valuable bike with them, that there be paid bike lockers or bike pods or similar, at a couple of locations around the city. These could be charged on an hourly or daily basis. Suitable locations might be at the train station, the bus station, and maybe close to City Hall, or even within some the multi-storey car parks. These could be made dual purpose, for the use of motor cyclists as well as cyclists.

Bike Lifts for the Northside of the City
If we are truly to embrace cycling culture in Cork, a big obstacle to this are the hills on the North side of the city. The installation of bicycle lifts, similar to that in Trondheim in Norway, at a few key locations around the city could go a long way to opening up the north side of the city to cycling. I believe there is a French company marketing such technology. I have a number of suggested locations, such as St. Patrick’s Hill, Shandon Street as far as the north Cathedral, Summerhill North / Ballyhooly Road as far as Dillon’s Cross, and Popham’s Road, from near Blackpool Shopping Centre up to the church.

Making Work Places/ Shops/ Schools etc. more Cyclist Friendly
I think that the provision of cycling infrastructure should be fully integrated in to the planning process, so that any new developments, or any redevelopments, must provide appropriate cycling infrastructure as part of the development. I think this should apply to any sort of commercial development, or really any sort of development beyond a single private residence, including workplaces, shops, leisure facilities, schools, etc. Even private houses should be designed so that there is space to park bicycles. A key part of any design process should be the consideration of how someone arriving by bicycle at a location would fare. The following are some sample questions which could be used to test any new developments for cyclist compatibility. Where do they park the bicycle? Where do they store their helmet/ panniers/ rain gear, so that they don’t have to carry it all with them? Do cyclists need shower and / or locker facilities to freshen up and to store their gear? I think Cork City Council should consider providing a facility in the City Centre to facilitate those working or shopping in the city arriving by bicycle, where they can park their bicycle safely, where there are lockers for them to store their gear, and where there are showers available if they are arriving sweaty. Such facilities should be integrated into all larger workplaces, and where there is a concentration of smaller workplaces, such facilities should be provided communally.

Developing and Fostering a Culture of Cycling in Cork City and Environs
In order to develop a culture of cycling, it is first important to ask the questions as to what are the fundamental obstacles to this. In the last fifteen years or so that I have been cycling in Cork, the number of cyclists has increased dramatically, and if this growth is to continue, which is good for the general population in so many ways in terms of the environment, health, reduction of congestion and pollution, tourism, ease of mobility, and so on, the questions must be asked as to what is preventing more people becoming cyclists. This is not just a questions of hard cycling infrastructure, which I have already dealt with above, but is also a question of how to shift mindsets and open people up to the possibilities of cycling.

The biggest obstacle to the growth of cycling is fear. There is now largely a couple of generations in existence who have lived their whole lives using cars as their principal means of transport, and who either have never cycled, or who have only cycled as children before they were old enough to drive. There are also many parents who would not let their children cycle out of fear, even as teenagers. These are largely people who do not and have not cycled themselves. Overcoming these fears is not easy, and any schemes aimed at getting those who don’t / haven’t ever cycled out on bikes is to be encouraged. To that end, such events as the Rebel Pedal, the Cork Cycling Festival, family fun cycles, cycle to school days, charity fun cycles and so on, should be supported, encouraged and facilitated where at all possible. The long term benefits of getting people on to bicycles who haven’t cycled before are huge. Hopefully the recent introduction of the Coke Zero city bike scheme will encourage many of those who have never cycled to get out there and give it a go.

Another obstacle to the real growth of cycling is that many view it as purely a leisure or sporting activity, and not primarily as a mode of transport. While the leisure cyclists should certainly be supported and encouraged, my main concern is with cycling as a mode of transport, and many do not see it in this way. The Government’s bike to work scheme has certainly helped promote the idea of cycling as a principal mode of transport, but all possible avenues to promote this viewpoint should be explored and promoted. The introduction of cyclist friendly infrastructure within work places and schools, as outlined above, would certainly help.

It must be said that there are road users out there who neither expect, nor respect, cyclists. In my experience in the city, one of the main groupings that cyclists come into conflict with are taxi drivers. As taxi drivers are professional drivers, and their working days on the roads, they come into contact with many cyclists, and should be aware of the space cyclists need, and should also be aware of the hazards they can cause cyclists. However by their behaviour on the roads, it is patently clear that many, certainly not all, taxi drivers have no fundamental understanding of the risks they can pose to cyclists. I know that in other countries to overcome such issues, the car drivers have been taken out around the city on bicycles for a few hours, and they have the hazards caused by drivers pointed starkly out to them. I propose that, to start with, a group of taxi drivers be taken out by some experienced cyclists for a few hours around the city, as when they experience cycling from the cyclists’ perspective, they will hopefully change their behaviour as drivers as they become more aware of the hazards they pose to cyclists. Such a scheme may be possible in conjunction with the Coke Zero city bike scheme, who might be able to provide the bicycles for such an event.

That is all I have to say for now on the subject. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to get in touch. I look forward to the continuing development of cycling in and around the city, and to the development eventually of a cycling culture in Cork, as exists in many cities on the European continent already.

Photos of Dominick

May 2023