A transport option wasted

Suppose they invented a form of personal transport that wasn’t a car. Suppose it took up a fraction of the space of a car. Suppose it used a fraction of the fuel of a car. Suppose it got you to work and back in a fraction of the time it takes a car.

If such a device came on the market, what would the Government do? Make them available for free? Make them compulsory? 

Well, of course, such devices do exist. They are called motorbikes and you should take a fond look at them because the way things are going they won’t be around for much longer.

Motorbike ownership in Ireland is in freefall. In 2001 some 7,000 new bikes were registered. By 2005 that number was down to 3,200.

I don’t care much for motorbikes. I don’t have any interest in them at all. But a moped is simply the best way to get around this city.

I used to sit on my moped, passing cars and people at bus stops, thinking to myself: “Are these people stupid? Or haven’t they heard? Is it a secret that only a few of us know about?”.

Around the turn of the century it seemed that people had heard the news because sales of mopeds rocketed. All sorts of innovations that promised to transform urban transport were coming on the market. E-bikes became a practical reality. There was fold-up motorbikes that you could put in your boot. The BMW C1 was launched with its revolutionary new design. There was Gopeds, motorised skateboards and even the Segway.

A new world beckoned. The age of two wheeled transport was nigh.

Well, It’s still nigh and it looks like being nigh for a long time yet. The blame for this lies squarely with the Government.

They have done absolutely nothing to encourage people to use motorbikes. They obstinately refuse to allow mopeds to use bus lanes even though there is no evidence that they cause any delay to public transport. They have allowed the motorbike insurance industry to be reduced to two insurers.

The cue for these policies seems to emanate from the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) which does not believe that motorcycles has any potential to relieve congestion.

The DTO claims that mopeds are just another form of motorised transport and see no reason to encourage them over car use. This is perverse and obvious nonsense.

They can offer car users the very advantage that cars offer over public transport, that is, point-to-point personal transport.   If it were possible to get everyone out of cars and into buses and trains, then great. But over 60 per cent of commuters in Dublin still use their cars while two wheel transport offers a genuine alternative.

And now that there are top quality electric scooters on the market to eliminate the DTO’s whinges about pollution and noise, the undeclared war against motorbikes in Dublin seems even more absurd than it did before.

The DTO claims that it is encouraging cycling instead. So that’s why the number of cyclists crossing the canals dropped by 30 per cent between 1997 and 2005. Meanwhile in London the number of bicycle trips have increased by 50 percent in the last five years.

In Amsterdam 27 per cent of all trips are on bicycles. There is no reason why a similar numbers couldn’t find their way to work in Dublin on a range of two wheeled transport.

If the State is serious about alternatives to car use then every alternative should be treated equally.