NTA Makes Dog’s Dinner of Cycle Quality

The NTA have made a dog’s dinner of cycle facility quality. Yes they are concerned about quality and yes they refer to it in the National Cycle Manual but does anyone outside the NTA really understand it?

When people are booking a hotel, they have an understanding of the ‘Star’ system of ranking. They may not understand the difference between a 2 star and 3 star hotel but they understand that a 3 star hotel is more luxurious or offers better facilities than a 2 star one and would expect to pay more for it (all other things being equal).

So what is the story with the quality of cycle facilities? There are five levels of service – A+, A, B, C and D. Any cycle facility which does not fall into the first four is level D. Width is one of five determinants of quality the other being number of conflicts, percentage of HGVs on the route, pavement condition and journey time delay. (There has been some modification to pavement condition as a result of the development of the Greater Dublin Cycle Network but the amendments have not been incorporated into the written or digital Manual.) Width is by far the most important determinant, so what does the Manual say about width and level of service? The Manual assesses width in terms of the number of adjacent cyclists as shown below.

So is the width of Level C the same as Level D? And is the width of Level A the same as Level B? What is the width of a Level A facility? In Section 1.5.2, there are references to widths of five cycling regimes but the Manual does not state if the cycling regimes correspond to the Level of Service, and furthermore the exact meaning of different regimes is unclear and open to interpretation. For example what does basic two way mean?

Section 1.5.1 of the Manual on Determining Width includes the following
The designed width of a cycle facility is comprised of the effective width, i.e. the
space that is “usable” by cyclists, as well as the clearances that will be required in
different circumstances.

Effective width as opposed to designed or constructed width is a very important concept as it takes conditions on either side into account. This is important as local authorities often provide a 2m wide cycle track with kerbs adjacent to the footpath on one side and adjacent to a traffic lane on the other, which only has an effective width of 1m.

To make matters worse, the Manual defines the minimum width of a shared footway as 3m, but whether this is effective width or designed/constructed width is not clarified and it does not define whether this is one way cycling shared with two way pedestrians or two way cycling shared with two way pedestrians. The MAnual does not take the level of use into account. As 3m is the minimum standard in accordance with the National Cycling Manual, it is assumed that the level of service for cycling is the fifth and lowest category ie D. Then, just when you think that the NTA couldn’t complicate things further, they succeed.

In 2015, they published a Permeability Best Practice Guide which also has five levels of service but in this case they are A,B,C, D and E. Section 3 of the Guide defines widths for the different Quality of Service (see below) but doesn’t define whether these are effective or constructed widths.

Permeability Quality of Service

The Best Practice Guide states that local authorities in urban areas should aim to provide a Level A quality of service for any pedestrian or cycle links between residential areas and destinations such as schools and shops. Not unreasonably, the document goes on to point out that Level A will often be unachievable due to constraints but at least sets out a high target.

So where does that leave the common situation that arises where one section of a route has segregated cycle facilities and the next section has a 3m wide shared footway? Using the permeability criteria, the shared section is ranked category B and C (second and third) but using the National Cycle Manual criteria, it is D (fifth). What would you think of an organisation which ranks a hotel as one star, three star and four star at the same time? The idea of a star ranking is good. It gives cycle campaigners, politicians and the general public a crude but convenient assessment of quality. However, the time to properly define its use is long overdue.


Budget 2018 – Share Ross’s Three Card Trick

Last year, the government allocated approximately €12 million to cycling which was made up of some €10.4 million from the budget and a supplement during the year of a further €1.6 million for greenways. Cycling groups including Cyclist.ie support the allocation of 10% of transport expenditure to cycling or, at the very least, a roadmap to ramp up investment in cycling to that level. We will judge the budget on this basis rather than on the totality of the allocation per se.

Budget 2018 has now been published and the government has approved additional current and capital expenditure by the DTT&S. The multi annual expenditure ceilings for the department are reproduced below from the Part III Estimates for Public Services 2018:

2018 Budget Table

The Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport uses the term ‘Land Transport’ to describe two main areas – Roads and Public Transport whereas Public Transport is an umbrella term which is used to encompass expenditure on buses, rail, walking and cycling. Thus the Budget 2018 allocation for cycling should be €165 million.

