The number of Dublin residents cycling to work has increased over the past six years, with up to 11% of people living in some areas now jumping on two wheels to get to their desks each morning. However, traffic accidents involving cyclists are under-reported and associated safety concerns are likely to depress further increases.
That is according to Dr Brian Caulfield, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering in the School of Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, who recently published two studies in peer-reviewed journals (both available here) that considered how cycling rates and related accidents have changed in the city of Dublin when data from the 2006 and 2011 Censuses of Ireland are compared.
The results show that there has been a 5% increase in women cycling to work, and that there has been a substantial increase in the percentage of people with high incomes and access to cars who are now choosing bikes to get to work instead. The research also shows that the ‘Bike to Work’ and ‘Dublin Bikes’ schemes, and the construction of segregated cycle lanes and other traffic-calming measures (30 km/h zones), have all contributed to the growth of city cycling.
However, there is still room for improvement in encouraging more people to bike to work. Dr Caulfield said: “One of the key findings of this research is that while some of the policies for encouraging cycling seem to be effective, perhaps more targeted policies should be adopted. A similar study in the UK assessed the success of a cycling policy launched in 1996 that aimed to double the amount of cycling. That study concluded that more targeted approaches are needed to encourage a modal shift to cycling and that there is no ‘one size fits all’ policy.”
One of the major barriers to increasing cycling rates is the perceived lack of safety. Cycling in Dublin is generally perceived as unsafe, by both experienced and inexperienced cyclists, and one of the main problems is an under-reporting of accidents. To examine this, data collected on accidents by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and hospital admission data were contrasted.
A comparison of three years from 2005 to 2011 showed that the RSA recorded 2,133 cycling injuries (2,000 minor and 133 serious), yet hospitals logged 6,565 episodes of care for cyclists. As such, the hospital data shows roughly three times as many incidents involving cyclists as the RSA.
Jack Short, lead author of this study, said: “Cycling is growing and it is being supported by public policy. The evidence here shows that cycling is less safe than official figures show and that cycling is not becoming safer as other modes are. If cycling policy is to be successful, safety needs to be more at its centre.”
RTE Radio One, DriveTime, Tuesday June 17th, 2014