Cyclist.ie wishes Eamon Ryan TD, the new Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, the very best in his new role.
Minister Ryan’s appointment comes on the back of the inclusion of some very progressive sustainable transport commitments in the agreed Programme for Government (PfG), especially in regard to cycling and walking. On funding, the new government has committed to:
… an allocation of 10% of the total transport capital budget for cycling projects and an allocation of 10% of the total capital budget for pedestrian infrastructure. The Government’s commitment to cycling and pedestrian projects will be set at 20% of the 2020 capital budget (€360 million) per year for the lifetime of the Government. (p13)
This is potentially game-changing when one considers that the spend on cycling in 2018 was just €12.64 million (or less than 2% of the transport budget) – see Cyclist.ie Pre-Budget Submission 2020. It opens up the feasibility of funding high quality cycling infrastructure in all of our cities and towns, and providing greenway infrastructure connecting into the heart of our built-up areas, and schools, sports grounds, shops and other destinations.
The new emphasis on cycling and walking in the PfG comes at a time when the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) – as it was called up until a few days ago – is preparing a new Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP). Cyclist.ie responded to the public consultation on the SMP early in 2020 – see Submissions on New Sustainable Mobility Policy – and we are awaiting the Department’s analysis of the submissions received. It is timely for a new Minister with a low carbon vision of mobility to take office when a new plan is being drafted.
The other point to highlight is the need for the new Minister to create the structures to enable several government departments, a handful of state agencies, and all 31 local authorities (LAs) to be aligned in their policies around walking and cycling promotion. One of the failings in the implementation of the ambitious 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF) was the inaction on ensuring good coordination and cooperation between all bodies.
It is essential that Minister Ryan makes sure there is strong alignment between the key departments of Health (Minister Stephen Donnelly), Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Minister Darragh O’Brien), Education (Minister Norma Foley), Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands (Minister Heather Humphreys), and Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Minister Roderic O’Gorman) so that a new culture of active travel can emerge, and become part of everyday life in Ireland. Additionally, local authorities are crucial actors because they will be responsible for so much of the change, but their expertise on cycling development varies from strong to weak.
The opportunity to be seized by the Minister now is to harness the public appetite for change and lead the way in transforming our cities and towns into the healthy, convivial and economically vibrant places they need to be.
Navan Cycling Initiative is a brand new cycle campaigning group that came into being just in the last few weeks. Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie, caught up with the group’s founder, Kevin Corrigan, to pick his brain about the cycling issues in Navan and the new group’s aims.
So, Kevin, tell us why you have founded a new campaigning group in Navan – and how did you come to hear about Cyclist.ie?
Good afternoon Damien. Well, having always cycled around my hometown, wherever that was, I was very disappointed when I moved to Navan two years ago. There is scant cycling infrastructure in the town, and what is there, is disjointed and in places dangerous. Up to now, I had sent occasional exasperated emails to the local authority but having seen the appetite that people have in Navan for cycling since the Covid-19 restrictions, I felt a more structured and sustained approach was needed to ensure our town’s love for the bicycle endured.
It was during this period that I discovered Cyclist.ie while listening to a webinar for a documentary called Motherload about the cargo bike movement [broadcast as part of the recent 2020 Clonakilty Bicycle Festival]. Your organisation has been extremely helpful to date, offering amazing guidance and support which is much appreciated.
Have you cycled in other countries or cities which have inspired you?
I often joke that I cycled in Bangkok for three years and felt safer on the roads there than I do in Navan! On my way to work, I would cross junctions with literally hundreds of motorbikes stopped at the red lights. Turn green and it was mayhem, or so I initially thought. However, it was organised chaos. Cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists moved in harmony and were respectful of each other, unlike my experience to date in Navan. Of course, most drivers respect the shared spaces that are sadly busy roads in Navan, but between a combination of a drastic lack of infrastructure, and an impatience from some very time pressed locals, cycling in the town is by and large not a safe, convenient or fun experience so far.
Aside from jostling with motorbikes and Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, I was a utility cyclist in Dublin, Cardiff, Lausanne, Portland as well as having cycle-toured in Thailand, Tasmania, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. I travelled on everything from world class cycling segregated bike corridors to dirt paths, from traffic-choked multi-lane roads to deserted country lanes. All these experiences have brought me to firmly believe in the bicycle as an extremely fulfilling way to get around, create stories and adventure-filled memories all the while igniting that child-like sense of freedom
What are the main issues people wishing to cycle in and around Navan might encounter or experience?
