The Greater Dublin Area's ambitious cycle network plan (Ireland)

By News Editor / Updated: 24 Aug 2015

Ireland has set an ambitious target to have one in ten total trips made on bicycle by 2020. One of the main measures to achieve this target is the development of safe, comfortable and high-quality cycling network. This led the transport authority of the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) to draft an ambitious cycle network plan, which was published December 2013.  The plan will see the GDA’s existing cycle network increase from 500 km in length to 2 900 km by 2020. 


The GDA includes the city of Dublin and the surrounding counties of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.  The GDA has 1.8 million inhabitants, almost 40 per cent of the Irish population.  Sixty-four per cent of people in the GDA use a car for their transport; 12 per cent use the bus; and 5 per cent cycle.

In 2009 Ireland’s first National Cycle Policy Framework was published, which sets a target for 10 per cent of all trips to be made by bicycle by 2020. For areas with a more intense land use like the GDA this means a substantial higher target of about 20 per cent to ensure the national objective is achieved.

In action 

A pre-condition for a high bicycle-share is the existence of an integrated, comprehensive high-quality cycling network, one that is safe, coherent, direct, attractive and comfortable. For this the GDA transport authority and its consultants developed an ambitious Cycle Network Plan (CNP) covering the whole area. Ireland’s 2011 National Cycle Manual (NCM) was used as the main planning guidance when developing the cycle network.

Formally, Ireland’s National Transport Authority (NTA) can impose the plan on the municipalities. But according to the NTA’s Michael Aherne from the NTA, good co-operation with the GDA municipalities was important to ensure success.  The local authorities were consulted regularly to provide information and to comment and confirm proposals. The CNP project team met four times with representatives of each of the seven local authorities, in addition to the NTA’s regular meetings with the municipalities. 

The methodology applied for the drafting of the CNP consisted of the following steps:

  • Mapping the existing and planned cycle network;
  • Assessing the quality of the existing main cycle routes;
  • Identifying gaps between existing and planned routes;
  • Developing a cycle-demand model for the GDA;
  • Identifying potential alignments and design solutions for each route;
  • Preparing a consolidated future cycle network plan for the GDA.

The project took about one year. The draft plan was published for commenting by the public in September 2013. The final version was published December 2013. 


In accordance with Ireland’s NCM, the cycle network consists of a hierarchy of cycle links and routes that provide different levels of importance for cyclists:

Primary Network

  • Main cycle arteries that cross the urban area, and carry most cycle traffic;

Secondary Network

  • Links between the principal cycle routes and local zones;

Feeder Network

  • Cycle routes within local zones, and/or connections from zones to the network levels above.

The GDA cycle network, currently 500km, will reach 2 900km in length by 2020 and include a number of long-distance cycle routes. The completed network will facilitate safe and comfortable cycling between all origins and destinations in the GDA. The municipalities will implement the new cycle infrastructure following the NTA’s approval. The NTA will also provide the funding, an investment which is calculated to be about €1 million per km of new cycle path. The implementation of four inner-city cycle routes has already started. The new network will accommodate a rise in cycling trips during weekday morning peak hours, from around 22 000 trips that currently take place to an expected 75 000 trips.

Comments received during the public consultation were mainly positive. There were mainly specific questions on how the plans will work, for example about new recreational cycle routes. The NTA is also preparing accompanying measures like cycle information and promotion, cycle training, hiring and sharing initiatives and parking facilities – all of which are required to encourage people to cycle more.

Challenges, opportunities and transferability 

‘The methodology applied in this project proved to work very well. The same method is now also applied in other Irish cities, like Galway, Waterford and Cork,’ said Aherne.  ‘The NCM proved to be useful and good quality guidance when we were developing the cycle network.’ However, Aherne noted, the environmental impact analysis took much more effort than expected.

The cycle model, developed by the consultants and now owned and run by the NTA, is a very important outcome of this project. It allowed the NTA to estimate the volume of cyclists on each route in the study area for different scenarios and network designs. It is now also applied in other Irish cities.

The CNP sets out proposals for individual network links at a strategic level. These individual link proposals are subject to possible refinement and amendment as part of the planning and development process of each scheme, while maintaining the overall intent of the proposed network.

Walking and cycling
Greater Dublin Area
Michael Aherne
Rob Jeuring
24 Aug 2015
24 Aug 2015