Future of the monthly Liffey Cycles
The next Liffey Cycle takes place on Sunday 9th December, starting at 11am, followed directly afterwards by a BusConnects workshop in Grand Canal Dock.
We are where we are
Dublin Cycling Campaign organised the first Liffey Cycle rally on Sunday, April 2nd 2017. That morning a few hundred people gathered on Chesterfield Avenue in the Phoenix Park before cycling en masse down the Liffey Quays, finishing up at the Point Village. The following day a photograph of the cycle made the front page of the Irish Time print edition.
A lot of water has passed under the Liffey’s many bridges since then and, unfortunately, not much has changed regarding the status of the Liffey Cycle Route. The project was first proposed in November 2011, and in the intervening seven years Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority have failed to advance the scheme beyond the initial design stage.
We held three Liffey Cycle rallies in 2017 before the NTA pulled funding for the project in September of that year. We took some time to recover from that disappointment but we revived the Liffey Cycle in May of this year, and have turned it into a monthly gathering since then, with a few tweaks and evolutions to the event along the way.
As we approach year’s end, with our final Liffey Cycle of 2018 set to take place on Sunday December 9th, now seems like a good time to reflect on what the Liffey Cycles have achieved to date, and set out some goals for the future.
Reasons to be Cheerful
The primary achievement of the Liffey Cycle rallies has been to raise awareness of the Liffey Cycle Route and cement its status as a critical component of a wider Dublin cycle network. We hope that there aren’t too many cyclists, or city councillors, in Dublin who haven’t heard of the Liffey Cycle Route.
The Liffey Cycles have also gotten more people actively involved in cycling advocacy. Simply by turning up once a month people are showing their support for making Dublin a more cycling-friendly and liveable city. Many of our new volunteers in the Dublin Cycling Campaign first got involved with us through the Liffey Cycles and our membership has been growing steadily.
Once a month, for one short hour on a Sunday morning, we create a safe space for people of all ages and abilities to cycle along the Liffey Quays at their leisure. We have been joined by many people who simply aren’t accommodated by Dublin’s current hostile cycling environment: Children, pensioners, women, people with disabilities - even dogs! This is a real source of pride for our marshals and is one of the most rewarding aspects of the event.
The monthly cycles have now turned into a bit of a social occasion for many of the participants. When the cycle ends you can barely find a place to lock a bike around Grand Canal Dock. The cafés and shops there are probably wondering where this random monthly boost to their coffers is coming from - well it’s us!
Causes for Concern
We still don’t have a Liffey Cycle Route and, depending on your perspective, we’re no closer to having one now than we were when we first set out from the Phoenix Park in April 2017. The idea is still alive, and we’re keeping the pressure on the NTA and Dublin City Council, but the progress is painfully slow.
There has been some discussion amongst the cycling community about the nature and the value of the monthly Liffey Cycles. Some people don’t think the event is disruptive enough, or generates enough attention, or even warrants the description of “protest”. Those concerns have been taken on board and debated at length, with the safety of participants being the primary consideration.
We are also acutely aware of the fact that cycling does not possess the same kind of popular support as other campaigns such as homelessness, Repeal the 8th, and marriage equality. We are a minority group that many people are openly hostile towards. Some of the tactics which worked well for the campaigns mentioned above will not work for us, and may even backfire or get people hurt.
The Liffey Cycle has reached a point where it is straddling being both “family-friendly” and a form of direct-action protest. There is a danger that it will fall between two stools.
Looking to the Future
At the recent committee meeting of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, we discussed the future of the monthly Liffey Cycles and the various options that are open to us. We debated the many issues that have already been outlined above and we settled on shaping the event as follows:
We are proud that the event is family-friendly & inclusive, and that it enables people of all ages and abilities to participate. For many inexperienced or nervous cyclists this is the only time of the month that they get to cycle in Dublin city centre with any degree of comfort or enjoyment. We are not going to jeopardise that by taking a more adversarial or provocative approach to the scheduled monthly cycles.
We like the repetitive nature of the event and that people can lock it into their diaries. We know people can’t make it every single month, but it has formed part of a routine for many people and we’re going to keep it going. So, the second Sunday of the month is going to continue to be Liffey Cycle Sunday.
The 11am Sunday start time is never going to generate a lot of interest from passers-by, or from the mainstream media. It is one of the quietest times of the week in Dublin. However, it is also one of the safest times to organise the cycle so we will continue to host the event during this time slot.
We are seeing more and more cities around the globe embracing the idea of “Car-Free Sundays”, where the city centre becomes a pedestrian & cyclist-only zone. Paris is running a high profile campaign to promote and enable this concept, while London and Cardiff have also dipped their toes in the water. We think Dublin should be the next city to embrace a car-free city centre and we’d like the Liffey Cycles to act as a catalyst towards that.
We also want to tap into the social aspect of the monthly gathering and use it to generate awareness about other issues that Dublin Cycling Campaign is working on. We have decided to host monthly meetings and workshops immediately after the Liffey Cycle finishes, in venues around Grand Canal Dock. We’ll provide tea & coffee while introducing people to some of Dublin’s many cycling issues. The first of these monthly workshops will take place on December 9th and will focus on the impact that the latest BusConnects designs will have on cycling.
Finally, we are not writing off the prospect of organising other protests related to the Liffey Cycle Route. We are putting together plans for reactionary, disruptive protests in the event that the NTA or Dublin City Council try to shelve the project again, or produce sub-standard designs for the scheme, or if there is another serious collision involving a cyclist on the Liffey Quays. These protests will be separate from the monthly Liffey Cycles.
The next Liffey Cycle will take place on Sunday 9th December 2018. We will meet in Grand Canal Square, just in front of the theatre, for an 11am start. People of all ages and abilities are welcome to join us for the cycle along the Quays. We will finish up back at Grand Canal Square at about 12pm, after which the BusConnects workshop will take place in a nearby venue - all are welcome at that workshop too.
If you have any questions or comments about the Liffey Cycle, or you would like to volunteer as a helper or a marshal, please send us an email. You can also get involved in the discussion on Facebook and Twitter - where the hashtag is #LiffeyCycle.
Help us do more for cycling in Dublin, please consider getting involved.