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NTA Allocates Over €70m In New Funding To Rural Councils For Active Cycling And Walking Infrastructure

The Cyclist.ie Rural Collective, representing cycling advocacy and promotion groups in the regions, welcomes this government funding announcement for walking and cycling infrastructure to nineteen local authorities outside of the cities – as can be read here.  

The allocation of more than €70 m is a good start to a process of providing infrastructure which will enable people living in towns, villages and rural areas to choose an active travel mode for their journey.

The schemes being funded vary from one local authority to another but include a large number of footpath improvement schemes, cycleways, pedestrian / cycle bridges, cycle-parking, pedestrian crossings, and public lighting improvements. We find it interesting that most county allocations reference funding for four specific programmes: 

  • Safe Routes to School
  • Low-Cost Permeability Measures
  • Light Segregation Cycle Schemes and
  • Low Cost Junction Tightening / Pedestrian Crossing Schemes.

It looks therefore as if these measures were suggested by the NTA, who will be overseeing and supporting the entire active travel programme, and we look forward to a consistent approach from county to county.

A high point of the funding announcement is that several counties where Cyclist.ie’s Rural Collective is active have received funding for transport studies / urban mobility plans. These include Carlow, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Louth and Wexford. Much to the delight of Jo Sachs-Eldridge, one of the key members of the Cyclist.ie Rural Collective, her native Leitrim has opted to do a County Cycle Network Plan Study! In Kerry, both Tralee and Kilarney are going to get interconnected cycleway networks which again is most welcome. 

It would be churlish not to wholeheartedly welcome this funding. After all, the €72.8m which has been allocated is greater than the entire 2019 funding for the national walking and cycling programme. However, we in Cyclist.ie do have some concerns. These revolve around the standards which will apply to the proposed new cycling infrastructure. In the press release announcing the funding Minister Ryan, Minister of State Naughton and CEO of the National Transport Authority, Anne Graham all used the words “high-quality” to describe the new infrastructure. However, at this point we are unsure whether the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority share the Cyclist.ie definition of “high -quality”.

Current cycleway standards are to be found in the National Cycle Manual (NCM) and the Transport Infrastructure Rural Cycleway Design (RCD). The NCM is currently being updated and Cyclist.ie is awaiting news on what brief the consultants have been given. We very much hope that it will take account of Cyclist.ie’s A Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland  and Irish Cycle.com’s CyclingForAll.ie

The first three demands in the Rural Vision are for an environment where cyclists are expected and respected, the creation and mapping of useful connected cycle routes, and implementation of best practice design to ensure routes are safe and comfortable for all ages and abilities. CyclingForAll.ie provides numerous examples from the Netherlands of what this design would look like in practice.   

A very positive aspect of this rural funding announcement is that all counties will be supported by the National Transport Authority. Up to recently the NTA only had responsibility for walking and cycling infrastructure for the local authorities in the five main cities and in counties Kildare, Wicklow and Meath. The authority now has a countrywide remit and will be supporting all local authorities in rolling out Active Travel and the Safe Routes to School Programme. We are happy with this outcome, but to ensure adherence to standards it will be necessary for the NTA to act as an oversight body and to withhold funding for any scheme which is not compatible with the new guidance.

Cyclist.ie are seeking a meeting with the NTA to discuss, among other items, our desire to ensure the highest quality of planned schemes being built with this welcome and much needed funding.   

National Development Plan Renewal Submission

Cyclist.ie made a submission today, 19 Feb 2021, to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR) in regard to the “Review to Renew” consultation – that is, the process for the public to comment on the renewal of our National Development Plan.

In our short submission, we stressed the need for sustainable transport and active travel to become the central, and indeed dominant, parts of transport investment for the state over the coming years. 

We also highlighted the need for a complete review of the public spending code. In particular we want to see the Department of Transport’s 2015 plan Investing in our Transport Future – A Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport and the Common Appraisal Framework (CAF) updated substantially to embrace principles of sustainability and the health benefits conferred by active travel investments. 

You can read our submission to DEPR here

And you can the official documentation to which we responded at this dedicated DEPR webpage.   

A big thanks to our volunteers for pulling this together in between many other jobs! 



An Taisce New Year Two Wheels

Cyclist.ie is delighted that another advocacy group also decided that the beginning of a New Year was an opportune time to invite people to celebrate cycling, sustainability, and active travel.

No sooner had Cyclist.ie’s “Cycle into the New Year” invitation been posted on social media than An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland posted its own #NewYearTwoWheels challenge, which invited people to reconsider their travel choices during the month of January. 

