Cyclist.ie Presents at Oireachtas Committee on Electric Vehicles

Earlier today, Tuesday 30 November 2021, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce presented at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action on the topic of electric vehicles. 

Also presenting were Dr. Colm Byrne from Irish Doctors for the Environment, Brian Cooke, Director General of SIMI (Society of the Irish Motor Industry), and Marguerite Sayers and John Byrne from ESB’s ECars Division.

The main point Damien made at the session was that the discourse around e-mobility and electric vehicles has largely if not almost exclusively been dominated by e-cars. What we hear much less about is the role of e-bikes, e-trikes and e-cycling in decarbonising transport.

The Irish Times’ coverage of the session can be read here while The Journal.ie’s coverage can be read here

The full video recording of the (3 hour) session can be found here.

The video of Damien’s opening statement can be found directly below (with the text of it further down this page). 

Opening Statement:

Good afternoon Chairperson and members of the Committee. My name is Dr. Damien Ó Tuama. I am the National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network and An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation. My own background is in mobilities research. 

E-mobility is not just about E-cars

The discourse around e-mobility and electric vehicles in Ireland has largely if not almost exclusively been dominated by e-cars. What we hear much less about is the role of e-bikes, e-trikes and e-cycling in decarbonising transport. 

And this mirrors what we hear internationally. At the COP Climate talks in Glasgow, there was a near-exclusive focus on electric cars and total absence of active mobility discussions during the official Transport Day. However in the end, the following text was included in the declaration:

We recognise that alongside the shift to zero emission vehicles, a sustainable future for road transport will require wider system transformation, including support for active travel, public and shared transport, as well as addressing the full value chain impacts from vehicle production, use and disposal. [1]

In thinking about increasing the use of e-bikes, it is worth noting here that the highest proportion of trips nationally are between 1-3km, as per the most recent NTA National Household Travel Survey. [2] 

Electric Assist Bikes and E-bikes – Broadening the use of Active Travel

E-bikes or Electric Assist bikes work by assisting the person on bike with a compact electric motor. Their pluses are many:

  • They enable users with quite basic levels of fitness to cover longer distances than on everyday bicycles, and this is particularly important in rural Ireland where distances between home and work/shops/GAA grounds other destinations are often longer than in cities. 
  • They make life much easier in hillier towns and cities – I’m thinking in particular here of Cork City, Kinsale, Drogheda, County Wicklow or plenty of other places. And this has a relevance for low carbon tourism as well. 
  • For parents wishing to ferry children around by bike, cargo bikes and e-cargo bikes make life much easier. We know that in Copenhagen there is approx 40,000 cargo bikes – used by many families there. [3] 
  • For cycle logistics in town and city centres, e-cargo bikes and trikes allow for smaller goods to be transported easily thus taking many heavy goods vehicles out of town centres – and we are all aware on this Committee of how difficult it is to electrify large HGVs. Research commissioned by the European Union concludes that 25% of all goods and 50% of all light deliveries in urban settings could be serviced by cargo bikes. 
  • For the mobility impaired, electric assist cycles open up and even transform their independent mobility opportunities. And older people. 

E-bikes are not just about decarbonising transport 

E-bikes provide the opportunity to:

  • Decongest towns and cities because of the much smaller space required for moving and parked vehicles, hence improve the economic vitality of smaller towns
  • Improve the liveability of towns with more space opened up for public space and businesses
  • Improve public health through being active travel vehicles
  • E-bikes use minimal resources compared to electric cars which are certainly not zero-carbon –  in terms of the mining the raw materials and rare earth elements in particular and energy used in manufacturing and disposal.

Policy Interventions

Amongst the policy interventions which will assist in the transition we are seeking are the following:

  • As for everyday bikes, the most important intervention is the creation of safe cycle routes in all of our towns and cities and rural areas – and that means dedicated infrastructure and lower / safer speed limits – especially in rural Ireland (see Cyclist.ie Rural Vision doc [5]). 
  • We need to think much more seriously about inter-modality – combining public transport with bikes or e-bikes for the same journey. This is particularly important in rural Ireland where the distances to public transport are much greater. We need high quality cycle parking and e-charging points at all PT stops/stations, public buildings and apartments etc.
  • Increase the subsidies for e-bikes on a par with e-cars. SEAI grants [6] are needed for e-bikes / e-cargo bikes.
  • Introduce a scrappage / trade-in scheme similar to France where old cars can be scrapped with a grant provided for an E-bike / cargo bike purchase [7].

