Is Monaghan County Council the first Local Authority in Ireland to publish an up-to-date Walking & Cycling Strategy? We think so, and we commend the Council on doing so, and in leading the way for other rural Local Authorities to follow.
Like many small counties, Monaghan has very low active travel numbers as shown in this graphic (from page 22 of the strategy):
The strategy, adopted by the Council earlier this month, is wide ranging and innovative in many aspects. However, we feel it is let down by the adoption of unambitious mode share targets for active travel which we discuss further below.
We consider here, first of all, some of the many strengths and good points with the strategy:
- The strategy is not just about transport – it also highlights the health, environmental, climate and economic benefits that can arise from the development of walking and cycling cultures.
- The Council has set up an Active Travel Unit that will work within the Roads Division and will liaise with a broad inter-departmental team
- A Walking and Cycling Forum is to be established in early 2022 with stakeholder representatives included.
- County Monaghan, with a population of just over 61,000, has a road network of nearly 2,500km, the vast majority of which are local L roads, which the Council want to prioritise as ‘Rothar Roads’, Cyclist.ie’s concept as set out in our Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland.
- The strategy references Cyclist.ie’s Rural Vision and includes the main points of the Vision in Section 2.1.3 of the strategy.
- The strategy has been developed through a broad consultation process – see the graphic below – and it links into a variety of international, national, and local plans, to place it in a clear broad context.
- The strategy also references Green Schools’ #whyshecycles project, and the Dublin Bike Life study.
- It shows awareness of the gender gap in cycling, citing the reasons why fewer women and girls cycle and promises to address this.
- The strategy undertakes to take the needs of older citizens into account and to ensure that cycling is inclusive.
- The strategy includes a detailed SWOT analysis (an assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the current situation) that pulls no punches on the challenges that lie ahead.
- The strategy includes a detailed action plan and a section on monitoring how it is working and measure success.
- The strategy ‘embraces’ the 10 minute town concept as policy, and proposes to reduce town centre speed limits to 30kph as well as limiting heavy goods vehicle (HGV) access.
- The strategy commits to identifying a detailed cycle network of both on and off-road routes.
- The strategy commits to working with stakeholders, and name-checks Cyclist.ie as one of the organisations to liaise with on a regular basis .
The following are points that, we feel, require further thought and attention:
- The less than ambitious mode share targets need to be upgraded and timebound. For instance cycling, as can be seen in the graphic above, has a present mode share of only 0.45%. It is proposed (in page 51 of the strategy) that an increase of 20% be the active travel target over the 5 years of the strategy. This would mean that the mode share would only rise to just over 0.5%. This is an unacceptably low target mode share for a strategy which is otherwise ambitious in its wording!
- In the Action Plans pages, some of the supporting organisations are referenced, but particular bodies such as the National Transport Authority, SEUPB (Special EU Programs Body), Green Schools, Road Safety Authority are noticeable by their absence at critical junctures.
- While it is clear that the strategy embraces inclusion we could not find any reference to providing for non-standard bikes such as people with disabilities or older people might need. These range from adult trikes, to handcycles to e-bikes that need specialised parking and wider cycle lanes.
- The idea of edge of town parking and encouraging people to walk or cycle in is excellent. Lockers or other provision for storing items until one is ready to go home would be a useful addition. One of the main advantages of a car in town is to store shopping.
But overall this new strategy from Monaghan County Council is to be commended. So why not check out the full strategy yourself here?
It is now mainly up to the new Active Travel team in the Council to get the ball rolling and to avail of the many opportunities arising for funding, advice and general support, to ensure the success of the strategy. Cyclist.ie will be happy to play our part in making this a success!