Coronavirus: Change Our Streets, make Safer Streets for all

The Irish Pedestrian Network and call on the national government to provide safe, usable space across the country for people to shop, exercise and commute by walking and cycling during the Covid-19 crisis. 

While current lock-down restrictions are in place until May 5, 2020, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has stated that social distancing measures may stay in place to some degree until a coronavirus vaccine has been found. 

A substantial percentage of Irish people shop on foot or by cycling, and physical exercise is vitally important to both physical and mental health. 

The Irish Pedestrian Network and propose that while motor traffic is reduced, space on streets must be reallocated to walking, running, cycling and playing to ensure safe social distancing within communities – a reallocation that is already taking place internationally. 

Speaking for the Irish Pedestrian Network Ailish Drake says, “The New Zealand government has empowered local communities to create more social distancing space by providing 90% funding for new footpaths and widen existing ones, and to create pop-up bike lanes. These measures can be put in place in a matter of hours or a few days using paint, blocks or planters.” 

Damien O Tuama, spokesperson for the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, says, “Over sixty towns and cities worldwide, in recognition of this new reality, have quickly installed low-cost temporary measures by using cones to widen footpaths and repurposing full vehicle lanes to cycle lanes. Dublin has now joined Berlin, Washington DC and London in reallocating road space to ensure safer social distancing is possible. We want other councils to do the same.” 

The Irish Pedestrian Network and welcome efforts by many local Councillors and TDs in seeking additional space for social distancing across Irish cities and in particular the progress made in Dublin where Dublin City Council will begin implementing emergency distancing measures from Monday 20th April. 

  1. IPN and now call on the government to implement a nationwide programme
  2. Automate pedestrian crossings so people do not have to manually press signal buttons
  3. Introduce a default speed limit of 30km/h on all urban and suburban streets
  4. Reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists, to make walking and cycling safer for people who are exercising within their 2 km from home zone, especially those with prams or wheelchairs
  5. Enable local authorities to prioritise temporary measures such as widening of footpaths, pop-up cycle lanes, quietways in cities and/or closing road lanes and specific streets to motor traffic, by the temporary application of DMURS standards to existing streets
  6. New spaces to be allocated fairly and with consideration of universal needs across city centre, suburbs, towns and villages to avoid people ‘flocking’ to centralised areas
  7. Dedicated teams in each local authority to enable local residents and interested groups to plan and design temporary footpaths and cycle lanes in their locality
  8. Rapid implementation of said routes with a design strategy to clearly indicate new routes to users and motorists

Orla Burke, spokesperson for Pedestrian Cork explains, “Families in Cork, denied the opportunity to drive to their favourite walking spots, are coming face-to-face with the poor provision for walking in their immediate neighbourhoods. Quick wins are available to our councils but this requires thoughtful leadership. This could be a time for simple yet effective improvements to facilitate walking. We call on our local authorities to rise to the challenge of Covid-19 make our streets safe for all.” 

Anne Cronin of Cycle Bus Limerick says, “For children that live in the city or suburbs, jumping on their bike with a parent, is their only way to connect with a space outside of their home. Many children are forced to cycle on the road as opposed to the footpath and therefore are at risk without segregation. The increase in the numbers of children cycling in our city is remarkable at the moment and children should be protected and supported to remain doing so.” 

Ailish Drake adds, “These temporary actions in response to the Covid-19 emergency, would be strategic in creating a positive culture change to make our towns and cities more liveable and contributing to a much needed boost in footfall required to aid the economic recovery when we move beyond the current crisis. This is in line with current government policy for both urban and rural regeneration development funds (URDF & RRDF).”  

Cycling Beyond the Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting our lives, our economies and even our way of seeing the world. There are always lessons to learn from difficult times and this crisis has made it clear that we need to change the way we live, work and move. During these days, cars have almost disappeared from all streets of Europe, noise and air pollution levels have fallen to historic lows and bicycles have risen as the safest means of transport to do essential trips for food and medicine and to get some outdoor exercise. Never before have we been able to see, in such a clear way, the impact of the current mobility model on health, environment, equality and safety. Nor has a generation ever faced such a crucial “what if” moment for transportation. ECF finds, in this COVID19 crisis, one of those life-changing moments that can drive great social changes. With ‘Cycling Beyond the Crisis’ we want to gather facts, initiatives and insights that could lead to reset European mobility and economy once we’ve beaten the COVID19.

