The case for two-wheeled transport

6th June 2001

A COUPLE of years back I bought a little motor gadget for my bike off the Internet. This device would allow me to pedal downhill and then give me a help going uphill.

If it had worked, I had intended to promote the idea through the pages of The People and so affect a transport revolution in Dublin.

As it transpired the thing sounded like a hairdryer coming at you and it wouldn’t move the bike even when I wasn’t sitting on it. I became the laughing stock of the office (thankfully everyone’s forgotten about it).

Anyway, it was an heroic effort and even if it didn’t work, the idea was right. So I’m going to have a go at promoting the concept now.

I was listening to Conor Faughnan of the AA on the radio one evening and he said the the average car in Dublin had 1.2 occupants.

This set me thinking so I went outside and measured my Ford Escort, a fairly typical mid-sized car. It’s 4.2 meters long. Giving, say, half the length of the car again for spacing, this means that in 1km of Dublin traffic there are just 153 people.

Think about that. In the evening rush hour a lane of traffic backed up from O’Connell Bridge right back to Dorset Street has only 153 people. They would fit onto two double decker buses.

This is obviously a disastrous, unsustainable use of road space.

While I was out measuring the car I measured the scooter and the bike as well. The figures for the areas the three modes of transport take up are as follows: car 7.2m2; scooter 1.3m2; bike 0.9m2. This means that each car occupant takes up 6m2.

In a simple world this means that the roads of Dublin would be able to hold five times more commuters if they were used by bikes and motorbikes alone.

Now I’m not so naive to think that two-wheeled transport would suit everyone but our current planning takes no account of the changes in two-wheeled technology over the past 10 years.

Bicycles have been transformed by lightweight materials and are much easier to use and rugged than ever before. In places like California motors (ones that actually work) have been developed to extend the effective range and to reduce the effort of cycling.

On the motorised new concepts such as the Goped have been produced, motorbike that you can carry on to the bus or the train or put into the boot of your car. Scooters are selling like hot cakes and are now so simple to drive that the average person could be using them after a few minutes. BMW have even produced a version that has a roof on it.

Many of these developments overcome the traditional obstacles to two-wheeled transport.

You don’t have to be sweating like a horse getting to work. Scooters are faster up to about a 20 mile commute. Modern cycle gear means that you can use the bike in all but the worst weather.

So why have the transport planners taken absolutely no notice of these developments? The transport plan for the next 15 years is called ‘A Platform for Change’. The words ‘scooter’, ‘motorbike’ or ‘motorcycle’ do not appear anywhere in this document.

A sum of £14 billion is to be spent on car, bus and rail options up to 2015. There’s no mention of the amount to be spent on cycling. The strategy seems to be based on the use of buckets of white paint.

We’re making a serious mistake here. Each commuter should have the same amount of money spent on them. Serious money should be spent on the two-wheeled options.

Dedicated flyovers and underpasses should be built. They would cost a fraction of those for cars and would carry far more people.

An independent agency should be set up to research and promote two wheeled transport in the city. It should be able to target companies with grants for parking and for locker and shower facilities. It would have responsibility for cycle lanes and for ensuring that local authorities and national bodies support two-wheeled transport.

And I would suggest that the process begin with allowing motorbikes to use bus lanes.

As well as that…

Still banned from the bus lane

I’D rather go snorkling in Ringsend sewer works than bring a car into town so I bring the scooter whenever I’m town bound.

Apart from the usual job of keeping yourself alive in the mean streets there is also the job of avoiding the guards when using the bus lanes.

I did hear something about the DTO allowing motorbikes to use the bus lane but nothing has come of it.

If there is a more idiotic law in existence in this city I haven’t heard of it.

You’d be better off walking

LAST Thursday myself and the better half decided to go to town for a bite to eat and a sup to drink.

We stood out on the shiny new North Clondalkin QBC for a half an hour waiting for their super fifteen minute interval service. We had to get a taxi.

Later when we arrived at the Nitelink at 12.25 the bus driver wouldn’t take notes and the ticket bus wasn’t there. When the ticket bus arrived they had no change and the Nitelink bus went without us.

Then we waited 35 minutes in the rain for a taxi in the newly deregulted service.

New? Did somebody say new?