As mentioned above, there is a serious lack of continuity in Navan’s cycle infrastructure. Areas that have been recently developed or roads that were newly built or upgraded, have for the most part cycle lanes, some segregated. The problem is that when you leave these islands of safety and comfort, you are on your own, often arriving at busy junctions with no cycling provision whatsoever, and the need to join a lane with heavy flowing traffic and very often no hard shoulder. Even when there is a hard shoulder, these are often full of debris and tree cuttings, so punctures are not uncommon.
Cycling on footpaths is commonplace and understandable, given the choice cyclists are faced with. This inevitably leads to unsafe footpaths and negatively impacts cyclists’ reputations. Like a lot of regional towns in Ireland, Navan’s transport infrastructure has been devoted to the private car for decades. There are glimmers of hope in some of the development plans and a huge sense of optimism for the future given this government’s commitment to the development of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Are there particular ideas or proposals you have to make Navan much more cycle friendly, both for utility trips and recreational / leisure cycling (and with children) and perhaps linking with other towns in County Meath?
The vast majority of Navan residents (26,000 estimated) live within 10 minute cycle from the town centre. There are over 7,000 school students within the town boundaries. While some travel from outside the town, most do not, and numbers cycling are extremely low.
We are calling for segregated lanes on all major approach roads to the town, as well as safer, cycling-adapted junctions, so as to facilitate the movement of people for both utility and recreational cycling. While waiting for these capital projects, we would like to see interim measures, such as wand-protected bike lanes and the temporary redesign of major junctions to include road markings and signage. Bike parking needs to be extended to all major retail outlets, public buildings, key bus stops and schools.
Meath County Council states in its Navan 2030 plan that “it is essential that a more sustainable model is applied to movement within the town, therefore a focus on the local bus service, walking and cycling networks will be a key grounding objective of this plan” We would encourage them to deliver this sustainable model for the people of Navan.
In terms of linking to nearby towns, there are several greenway projects planned, both proposed and potential, which could eventually see Navan at the centre of a network linking Trim, Kells, Dunshaughlin, Slane, Drogheda and Kingscourt. These would have to be supported by the in-town measures above to enable locals and visitors to move safely to and from these amenities.
And what about linking cycling and public transport in Navan, perhaps aimed at those commuting from the town? Is this currently catered for? And how is the cycle parking around the town?
Navan has some bike parking, although there is a demand for more. Sadly in a recent upgrade of a busy street and ongoing upgrades, there is no bike parking included so the lack of commitment is failing cyclists in that respect.
In terms of commuting from the town, Navan has a huge population of commuters to Dublin and the greater Dublin area. While there is a frequent bus service, it is currently not fit for purpose as journey times are extremely slow relative to the distance, and most people choose to drive or park-and-ride at the M3 Parkway near Dunboyne. There is very little bike parking at key bus stops and if it is there, it would not be considered secure enough for bikes to be left all day. With improved infrastructure elsewhere which would encourage more people to take to their bikes, secured bike parking could help alleviate traffic around key bus stops. It would be great to see a provision on buses for bicycles, I remember in Switzerland and Germany it was common to put your bike on the front of regional buses.
Ultimately though, the best way to tackle Navan and Meath’s commuting chaos will be with the reinstatement of the rail line that has been in the shadows for years. With no end in sight to the development of housing in Navan, people in the town were disappointed to see this key piece of infrastructure omitted from the recent Programme for Government.
Do you have other thoughts you want to share with us about creating cycle friendly towns and routes?
I would really like to see this current government’s commitment to their stated annual spend of €360 million on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. In a country that has grappled with and met resistance to the implementation of a fit-for-purpose network, this seems like it could be the huge propulsion forward, if properly managed. Add to the fact that the actual cost to us as a society is greatly offset by the benefits of cycling and walking, this could be a game-changer.
Ultimately, the appetite for change and the will to bring it about comes from the people. This hunger is palpable in Ireland right now; the promise of improved infrastructure was the starter, but I think we’re ready for the main course now.
Cyclist.ie wishes Kevin the very best in growing the new local cycle campaigning group and making waves in Navan!
