Cyclist.ie delivered its Pre-Budget 2024 Submission to the Department of Finance (Minister Michael McGrath) and the Department of Education (Minister Norma Foley) earlier today, 28 August 2023.
You can read it in full as a PDF here or in the body text further below.
A big thanks to our hard-working Executive Committee and wider team for preparing the submission. This behind-the-scenes 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
Increase Level of Transport Capital Funding 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 as well as being “the most important tool in combating Climate Change” (European Commission Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans, September 2021). Three years on from the publication of the PfG, unlocking these benefits has assumed even more urgency.
We know from data that private cars are used for nearly 30% of journeys as short as 2km or less. We urgently need to enable and encourage travel by bike and on foot for shorter journeys by funding the required infrastructure to an even greater degree than at present. We also need to enable multi-modal bike trips by funding both bike share schemes, and adequate and safe bike parking at bus, tram and train stations/stops in both urban and rural areas.
Enabling cycling – whether stand-alone or as part of intermodal trips – is the fastest and most cost effective means of meeting the targets set for transport in the Climate Action Plan 2023, and 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 far better return on investment than other transport spend.
2 – Summary Asks
In short, we seek the following:
- Infrastructure – Urgent need to further increase funding for high quality Active Travel scheme. Increase to €1B over the final two years of the current government term.
- Policing – We are seeking a commitment that a 50% minimum of new Garda recruits are deployed to roads and community policing. This is in the context of the rising numbers of road traffic casualties over the last two years.
- Bike to Work Scheme reconstituted. Move away from the PAYE to a system that will allow children, retirees, unwaged people, carers, people on disability allowances to avail of an equivalent system, and hence enable more bike use.
- Business focused Cargo Bike Schemes for the city centres of the five Irish cities.
- VRT. Review VRT levels for all sizes, weights and types of vehicles, to promote the use of greener and smaller vehicle models. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) should be specifically targeted for increased VRT. This reflects the increase in road danger they create for people walking and cycling arising from the driving of larger, heavier vehicles. These vehicles now command 50% of the private car market.
- VAT. 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 .
- Safe Routes to School Funding increased with the outcome of the removal of all school motor traffic from all urban and suburban schools by September 2024.
- Bike Parking and Bike Scheme Investment – Large indoor and supervised bike parks at all major city bus and train stations. Covered outdoor bike parking at medium sized transport hubs.
- Education & Training – Funding to establish cycle training as part of the primary school curriculum
Further detail on the above items is provided on pages 3-5 below.
3 – Further Details
Walking and Cycling Infrastructure
While Cyclist.ie welcomes the serious and continued investment into active travel that this government has brought forward, it has become clear that our 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation goals in transport are rapidly slipping out of reach. In the recent EPA provisional report on our emissions targets, they noted that transport was a key problem area that saw emissions increase by 6% despite the significant increase in electric motor vehicles .
Our current spend as per the Programme for Government is €360m per year. However, rising inflation levels has led to increases in the delivery costs of infrastructure projects, and this has has been earmarked by the NTA as a barrier to achieving the delivery of the full complement of projects . This is placing an increase of approx 30% cost onto delivering active travel and other infrastructure projects. From our engagement with local authorities, active travel teams and the NTA, there is a clear demand and willingness to do more but limited funding does not allow this. Quite simply €360m in 2023 does not deliver the equivalent in terms of infrastructure that it did in the first year of the Programme for Government.
In short, high quality infrastructure is what enables modal shift. Investment in this area will deliver huge value for money in meeting our climate targets. We are calling for an emergency measure raising this annual funding to €500m per year over the remaining two years of this government. The allocation of €1B of Active Travel infrastructure funding between now and 2025 to meet what is required in our climate responsibilities would send a clear sign that the government is taking this aspect of the climate emergency and the need to decarbonise transport seriously.
2023 has been one of the worst years in recent memory for deaths and injuries of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. While we welcome the increase of 1,000 new garda graduates, we ask that their deployment is focused on Roads and Community Policing.
