Mike McKillen is one of the few people in Dublin who think that traffic congestion is great. He is also one of the few in the capital that cycle to work.
It’s only fair to point out that the chairman of the Dublin city cycling campaign isn’t gloating when speaking about drivers stranded in traffic. What he is praising is the safety benefit for vulnerable road users that comes with traffic having to travel at a snail’s pace.
The obvious downside to congestion is pollution. While this puts cyclists, pedestrians and motorists at risk, McKillen , who is a chemistry professor at Trinity College, says it is the motorist that is at greatest risk, due to their stationary position on the road.
The solution to cleaning up our streets and making them safer according to the Dublin city Campaign is less cars. They want to see the introduction of car tolling and the managed phasing out of car parking spaces. For those cars that are allowed they want the maximum speed limit set at 20 kph.
What the campaign doesn’t want are more cycling paths. These are the cycling strips found on footpaths. Rather than promoting safety they considered them to be a hazard. What makes them dangerous is that drivers believe that cyclists will remain on them. This isn’t so, says McKillen. ‘Many of the paths are littered with broken glass and rarely cleaned, others are illogically designed having telegraph poles in the center of them. What this leads to are cyclists being forced onto roads when a driver least expects it.
When asked the question why more don’t people cycled to work McKillen blamed the weather, or rather what people have to say about it. ‘People believe they will be dumped on, but this is not true,’ he says. Being a scientist he is in the habit of backing up any pronouncements with data. In debunking the weather myth he lists off statistics from the meteorological office that show, he cheerfully points out, that there are only a handful of times in the year that it rains during a daily commute in Dublin.
The other reason he gives for peoples willingness to remain behind a wheel is that they find their cars just too comfortable. What it is will drive them out of their cars, he believes, is the unsustainable levels of frustration that are being caused by having to sit in traffic. Increasing lengths of time spent sitting in clogged up roads and the resultant health problems will, he says, bring more people around to thinking that there is a better way to travel around their city.
The Dublin City Cycling campaign is not just relying on negative factors in recruiting more to their ranks. Much of their campaign is about extolling the virtues of Dublin as a place to cycle. McKillen uses another one of his positive adjectives in explaining why Dublin is such a great place to cycle. ‘It’s perfect’, he says. ‘The Tolka and Liffey deltas have provided us with a flat plain and the hills that are there don’t require one to be a marathon runner to scale them, so there is no excuse for not cycling.’