Turning the sod at Listowel & Fenit

In Listowel, County Kerry on Friday 29 November 2019

Brendan Griffin T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport, turned the first sod of the 10.5km section of the Great Southern Trail Greenway (GST) which will connect Listowel to the existing 40km in County Limerick.

Later, at a similar ceremony in Fenit he inaugurated the 10km of works to link Fenit to Tralee.

When these two projects are completed attention will be turned to the remaining 28km from Listowel to Tralee of the old railway line so that the villages of Lixnaw, Abbeydorney and Ardfert can also enjoy the benefits of a Greenway. When that is achieved the GST will become the longest Greenway in IrelandOther


DTTAS Proposals for Graduated Speeding Fines

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network  wholeheartedly endorses the appeal to Cabinet by The Irish Road Victims  Association, IRVA, to support  Minister for Transport Shane Ross’ plan to introduce graduated fines for people caught speeding.  Chairperson of Cyclist.ie ,Colm Ryder, said ” We were disappointed last week to hear FG TD Peter Burke oppose the measure on RTE Radio, and astounded to read a report this morning that 6 cabinet members also oppose the measure”.

The IRVA comprises members who have lost loved ones in a road traffic collision, and their view, on the need to take measures to curb speeding, is deserving of respect.  Graduated fines are a commonplace way of doing this in other jurisdictions.  Mr Ryder pointed out that the commonsense stance of the IRVA is supported by official statistics from the Garda and the RSA.

To date in 2019, 131 people have died on Irish roads , an increase of 10 on the same period in 2018.  There has also been an increase in the number of vulnerable road users ie motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and pedestrians who have died. According to the statistics on the Garda website, up to November 25th, 25 pedestrians, 16 motor cyclists and 9 pedal cyclists have died. This represents 38% or more than 1 in 3 of all fatalities.  Cyclist.ie is not claiming that speed was a factor in any or all of those  collisions but we do know that the chances of dying upon being hit by a vehicle increases substantially with the speed of the vehicle.

The most recent RSA Free Speed survey indicates that 52% of car drivers break the speed limit on urban roads and 27% on rural roads, while an incredible 98% of drivers break the lower urban 30 kph speed limits. “This being the case” said  Mr Ryder,  “Cyclist.ie doesn’t understand why the concept of graduated fines is being portrayed as another attack on rural Ireland. Observation of speed limits is in all our interests whether we live in rural or urban Ireland. We applaud the IRVA for its stance and call on every member of Cabinet tomorrow to back in principle the concept of graduated fines based on speed of the vehicle.  The details can be ironed out via amendments.”  Mr  Ryder stated that Cyclist.ie favours higher fines in low speed areas as this is where vulnerable road users are most at risk.

Cyclist.ie Presenting to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport

On Wednesday 20th November 2019, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Cycling Campaign and I BIKE DUBLIN are presenting to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport (JOCTTS). This follows on from the submission made by Cyclist.ie in early October 2019. Our main messages being delivered to JOCTTS are:

  1. Cycling offers multiple benefits to society, the economy and the environment
  2. Cycling needs serious investment from the Department – to the tune of 10% of the land transport capital budget – to be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure in particular.

The full presentation at the session is here; video presentations as follows:

Opening Statement from Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and accompanied by Mairead Forsythe from Cyclist.ie

Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network is the umbrella body of cycle campaigning and advocacy groups in Ireland. The network comprises a mixture of approx 25 urban, rural and Greenway groups. Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation which advocates at a European level for making communities more liveable and cycle friendly.

Our vision is that cycling becomes a normal part of everyday life for all ages and abilities in Ireland – in a way that it is in many other European countries.

We are particularly conscious that in many parts of Ireland – and in rural Ireland especially – that the numbers of children cycling to school have fallen off a cliff. For example, in 2016 there were only 694 secondary school girls cycling to school (and over 2000 driving themselves to school); while in 1986 (while I was in secondary school myself) there were over 19,000 girls cycling to secondary school (as per Census data). Something is seriously wrong.

Cyclist.ie welcomes the new regulation regarding the dangerous overtaking of cyclists announced on 11th November 2019 by Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Cyclist.ie is cautiously optimistic that there will be serious and systematic enforcement of the new regulations by An Garda Síochána. The impact the new laws will have on driver behaviour is critically linked with the enforcement regime to be employed by the Gardaí.

