Bicycling is booming in Dublin, Ireland. According to the country’s census, the number of Dubliners biking to work has increased from four percent in 2006 to five percent in 2011. No wonder then, that Dublin was named “the Great Bike Hope” on Copenhagenize’s Emerging Bicycle Cities in 2013. One of the many reasons for its topping the list is the growing popularity of the City’s bike share system, dublinbikes. Started in 2009 with 550 bikes at 44 stations, the program is set to expand with more bikes and more stations later this year. To date, there have been 5 million trips on dublinbikes, with each bike getting used a whopping 10 times each day, double the per-bike usage of New York City’s Citi Bike.
What can communities across the tri-state region learn about cycling advocacy and implementation from Dublin? MTR attended a recent NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy lunch with Trinity College Dublin’s Dr. Brian Caulfield to find out.
Unlike some elected officials in our region, according to Dr. Caulfield, elected leaders at both the City level and national level have embraced projects that support bicycling for many reasons, not least because these public work projects tend to be low-cost, quick to complete and attract the public’s attention. Dr. Caulfield’s talk persuasively connected the increase in biking in Dublin to a host of bicycle–friendly policies the City and country enacted beginning in the 1990s.
In addition to the implementation of dublinbikes, these policies include:
- the addition of 120 kilometers (74.6 miles) of bike lanes on City streets, 25 kilometers of them protected, since 1990
- a nationwide “Bike to Work Scheme” which offers a tax break for the purchase of a bike and bicycle safety gear for commuting to work purposes
- establishment of 30 kph (18.6 mph) slow zones in the City center in 2011
- opening of the Dublin Port Tunnel in 2006, taking heavy trucks off local streets
- and national policy documents that promote cycling, such as A Sustainable Transport Future and the National Cycle Policy Framework.
It is clear from Dr. Caulfield’s presentation that the support of the Dublin and Irish political leadership for livable streets initiatives was a key catalyst for creating an environment more conducive to sustainable transportation options.
Similar policies have been implemented in New York City, but not robustly throughout the rest of the region. And it remains uncertain whether New York City’s progress will continue when Mayor Bloomberg leaves office at the end of the year.
Luckily, the tri-state area has many champions for safer streets, but in order to ensure the region is not left behind other cities in advancing sustainable transportation options and the economic development that follows, communities will need even more elected officials to support innovative transportation ideas.