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Furthermore, An Taisce asked viewers of its tweet if they would consider supporting its cycling advocacy work by donating as little as €5 to to its campaign to support the National Cycling Coordinator.    

The An Taisce January campaign complements Cyclist.ie’s “Cycle in the New Year” campaign perfectly. The latter asked people to cycle on New Year’s Day. An Taisce was more ambitious and is asking people to reconsider their mode of transport during the whole of the month of January. We think #NewYearTwoWheels is a brilliant hashtag and are happy to add it to our posts. 

Below, we show you a selection of the photos posted on Twitter during the first week of the #NewYearTwoWheels campaign. They feature journeys by bike in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Clare, Meath and Leitrim. There are just under twenty days left in January, so if your county does not feature – or even if it does – why not leave the car at home for a trip and see if you can get to your destination under your own steam!

Since many people who posted their photos were either still on Christmas holidays or are working from home, most of the featured trips were for leisure purposes but Kevin Jennings, Galway, posted photos showing the popularity of #ShopByBike in Galway, while over on Facebook Leitrim Cycling Festival showed off a very colourful selection of veg from the Farmer’s Market!  

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Also, in Galway, Justine Delaney admired some new bike parking.

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Meanwhile Better Ennis observed that on a bike you have time to notice what is over the wall – and they encountered these dancing ducks!

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Many people photographed stunning landscapes. The glorious weather we had last week must have been the answer to both a cyclist and a photographer’s prayer! Dave Anderson, Navan, for example took this beautiful photo of a peacefully meandering river Boyne from Ardmulchan Church.

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In Galway, Mother on a Rothar captured beautiful images of bicycles at Silverstrand, as did fellow Galwegian, Richard Silke. Both posters remarked on how wonderful it is that the road to this beach is now closed to motor traffic making it a haven for people walking and cycling.

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In Dublin, the Dodder proved to be a popular destination. Ciarán Ferrie, Siobhán McNamara and Sandra Velthuis all headed that way and Mairéad Forsythe was looking forward to the new Dodder bridge in Templeogue.

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In Cork Maulvirane’s photo taken near Carrigaline caught our eye!

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Many posters worked out loops which allowed them to cover a decent distance while remaining 5 km from home. Ross Boyd did his loop around Fingal on New Year’s Day and was pleased to discover that there were as many bikes as cars about!  

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In recent months, the newly formed Cyclist.ie Rural Collective has introduced the concept of “Rothar Roads” to discussions of cycling infrastructure. Our final photo shows Jo Sachs Eldridge, of Leitrim Cycling Festival, one of the prime movers behind the collective, on just such a road on New Year’s Day. 

So, there you have it, urban or rural, regional or rothar, greenway, blueway, shops or sea, your bike can take you there! Why not see if you can rise to An Taisce’s call by substituting a car trip for a bike trip during January? And don’t forget to add your #NewYearTwoWheels photo to the collection!

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You might also like to check out some of the lovely images posted to Cyclist.ie’s own ‘Cycle in the New Year’ article.

A VISION FOR CYCLING IN RURAL IRELAND – What the MEDIA Said

Over the summer members of Cyclist.ie, led by two women from Leitrim and West Cork, produced  A Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland. The Vision is grounded in the evidence-based advocacy work of Cyclist.ie thanks to the input and guidance of its core members and created through the collaborative efforts of people from across the country. The purpose and contents of the Vision have already been posted here but we thought it worth collating the fantastic coverage of the launch of the Vision. 

Cyclist.ie appreciates the extensive media coverage of the Vision by Local and Community Radio Stations and by the Regional Press.  This coverage has been invaluable in spreading the word about the positive impact well-designed cycle networks,cycling infrastructure and other cycling initiatives can have in our communities.

The Vision was officially launched during National Bikeweek by Minister of State Malcolm Noonan who hails from Kilkenny and The Kilkenny People featured it prominently. 

The West Cork People 

West Cork People  spoke to Allison Roberts, Clonakilty Bike Circus, Katie Mann, CycleSense, Skibbereen and Lucia Finnegan, Bike Friendly Bandon, about their fun cycle events celebrating the Vision, and gave it major prominence. The Southern Star also covered the launch and included a superb photo.  

Two local papers in Kerry, Kerry’s Eye and  TraleeToday.ie covered the Vision.   quoting Anluan Dunne of Kerry Cycling Campaign, and Mayor of Kerry, Councillor Patrick O’ Connor-Scarteen who welcomed it warmly.  