As outlined in our main submission, the proper resourcing and development of cycling nationally, as proposed in many government strategies, can have wide-ranging positive impacts on many aspects of Irish society. Increased everyday cycling levels will:

  • improve national health and well-being
  • provide an improved and more liveable public environment in villages, towns and cities throughout the country
  • support national competitiveness by reducing congestion (which in the Greater Dublin area alone currently costs €350 million per annum)
  • support local economies and increased tourism
  • support Ireland in meeting its climate change targets (where the transport sector currently accounts for approx 20% of CO2 emissions)

The recent funding of €12.6 Million (2018), equivalent to approximately 1% of transport funding allocated to cycling, needs to be increased ten-fold immediately, both to bring Ireland’s cycling infrastructure and investment into line with our EU neighbours, but also to realise the broad societal benefits that a cycling economy can bring. Furthermore, investment in cycling provides generously high rates of return on investment in comparison with other public sector investments.

Cyclist.ie calls on the government to realise these economic and social benefits by, increasing, significantly and immediately, the funding allocated to facilitate and support cycling as both a transport mode and as a leisure activity.

We call on the Government to follow its own recommendation and invest in cycling a minimum 10% of the capital budget for Land Transport from 2020. Cyclist.ie investment priorities are

  1. Provision of high quality cycling Infrastructure
  2. Subsidy of the purchase of e-bikes through a national scheme
  3. Setting up and resourcing a National Cycling Office in the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport
  4. Increasing safety and awareness of cyclists through a variety of initiatives as outlined in our main submission

Dangerous Overtaking of Cyclists Legislation

Cyclist.ie Statement

Up until today, drivers who overtook cyclists dangerously could be prosecuted under the general law regarding dangerous overtaking and be given a fine of €80 and three penalty points. Examples of dangerous overtaking (or ‘punishment passes’ as they are sometimes known) can be seen on the following video links, here and here.

Cyclist.ie welcomes the new regulation regarding the dangerous overtaking of cyclists announced today (11th November 2019) by Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Under the new regulation, drivers will incur a penalty of a maximum of €120 for the dangerous overtaking of a person on a bicycle. There will be no increase in the number of penalty points awarded under the new law as this would require primary legislation.

Cyclist.ie is cautiously optimistic that there will be serious and systematic enforcement of the new regulations by An Garda Síochána. The impact the new laws will have on driver behaviour is critically linked with the enforcement regime to be employed by the Gardaí.

We are hopeful that with additional promotion of safe overtaking practice by the Road Safety Authority and other state bodies – and an active enforcement regime – that people cycling on the roads are given much greater overtaking distances by people driving, and that a normal and safe culture of cycling to and from school (especially) can be re-established.

Enormous credit for the introduction of this law is due to campaigner Phil Skelton from Safe Cycling Ireland, a member group of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network. He has worked consistently and tirelessly on this issue for over six years, following the deaths of two cyclists in Wexford as a result of collisions with cars moving in the same direction as them. Speaking to Irish Cycle, Phil Skelton said: “This legislation sends a clear unambiguous signal to drivers that cyclists have a legitimate right to the road and recognises cyclists as legitimate road users.”

Cyclist.ie is conscious that already in 2019, nine people lost their lives while cycling. This regulation is but one element of a wider tool box of interventions to completely change cycling conditions on Irish roads. Other crucial elements include the roll-out of 30km/hr zones in all built-up areas, the construction of high quality and segregated cycling infrastructure and making all of the most hostile junctions in the country safe for people of all ages and abilities on bicycles.

Cyclist.ie will be posting a more detailed response to the new legislation after we have had a chance to scrutinise it. 

10% of the Transport Budget for Cycling in Limerick

10% of Limerick’s road transport and safety budget to go to cycling infrastructure. That was the motion recently approved by the Travel and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) of Limerick City & County Council. The motion was proposed by Cllr. Brian Leddin (Green Party).

Cyclist.ie highly commends the initiative of Cllr. Leddin, while noting that the approved motion  now needs to be voted on at a full Limerick City and County Council meeting. 
The Limerick Leader covered the issue on 17 October 2019. Cllr. Leddin’s very well researched and impassioned speech follows:

Notice of Motion: That Limerick Council would allocate 10% of its Transport Budget to Cycling. This motion is not simply about providing infrastructure for cyclists. That would be to misunderstand the issue. This is about enabling the effective movement of people. It is
impossible for a city, or indeed a town, to grow unless it tackles and solves the mobility challenge.