What was allocated to cycling? Well who knows? In the manner beloved of the DTT&S, they lump cycling and walking together and have promised €110 Million over four years. This works out at €27.5 Million per year on average. So how much will the Minister give to cycling? Well he could give €27 Million to cycling and €0.5 Million to walking. Then again, he could €0.5 Million to cycling and €27 Million to walking. Or he could nothing in the first three year and backload cycling in year 4. Like any three card trick, the viewer has to try to guess where the Queen (ie money) is.

Cycling does get some further mention of minor funding but it is the headline figure of €110 million which stands out. In contrast, Sweden with a modal share for cycling of 9% (2009) and with twice the population of Ireland has just announced an allocation of €35 million JUST for the promotion of E-Bikes.

The Minister did agree to provide €30 Million for greenways. It should be pointed out that this was under the heading of tourism rather than transport. While this involves more people cycling, it will do little to increase the 3% of people who currently cycle and is rightly categorised under recreation rather than transport as it does not address the problems of congestion, community health, sustainability and climate change which every day cycling does.

The Minister protests that he is unable to quantify how much his Department spends on cycling and his latest pronouncement in the Dáil is that he doesn’t understand modal change. It is hoped that he is a fast learner because in January when budget details have been confirmed to TII, NTA, local authorities and such like, Cyclist.ie proposes to find out through parliamentary questions just how paltry the allocation for cycling is and will forward the news to him.

On one level, it is astonishing that a mode of transport of transport which can carry over 25% of the population is so overlooked. At another level, however, it is hardly unsurprising as it is totally in keeping with the view set out in the totally autocentric document Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport. There may be individuals in the Department with an alternative vision for the future but they only produce nice sounding policy documents. The decisions on finance remain firmly in the hands of those who favour road building.


Summertime (Written during July)

It is summer. The schools and university are closed. The days are long and the weather is good (so far). We hope that people will have the opportunity to get out on bikes and enjoy the fresh air and the countryside.

Maynooth Newsletter Editorial

The editorial in last month’s Newsletter contained a number of statements on cycling with which we take issue.

Firstly, an accident is an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause. A driver turning into a side street and hitting a cyclist is not an accident. The event is not by chance and has a deliberate cause although not caused deliberately. It is a collision which results from not driving with due care and attention. The media often reports such events as accidents and even worse some journalists describe they as cyclists colliding with cars which suggests that the cyclist is at fault. Several reports in different countries confirm that in collisions between a  vehicle and a cyclist, drivers are responsible for about 60% of collisions, cyclists for about 20% and in 20% of cases investigators are unable to decided which party is at fault.

In relation to pinch points, the editorial states that  ‘…these points will be more dangerous for the cyclist’. It is not clear what ‘more dangerous’ refers to.  There will always be pinch points in a network but good design should ensure that the vulnerable mode of travel ie pedestrians and cyclists are prioritised over car travel. This is in accordance with the Hierarchy of Road Users which most civilised countries follow. The problem in Ireland is that lip service is paid to the hierarchy and instead car travel is prioritised. It is hoped that the child in question will recover soon and will not be put off cycling. It was fortunate that he/she fell on the footpath side. If it had happened on the road side, the consequences could have been much more severe. Of course,  Straffan Road could have had a verge or other separation on the road side to segregate cyclists from motorised vehicles as is best international practice but Kildare County Council officials and councillors instead chose to prioritise motorised vehicles and retain  right turning lanes.

Based on the provision of cycle facilities in north Kildare, I fear that your trust that the North/South will be completed to a high standard is misplaced. None of the other  proposals in north Kildare are to a high or even moderately high standard internationally and in fact several are substandard. There are good reasons why the European Cycling Federation ranks Ireland at 21st out of 28 in European countries in terms of being cycle friendly – just above Latvia, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal and Romania.

In relation to the desire for traffic controls on cycle routes ie traffic lights, I would point out that best international practice is to minimise delay for cyclists so good design provides for cyclists to bypass traffic lights, where feasible. Cyclists do not have to be reminded of safety. With eleven cyclists killed on Irish roads in 2017 to date including one young woman just a few kilometres outside Maynooth, we are acutely aware of safety every time we get on a bicycle. Rather than blaming the victim, I think your editorial should address drivers who after all are the ones who pose the threat.

