Pre-Budget 2023 Submission from Cyclist.ie

Cyclist.ie delivered its Pre-Budget 2023 Submission to the Department of Finance (Minister Paschal Donohoe) and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Minister Michael McGrath) yesterday, 14th July 2022.

You can read it in full as a PDF here or in the body text below. 

A big thanks to our hard-working Executive Committee and wider team for preparing the submission. This behind-the-scenes technical work is but a small part of our broader advocacy efforts to put cycling and walking to the fore in government policy, practice and investment decisions. 

Aggressively Promote Climate Change Requirements

Ensure that at least 20% of Transport Capital Funding is Allocated to Creating High-Quality Conditions for Cycling and Walking countrywide 

1 – Introduction 

Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, is the umbrella body of cycling advocacy groups in Ireland (https://cyclist.ie/) and the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation (https://ecf.com/). Our vision is that cycling, as a mode of transport, becomes a normal part of everyday life for all ages and abilities in Ireland. 

As recognised in the Programme for Government (PfG), cycling as a mode of transport offers numerous well documented broad benefits to society – see below – as well as being ‘the most important tool in combating Climate Change’ (European Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans, September 2021). Two years on from the publication of the PfG unlocking these benefits has assumed even more urgency.

Firstly, because the war in Ukraine has led to both substantial price increases for petrol and diesel and to anxiety about the supply of fossil fuel in the months and years ahead we need to conserve fuel supplies. Families are feeling the financial pressure, experiencing mobility poverty, transport exclusion and need to be supported to enable them to make short trips by active travel.  As can be seen from the pre Covid 2019 CSO graphic below, private cars are used for 29% of journeys as short as 2km or less.  While 40% walk or cycle these distances, it is still a startling statistic that needs to be tackled.  We need to enable and encourage travel by bike and on foot for shorter journeys, by funding the required infrastructure.

The second reason for prioritising and funding  every possible measure to enable more people to cycle more often, is that enabling cycling is the fastest and most cost effective  means of meeting the targets set for Transport in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.  Cycling infrastructure and fiscal incentives for cycling can be rolled out on a fast timescale and offer a better return on investment than other transport modes, as well as numerous recognised benefits, such as:

● high rates of economic return on investment 

● improved public health 

● reduced congestion 

● reduced greenhouse gas emissions 

● reduced air and noise pollution 

● increased population mobility 

● more liveable and sociable streets and communities

Unlocking these benefits requires continued targeted and sustained investment. Government and Local Authorities must continue to be steadfast in ensuring this value for money and wide social benefits are availed of. 

In summary we are seeking: 

● Continuation of financial support for Active Travel of at least 20% of the Land Transport Capital Expenditure per annum 

● An immediate introduction of supports for the purchase of ebikes including e-cargo bikes on a similar basis to the current SEAI subsidy scheme for electric cars.

● Improvement and complementing the Bike to Work scheme to include students at all levels, unemployed, pensioners, and people with disabilities 

● Resourcing the growth of bike engineering training 

● Other ancillary supports

2 – Taxation and Fiscal Policy Directions to Create Modal-Shift by focusing on the eco-systems surrounding active travel

Continue applying 20% of the transport capital expenditure annual budget on cycling and walking projects – as per the 2020 Programme for Government. This is essential and must be maintained year-on-year. Allocations for cycling development should be accounted for separately from other sustainable transport measures. 

Increase the subsidies for e-bike purchases to ensure greater take-up. Support subsidies for e-bike purchases, especially e-cargo bikes need to be part of the SEAI Grants Package, need to be commensurate with EV grants generally, and need to be widely advertised.

Expansion of the Bike to Work scheme to be more inclusive, possibly with a complementary scheme, with a focus on low earners, students, pensioners, and the unwaged, as well as specific supports for people with disabilities to adapt bikes to their use. The Bike to Work scheme rates should be improved to more realistic limits for E-bikes and  E-cargo bikes, which have the potential to support city/town deliveries, shopping in a greener and more efficient way, and enabling families to transport children.

● Provide support for more bike mechanic training programmes around the country, such as that operated by the Bike Engineering Academy in Pallas Green, Kilcormac, and Kilkenny, and by the Clonakilty Bike Circus. 

Review the VRT levels for all sizes, weights and types of vehicles, to promote  the use of greener and smaller models. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) should be specifically targeted for increased VRT. This reflects the increase in road danger for people walking and cycling from the driving of larger, heavier vehicles, which now command 50% of the private car market,  

  • Parking levies legislation to be introduced with a view to encouraging greater sustainable transport use, and curbing car use. For example, a workplace parking levy, as successfully introduced in Nottingham, UK.  
  • Provide increased support for cycle training and education initiatives around the country, through the local authorities / local sports partnerships with particular emphasis on those with lower cycling levels or greater access issues e.g. disadvantaged communities, people with disabilities, females, older adults and migrant communities.

    ● Introduce a scrappage / trade-in scheme similar to France where old cars can be scrapped in exchange for a grant provided for an E-bike / cargo bike purchase 

● The designation of adapted cycles (and all bicycles purchased by people with disabilities) as mobility aids for the purpose of VAT and other financial aid should also be implemented. 

● Provide and promote attractive Mileage / km allowances for cycling, to encourage greater use of commuting and working by bike, similar to what Belgium has done  

● Active Travel funds to be made available for local Authorities to purchase bikes, including E-bikes for elected officials, state and semi-state employees to use instead of cars for applicable journeys. 

● Provide the necessary funding to enable multi-modal trips by ensuring the Connecting Ireland programme includes the provision of covered secure bike parking at all transport hubs and at bus stops.   Continued greater provision of covered secure bike parking for all major transport hubs / interchanges, shopping and service centres, and in particular in schools and colleges. 

Zero rate VAT on bicycle repairs and businesses – to promote the circular economy, create jobs in the green economy, and make cycling more affordable for people of all incomes. Cf. https://ecf.com/news-and-events/press-releases/cycling-organisations-achieve-important-victory-eu-consumers-reduced

  • Provide funding specifically for inclusive engagement that enables local communities and other key stakeholders to co-design solutions, thereby helping to ensure any proposed infrastructure meets the needs of all potential users including women, young people, those with disabilities and people experiencing mobility poverty. 

We look forward to having the above recommendations considered favourably by the Department, and are happy to discuss any of the above in detail at any stage. 

Yours sincerely, 

Neasa Bheilbigh
Chairperson 
Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network
[email protected]  

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