In Conclusion

Worldwide, the transport sector is responsible for 24% [8] of direct CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion with the vast majority coming from cars, and these numbers are not decreasing [9]. We simply cannot afford to wait decades for fossil-fuel cars and trucks to be fully replaced by electric vehicles – a solution that will not in any case help solve other problems such as traffic congestion and sedentary lifestyles.

I’ll finish with a quote from Frans Timmermanns, the Executive Vice President of the European Commission with special responsibility for leading the Commission’s work on the European Green Deal. At the Velo-city 2021 conference in Lisbon in September 2021, he stated that

The Bicycle is the most important instrument in meeting climate change targets.”

Our policies need to reflect that truth.

Footnotes

[1] https://ukcop26.org/cop26-declaration-on-accelerating-the-transition-to-100-zero-emission-cars-and-vans/  

[2] https://www.nationaltransport.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/National_Household_Travel_Survey_2017_Report_-_December_2018.pdf  

[3] https://cyclingindustry.news/cargo-bike-market-by-2030/ 

[4]  https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/cargo-bike-crazy-potential-delivering-goods-bike-0 

[5] https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/  

[6] https://www.seai.ie/grants/electric-vehicle-grants/  

[7] https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/electric-bikes-replace-polluting-cars-france-introduces-innovative-scrappage  

[8] https://www.iea.org/reports/tracking-transport-2020 

[9] https://ec.europa.eu/clima/eu-action/transport-emissions_en 

Additional References

https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/cop26-pro-cycling-campaign-backed-coalition-350-organisations-helps-achieve

https://www.interregeurope.eu/policylearning/good-practices/item/2867/last-mile-delivery-by-electric-cars-and-cargo-bikes-in-urban-areas/

Note

Image above from the ECF website – https://ecf.com/users/niccol%C3%B2-panozzo/trusted-content/webinar-cargo-bikes-cities. Used with thanks to ECF.  

Contact

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama
National Cycling Coordinator, 
Cyclist.ie http://cyclist.ie/ and An Taisce https://www.antaisce.org/
Vice-President, European Cyclists’ Federation (2016 – 2021) https://ecf.com/
E:  [email protected]

Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG AGM

Tuesday, 14 December 2021 – 8pm online

The Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 at 8pm. The Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG is the legal entity under which Cyclist.ie and Dublin Cycling Campaign operate.

The AGM is open to fully paid-up members of the Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie. You can register for the event here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_XNoO4A3CTLmO9lLVBzjcqQ

Agenda:

  • Approve Minutes of 2020 AGM
  • Review Financial Accounts
  • Provide an update on Governance Issues
  • Vote on any motions
  • Elections – there are no open positions on the board therefore there will be no elections
  • Submitting and voting on Motions

Member motions can be submitted by paid-up members and must be submitted to the Secretary ([email protected]) by 10th December 2021. Motions will be proposed and seconded by members. We will not accept any amendments to motions on the day so please make sure they are written as clear, actionable items for the board.

Key dates:

  • Final date of registration – 12th December 2021. Only fully paid-up members of Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie as at 5pm on 10th December 2021 can attend and vote at the AGM.
  • Send member motions to [email protected] by 10th December 2021
  • Final agenda including motions will be sent – 12th December 2021
  • Annual General Meeting – 14th December 2021 at 8pm

Streets 4 All NI – Webinar #2 – 25 Nov 2021

Streets 4 All NI’s second webinar will take place on Thursday 25th November 2021 from 8pm to 9pm.

In this webinar you’ll hear perspectives from Germany on the cycling industry, cycling advocacy, and progress in liveability, and from Northern Ireland on issues around transport and infrastructure development that affect the mobility of disabled people and older people.

Burkhard Stork is the Managing Director / CEO of Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (the German Bicycle Industry Association), and former Director of Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC, the German National Cyclists’ Association).

Michael Lorimer is the Executive Secretary of IMTAC (the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee) which advises the Government and others in Northern Ireland.

You are very welcome to join this one hour webinar hosted by Cyclist.ie. Attendance is free, and registration is required – see here.

