Cork cycling advocates say they are in a Catch-22 situation when it comes to campaigning for more infrastructure in the city because the lack of enforcement at existing cycle lanes leaves cyclists disillusioned.
The Cork Cycling Campaign says that, as a result, there is a silent majority of cyclists who will not make submissions to the city council on proposed new works, such as the recently abandoned Wilton Road project, because of their negative experiences with other cycling projects.
Conn Donovan of the Cork Cycling Campaign said: “A lot of people would have been hugely encouraged to see the delivery of quality infrastructure in the city in 2015 but things have gone downhill dramatically since then.
“New cycle paths on Bachelor’s Quay and Alfred St are simply not fit for purpose as they are frequently parked in. Cycling advocates have put forward measured and rational solutions, such as flexi-bollards, to improve amenity and safety in a small number of areas but these calls have been by and large ignored.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back for many people occurred when [Solidarity Party councillor] Fiona Ryan asked the Roads Department how they intended to keep cars out of the cycle lane on Alfred St on Sundays when the wardens aren’t working.
“The director of roads and transportation insisted that enforcement by the wardens was still the solution at this location. How can the wardens ticket cars on a day they don’t work? The trust is just not there at the moment.
Many people want dedicated cycling infrastructure but they are reluctant to speak up for it in the planning system as they experience problems with the current network and have become disillusioned.
Mr Donovan said the last census found that more than 3,500 people cycled to work or college in Cork; that there are 12,000 users of the public bike-share scheme; and that more than 350 people have registered as members of the Cork Cycling Campaign.
Citing the recent council decision to vote against the Wilton Road Corridor, Mr Donovan said he believes councillors may have been “convinced by the sheer number of objectors”, but that there is a “silent majority” who support infrastructure projects for cyclists.
“The question needs to be asked if the hundreds of people cycling this road were aware of the scheme and contacted their councillors, or the thousands of bus users who travel on this road?” said Mr Donovan.
“The campaign is in a Catch-22 scenario.
“It’s challenging for us to convince the public and our members to give up their free time and write letters of support to the council and their elected officials when they know the campaign is concurrently pouring time and energy into efforts to keep cars and vehicles out of the existing cycle lanes without any success.
“Illegal parking in cycle lanes isn’t just a hobby horse for senior members of the campaign; we polled over 830 people last year who cycle in the city and it was the number-one issue.”
The cycling campaigner said there is a moral “obligation to ensure we do all we can here as these lanes are used by the least experienced and most vulnerable people who cycle”.
“Free the cycle lanes and we can move onto helping the council bring forward new projects that will help revolutionise Cork’s transport system,” said Mr Donovan.