Walking and cycling ‘take 680,000 cars off road daily’ in Ireland’s five largest cities

Over 70% of Dublin residents walk or wheel at least five days a week, up from 64% in 2021, notes National Transport Authority survey

Walking, cycling and wheeling take 680,000 cars off the road every day in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick-Shannon and Waterford, according to the largest survey of active travel in urban areas.

The index, delivered by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in collaboration with local authorities suggests in the five metropolitan areas, more than half of adults walk five or more days a week, while at least 15 per cent cycle once a week. Approximately one in two residents want to walk or wheel more, with wheeling referring to use of wheeled mobility aids such as wheelchairs or strollers.

A third would like to cycle more, though a gender gap in cycling featured across all metropolitan areas, with men much more likely to cycle.

The findings indicate a high level of support for more Government spending on walking and wheeling, ranging from 74 per cent in Dublin to 68 per cent in Waterford. A similar level of support for spending on cycling was found, ranging from 77 to 61 per cent. This contrasts with support for more spending on driving ranging from 40 to 24 per cent.


Some 71 per cent of Dublin residents walk or wheel at least five days a week, up from 64 per cent in 2021.

The index drawn up by Sustrans uses a model to understand costs and benefits of driving, walking, wheeling and cycling, factoring in travel time, vehicle operating costs, health benefits, air quality and taxation. It is the first time it has been compiled beyond Dublin. More than 1,100 people over 16 were surveyed in each of the cities. Active travel saved 160,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions across the cities, equivalent to a passenger taking 2,200,000 flights from Dublin to London.

Asked what would help them walk or wheel more, they cited better footpath surfaces including dropped kerbs at crossing points; more parks and green spaces close to home, and nicer places along streets to stop and rest.

Residents gave similar answers on what would help them cycle more – infrastructural improvements such as traffic-free paths through parks or greenways, signed cycle routes along quieter streets, and cycle tracks along roads physically separated from traffic and pedestrians. There was strong support for building tracks even if it meant less room for other traffic – ranging from 88 to 69 per cent.

NTA chief executive Anne Graham said the authority was working with local authorities to deliver safe pedestrian and cycle infrastructure that encourages more people to engage in active travel.

“It’s clear from the latest walking and cycling Index that more people in Ireland’s five largest cities want to cycle and walk each day. By encouraging people to make active travel a part of their daily journey, we can all play our part in creating a more sustainable future. The NTA will continue to accelerate our efforts to roll out walking and cycling infrastructure in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and other areas across Ireland,” she added.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the shift was clear and it was helping to create more sustainable and accessible cities and to improve wellbeing.

With continued investment “we can help encourage even more people in our cities to choose to walk, wheel or cycle within their communities. This gives us the opportunity to also reimagine our cities as safer, cleaner places that are designed around the needs of people, not just cars,” he said.

The index for individual cities is available here.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times