Limerick Greenway Inaugurated

The Great Southern Trail is Reborn as the Limerick Greenway

On Friday 5th November there was an official opening of the ‘Limerick Greenway’, formerly known as The Great Southern Trail (GST).  This refurbished old railway line has a long history of community activism and participation under the name of the GST, a Cyclist.ie member group, which ensured that the line of the railway remained in public ownership from Rathkeale to the Kerry border after the closing of the rail services in 1972.

Their activism and persistence over the years, often in the face of official neglect, has now seen the opening of a fully refurbished greenway that is getting great media and tourism coverage.  The present refurbishment will soon be complemented by a further section from the Kerry border to Listowel, and will eventually link all the way to Tralee and Fenit.  Funding has also been provided to begin the development of a link from Limerick City to Rathkeale.  Various other links out of Limerick northwards and Westwards are being planned, and no doubt the pioneering work of this local GST Group will soon see a necklace of greenways passing through Limerick!

I think we need to salute the great work of this model of community activism by the Great Southern Trail group, which has kept alive the memory of the steam railway age, and also a vision of a new active travel future!  Check out the 10 minute launch video here.

Open Letter to World Leaders at COP26

Cyclist.ie and ECF call on governments at COP26 to boost cycling levels to reduce carbon emissions and reach climate goals quickly and effectively

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) and a global coalition of 80 pro-cycling organisations, including Irish member Cyclist.ie, have issued an open letter calling on governments attending COP26 in Glasgow to commit to significantly increasing the number of people who cycle in their countries in order to reach global climate goals quickly and effectively.

The world needs much more cycling if we are to combat climate change. Without quicker and more determined action by governments worldwide to cut transport carbon emissions, we will be dooming present and future generations to a world that is more hostile and much less inhabitable.  Frans Timmermans, the Director of the EU Green Deal, says that ‘the bicycle is the most important instrument in meeting climate change targets’.

CO₂ emissions from the transport sector continue to increase. Meanwhile, the transition to zero-emission cars and trucks will take decades to complete and will not solve other problems like traffic congestion and sedentary lifestyles. Despite this, COP26 Transport Day on 10 November is set to focus exclusively on the electrification of road vehicles as a solution to the climate crisis we are facing today.  This proposal is too narrow focussed and will only lead to further road congestion, and continued inappropriate travel methods.  The bicycle and in particular Electric Bicycles has a major part to play.

ECF and its allies believe cycling represents one of humanity’s greatest hopes for a shift towards a zero-carbon future. Bicycle use produces zero emissions, delivers wide ranging positive societal impacts and – most importantly – is a technology that is already widely available today. The world cannot afford to wait decades for fossil-fuel cars to be fully phased out and replaced by electric vehicles. We must urgently leverage the solutions that cycling offers by radically scaling up its use, including the potential that electric bicycles offer to extend journey lengths, and support lifetime cycling.

The signatories to this open letter call on governments and leaders, including the Irish Government, attending COP26 to declare commitments to significantly boost cycling levels at home and collectively commit to achieving a global target of higher cycling levels. The letter was sent to governments and transport ministers ahead of COP26. 

Colm Ryder, Chairperson of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network: ‘Cycling development is a vital key to unlocking the transport potential of our island, and to tackling climate change.  Irish citizens must be given a real transport choice through the provision of a countrywide network of safe and segregated infrastructure.

Jill Warren, CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation: “There is no conceivable way for governments to reduce CO₂ emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis without significantly more cycling. The devastating effects of accelerating global warming should be clear to everyone, and boosting cycling levels is the best way to quickly cut carbon emissions from transport on a massive scale.”

Henk Swarttouw, President of European Cyclists’ Federation and of the World Cycling Alliance: “Cycling should be a cornerstone of global, national and local strategies to meet net-zero carbon targets. At COP26, governments must commit to providing the financing and legislation for safe and equitable space for cycling everywhere. Citizens are ready for the 

About the European Cyclists’ Federation: With over 60 member organisations across more than 40 countries, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is the world’s largest and best-known cyclists’ advocacy organisation. Our aim is to improve and increase cycling by influencing policy and harnessing the power of the European cycling movements.

Contacts: 
Colm Ryder, Chairperson, Cyclist.ie
    Tel: 087-2376130, Email: co[email protected]

Dr Damien Ó Tuama, Cyclist.ie National Cycling Coordinator,
    Tel:  087-2840799 Email:  [email protected]