Read article

Post-Covid 19 – The Politics of Space: Walking and Cycling

Covid-19 has resulted in illness, bereavement, anxiety, unemployment and economic hardship. Naturally, everyone is focused on getting through and flattening the curve, but there is talk too about how our society will have changed when it is all over.

Authorities worldwide have responded to the marked reduction in motor traffic and the relative increase in the numbers walking and cycling by re-purposing space for active travel.  We outline in this article some of the measures taken worldwide and ask can they be made permanent?

In Europe, the Americas and Australia authorities in charge of transport have taken various initiatives to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive. Philip Oltermann, Berlin bureau chief for The Guardian, reports that authorities in the German capital have widened a bike lane by incorporating some of the carriageway space for general motorised traffic

In New York, Mayor de Blasio has installed emergency bike lanes to ensure the safety of the increased numbers of people who are cycling in order to maintain physical distancing. This measure is especially beneficial for the many health workers who are cycling

In an article for City Lab titled, “In a Global Health Emergency the Bicycle Shines”, journalist and cycling advocate, Laura Laker, describes the various initiatives underway to prioritise and safeguard people cycling.  Bogota in Columbia, for example, is installing tens of kilometres of emergency cycleways.

In London, the public Santander bike-share scheme operated by Transport for London (TfL) is being made available free of charge to NHS staff and other bike companies including Buzzbike, Brompton Bicycle Ltd and Beryl Bikes have also come on board.

In Sydney’s Central Business District of Sydney, in Calgary in Canada, and in Auckland in New Zealand, pedestrian signal buttons have been automated thus avoiding the necessity of touching possibly (or even likely) contaminated surfaces. Brussels has adapted more than 100 traffic lights to favour cyclists and reduced pedestrian waiting times by between 20 and 40 seconds (@dimitristrobbe). In Monchengladbach, Germany, the local ADFC cycling campaign (the German equivalent of – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network) has persuaded the authorities to convert two lanes of Bismarkstrasse to cycling.

So, what about positive initiatives here at home? Yes, there have been some, but first a negative. While empty streets have meant that people have been obeying guidelines and staying at home, active travel groups have been deeply concerned by countrywide reports of people using the freed-up space to drive faster and ignore speed limits.

What about the positives?! Bleeper Bikes have taken a similar initiative to London and made bicycles available to heath care workers in the Mater, St James’ and St Vincent’s hospitals. Meanwhile Moby, who were due to launch their e-bike sharing scheme in Dublin in April, are instead lending their bikes to hospital staff. In Galway, Brite Mobility is also providing e-bikes to health-care workers. Some Local Authority Road Safety Committees, notably Mayo, Donegal, Wexford, Monaghan and Cork County Councils, have made social media posting urging motorists to slow down. In Wicklow, the Greystones Municipal District of the Council has automated its pedestrian crossing buttons, thus avoiding the need for touching them. We really hope that other councils follow suit.   

There may be less traffic about but the two kilometre restriction on outings for exercise means that people, including children using buggies, bikes, and scooters, are walking and cycling close to their homes. And of course, many people are walking or cycling to work or to the shops. In order to observe physical distancing, all these people need space. We urge Irish authorities to do as has been done in other countries and reallocate space not needed by motorised vehicles to pedestrians and cyclists. They can do this on a temporary basis using bollards, wands and signage. is calling on local authorities to use their powers under Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act to do so and on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to introduce default emergency 30 kph speed limits in residential areas.

Note that on Wednesday morning April 8th , Vice-Chair of Dublin Cycling Campaign, Louise Williams spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about how, when things return to “normal”, we need to ensure that people continue to be able to walk and cycle – and therefore we must only phase cars back into the traffic equation, rather than returning immediately to the pre-status quo. You can listen back here.