Census  2016

The CSO recently published the initial transportation results from Census 2016. The spin put on the report was that there was a 42% increase in commuting to work by bicycle. The reality was rather more modest. Taking work and education trips together, the increase amounted 4.15% per annum which might appear reasonable but for a country  like  Ireland with an existing low level of cycling 4.15% is poor. The Census figures also indicated that the number of Irish children being driven to primary school  continues to increase. The table below compares how Irish and Dutch children travel to primary school.

Means of Travel
Country Foot Bike Car
Ireland (2016) 24.6% 1.4% 62.8%
Netherlands (2012) 30% 37% 30%


Although there are footpaths to virtually all Irish primary schools in urban areas, the percentage of children who walk to school is 25% higher in the Netherlands. Dutch politicians are concerned that 30% of their children are driven to primary school and address the concerns by high levels of investment in cycling and walking. In contrast, Irish government and local government allocates a pittance to cycling and  political parties and individual politicians are paralysed with fear of antagonising the motor lobby. So despite policies and strategies on health, transport and climate change, car dependency continues to increase.

Countdown Clock

As we are fast approaching the government target date of 2020 for the achievement of 10% commuting trips and also 10% of total trips by bike, Maynooth Cycling Campaign decided to add a Countdown Clock to its website to mark the occasion. When we investigated how to do this, we found that there was a computer app (application) available. However, a problem arose, when we tried to set the countdown clock to the estimated date which was calculated on the basis of increase in cycling over the last five years. The programme would only allow a countdown date of up to twenty years ie 2037. It would not allow a date far enough in the future. We managed to get around this however and our Countdown Clock shows that the 2020 target will not be achieved  for another 30 years so don’t hold your breath!

Countdown Clock to 10% Cycling

As we are fast approaching the government target date of 2020 for the achievement of 10% commuting trips and also 10% of total trips by bike, Maynooth Cycling Campaign decided to add a Countdown Clock to its website to mark the occasion. When we investigated how to do this, we found that there was a computer app (application) available. Based on the this assumption that progress will continue at the rate of the past five years, we estimate that the government target will be achieved in 2048. However, a problem arose, when we tried to set the countdown clock to 2048. The programme would only allow a countdown date of up to twenty years ie 2037. It would not allow a countdown far enough in the future. We managed to get around this however and our Countdown Clock shows that the 2020 target will not be achieved  for another 30 years. Don’t hold your breath!

In Response to an Article in the Leinster Leader by Paul O’Meara

It is not about bikes and parking. The issues are congestion, inactivity in the community, obesity , air and noise pollution and sustainability. This is not to mention the road fatalities and serious accidents in Kildare and 1200 premature deaths nationally according to the EPA. Bicycles and cycle facilities are just tools which will address (not solve) all these problems whereas more cars will just worsen them. Smart cities and towns realise that cars need a disproportionate amount of space for moving and parking and are investing in space efficient modes of transport ie in walking and cycling. Believe it or not, people actually cycle in the snow and rain and some people with disabilities use bicycles as a mobility aid. In relation to current usage of cycle lanes, if roads were low quality, disappear without warning and only cover about 1% of the journeys people want to make, car travel would be at the same level as cycling currently is.

Maynooth Cycling Campaign Notes – July 2017

Bikeweek 2017

After 6 years of organising Bikeweek events, Maynooth Cycling Campaign was not invited to participate in Bikeweek 2017 and consequently received no funding for advertising events.  (For the first time too, schools in Maynooth and Celbridge received no funding either.) Nevertheless, we decided to go ahead with our two events as scheduled. For the Heritage Tour, we travelled to Leixlip for a trail developed by Leixlip Tidy Towns. The second event was a cycle along the Royal Canal exploring the biodiversity of the canal and towpath. Due to lack of advertising, attendances were significantly down on previous years.

 14 Year Old Cyclist Seriously Injured near Monasterevin

There was more bad news for cycling with the collision of a 14 year old boy and a jeep outside Monasterevin. Maynooth Cycling Campaign is appalled at several reports in the media including Kildare Now which described the incident as the cyclist being knocked from his bike when he collided with a jeep on the road. We have no information on who or what was at fault but the report in Kildare Now implied that the cyclist was at fault and follows a familiar pattern where vulnerable road users – be they cyclists or pedestrians – are scapegoated for ‘accidents’ with motorised vehicles. Other reports even included the fact that the driver of the jeep was unhurt, which – considering that the incident involved a jeep and a child – was hardly news!