We saw this in Utrecht at the weekend. The Netherlands’ fastest growing city is growing, in large part, because it has enabled cycling. That is to say that it would not be growing at this rate if it had not taken the decision to invest heavily in cycling infrastructure. It is a key point. Cycling and economic development go hand in hand because cycling enables the free and easy movement of people over short to medium distances, much more than cars or even busses do. And it does so at low cost to the individual and also to the State, notwithstanding multiple other benefits. Indeed, a report commissioned by the UK Department for Transport assessed cost benefit evidence for walking and cycling interventions. Almost all of the studies identified demonstrated ‘highly significant’ economic benefits. In general investment in cycling projects provide the highest rate of return of all transport projects. Such economic benefits would accrue to our beautiful towns and villages as much as to our city.
Referring back to Utrecht, it is a city of 300,000 people with a similar climate to ours. In Utrecht 70% of all local journeys are made by bicycle.

In Limerick, a city one third the size in population and similar in area, 70% of all journeys under 3km are made by private car. It is a staggering contrast. And this is not because the people of Limerick will not cycle. It’s quite simply because we have not provided sufficient infrastructure to enable them to do so. Would you let your children cycle to school these days? Few parents will, and who could blame them. There has in fact been a total collapse in Ireland in the number of children cycling to school since the 1980’s. It’s currently about 1 in 200 girls and about 1 in 50 boys. According to the last census more girls are driving themselves to school than cycling. Think about that. Even though only 17 and 18 year old girls are legally permitted to drive by themselves there is still a greater number doing so than the combined total of girls aged 4 to 18 who are cycling. And of course, because able bodied people cannot safely cycle they instead choose to drive. This is the reason we have traffic congestion. And traffic congestion is a major impediment to economic development. Our trucks cannot convey freight because they are competing for road space with people who need not be driving. Others, such as mobility impaired persons, who will never have the possibility of walking or cycling also must compete in their cars with those who need not be in theirs. It is counter-intuitive, but nevertheless true to say, that if we invest in cycling infrastructure we make it easier for those who must drive to do so. Acknowledging the reality of funding mechanisms, this motion is not about berating the Council for lack of action, but rather about imploring it to increase its efforts and getting Limerick quickly to where it needs to be. It is also about seeking the support of my esteemed colleagues across all political persuasions. I would acknowledge the Council’s efforts and it is true that progress has been made. Go on to the Park Canal any morning before 8.30am and the number of cyclists heading to and from Castletroy will amaze you. A brave decision was taken some 7 years ago by the last Council and it has paid off. A simple, well designed path through a beautiful amenity is fundamentally changing the relationship between the city and the university, after decades of relative disconnection. The path is so successful that we should probably be talking about widening it. In 2015 the Council commissioned the Limerick Cycle Network Study. It is a good document and it lays the blueprint for developing an excellent cycling city in a short time-frame. We really do not need to wait for the Transport Strategy to make good decisions and quick progress. We have excellent people in our Council and they can achieve this ambition. This Council must mandate them to do so. 

We are currently at about 1.4% of Capital spending on cycling specific infrastructure and despite being Ireland’s Smarter Travel Demonstration City, we are falling behind other Irish cities, let alone our European counterparts. In 2018 68% of available funding for sustainable transport infrastructure for regional cities was drawn down by Cork. Limerick drew down just 15%. It should be emphasized that the government’s climate action plan, which received cross party support in the Dáil, also mandates a 10% allocation for cycling. Action 97 of the plan states “current transport infrastructure programmes to immediately be revised to achieve at least 10% expenditure on facilitating cycling”.

Make Limerick Ireland’s Cycling City, perhaps even Ireland’s Utrecht, in 10 years. If we do this we solve the mobility challenge and we make ourselves well placed to also be Ireland’s fastest growing city and the best place to live, work and visit. Furthermore, let’s make every town and village in County Limerick a place where parents can let their children cycle to school, confident that they will return unharmed. 
We have a great opportunity, let’s seize it. I beg you to support the motion.

Carlow Cycling Campaign; A new cycling advocacy group!

On the 4th of November 2019, Carlow Cycling Campaign was launched at a well attended public meeting on a very wet Monday night.

It all took place in the lovely BeaNice Café in Carlow town. The meeting was organised by local secondary school teacher, Chris Davey, and attended by a terrific cross section of the community. It included local Councillors (Fintan Phelan, FF, and Adrienne Wallace, PBP), the local postman who does his deliveries by bike, a local bike shop owner, members of Carlow Road Cycling Club and Slaney Valley Cycling Club, many mothers and fathers of school pupils, and some who had lived in much more cycling friendly environments such as Rotterdam.

The feeling amongst those attending was that Carlow was an extremely car dominated town and had become increasingly hostile for those choosing to cycle or considering cycling for transport or leisure trips. Quite a few people highlighted the cycle unfriendliness of the town’s roundabouts, and the stop-start nature of much of the existing cycling infrastructure. General intimidation towards those cycling from drivers was also raised – as was the extreme congestion around the cluster of schools near the town’s train station. There is huge potential for growing cycling in Carlow town, but there does not appear to be any official coherent plan to make this happen.