 Further north, The Leitrim Observer  headlined its article, Leitrim Woman Leads National Vision for Cycling referring to Jo Sachs-Eldridge, rural dweller, bicycle user, transport planner and lead Rural Vision author!  The Sligo Weekender also covered the vision launch and aim

 Local radio stations too featured  spokespersons for the Cyclist.ie Rural Cycling Collective and gave them the opportunity to explain to listeners its background, aims and objectives.  Amongst these were Connemara Community Radio, Highland Radio Donegal, Radio Kerry, KCLR which covers Kilkenny and Carlow, Midwest Radio Mayo, Shannonside, Leitrim and Roscommon Tipp Fm and Tipperary Mid West Radio.  We found local radio to be a highly effective means of communicating with our target audience.  Many of the interviews lasted between ten and fifteen minutes so there was time to tease out ideas and expand on points without interruption, and interviewers appeared to be genuinely interested in what the Vision could mean for our communities.     

On Friday last, December 4th The Department of Transport announced that a sum of €50 Million Euro was being made available to Local Authorities to provide walking and cycling infrastructure for towns and villages outside of the Greater Dublin Area..  The Rural Collective welcomes this announcement, particularly the positive language of the Press Release from Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan. “Local authority applicants should identify convenient and direct routes for active travel modes, including, and where necessary, aim to reallocate space from motor traffic and car parking. Funded projects should be accessible, age-friendly and maximise comfort to people of all ages and abilities.”  This language augurs well for the future of cycling outside of the big urban conurbations as well as within them. 

Media exposure and the sending of copies of the Vision to Local Authority Chief Executives and Directors of Services for Transport  have helped to spread the Rural Vision message.  Already we have had positive feedback and queries from senior personnel in a number of Local Authorities.  Members of Cyclist.ie are happy to work collaboratively with our local authorities to realise the key points of the Rural Vision.  It is heartening that already some L/A’s have been in touch with member organisations. We look forward to seeing what these conversations will lead to as the unstoppable tidal wave continues to rise across rural Ireland.     

Carndonagh needs A CYcleWAY

PRESS RELEASE

Carndonagh needs cycling infrastructure in the post-Covid environment
A newly-formed cycling and walking group, based in Carndonagh, aims to encourage Donegal County Council to construct 10kms of cycling infrastructure to connect schools, sporting amenities and businesses in the town. Carndonagh Cycleway has now requested a meeting with the Members of the Inishowen Municipal District to put forward their vision for a comprehensive cycling network that they believe will revolutionise the town – and for the good.

‘Carndonagh is not a safe town for cycling at present’, Odel Ward said. She continued: ‘while there are a lot of road cyclists passing through en route to or from Malin Head, how many people do you see cycling to work, to school or to access our excellent local sports clubs?
Unfortunately the answer is ‘very few’, because there’s simply no safe, segregated cycling lanes. We are being encouraged to walk and cycle to school but it is currently dangerous with the high volume of motorised traffic in the town centre’. Research shows 30% of all trips in the car cover distances of less than 3km and 50% are for less than 5km. Many of these car journeys could be substituted with cycling. It is an efficient, sustainable way of getting around while reducing pressure on families daily taxi service, improving public health, lifting spirits and lowering CO2 emissions. From the research we have carried out so far there is huge demand for safe cycle routes to link the community but safety concerns are stopping the government’s health initiatives and policies from being implemented locally. Families are simply not comfortable using the local roads to travel by bike and end up driving everywhere under pressure.

‘One only has to look at what’s happening in other parts of Ireland, notably in Dun Laoghaire, to see the change that can occur given the political willpower and financial backing of the Department for Transport, Tourism and Sport.’ It’s not just for Dublin, cycling is a pleasant way of getting around on a daily basis and with the right infrastructure and appropriate clothing workers, shoppers, tourists and leisure users can all enjoy the benefit of the bike.

While the current regeneration project for the town centre is to be greatly welcomed, we can also further enhance access in and to the town. Members of our group have audited the current road network in and around the town and we feel it is feasible to install segregated cycling lanes that will enable children and adults to safely move to school, to work, to our local sports facilities and for recreation. The campaign comes on the back of a renaissance for cycling in Ireland, with bike shops currently sold out of stock and the percentage of those cycling having increased dramatically since March 2020, highlighting the massive unmet demand for cycling. Odel concluded: ‘we need to use the outdoor space properly so that people can enjoy freedom, good health and a lifted mood while also reducing air and noise pollution. We want to improve our quality of life while spending more time in an attractive and sustainable town centre.’

