‘The hostile nature of cycling in Dublin is a big deterrent’: Readers react to plans to cut car use

‘We’re being forced out of the city centre’ : NTA suggestions to curb car journeys include a €10 congestion charge in cities,

Reports of a Government initiative to cut private car use have left people feeling like they are “being forced out of the city centre,” readers of The Irish Times have said in response to a call-out to share their views on the potential plans.

However, others are in favour of significant measures that are being contemplated. John Humphreys from Co Limerick says he is “absolutely committed to eliminating the car from my life in order to protect the environment”.

Modelling from the National Transport Authority (NTA) that has been given to Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan suggests a range of measures to curb car journeys, such as a €10 congestion charge for driving in cities, halving of public transport fares, fuel price increases, higher car parking fees (up 400 per cent on 2016), pedestrianisation of urban centres and a 20km/h reduction on all national road speed limits.

Speaking in favour of such plans, Humphreys, a keen cyclist, explains his frustration when trying to convince others to join him in reducing their reliance on cars. “I live in a suburban area – Castletroy, Limerick – so shops, bars, restaurants are within walking distance of my home,” he explains.


“I can also cycle around my neighbourhood safely, and it is reasonable safe to cycle into the city centre but not around Limerick generally which is really quite dangerous. I usually take the bus in and out of town. There are some delays in the service, but I find I can live with them and the buses would be far more reliable if there were less cars on the road.

“It is a cause of great frustration to me to convince my wife and adult children to stop making car journeys that could easily be accomplished by walking, cycling or public transport. Car travel is so ingrained in people’s thinking it’s like they have been brainwashed,” he said.

“The sooner we get people out of cars and walking, cycling or taking public transport the better. It will reduce carbon emissions which is urgently required and it will be healthier, safer and more human.”

Paschal Comerford in Dublin suggests measures such as a car-free day in cities could be added to the list put together by the NTA. “I made the switch from car to bike 20 years ago, and haven’t looked back,” he says.

“Unfortunately, the sometimes hostile nature of cycling in Dublin, particularly in rush-hour traffic, is a big deterrent for a lot of people.

“The first thing that would show people how feasible cycling is as an option would be to have a car-free day in the city centre once or twice a month. People would very quickly see the ease of cycling and with less traffic on those days have a safe introduction.

“Over time, hopefully, with ever more cycling and less driving, and more frequent car-free days, more and more people would switch over,” Comerford said.

“Higher parking charges and congestion charges, etc could be considered, but these should be far down the list of ‘sticks’, after we have tried the ‘carrot’ approach first of actually making the streets safer for active commuting.”

However, others have expressed their concerns for how new measures may make driving more difficult, particularly for those with a disability.

“I wouldn’t leave [my] car at home because I have a disability that greatly limits my ability to walk any sort of distance, and I cannot use a bike for the same reason,” explains Tom Cosgrave in Dublin.

“I am extremely dependent on my car to get around. Taking a train or bus is out of the question given the amount of walking I would need to do. I am getting quite concerned at the total lack of provision that seems to be coming down the track for drivers with disabilities – the narrative of walking, cycling and public transport is very ableist and concerning.”

“Mobility and transport is an important part of my life as it helps me (and those like me) to participate in life rather than remain at home and rot,” says Madeleine Goacher in Kildare who has been diagnosed with MS and polio.

“The city [Dublin] is a disaster in regards to accessibility. I have poor mobility so buses are not an option. I can’t afford taxis so consequently Dublin is not an option for me.

“When examining transport I hope the Government will examine the whole of Ireland and develop public transport options all over the country, not just in cities. I plead, please invest and develop public transport not just in cities but in towns and villages giving people access to live a full life,” Goacher said.

“Invest and reopen closed railway stations giving back life to forgotten places and eventually over a period of time, as people become aware that there are choices to a car, change will come.”

Alongside accessibility issues for the disabled, the quality of public transport in rural areas is listed by readers as a significant factor in the decision to drive. “The people in rural communities have no other means than their car,” says Peter van Heck in Kerry. “The (electric) bike is unsafe on these roads.

“You can go with a bus to a hospital appointment but for sure you will miss the last bus home. Reduced speed limits is okay, but a higher fuel price is not fair on the rural people. What is okay for the city folks isn’t okay for the people living rural.”

Some readers in Dublin also cite a lack of public transport as a barrier to them using their car less. “I have to walk 20 minutes through my housing estate to reach bus stops,” says Abdul Munim Kazia, from north Dublin. The buses also have poor frequency (every 30 minutes) and poor reliability, he added.

“We have the Swords express service only in peak hours, and it often fills up before it can pick everyone up. It’s also expensive with no shared fare capping.”

Socialising is another feature of life that has created a dependency on cars, according to Sam Russell in Kildare. “Like many, I am 26, living at home with my parents due to unaffordable rents,” he explains. “Every day I commute over one hour into Dublin city centre, where my professional and social life is located.

“Often a 30-minute drive home would be one hour, 30 minutes on the bus and train in the evenings due to inadequate public transport. My car is a lifeline as it allows me to maintain some form of independence whilst being stuck in my childhood bedroom.

“These policies are aimed at disincentivising car use amongst those who live in the city centre with every amenity on their doorstep and are a kick in the teeth those such as myself. The focus should be on improving public transport and park-and-ride services,” Russell said.

Darcy Bowman in Dublin supports the measures to limit car usage but explains one particular scenario where cars will still be required: “I have and use a car but recognise that it should be less convenient and more costly than active travel or public transport.

“We almost got rid of the car last year, but as a dog owner it’s really essential for vet visits and walks outside of the neighbourhood with the Luas banning dogs and buses being down to driver discretion (so you can end up stranded). Most European cities allow dogs on public transport – Dublin already does on the Dart, and that permission should be extended further.”

Comparisons to other countries are prevalent in reader responses, with London’s Underground a common reference point. However, Bill Velto, from North Carolina, offers a different perspective. “Every time I visit Dublin, I marvel at the ease of your public transit,” he says.

“I live in an area of the US that is sorely lacking and attempts to build regional rail and light rail systems have failed. The bus system is Byzantine in nature. My son lived in Dublin for several years without a car, and I think I could easily do likewise ... I would love to be able to do so here, but I don’t think that will be an option anytime soon.”

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist