We’re still a long way behind other EU countries when it comes to facilitating cyclists, writes Donal Hickey
AFTER spending a few days cycling comfortably around a leading European city, there was a sudden return to the reality of car-clogged Irish cities _ being caught, frustratingly, in snail’s pace traffic in Cork.
Just 29 per cent of Copenhagen households own a car. Apart from the fact that cars are prohibitively expensive there, people don’t really need cars. At least 50 per cent prefer to cycle to work and school and a huge network of dedicated cycle lanes enables them to do that safely and quickly.
There are more bikes than people in the Danish capital which has 454km of cycle lanes with traffic lights that are coordinated in favour of cyclists during rush hour. What’s more, motorists there seem to respect cyclists, even if they have to sit in tailbacks while two-wheelers sweep past them.
One taxi-driver voiced a little irritation. ‘’We have to watch out for them (cyclists). If a car driver is an accident with a cyclist, the cyclist usually wins if a law case follows,’’ he told us, a little grudgingly.
The EPA regularly highlights the need to tackle air pollution from transport emissions in large Irish urban areas, in some case are above World Health Organisation guidelines. We’re still a long way behind other EU countries when it comes to facilitating cyclists. In Denmark, 17 per cent of all trips are by bike compared to 2.3 per cent here.
A meagre 0.5 per cent of the capital investment budget 2016-2021 is set aside for walking and cycling. Nine cyclists died on Irish roads this year and many people feel it is simply unsafe to cycle on our public roads. Copenhagen’s cycle lanes run parallel to the (usually) wide streets, clearly separated from motorised traffic. Pedestrians, who have their own dedicated paths, are not allowed on cycle lanes. The fact that Copenhagen is pancake-flat also suits cycling.
Green routes are still being built through Copenhagen and ‘’cycle super highways’’ are already a reality, allowing cyclists in and out of the city from as far as 15km.
The International Cycling Union declared Copenhagen the first official bike city in the world from 2008-2011. Other cities, like New York, look to Copenhagen for example, inspired by Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl. Due to Copenhagen’s efforts to create a template for a cycling city _ driven by strong political leadership _ bike traffic has jumped there by almost 70 per cent, in the last 20 years.
One of the first cities to provide free city bikes, in the 1990s, Copenhagen introduced a new generation of electric city bikes, in 2013, with GPS and tourist information. Now, 1,800 bikes are spread across the streets and can also be found at train and metro stations.
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