Áine Quill, an MSc level digital marketing student, is currently working with an electric bike start-up in Dublin for her dissertation / company project. She has contacted us looking for us to disseminate her survey on e-bikes and we are very happy to do so.
Her project aims to: 1. Gain a greater understanding of knowledge, conceptions and attitudes towards e-bikes in Ireland, and 2. Gauge the potential for success of e-bike corporate leasing among Irish workforce.
She would appreciate it greatly if you could complete the survey and spread the word to others who might also be interested.
People across the country have been (re)discovering the joys of cycling over the last few months. And with the promise of increased funding for cycling it feels like the start of a real cycling revolution.
Cyclists have a lot to celebrate right now. What better way to do it then by taking part in this year’s “Leitrim Cycling Festival 2020” (or wherever you are). This is not another online event. This is happening in your home, your county, this weekend. It’s a very simple idea – we can’t all be together so why not have our own mini cycling festivals wherever we are, while following the safety guidelines.
The Leitrim Cycling Festival is a celebration of bicycles, communities and Leitrim. But you don’t even need a bicycle to take part. The festival programme always includes lots of family friendly activities like picnicking, art making, dancing, eating cake. This year’s festival is no different. The Leitrim Cycling Festival team have put together a simple programme of events for the weekend of the 20th and 21st June 2020 which includes a picnic in your garden or local park, a slow bicycle race, a ceili in your kitchen, more cake and of course some bike rides. You can join in with their ideas or come up with your own.
Although this year we may not all be able to enjoy the beauty of Leitrim, we can all celebrate the wonders of cycling and communities. Communities have never been so important so even if you have not joined the cycling revolution, why not join in with some of the other events? Why not just eat cake! And although the festival is not online the team are encouraging everyone to post pictures and videos so that we can all join in with each other’s mini festivals, wherever you have them.
Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, has been calling for a revolution in the funding of cycling and walking for many years. We are seeking a 10% allocation for cycling from our government’s transport budgets.
We are delighted to see that the initial figures emerging from the government formation talks appear to have recognised this urgent need to invest in ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling) by allocating €360 million per annum towards cycling and walking schemes . Cyclist.ie welcomes this commitment.
Cyclist.ie has consistently highlighted the multiple benefits of investing in cycling – across economic, societal and environmental headings. On the public health side, regular cycling for everyday journeys builds exercise into our busy lives and it can be easier to maintain compared to recreational physical activity. Economically, each kilometre driven by a car incurs an external cost of €0.11, whereas cycling and walking bring benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometre, respectively (see New study reveals the social benefits of cycling and walking in the EU). On the emissions reduction front and responding to the Paris Climate Agreement, cycling and walking are an essential part of the solution in decarbonising our mobility system and hence are a critical part of the overall transport mix. This has been recognised in many progressive countries in North West Europe since the mid 1970s.
Our expectations are that this funding will be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure in our towns and cities so that we can grow cycling to levels common in many continental countries. We also urgently need to redress the gender balance in cycling (currently only 27% of all persons commuting are female, as per Census 2016 data). As Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie summed it up, “we need to renormalise cycling to the shops, to school, to work and for other daily activities”.
Cyclist.ie looks forward to examining the full published Programme for Government and a more detailed media release will follow.
Martina Callanan, Spokesperson, Cyclist.ie and Galway Cycling Campaign
Gerry Dornan, Vice-Chair, Cyclist.ie
Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie and An Taisce
Donegal County Council is set to issue a tender in June for construction of the first phase of the greenway. The 2.7km section through the town of Muff will create a segregated route to allow cyclists and walkers to move through the village, separate from existing vehicular traffic.
This development comes hot on the heels of Derry City & Strabane District Council submitting a planning application for a new cycling and walking bridge to cross the Penny ‘burn’, located on the shore of River Foyle in Derry city. This forms part of the overall section linking Derry to Muff. The Council in Derry is confident that planning for the 8km section linking the city to the outskirts of Muff will come before its Planning Committee in October.
Donegal County Council has also begun preparatory work on the planning application for the Buncrana-Derry section of the greenway. It is planned that this 29km route will come before An Bord Pleanála some time during Q1, 2021, with the northern section being submitted for planning next month. At present the team tasked with delivering the project is now engaged with landowners regarding accommodation works as part of the construction phase.
