PRESS RELEASE From Cyclist.ie – Ireland’s National Cycling Lobby Group
Cyclists say consultants’ cycle-lane claims need careful interpretation and action by roads authorities if numbers of cyclists are to be massively increased in line with government target of 10% of commuting trips made on bikes by 2020
The joint AECOM and TCD (Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering) consultants’ report for Dublin City published this week attempts to show, using a cycling infrastructure preference survey methodology, what measures and policies are required in order to persuade many thousands more commuters to switch from car to bike use for their daily commutes. The context for this survey was the setting by the previous government of an ambitious target in its National Cycling Promotion Policy Framework (NCPF) of 10% of commuting trips nationally to be made by bike by 2020. We are way off that target already in 2011.
In the AECOM/TCD study, 2000 respondents were shown computer generated pictures of various cycling provisions and built infrastructure and asked to express preferences. The results, as stated by the authors, were that most respondents expressed a preference for cycling on the segregated facilities (i.e. rider is not directly in traffic) that they were shown. Mike McKillen (Cyclist.ie, chairman) stated “While we welcome Irish-based research on cycling in Ireland, we feel that showing respondents pictures of idealised cycle facilities and asking them if that’s what they want is not a viable approach to transport planning. Building cycling infrastructure is costly and with scarce road space it is not possible to create a coherent and safe network in towns and cities. It is a pipe-dream if we expect vehicle lanes to be yielded up for cycle lane or track construction. It’s akin to presenting children with a wish list for Santa Claus and then the poor parents are not in a position to deliver the goodies on Christmas Day”!
However cyclists strongly welcome the implied finding of the study, which is that cyclists and potential cyclists recognise a need for investment in measures to improve cyclists’ experience of using the roads.
Mike McKillen points out that “over the two decades since the Department of Transport started to introduce measures to try to promote greater use of the bicycle for commuting there has been too much emphasis on construction of cycling facilities – measures such as shared use of bus lanes, on-road cycle lanes, off-road cycleways, etc – that have not led to the desired increase in cyclist numbers”.
Instead, Cyclist.ie wants a focus on behavioural interventions such as training for novice cyclists, new laws requiring passing motorists to give cyclists more space and increased Garda enforcement of key traffic infringements including infringements by cyclists (no lights at night, red light running, riding on pavements, etc).
The Smarter Travel initiative culminating in the publication of the NCPF in 2009 very clearly calls for ‘soft measures’ such as introduction of 30 km/h speed limits in urban areas and around schools (properly enforced, unlike the Dublin Quays scheme), traffic calming, reduction in goods vehicles transiting through urban areas, to name but a few, to be implemented before construction of cycling facilities are considered. This report’s findings fly in the face of the NCPF.
Cyclist.ie recognises a need for built infrastructural measures in certain circumstances but insists that it must be guided by the government’s National Cycling Policy Framework (NCPF) as adopted in 2009 after extensive consultation. The NCPF advocates a hierarchical approach, where built cycle facilities get the lowest priority coming behind traffic reduction, speed restraint, traffic management and junction treatment that recognises the needs of cyclists and allocating existing traffic lanes in a way that gives them more space.
The cyclists point out that investment in built cycle facilities requires additional investment in maintenance or the new facilities rapidly become unusable. They say this maintenance is already lacking on existing cycle facilities so more of the same is not an option under present budgetary constraints.
Cyclist.ie vice chair, Dr. Darren MacAdam-O’Connell, continued “The issue here is whether we want to spend our taxes doing something on selected roads for a few cyclists or spend taxes doing as much as possible, for as many people as possible, across our whole public road system. Unfortunately, the participants in this survey do not appear to have been given this choice. Those who are peddling built infrastructure are on a track to more wastage of public funds that will likely miss the 10% target set in the NCPF for 2020″.