Why so few are cycling to work

THERE’S a fantastic little gizmo/thingy on the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) website which allows you to plot your cycle journey to work.

It will map out, in meters, the length of your journey; tell you exactly where to turn right and left; tell you how long it should take you; and, incredibly, how many calories you are going to burn doing it. How’s that for service?

Just to try it out, I asked it to tell me the route from the Lucan Community Centre on Esker Drive to O’Connell Street.

It told me that it was 13.944 km; that it would take me 46.5 minutes and that I would burn 376 calories en route.

Isn’t that great? Well not really, because the route suggested highlights the reason why so few people are willing to use bikes in Dublin.

Despite a period of intensive road painting (very welcome road painting, at that) there are practically no dedicated facilities for cyclists in this city.

And the Lucan Road is a case in point. If you are heading out of town, the M50 junction is an absolute nightmare. Entering the junction you have to stay in the middle lane while articulated trucks pass you at up to 50mph on both sides. Nerves of steel are required.

If you survive that, on the other side, traffic from the M50 merges and you are again left stranded in the middle of a four lane highway. Considering that millions of euro has been spent on this junction, one of the busiest in the state, the treatment of cyclists here has been scandalous.

What is particularly galling about this situation is that the old Lucan Road is largely intact and nearly trafficless. All that was required was a dedicated flyover for cyclists and pedestrians to get them over the M50.

And that’s the real problem. There is just no serious money being put into cycling.

At the moment 19,000 commuters cycle in Dublin in the morning rush hour as against 280,000 who use cars. The government is spending over €600m on the Luas to carry 30,000 morning commuters. Some €70m has been spent on the quality bus network to attract around 24,000 new passengers on to buses.

But just €2 million was spent on cycling in 2002. This is silly.

The whole point of all this spending is to get people out of their cars. There should be an equal amount of money spent for each commuter enticed out of their cars.

In many ways cycling is far more likely to achieve this but we aren’t even trying. Bikes are personal transport – they are there on demand and operate from your own door to the door of your work. This is what car owners like – many do not like public transport.

We need to start building serious infrastructure for cycling like overpasses and underpasses. We should have cycle contraflows on one-way streets. We should give grants to employers to build showers, lockerrooms and parking facilities. And so on.

Cycling has huge potential but the opportunity is being squandered.

Next week: The disgraceful treatment of motorcycling