We also ask that there is a funding stream made available via the Department of Justice to An Garda Síochána to develop a robust advertising and education programme around driver responsibility in regards to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. As part of this there should be an upskilling of all existing Garda through a CPD course outlining the dangers vulnerable road users face and the tools AGS members have to enforce dangerous driving, overtaking and parking.
Bike To Work Scheme and Bike Libraries
While the Bike to Work Scheme was a success for its time it’s clear that the urgent need to decarbonise our transport system means we need to have a root and branch rethink of the current model. The current system, based on PAYE, is exclusionary and rewards the wealthiest with the biggest cost reduction. The system needs to have equitable access and social inclusion as its core guiding principle allowing children, retirees, those with limited mobility, carers, unwaged people and others to achieve bike ownership.
We are calling for a decoupling of the Bike to Work scheme from PAYE tax and for a wider and more equitable roll-out allowing people from all walks of life to have affordable and easy bike ownership.
Additionally, we ask that funding is made available through the Department of Education and Skills to all primary and secondary schools to facilitate the establishment of Bike Libraries. These comprise a fleet of cargo, electric or folding bikes that are operated by schools and parents’ associations where parents can borrow them over the school term to trial what bike would allow them to make the switch from the car . To date the Dept of Education and Skills has been a laggard in terms of climate action with many of their current policies around school building projects incentivising car use and suppressing modal shift to active modes. We would request that they make funding available to all schools at both primary and secondary level to enable projects like this to take place.
Business Focused Cargo Bike Schemes
Cyclist.ie requests that the Dept of Communications, Climate Action & Environment engages with Chambers Ireland to develop a series of pilot programmes across the country to roll out cargo and e-bikes for last mile urban city centre delivery.
VAT and VRT changes
Cyclist.ie calls for the review of taxation and fiscal policy to help further modal shift by:
- Reviewing the VRT levels for all sizes, weights and types of vehicles, to promote the use of greener and smaller vehicle models. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) should be specifically targeted for increased VRT. This reflects the increase in road danger created for people walking and cycling from the driving of larger, heavier vehicles, which now command 50% of the private car market.
● 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.
Safe Routes to School
Unnecessary school trips by car are a key journey type that need to be reduced significantly if we are to address our transport emissions. The Safe Routes to School programme and its associated schemes have been an excellent method to make active modes a safer and more accessible choice for parents and students. With the recent rise in deaths of children cycling and walking it is even more pressing that the immediate vicinity and the grounds of their schools are free from unnecessary car traffic. We would ask for a significant increase in funding and staffing levels to allow these programmes to move forward with a goal of the removal of car traffic from the internal roads and front of school streets of all urban and suburban schools by September 2024.
Bike Parking and Bike Scheme Investment
We know from data that private cars are used for nearly 30% of journeys as short as 2km or less. This is 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 to an even greater degree than at present.
We also need to enable multi-modal bike trips by funding both bike share schemes and adequate and safe bike parking at bus and train stations and bike parking at bus stops in both urban and rural areas. In urban areas more cycling trips are an obvious answer to traffic congestion and in rural areas the welcome expansion of Local Link services can be further leveraged by the provision of bike parking at bus stops.
Education & Training
As we move to more active modes of transport, we need to ensure that all our children have the skills to cycle with confidence around urban and rural settings. It’s vital that we develop cycling as an integral part of the school physical education curriculum. This approach is taken in countries such as the Netherlands, where we see the majority of school children cycling to school.
The Cycle Right training has been a huge success in empowering and enabling children to cycle safely, but we need to see proper investment to ensure every child leaves primary school with an adequate level of cycle training.
This important life skill will not only build the child’s sense of confidence and independence while maintaining a healthy active lifestyle, but will develop their empathy and awareness of other road users if they go on to become drivers.
4 – Conclusion / Summary
Unlocking the multiple benefits that cycling offers the economy, society and the environment requires continued targeted and sustained investment. Government and Local Authorities must continue to be steadfast in ensuring that these value for money and wide social benefits are availed of.
We look forward to having the above recommendations considered favourably by the Department.
Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network