Cyclists must have greater input into the design of cycling infrastructure, Cork's city councillors have said after getting first-hand experience of life in the bike lanes.
It is now hoped to arrange meetings between the city’s senior transport officials and cycling campaigners to ensure their voices are heard ahead of a massive expansion of the city’s network of bike lanes.
But councillors have also said that as well as immediate improvements such as enforcement to tackle parking in bike lanes, there must be a more strategic approach to the design and layout of the network.
They were speaking after taking part in an ‘election cycle’ - a 4km cycle to experience the good and the bad aspects of the city’s cycling infrastructure - organised by members of the Cork Cycling Campaign as part of Bike Week.
Five councillors saddled up - Sinn Féin’s Cllr Henry Cremin; Labour’s John Maher; the Green Party’s Colette Finn and Oliver Moran; and Fine Gael’s Garret Kelleher. They took bike lanes and shared roads from Anglesea Street through South Terrace, Sullivan’s Quay, South Main Street to UCC and back to the city centre.
Cycle organiser, Majo Rivas, who cycles to work and for leisure, said: “The event helped councillors and other participants to see and experience first-hand the different quality of cycling lanes, from paint-only cycling lanes, cycling lanes shared with buses, and those preferred by people on bikes: segregated cycling lanes - such as those along Western Road.
The group had to share space with double-decker buses, cope with poor bike lane surfaces and broken drains, dodge low-hanging branches and veer into oncoming traffic to avoid cars parked in contra-flow bike lanes.
Campaign members spoke along the way of their own experiences of cycling in the city and pointed out what they would like to see improved, including the installation of protective barriers along cycle lanes where parking is pervasive; the need for high-quality design and segregated cycle lanes where possible; and increased enforcement to prevent parking in cycle lanes.
Cllr Maher, who drives for a living and cycles on greenways or on holidays, described the event as an "eyeopener".
“Cycling in the city is not as safe as I thought. When we, as councillors, have to vote on the delivery of infrastructure like this, we need to be guided by those who use it every day,” he said.
“Even on Anglesea Street, outside City Hall, the branches of trees were too low over the bike lanes and car doors can open directly onto the cycling lane. South Terrace too opened my eyes to the dangers cyclists face."
Cllr Cremin said he hopes to arrange a meeting between cycling campaigners and transport officials to ensure that the voice of the cycling lobby is heard during the bike lane design process.
Green Party Cllr Oliver Moran said engineers need to adopt a more strategic approach to the layout of the cycle network.
“As a cyclist, I keep needing to think in my mind of where the ‘leap’ will be after a bike lane ends. They don't join up. If you want to have a safe cycle to work or to town, you have to mentally plot each ‘leap’ between a disconnected network instead of being able to follow a single safe route like any other road user would expect."
“The city should concentrate on ensuring local roads are safe for all road users, prioritising certain roads as 'quietways', and identify a small number of strategically-critical commuter cycle infrastructure projects, like a fully-segregated cycle track from Kent Station to Little Island with a spur to Glanmire. It would directly connect the city and one of the largest business and industrial zones in the state and integrate a residential suburb along a flat accessible route."
“It would make a very important statement too - that major strategic cycling infrastructure isn’t about greenways and Sunday afternoons. Cycling is about commuting to work, to school, about people going about their business.”
Vast improvements to cycling infrastructure are planned under the ambitious Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Study, which calls for the investment of €230m in the development of 200km of primary bike lanes, 150km of secondary cycling network, 60km of inter-urban cycling networks and 140km of Greenways, with an expansion of the bike share scheme and improved ‘end-of-line’ facilities for cyclists such as showers and better parking, to help foster a culture of cycling in Cork.