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie, gave an overview of some of the advocacy work Cyclist.ie and its member groups are advancing and there was a discussion around what types of interventions would make the biggest difference in Carlow. Of particular interest to attendees was the Galway Cycle Bus, the introduction of more 30km/hr zones, the development of a high quality and well maintained cycle network in the town, and massively increased provision of cycle parking. To make all of this happen, there was a huge interest in following the lead of Limerick City and County Council which recently approved a motion to allocate 10% of its transport budget for cycling – and, more broadly, for Carlow County Council to develop a high quality cycling policy and to employ a Cycling Officer at a senior level.

Carlow Cycling Campaign will meet again in January and is planning on inviting a representative from An Garda Síochána to the meeting to discuss illegal car parking on cycle tracks and other issues of concern to school-going children and their parents. To keep abreast of what is happening in Carlow, keep an eye on the Facebook page of Carlow Cycling Campaign. We wish our colleagues in Carlow Cycling Campaign the very best of luck!   

DTTAS consultation on Personal Powered Transport (PPT)

Question 1: What category of stakeholder do you represent (e.g. private, company, organization etc)?  Non-governmental organisation: Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network (https://cyclist.ie/)

Question 2: Do you think that the use of PPTs should be permitted in Ireland and why? Yes. The nature of mobility, and urban mobility in particular, is changing throughout Europe (and globally) in response to several structural shifts: the crippling economic effects of congestion arising from allowing too many cars (most of them single occupancy) into cities; the need to make cities and communities more liveable and safer, by reducing the volumes of motorised vehicles in them; the need to decarbonise transportation because of the sector’s very significant contribution to CO2 emissions (approx 20% of emissions in Ireland and higher elsewhere). 

The future of urban mobility, which we need to shape through policy and legislative interventions – as well as being shaped by quite rapid developments in (battery) technologies – must be characterised by:

  • high quality and high capacity public transportation (and electric in nature – i.e. moving away from diesel fueled vehicles)
  • active travel (walking, cycling, e-bikes and including various bike-sharing systems)
  • Powered Personal Transporters (PPTS). These are incredibly space efficient (both when moving and ‘parked’), do not contribute to noise pollution and use minimal energy when compared with the energy use of 2000 kg+ cars. 
  • Clever integration between all of the above. Intermodality is what we need to be thinking about in which using several (low carbon) vehicle types over the full length of a (longer) journey becomes the norm. 

The model of (generally single occupancy) cars and Sports Utility Vehicles driving into (historic) towns and cities is a fantasy notion from the 1950’s where unlimited motorised auto-mobility was assumed to be both desirable and possible. It is neither! The future of mobility needs to be very different from the models of the past – and the models still foisted on us through the all-pervasive car advertising that dominates our everyday media. 

Therefore, the starting point for this discussion needs to be around facilitating small, quiet, efficient vehicles – and radically de-prioritising the space provided for large, uneconomic, inefficient, 2000 kg+ single occupancy vehicles. The answers to the questions below follow on logically from this vision of the future.  

Question 3: Are there any types of PPTs (e.g. Segways, eScooters, electric unicycles etc) that you think should not be permitted to be used and why? No. These new technologies should generally be welcomed as incredibly space-efficient new mobility forms which, when used in combination with public transport in particular, offer smart solutions to decongesting towns and cities, and reducing the (thus far stubbornly high) carbon footprint from the transportation sector.  

Question 4: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that they should have some form of identification (i.e. a registration plate/marking)? No. We need to encourage their use and not create barriers. We need to make it easy to use smart sustainable transport – and hard to use space inefficient forms which cause proven dangers to people walking and cycling. 

Question 5: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that users should (a) be of a minimum age (if yes – what age?) and (b) have some form of licence covering their use (e.g. category AM driving licence – mopeds)? 

(a) Yes/No? Minimum Age ____  No. Non-electric scooters are already common and traditional modes of transport that have been used by people of all ages and e-scooters can be seen as an extension of this micro-mobility concept (albeit without the ‘active travel’ component).
(b) Yes/No? No. Once again, we need to make it easy to use space efficient forms of transportation and denormalise the notion that large individualised motorised mobility is a sensible way to organise our systems of mobility. We need to flip our existing assumptions and systems around. 

Question 6: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that their use should be covered by some form of insurance (i.e. liability cover)? No.  Similar to bicycles, this should not be a requirement.  The use of these PPTs, along with more active travel, will help to decongest our cities. However, it should be possible for users, who so wish, to insure themselves against liability for any damages they may cause.