Through its Council sources, the Wee Greenway Initiative is also confident that Donegal County Council is seeking financial assistance to begin the planning of the sections linking Buncrana to Carndonagh (32kms) and Muff to Quigley’s Point (8kms). These sections are vital to the overall project and if the Council progresses them, it will be a mark a massive boost for cyclists and walkers alike in the region.
Cyclist.ie ,the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, welcomes the recent Garda Siochána and Road Safety Authority road safety appeal in advance of this June Bank Holiday weekend. However Cyclist.ie is strongly of the view that the publication of Ireland’s new road safety strategy must be brought forward.
Just as for Slow Down Day one week ago The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána renewed their appeal for road users to take extra care on the roads this weekend. Shocking provisional collision figures for 2020 show that there has been a 17% increase in the number of fatal crashes and a 9% increase in road deaths compared to the same period last year. Pedestrian deaths have doubled to 18 compared to 9 in 2019. The number of collisions is particularly disappointing at a time when Covid 19 restrictions meant that traffic levels have been greatly reduced.
Cyclist.ie Chair, Colm Ryder stated that the effectiveness of all elements of the current road safety strategy needs to be examined. Mr Ryder said, “ It almost beggars belief that at a time when people are working from home, businesses are closed, and traffic levels have been significantly reduced, that fatalities have actually increased”
Mr Ryder suggested that the new upcoming Road Safety Strategy must adopt the Swedish Vision Zero/Safe Systems approach. The Swedish Safe Systems Approach states that “human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system”
However, a strategy is of no value without the means to enforce it and Mr Ryder stated that the new government must provide the Garda with sufficient resources for roads policing. “While we acknowledge the work of the Garda in enforcing road traffic law, collision and fatality statistics are a clear indication that current levels of enforcement are insufficient”. The desired operational strength of the Garda Road Policing Unit is 1200 but at the start of 2020 the number of garda deployed was just over 700.
While we await a new strategy and enhanced budget we can still act to reduce speeding on our roads. Mairéad Forsythe of Love30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits stated that government and local authorities need to step-up. “Once again, we appeal to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do the right thing and introduce a default 30km/h in all urban areas, and in areas where people walking and cycling are sharing space with cars, buses, trucks and HGVs.”
Liam O’Mahony from the Great Southern Trail Greenway has sent us the following update explaining how the GST Greenway has morphed from a greenway to a ‘working farmyard’ at Coolybrown, Ardagh, County Limerick – and how this is at odds with maintaining the integrity of the publicly owned route.
The directors of the Great Southern Trail Ltd. (GST) have discussed the recent announcement by Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) of a €5 million upgrade for the Greenway and wish to draw public attention to the history of the “Coolybrown working farm” element of the otherwise broadly welcome proposals:
This story begins in 2003 with a successful planning application for a 180 square metre slatted unit to be constructed in a Coolybrown farm to the south of the railway. The application was revised in 2006 to double the size of the unit and this was also approved.
In the interim the adjacent old Limerick to Tralee railway corridor had its right of way protected by the Mid-West Regional Authority for recreational and environmental pursuits in 2004.
Therefore, in 2007, when another incarnation of the yet unbuilt slatted unit manifested itself in planning application (07/1592) Limerick County Council, referencing the Regional Authority guidelines, wrote to the applicant on 20 July that it was “not favourly disposed” to the application and advised that it should be relocated to the northern side of the railway where the bulk of the farmlands and buildings were located. The Council requested further information. Surprisingly, having received no new information or proposals (only a regurgitation of the previous 2003 and 2006 files (received on 30 July), the Council approved the application on the following day, 31 July 2007.
These events all pre-dated the 2010 development of the Rathkeale-Ardagh section of the Greenway; all of which works were undertaken by the GST. It was only then that it came to light that the plans approved three years earlier for (07/1592) had not been complied with. The slatted unit was now several metres closer to the railway than the planning permission permitted. In fact the cattle were being fed on the CIÉ railway property.
It was most surprising to the GST that Limerick County Council hadn’t apparently checked over the intervening three years to see that the structure had been built in accordance with the planning permission. The unauthorised slatted unit also received grant-aid from public funds; a matter which again merits investigation.
