Active Travel and Energy Security strongly endorses the statement issued earlier this week by Henk Swarttouw, President of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and highlighting the links between our patterns of mobility and our energy security needs and vulnerabilities. The ECF statement can be read here. Note that is the member for Ireland of the ECF.

The statement is a timely reminder of how active travel – walking and cycling for shorter trips, rather than motoring – contributes to our reduced dependence on Russian oil and gas. In other words, active travel goes well beyond considerations of improved public health, more liveable neighbourhoods, and reduced carbon emissions. 

Dr. Hannah Daly and her colleagues stressed in their Irish Times article of 8th March 2022 that Ireland must play its part in ending Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and they argue that we need “a large scale communications campaign from Government to frame our energy transition explicitly in terms of the need to cut Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuel”. strongly supports this point.

In regard to the related topic of transport emissions, we know from the most recent National Transport Authority Household Survey published in December 2018 that 50% of all of the trips we take in Ireland are under 5km – a distance very much cycle-able for much of our population (with shorter trips easily walkable). Furthermore, recently published energy and transport modelling research by O’Riordan et al (2021) maintains that significant energy and emissions savings can be achieved from modal shift in Ireland  –

the active mode scenarios, which focus on increased walking and cycling achieve a 0.2 – 1 MTCO2 reduction in annual passenger transport emissions in 2030 [while the] range of public transport scenarios, inspired by targets set out by the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan achieve a between 0.001 – 0.3 MTCO2 reduction in annual passenger transport emissions in 2030.

We note here that in 2018 Ireland’s transport emissions amounted to 12.2MT and that by 2030 the required emissions based on the Climate Action Plan are 6-7MT as per the 2021 Climate Action Plan (page 144), so the modelled emissions reductions from a shift to active travel are very significant. 

As a further practical and immediate measure to support the Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland, supports the collection and distribution of bicycles to refugees arriving in Ireland and will be liaising with its member groups in promoting initiatives in this regard. Access to a bike may allow some of those traumatised by war to avail of opportunities for social, leisure and economic activities, and hence help contribute to their recovery.