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.