Question 7: If the use of PPTs is to be permitted do you think that can be used on: (a) footpaths, (b) cycle lanes (c) bus lanes (d) normal traffic lanes? 

(a) Yes/No? No.
(b) Yes/No? Yes – but there is a need to widen and generally radically improve the quality of cycle-lanes and (off-road) cycle tracks.
(c) Yes/No? Yes, if there is no separate good quality cycle-lane / track provided on the route.
(d) Yes/No? Yes (in non-motorway contexts) but in the interest of safety for all, lower speed limits (particularly in urban areas) are needed and other progressive traffic management interventions which favour active travel and lower carbon modes. The definition of ‘normal traffic’ will need to change in transport discourses over the coming years so as to embrace these new mobility forms (including also e-bikes and e-cargo bikes for example). 

Question 8: If the use of PPTs is to be permitted do you think that they should be restricted to (i) a maximum speed (if yes – please suggest such a maximum speed) and (ii) only used on roads with a maximum speed limit of (a) 30kph, (b) 40kph or (c) 50kph? 

(i) Yes/No? Maximum Speed _____ Yes. 20-25km/hr.   

(ii) (a) 30kph? (b) 40kph? (c) 50kph? The broad approach here should be to reduce the speed limits on urban roads to 30km/hr so that walking, cycling and the use of PPTs is as safe as possible. 

Question 9: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that users should be required to wear (a) protective head-gear, (b) high-visibility clothing (i.e. be mandatory)? 

(a) Yes/No?  No. It should be similar to the existing requirements for cyclists in which helmets are non-mandatory.

(b) Yes/No?No. Referring back to the desired vision of the future as described earlier, the broad approach needs to be to reshape the urban environment so that those modes which we want to encourage are made to feel welcome and can operate in as safe an environment as possible – as opposed to a general approach of throwing ‘high hiz’ and helmets at the issue (and naively assuming this solves the problems) while leaving the hostile nature of the road environment largely unchanged. We would emphasise that these should not be necessary under daylight conditions, but that users need to take reasonable responsibility for their visibility to others (like cyclists). We do however think it should be a legal requirement to have lights on the vehicles/pilot at night-time. 

Question 10: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that users should (a) have some form of training

Mandatory training is not desirable here. However, training on the use of scooters and bicycles should be a standard component of the driving test so that the drivers of motorised cars, vans and trucks have a proper experiential understanding of moving in ways other than by being ‘behind the wheel’. However, it would be desirable for initial training in using the new vehicles to be made available for those who seek it because these vehicles will become part of the normal repertoire of transport options very soon. Additionally, we feel that the Rules of the Road should be introduced into the school curriculum so that school children leave school with a basic proven knowledge of the subject.    

(b) if so, by who? Ideally by the suppliers of the vehicles.  

Question 11: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that it should be left to local authorities to decide whether or not to regulate their use in their respective functional areas? Most broadly, we would support a national directive that LAs should support and cater for PPTs, but the LAs would have the authority to restrict use on some named roads on specific grounds. Local authorities are generally responsible for matters within their functional areas subject to nationally issued legislation, guidelines etc., so we would support a similar approach in planning for this new mobility form. 

Please provide any other comments relating to the use of PPTs that have not be address above.

How PPTs are legislated for and provided for in policy terms should follow on logically from the use of bicycles on our roads. I.e. they should be welcomed for all of the positive arguments about the efficient use of limited (urban) space, their broad alignment with the idea of making towns and communities more liveable and less noisy and, crucially, their low carbon footprint. 

We welcome the commissioning of the TRL research report (by the RSA). However we would urge DTTAS to explore the subject of PPTs more in terms of how they can form part of a low carbon new mobility system – as against one in which individualised motorised mobility in vehicles with a mass of (sometimes far greater than) 2000kg has, sadly, become the norm. Additionally we would urge DTTAS and the RSA to work with An Garda Síochána to develop more refined collision reporting forms/procedures so that the exact types of vehicles (SUVs, bike-share bike, e-bike, e-scooter etc.) are recorded at the time of collisions. 

Ultimately, the emergence of the new low carbon mobility forms we have already seen on our streets – and those which will emerge – must prompt a reshaping of our legislative, traffic management, infrastructural and street maintenance regimes, which in turn will bring about a paradigm shift in how people move above – i.e. mobility practices will evolve in response to the new regime. This positive, low carbon and more diverse vision of the future of mobility needs to be kept to the fore as we seek to recast our laws and regulations around transportation.