We are looking for the whole community to get behind this small working group as it will take a collective effort to make this vision become a reality. We will circulate a petition to
bring a cycleway to Carndonagh in the coming days and will be working on developing plans to present to the council. Anyone interested in being involved in the campaign can email [email protected] or check out their Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/carndonaghcycleway

Pre-Budget 2021 submission

Cyclist.ie delivered our Pre-Budget 2021 Submission to the Department of Finance earlier today. You can read it immediately below. A PDF version can also be found here. A big thanks to our hard-working Executive Committee and wider team for preparing the submission.

Make the Programme for Government a Reality!
Ensure 10% of Transport Capital Funding is Allocated to Creating High Quality Conditions for Cycling Countrywide

1 – Introduction 

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, is the umbrella body of cycling advocacy groups in Ireland (http://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 new Programme for Government (PfG), cycling as a mode of transport offers numerous well documented benefits to society, including:

  • improved public health (especially important in this Covid period)
  • reduced congestion 
  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions     
  • reduced air and noise pollution 
  • increased mobility (again, especially important in this Covid period when numbers that can safely use public transport are greatly reduced)
  • more liveable and sociable streets and communities
  • high rates of economic return on investment 

Unlocking these benefits requires targeted and sustained investment, and international evidence demonstrates that investing in cycling provides excellent value for money. 

Cyclist.ie needs to see the promises made in the Programme for Government (PfG) become reality, with clear timelines instituted so as to ensure that the various commitments made are followed through. 

We outline our budget recommendations below under the following four headings

  • Taxation and Fiscal Policy directions to create modal-shift
  • Institutional Changes (with a Budgetary Dimension)
  • Interventions to ensure all cycling infrastructure, both urban and rural, meets the highest standards 
  • Legislative Changes and Promotion of Cycling

Cycling delivers multiple benefits to society and it is essential that good habits are developed at the school-going age. Photo by Anna Groniecka at the ‘Back to School on Your Own Fuel’ campaign

2 – Taxation and Fiscal Policy directions to create modal-shift

  • 10% of the transport capital expenditure annual budget on cycling projects / €360M per annum – as per the PfG. This is essential, and once achieved it must be maintained year-on-year. Allocations for cycling development to be accounted for separately from other sustainable transport measures.
  • Increasing duty on diesel over four years to match petrol so as to improve air quality. Duty levels on fuels to be reviewed year on year.
  • Road-pricing policies in major cities to be researched immediately, with a view to implementation by 2022.
  • Parking levies legislation to be introduced with a view to encouraging greater sustainable transport use, and curbing car use. 
  • All Fixed Charge Penalty Offence (FCPO) fines, impacting on Vulnerable Road User Safety, to be markedly increased, to support more efficient use of road space.  
  • Subsidies for e-bikes to be increased, similar to e-cars. SEAI grants for e-bikes especially e-cargo bikes, need to be part of the Grants Package. 
  • VAT reduction on bikes and bike repairs, to encourage greater sales and usage. 
  • Mileage / km allowances for cycling, to encourage greater use of commuting by bike, similar to Belgium 
  • Fleets of bikes for state and semi-state employees to use instead of cars for some work journeys
  • Provision of covered secure bike parking for all major transport hubs / interchanges, shopping and service centres, and in particular in schools and colleges.
  • Transport Stimulus Fund for ‘quick wins’ for each local authority, every year, to drive modal shift. I.e. schemes which can be advanced quickly without the need for planning approval. 
  • Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, NTA, RSA and TII officials to do study tours to NL, DK and UK (for example) and systematically disseminate the knowledge gained widely within the Irish public / civil service. 
  • Provide support for bike mechanic training programmes.
  • Expansion of bike to work scheme (recent changes welcome) to be more inclusive with focus on low earners, students, and unwaged. 
  • Funds to enable the retrofitting of train carriages for increased carriage of bicycles, and the future purchase of appropriate carriages to meet EU bike carrying capacity requirements. 

3 – Institutional Changes (with a Budgetary Dimension)

National Level Departments / Agencies

  • Create and resource appropriately within the Department of Transport, a National Cycling Coordination Office headed at senior level. This would be primarily focused on ensuring coordination on policy, standards, and expenditure across government departments. 
  • Establish a major new National Cycling Authority, possibly within the existing NTA, to manage  Local / Regional cycle design offices, as sub-units of the NTA – so that there is proper oversight on the planning and the quality of all cycling schemes in ALL local authorities 
  • Address the need for the standardisation of planning processes, consultations, and transparency across all local authorities. All planning proposals should be searchable and viewable online, and the processes open and transparent. Parity of esteem and parity of information is required between active travel and road schemes. 

