PLANS to build more than 2,300km of new cyclepaths across Dublin and surrounding counties have been unveiled by the National Transport Authority (NTA).
The transport agency wants to increase the existing network from 500km to 2,840km by 2021 to encourage people to cycle instead of using their cars.
And the ambitious plan includes a series of "greenway" cycle paths across Dublin alongside rivers, parks, the canals and coast which could be used by commuters and recreational cyclists.
It is also planning routes between major towns and villages in Kildare, Wicklow and Meath, which would allow people to travel on dedicated roadways in an area stretching between Dublin and north to Drogheda, west to Mullingar and Athy and south to Arklow.
The details are contained in the draft 'Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan' which was published yesterday.
It wants some 75,000 people to cycle every day by 2021, more than the current number who use Dublin Bus services every morning.
While the cost of the ambitious plan will not be known until detailed designs are completed, it is expected to run into hundreds of millions of euro. For example, a 3.6km off-road cycle route running from Portobello to Sheriff Street along the Grand Canal opened last year at a cost of €5.5m, or just over €1.5m per kilometre. Construction costs would be less in more rural areas, but will still be substantial.
"There has been a significant increase in the number of people cycling in Dublin in the last few years," Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said. "We want that to continue.
"This plan will treble the length of cycleways in Dublin. Added to the bike-to-work scheme, the extension of Dublin Bikes and greater integration with bus, train stations and Luas stops, it is our vision to have as many people cycling into the city every morning in 2021 as currently take the bus. This is hugely ambitious but I believe it can be done."
A report from the NTA says that limited road space in the city centre means it has been "difficult" to provide cycle lanes in the city centre.
However, it notes that on the busiest cycle route in the city – North Strand Road – some 900 cyclists use it at its peak from 7am to 10am. The next busiest is Rathmines Road with 700.
"These high cyclist flows are despite the poor quality of service on these busy radial routes where cyclists must share bus lanes or be confined to narrow cycle lanes," it says.
"Elements of the existing network are well connected and link key origins and destinations, however, there are significant gaps in certain areas of the network where, historically, road space has been prioritised for general traffic and buses."
NTA chief executive Gerry Murphy said the authority last year provided €13.4m in grant-aid to cycling projects, and that it was proposing a new transport network.
"It is the most comprehensive study of cycling needs ever carried out in Ireland," he said. "We will build on the resurgence in cycling which has occurred by meeting cyclists' needs."
The NTA has published details of its proposals at www.nationaltransport.ie and is seeking comments from the public by October 14.