Pleanail 2019-20 flipbook - Page 13

The new interest in the history of cycling is shared
by researchers across Europe and beyond.
Hanna’s work on cycling in Dublin builds on a wave
of new research over the past ten years on wellknown cycling cities such as Stockholm,
Copenhagen, Freiburg, and Amsterdam (Timms
and Watling, 2015). The latest issue of the journal
Urban History (August 2019) includes an analysis
of cycling and town planning in Copenhagen since
1880 – ‘Making a Bicycle City’ – by Martin Emanuel,
a researcher based in Sweden (Emanuel 2019).
Emanuel shows how the residents of Copenhagen
campaigned for dedicated cycling infrastructure
more than a century ago, and even as it became a
less popular mode of urban travel in the 1960s
(similar to Dublin but to a lesser extent overall), the
survival of segregated routes through these
difficult ‘car-centric’ years meant that there was a
foundation for renewal and expansion in the 1990s.
Planners in Dublin and other Irish cities and towns
had no comparable infrastructure to call upon as
they set about building modern cycling routes. He
also notes how urban cyclists came together to
protest about air pollution and safety, including by
wearing gas masks to raise awareness (Fig. 3).
Emanuel shows that today almost one-third of all
journeys in Copenhagen are by bicycle, making the
Danish capital one of the most environmentally
sustainable major cities in Europe (Emanuel 2019).
Figure 3. The front cover of the August 2019 issue of
the journal Urban History, featuring an arresting
photograph from Martin Emanuel’s research showing
cycling activists in Copenhagen, c. 1980, raising
awareness of issues such as air pollution and safety
on the city’s roads.
Irish planners look all around the world for
examples of innovative urban designs. They
propose solutions based on international bestpractice. As well as looking to neighbouring
countries we can also look back into the history of
cycling in our own cities and towns and elsewhere.
The past tells us about decisions that made
cycling more difficult and more dangerous on our
streets, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, when
motor vehicles were given such prioritisation. Many
of the problems that planners face today have long
antecedents and we can learn from the past in
creating a better future. Cycling is a remarkable
example of this, not least because unlike most
other forms of modern transport, it was a more
common sight a century ago than it is even today.
Cycling is now undergoing a great renaissance.
The question of how we can accommodate
bicycles in our towns and cities is by no means a
new one, and the infrastructure in many European
cities – in some cases dating back over a hundred
years – gives tried-and-tested examples to
planners today as they rethink transport solutions
for Irish cities and towns in the twenty-first century.

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