Local Authorities

  • Require every Local Authority to commission and oversee the implementation of a high quality cycling policy and strategy. This would encompass the three main strands of
    (i) ‘policy planning (structure for continuous dialogue with users, target setting, resources, training, adopted policy doc),
    (ii) ‘actions’ (infrastructure, including the development of ambitious strategic cycle network plans, promotion / soft measures, staffing resources)
    (iii) monitoring / evaluation of policy and . 
  • Require the appointment of Cycling Officers at Director of Services level in all Local Authorities, with a remit: 
    • To produce and oversee the implementation of the above high quality cycling policy
    • To set targets and effect modal change at local level
    • To ensure adequate staffing resources for active travel development in line with PfG, and to oversee any required re-allocation of staff internally.
    • To set up a Local Authority Active Travel Forum (this could be sub-committee of the Transport Strategic Policy Committee) where stakeholder views are adequately represented.
  •  Develop a clear policy for Cycling in Rural Ireland. See: https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/. Cycling needs to be a countrywide issue, not just an issue for major urban centres. The opportunities are there and these can also support local economic and social development. 

Ensure updated and realistic comparative assessment of all projects by reviewing the Government’s Common Appraisal Framework(CAF), and Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport(SFILT), etc

  • Update the Common Appraisal Framework (CAF) so that investments in schemes which promote healthier and low carbon travel are properly recognised for their broad societal benefits. The WHO ‘HEAT’ tool needs to be fully embedded into the CAF.  
  • Review the Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport (SFILT)  to reflect the declaration of a health emergency by the WHO, and the declaration of a climate emergency by the Dáil, necessitating the decarbonisation of the transport system. 

4 – Interventions to Improve the Quality of Cycling Infrastructure

The commitment in the PfG to fund cycling is quite explicit. The focus now needs to be on how to deliver high quality routes which will enable people of all ages and abilities (the “8 to 80 cohort”) to make the choice to switch to active travel.

  • Prioritise as a matter of urgency a review of design standards
    • to ensure design and construction of safe high quality routes in line with best international practice
    • to ensure design consistency across agencies, institutions, and local authorities
  • The main standards / guidelines for review are:
    • National Cycle Manual
    • Rural Cycleway Standards
    • Design Manual for Urban Roads & Streets (DMURS)

These should all dovetail with each other

  • Establish Local / Regional Cycle Design Offices – sub-units of the NTA – so that there is proper oversight of the quality of all cycling schemes in all local authorities (as opposed to just some schemes in some LA areas as is the current situation). Consultancy staff will need to be deployed as appropriate. This will ensure available expertise for local authorities for quick delivery of high quality projects
  • Set up accelerated training programs for local authority staff in sustainable mobility design and implementation. 
  • Every Local Authority to develop ambitious strategic cycle network plans for their towns and at a county level. 
  • Covid cycling schemes. Ensure that the NTA systematically monitors the quality and use of all ‘quick-to-construct’ schemes with a view to feeding this knowledge into design standards and further plans by Local Authorities. 
  • Currently cycling schemes are designed by a range of bodies – the NTA, TII, by local authorities or by consultants working for any of the above, hence the need for improved coordination and consistency of design.
    Funding should not be provided for low quality schemes that do not meet the required design standards.

5 – Legislative Changes and Promotion of Cycling

  • Resource and expedite Legislative Changes to prioritise active travel measures within an agreed time-frame. This is critical to support the growth of active travel.   
  • Introduce legislation so that 30km/h becomes the default speed limit in all built-up areas, and Councils can then introduce exceptions to these limits where it is deemed safe and appropriate. 
  • Cycle promotion, especially among marginalised groups. The same sophistication used in car advertising and marketing needs to be applied to sell active travel. 
    • This video example from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) is an example of what is possible

Screen shot from DLRCC’s video on the new Coastal Mobility Route (link above)

  • Cycle Training, via the Cycle Right program, needs to be expanded further, with adequate funding to ensure that local authorities can offer cycle training for all levels and ages including on-street training. 
  • Provide funding support for Active Travel advocacy so that the wider societal benefits of investing in cycling are understood – and that community support can be nurtured for high quality schemes etc.  
  • Include Cyclist.ie as a stakeholder under Section 82 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. 
  • Support the creation for Ireland of a tool equivalent to the Propensity to Cycle Tool (https://www.pct.bike/) as developed by Rachel Aldred for England & Wales. This would use Census data and would assist local communities in developing higher levels of cycling. 

Colm Ryder,
Chairperson,
Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network
The Tailors’ Hall,
Back Lane,
Dublin, D08 X2A3.