With the opening of the Rathkeale-Ardagh section by the GST the regulation of the situation in Coolybrown was an imperative. The landowner applied for retention under new conditions. It was to be hoped that the decision on this application (12/222) would bring closure to the saga and satisfy all the parties. The permission was granted but conformity with the conditions by the applicant and enforcement of them by the Council has unfortunately been less than satisfactory.
That’s the story of the southside of the railway and now we proceed to the northside. CIÉ, being the owners of the railway route, have compounded the “working farm” scenario. They chose to split the railway corridor in half over a length of several hundred metres on the northside of the track in the Rathkeale direction. This was to facilitate the same landowner with direct and easy access to some external lands that he was renting. This more than generous decision of CIÉ in the early months of 2011 was as a result of representations made by a third party (whose name is known to the GST) directly to the then Chairman of CIÉ, Dr. John Lynch (recently deceased).
The overall result of the CIÉ and LCCC indulgence is that non local users of the Greenway when encountering a narrowing of the railway route and its less than attractive appearance, to their left and to their right, actually believe that they are in a farmyard.
To compound all of the above the LCCC current plan to use public funds and to detour away from the railway for a length of 800 metres is the final capitulation. It is also a recipe for similar demands on sections yet to be developed.
During the GST twenty-five years of campaigning, developing and managing the Greenway we never entertained requests to deviate from the railway corridor. We viewed it as land held in trust by CIÉ for the people of Ireland.
Our hope now is that wiser council will prevail with this ill-advised current proposal being further investigated and resolved in the public interest.
The GST Greenway has the capacity to be a world class facility and of major benefit to locals and visitors alike. The integrity of the entire way without any proposed private diversion is a key element of the facility now and for future generations.
The news is spreading in Fingal that An Bord Pleanála (ABP) has granted permission for the construction of a 6 km Greenway from Malahide Castle across the Broadmeadow estuary to reach Newbridge House & Farm (permission granted May 19th). This news has a particular resonance with me and my colleagues in the Skerries Cycling Initiative (SCI). Why is it so important to us?! A brief history will answer that.
As far back as 2008 we made a submission to the Dublin Transportation Office as it was then, advocating the creation of a cycleway from Balbriggan to Bray, noting that the Sutton-to-Sandycove cycleway concept was receiving attention from local authorities but the needs of cyclists north of Sutton along the coast were not being addressed. Then, in August 2009, the rail viaduct at Malahide collapsed and was repaired by November. But before the restoration contractors had departed the scene, the government and Iarnród Éireann brilliantly offered them the job of sinking the piers of a pedestrian/cyclist bridge across the estuary into the seabed. Those piers are there now, all 13 of them, and this will make the task of creating the Broadmeadow Way much easier. The following year, the SCI participated in an effort to organise a meeting between Fingal County Council, Iarnród Éireann and local representatives to discuss the bridge and how to promote cycling on the Fingal coast but the circumstances were not right at the time.
In 2013 the SCI wrote to the DTO’s replacement (sort of), the National Transport Authority, about their draft cycle network plan for the Greater Dublin Area and we again tried to sell the idea of what we then called “The Fingal Coast & Castle Way”. We wrote:
“This cycleway was conceived as one which not only provided excellent tourist and recreational coastal cycling, but also included direct links to major heritage and tourist-attractive sites along the way, such as Ardgillan Castle, Skerries Mills, Rogerstown Estuary, Newbridge House & Farm, Broadmeadow Estuary and Malahide Castle. Such a cycleway offers Fingal a genuine tourist product. ”
You can see how the Broadmeadow Way in our minds was critical to our overall goal of getting the Fingal Coastal Way – as it is now called – constructed.
In 2014 a public consultation process for the Broadmeadow Way began. The SCI made a submission, advocating that the cycle/pedestrian track continue along the rail line as far as the Corballis Road, followed by a left turn up to the R126 and the gates of Newbridge House & Farm. Again we tried to put this cycleway into the context of the Fingal Coastal Way, a plan which “embraces both cycling and the local amenity and heritage connections which powerfully raise the tourism profile of the cycleway.”
For the Fingal Coastal Way to work, two estuary crossings are required: one across the Broadmeadow estuary, which happily has been granted permission, and the second across the Rogerstown estuary. This latter project must now take centre stage in the development of this marvellous Greenway.