Cyclist.ie met with Ronan Toomey (APO), a top official in the Healthy Ireland section in the Department of Health yesterday to discuss the government’s ‘Healthy Ireland’ initiative launched by An Taoiseach and then Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly in 2013.
All the actions that flow from this initiative are grounded in the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy chaired by An Taoiseach.
We learned what the government action plan is to persuade citizens to adopt healthy lifestyles throughout their lives. A draft ‘National Physical Activity Plan’ is being readied. Cycling promotion for everyday trips will be central to the policy.
What impressed us is that finally departments of state are coming out of their silos to tackle the marked degree of unhealthy lifestyles among some citizens, particularly in relation to active travel like everyday cycling and walking to work, school and college. It is good to hear that the departments of Education, Environment, Transport, Children and Health will be acting in unison on the actions.
We need to start by taking extreme care not to locate new schools in cycling-hostile traffic environments.
Obesity/overweight tendencies start in childhood due to ‘environmental’ factor like not being able to walk or cycle to school due to bad traffic management so it is essential that the Department of Education and road authorities act sensibly so as to choose locations for new schools with care. Greenfield sites located on N-roads are not the way to go.
30 km/h speed limits are crucial to making routes to our schools walking and cycling friendly.