Based on a recent experience, here’s a suggestion for senior civil servants responsible for the Government’s grand plan on climate action: Send a delegation to Copenhagen to learn all about cycle lanes, which are to be part of the plan. While a hopeful start has already been made in providing such lanes here, we still have a long way to go to catch up with the Scandinavians.
A few days last week in the Danish capital was a real eye-opener. Yours truly cycled everywhere and, even in a strange city, there wasn’t a hitch. It was a case of just sticking to the dedicated lanes and not straying onto the parallel pedestrian paths. The lanes are clearly separated from the streets, thus eliminating dangers from cars and buses.
Commendable work is being been done in Dublin, Cork, and other areas to facilitate cyclists and there are plans to do much more. After all, it’s in the interest of city councils and climate change policies to reduce motorised traffic as much as possible, without even mentioning health benefits.
There’s no big deal about cycling in Copenhagen. Everybody does it — from leading politicians, to the highest paid executives going to work, to parents taking their children to school. There are more bikes than people in the city, which has almost 400km of cycle tracks. And, what struck us immediately was the respect shown by motorists to cyclists — something we don’t always see in Ireland. Conn Donovan, of the Cork Cycling Campaign, has highlighted problems caused by vehicles parked in cycle lanes, for instance, thereby forcing cyclists to swerve into lines of motorised traffic.
Cyclists in Copenhagen often get right-of-way and traffic lights are co-ordinated in their favour during rush hour. Motorists crawl along in tailbacks while cyclists sweep past and get home much quicker. New green routes also continue to be built in the world’s first Bike City. The Irish delegation might also look up distinguished Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl who has been teaching other countries how to plan for a co-called bike culture. Now in his eighties, Gehl has spent a lifetime trying to change urban design to suit cyclists and pedestrians.
At present, cycling on Irish roads is dangerous. Nine cyclists were killed here last year and an average of four are hospitalised every day. It’s always scary to see people on bikes weaving in and out of traffic, but a proper network of cycle lanes should eliminate that.
It’s encouraging to see people like newly-elected mayor of Killarney, Co Kerry, Michael Gleeson listing cycle lanes among his priorities for the traffic-clogged tourist town.
Meanwhile, Copenhagen is set to achieve its ambition to be the best city, worldwide in the world for cyclists by 2025.