Finally, note that the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), of which is the member for Ireland, issued a special newsletter in the last few days gathering ideas themed around ‘Cycling Beyond the Crisis’. It is well worth checking out. You can read it here.

Kerry Cycling Campaign call for motorists to slow down

Kerry Cycling Campaign have called for motorists to slow down and take more care following a horrific month of road deaths and injuries. With so many people out walking and cycling within 2 kilometers of their homes motorists are asked to slow down and be careful. The dramatic reduction in traffic volumes has resulted in some drivers increasing their speed – particularly in urban areas.

Anluan Dunne speaking of the Kerry Cycling Campaign said “Quite simply drivers need to slow down. We are calling on the Gardaí to step up enforcement across the county – especially in urban areas. More people are out walking and cycling and due to physical distancing they may have to step onto the road to avoid each other”

Read article

Radical Changes to Transport MUST Be Part of the Next Programme for Government

The election is over but a new government has not yet formed. The arrival of COVID 19 has added to the challenge of negotiations for a new Programme for Government, but at the same time we cannot stand still on other issues.  During the election,, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, urged parties to implement two key transport policies  – 1) the rebalancing of Land Transport funding to allocate more to cycling  and 2) the provision of high quality cycling infrastructure. 

We accept that in the short term that the government is facing substantially increased expenditure to deal with Covid-19 and its consequences and a reduction in the capital budget is inevitable. However, we are looking for a rebalance of the transport capital budget and would  stress that investment in cycling represents very good value for money – the best return on investment for any transport intervention. The need for an appropriate level of funding and high quality infrastructure will continue long into the future if Ireland is to achieve government goals on road safety, climate action, congestion, the environment and health.

From election manifestos, all political parties accept the need for increased everyday cycling, while most accept the need for increased funding to 10% of the Land Transport budget, which in 2020 would amount to €182M. In the first 8 months of last year, the Minister for Transport spent approximately €2M or  0.11% of his annual Land Transport budget on cycling from his Walking /Cycling allocation – the principal area of expenditure for everyday cycling. Gerry Dornan, Vice Chair of stated “We accept that an immediate increase to 10% by the Minister for Transport is not practical in 2020 or 2021, but it is realistic to ramp up investment to 10% within three or four years and that is the benchmark by which we will judge the next government”.

A revision to the Strategic Framework Investment in Land Transport (SFILT) is essential. The original SFILT was developed in 2015 and fails to take into account increasing congestion, chronic health issues, air and noise pollution.  A suite of some twenty background papers informed the SFILT process but most were related to existing high car dependency and failed to give any serious consideration to increased active travel. 

The second issue which the incoming government  must address is the quality of infrastructure. Last year, international attendees at the Velo-City cycling conference  in Dublin were shocked at the poor quality of Irish cycling infrastructure. In order to attract people out of cars, high quality segregated infrastructure is essential. 

Seville was able to provide a cycle network and increase cycling significantly to 8% in just five years – the same period of office as an incoming Irish government. In the last five years, there has been little progress in Irish cities. Cyclists in Galway and Cork are frustrated and alarmed by their respective Metropolitan Area Transport Strategies while Limerick cyclists have little confidence in efforts to date at urban improvement by their local authority. The Strategies pay lip service to prioritising cycling and instead reflect the road-centric policies of the SFILT. In particular, traffic models are constructed on the basis that traffic levels will increase, with the inevitable “conclusion” that more roads are needed. The increases are large enough to justify “one more lane” but less than actual increases which would cause politicians to question the viability of schemes in terms of sustainability and value for money. 

Furthermore, the lack of vision on cycling by Irish local authorities is clearly demonstrated by several Dutch cities having current cycling levels in excess of 40% of journeys, whereas by 2039-2040 the predicted level of cycling in Galway city centre is just 6% and in Cork is 4%. believes that the Department of Transport should require Directors of Services for Transport to be appointed as Cycling Officers with responsibility for change in transport mode for their authority and for publishing annual progress reports. 

The challenges to the next Irish government are unprecedented. It MUST introduce radical change to the way transport is managed in order to create a resilient mobility system and one that is consistent with nurturing active and healthy travel habits.