How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed cycling in Dublin City?

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, people have looked for alternative methods of travelling to avoid busy public transport. Eibhin Kavanagh investigates how the pandemic is affecting cycling in the city.

Is cycling in Dublin City safe? Photo by Eibhin Kavanagh

With our movements once again restricted, people in Ireland are limited to travelling within 5km of their homes. Walking and cycling have become a more popular means of exercising as a result of gyms closing and sporting events being cancelled.

In the last ten years, Dublin has seen an increase in the number of people cycling. A number of bike share schemes have become well established. However, 2020 has seen an exponential increase in cyclists, which Dublin City has had to accommodate. This change, due to social distancing restrictions, means more space is required for both pedestrians and cyclists to make their way around the  city.  

Councillor Michael Pidgeon talked to The City about the recent changes related to cycling in Dublin City.

“In some ways I think the people are ahead of where the city is,” Pidgeon said. “We know that outside of peak hours there are now more people cycling than there were at this time of the year last year; there’s been a huge increase.”

Dublin City Council projected  a 200% increase of cyclists in Dublin City from 2019 to 2020.This would be an increase from 13,131 to 39,000.

 2019 FiguresLikely Future ChangePotential Future Figures
All Public Transport116,28780% Capacity Reduction30,000
Car57,985Approx. 30% reduction41,000
Taxi2,661Assume 30% reduction1,900
Walk24,691Target 100% increase50,000
Cycle13,131Target 200% increase39,000
Goods983No change1,000
Motorcycles1,485No change1,485
Total (persons)217,223 164,385
Source: Dublin City Council 

Source: Dublin City Council 

The Canal Cordon Count was analysed by Dublin City Council to determine where the greatest demand for walking and cycling was recorded. The table below shows the number of people crossing the canal cordon (both directions) during the morning peak period from 7am to 10am in November 2019.

Source: Dublin City Council 

From 1997 to 2019, the number of cyclists crossing this cordon heading into the city centre between 7 am and 10 am increased by 133%, from 5,628 to 13,125.

The number of cyclists remained between  4,000 and 6,000 between 1997 and 2010 before increasing by approximately 15% year on year until 2015 when the increase slowed up until 2017.  There was a small decrease in 2018,  but cycling numbers increased by 7.3% in 2018 and 2019. 

Source: Dublin City Council 

According to research conducted by the Road Safety Authority, 4 in 5 cyclists are injured on urban roads. More cyclists are  injured during morning and evening commutes. Of all collisions involving another vehicle – 4 in 5 cyclists are injured by cars. 1,056 cyclists were injured in collisions in 2018.

In Dublin, the number of cyclist deaths since 1997 has remained relatively low with a slight increase in 2017, according to figures collected by the Road Safety Authority.

Image Source- Irish Cycle.com

Dublin has over 120 miles of cycle routes. While changes have been ongoing to improve cycling infrastructure in the city, especially since lockdown in the spring, the demand is high for safe and accessible cycling.

“It felt like at the start of the pandemic there was a real understanding that we needed to take more space for cycling to encourage more people to do it, but it feels like that momentum has dropped a bit,” said Pidgeon. “So, I think that we need to get that going again.

“In terms of infrastructure, I think the big changes we have seen are some of the temporary measures along the quays, particularly along the northside quays.”

Some of the Cycle Safety interventions introduced since April include the installation of Nassau Street contra-flow cycle track from Clare Street to Dawson Street, the partial installation of key sections of the Interim Liffey Cycle route, removal of on-street car parking from Inns Quay and Ormond Quay, and a section of work from Church Street to Ha’penny Bridge, according to Dublin City Council.

Dublin City Council also discussed other plans to ensure safe cycling in the city, including the reduction of the number of traffic lanes to accommodate protected cycling facilities on both sides of the road, while maintaining a balance for other required services. While there have been major changes made within Dublin City Centre to ensure safe cycling, other parts of the city have yet to see changes that will make cycling accessible and safe.

“One of the things is to start looking at the urban villages, so instead of just focusing on the very core city centre, you would be looking at areas like Inchicore, Rialto, Stoneybatter, Phibsborough, Rathmines,” Pidgeon said in relation to making cycling consistent for everyone.

“What we seen in the pandemic is that people are happy enough to stay within a few kilometers of where they live, so we shouldn’t just be designing a cycle lane with a view that will just take office workers from the suburbs to the city centre, because that’s not what the demand is right now. That’s important, we should definitely do that, but it will have to also be about making sure that local routes around your home are safe.

“There’s still a lot to do, but equally I’d like to say that cycling in Dublin City is safe. There’s a perception of danger that I don’t think is entirely there. There’s a lot the city needs to do to feel a lot safer and be safer with segregated lanes, but if anyone’s considering it, I’d say just ask a friend who does cycle regularly and they can show you some good routes give you some tips and you’ll be up and running in no time.”

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