 Census 2016 and Commuting

The results of Census 2016 on commuting patterns were published recently and revealed a 4.5% annual increase in cycling between 2011 and 2016. This was a lot more modest that the spin of 42% increase between 2011 and 2016 which appeared in some media reports and contrasts with figures released by the UK government which showed a 70% increase in six months in usage of the high quality  London Superhighways.

The 4.5% increase reflects not only the failure of the political establishment to provide for cycling in terms of quality of infrastructure but also low funding. To impact on cycling levels, funding must be at a minimum level of €10 per person per year whereas theactual level of funding is closer to €1.50 per person. A succession of questions in the Dáil by TDs, in particular by Catherine Murphy, has attempted to uncover the level of funding but the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has continually refused to answer the questions and instead has fobbed off deputies with a confusing stream of irrelevant figures.

Velo-City Conference 2017

Some good news at last! The Velo-City Conference 2017 recently took place in Arnhem-Nejmegen in the Netherlands and brought together 1500 delegates from over 80 countries to discuss all matters related to the everyday cycling. Topics included health, happiness, medical research, infrastructure, tourism and Bikonomics. The theme of the conference was the Freedom of Cycling and referred in particular to the freedom of mobility by children in the Netherlands. This is in stark contrast to the situation in Ireland where children are denied the option of cycling due to lack of high quality infrastructure with the result that the majority are chauffeured to school, to sports and to after school activities which impacts on their health and results in traffic congestion. In 2019, Velo-City will be in Dublin.

Kildare Cycle Forum

The Kildare Cycle Forum (perhaps it should be called the Non-Cycling Forum) held it second meeting again without any representatives from cycling advocacy groups. The meetings are in secret so it is not known if the Forum discusses one big secret or a number of little secrets.

Maynooth Cycling Campaign is a non-party political cycling advocacy group. Further information on meetings and activities is available on our website.

We are affiliated to Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cyclist Advocacy Network and through it to the European Cycling Federation.


Maynooth Cycling Campaign Notes – June 2017  

Bikeweek 2017

            Sunday 11th June   Leixlip Heritage Trail

            Saturday 17th June            Family BioCycle along the Royal Canal

            Both events will start at 2:30pm from Courthouse Square Maynooth

This year the two key events are the Heritage Cycle on Sunday 11th June which leaves from Courthouse Square at 2:30pm for the Leixlip Heritage Trail. This is a different trail from Arthur’s Way and after cycling to Leixlip, will consist of a walk around Leixlip town centre and the Rye Valley. The second key event is a Family BioCycle along the Royal Canal on Saturday 17th June with local ecologist Karen Moore. Karen will be identifying points of interest along the canal east of Maynooth so come along and will find out what it is about canals that makes them so important to our natural landscape.

Straffan Road Cycle Tracks

On Friday 5th May, a group of some 12-15 boys and girls was observed cycling on the Straffan Road. They were of primary school age and were accompanied by what appeared to be a member of the Garda Siochana and some other adults who were probably parents or teachers.  They obviously share the concerns of Maynooth Cycling Campaign about the quality of cycle facilities as none of them were using the new cycle tracks.

Kildare Cycle Forum

There has been much comment in the media about the election of a Saudi Arabian representative on a UN committee for women’s rights and whether or not a Saudi representative would really be in favour of progressing women’s rights. It seems that we have our own version in Kildare. After three years of this county council, it is understood that a meeting of the Kildare Cycling Forum has finally taken place. However, no cycling representatives have been asked to take part and the word on the street is that the chair, Cllr. Darren Scully, does not want any. Could he be related to the Saudi representative?

Dealing with Chasing Dogs

A look back at the past can throw up some amusing opinions. This is even true of the Maynooth Newsletter and it need not be the distant past. In the May 2005 edition under the title of Useful Tips, there was advice on how cyclists and joggers should deal with chasing dogs.

The advice ranged from

  • Carry a folded umbrella to open in the animal’s face.
  • Try squirting the dog in its eyes with your water bottle.
  • Keep dog treats such as dog biscuits in your pocket.
  • Speak to the dog in a commanding but calm tone.
  • Draw the owner’s attention to the fact that his /her dog is a nuisance.

