Driver attitudes to cyclists in an Irish city: a positive outlook for the future?

Elaine Mullan, Seamus Nugent

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Levels of cycling for transport in Ireland are starting to increase from a low base (2% DoT, 2009), and the Government has rolled out funding, nationwide, with the aim of increasing to 10% the amount of trips made by bike by 2020. This means Irish drivers having to share the road with an increasing volume of cyclists, something they are not used to doing. However, international research has found that cyclists are viewed as dangerous, hazardous, inconsiderate, lacking in knowledge of and/or frequently breaking the rules of the road and ‘different’ to drivers (Stone & Gosling, 2008; Daley and Rissel, 2011; Basford et al., 2002) – for which they have also been derided in the UK press1. In addition, cycling for transport has a lower status and is less acceptable than recreational cycling (Daley and Rissel, 2011). What do Irish drivers think? The overall aim of this research was to explore domestic and professional drivers’ attitudes to cyclists in Kilkenny and specifically to gauge their views on sharing the road with cyclists, cycling safety, cycling infrastructure, whether cycling is socially acceptable, and whether cyclists have good cycling skills and knowledge. Kilkenny is an example of a small regional city where many kilometres of on-road cycle lanes have been laid, reducing space for cars and parking. Anecdotal evidence suggested some driver hostility to this and an unwillingness to share the road. One hundred and eighty, randomly selected drivers, who were not cyclists, (38% aged 18-40 yrs; 43% female) completed a survey(based on Basford 2002) in their cars, and five of them (3 female, 2 male, aged 45-50) discussed the survey issues further, in a focus group setting, at a later date. Results show that, overall, and contrary to existing research, drivers in Kilkenny have a very positive attitude to cycling and cyclists. They considered both cyclists and motorists as equally inconsiderate, but cyclists as much more vulnerable. They were in favour of more on-road cycle lanes, saw cyclists are the same sort of people as themselves and most intended to cycle sometime in the future. However, most agreed that it isn’t ‘normal’ to cycle for transport, that such cyclists should undergo training and wear protective gear (his vis and helmets), and that sports cyclists are more knowledgeable and safer cyclists. In general, these attitudes bode well for future investment in cycling and cycling infrastructure in Kilkenny. However, it highlights the ‘Catch 22’ that without a change in the image of transport cyclists as ‘not normal’, and needing hi-vis, helmets and training, it will be difficult to get the critical mass of transport cyclists necessary to change this image. Basford, L., Reid, S, Lester, T., Thomson, J & Tolmie, A. (2002). Drivers' Perceptions of Cyclists. TRL Ltd., University of Strathclyde, UK, for the Department of Transport. Daley, M. & Rissel, C. (2011). Perspectives and images of cycling as a barrier or facilitator of cycling. Transport Policy, 18, 211–216. Stone, M., & Gosling, R. (2008). Attitudes to cycling: Research report (for London Transport). London, England: Synovate Research
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014
EventCycling & Society Annual Symposium, Newcastle, 15-16th September 2014 -
Duration: 03 Jan 0001 → …


ConferenceCycling & Society Annual Symposium, Newcastle, 15-16th September 2014
Period03/01/0001 → …


Dive into the research topics of 'Driver attitudes to cyclists in an Irish city: a positive outlook for the future?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this