So all those people who took part in the recent Maynooth 5K/10K, we hope that you didn’t forget to bring your umbrella and to the Maynooth cycling community, you have been advised!

Threats to Cyclists

Recent remarks by the journalist Paul Williams on Newstalk radio where he threatened any cyclist touching his car while he was driving have been condemned by cyclist representatives.  Maynooth Cycling Campaign considers the remarks reprehensible in the light of increasing cyclist fatalities. While (the vast majority of) motorists do not go out to intentionally kill or harm cyclists, the remarks give support to a growing intolerance by a minority of drivers to cyclists on the road. Maynooth Cycling Campaign also condemns the failure of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to take any effective action to counteract the increasing fatalities.

Maynooth Cycling Campaign is a non-party political cycling advocacy group. Further information on meetings and activities is available on our website.

We are affiliated to Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cyclist Advocacy Network and through it to the European Cycling Federation.


Maynooth Cycling Campaign Notes – May 2017

Compulsory Hi Viz for Cyclists and Pedestrians

At the recent annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, there was debate on a motion for high visibility clothing to be made compulsory for pedestrians and cyclists. Although the actual vote did not include pedestrians (as it was considered unenforceable), the motion gave rise to a frenzy of discussion in the media about cyclists and hi viz. As vulnerable road users, many cyclists choose to wear hi viz but hi viz has no magical powers to protect and was found in the UK courts to contribute to a fatality in low sun conditions. Furthermore, in countries with the greatest number of cyclists, responsibility for safety is placed on those who pose the greatest risk ie on people who drive rather than on people who cycle.

Minimum Passing Distance Law

Of greater importance to cyclists is the Minimum Passing Distance Law proposed by Ciaran Cannon and Regina Doherty. The law proposes a 1.5m minimum passing distance for vehicles travelling at speeds greater than 50kph and 1m for speeds of 50kph or less. It is similar to legislation in several other countries including France, Belgium, Portugal and Australia, as well as several US states and provinces in Canada. Here in Kildare we are acutely aware of the effects of the risks of cycling with the death of Tonya McEvoy at Rathcoffey in February while on a club run.  Although the two TDs are members of the government party, the law is being introduced as a private members bill so we would urge all North Kildare TDs to support it and hopefully it will be passed by the Dáil before the summer recess.

The Barrow Motorway

Last night I dreamt of a motorway beside the Barrow greenway….. and it’s wasn’t a nightmare.  Just imagine it – two lanes of traffic in one direction, two lanes of traffic in the opposite direction, a central reservation and two verges one on either side. Right, now imagine it again, this time without any traffic and with no traffic lanes. Then imagine it without a central reservation and with a verge on only one side. Finally imagine the motorway with the remaining verge reduced in width. Wouldn’t that be an amazing sight from Kildare all the way to St. Mullins?

It is important that it is a motorway verge. There are grass verges on many roads and in many housing estates but those are ordinary verges. They are only about 1m wide and the grass is (generally) cut by the householder. No for the Barrow we are talking about a motorway verge and what is special about them? Well for starters they are a lot wider and the grass isn’t normally cut except close to the road. Secondly, people don’t stop and spend time on motorway verges so they are not disturbed by human beings. When motorways were first planned in the UK in the 1950s, it was all about transport and moving people and goods. Road engineers were not concerned with the environment or biodiversity so nobody foresaw that motorway verges would become important linear pathways across the countryside for flora and fauna. Admittedly, motorways are not so good for animals which travel at ground level but the ‘motorway’ along the Barrow wouldn’t have that problem as animals would only have to deal with people on bikes or walkers and not thundering HGVs and cars.

Why did Waterways Ireland not think of this when they were planning their Blueway? Well one reason is that they do not own the adjoining land and therein lies the problem. Waterways Ireland does not have funds to purchase adjoining lands for a project which in itself may or may not get planning permission.  We don’t do long term planning in Ireland  as the housing crisis and water quality problems attest so the idea of purchasing or investing in something intangible like biodiversity is alien to us. The government launched its public consultation on the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017- 2021 earlier this year. I doubt though that they will be recommending a motorway along the Barrow (even without the bad bits) but what’s the harm in dreaming?

Politicians and Cycling

While announcements of the setting up of the Kildare Cycle Forum have again proved to be premature, there was better news in the Dáil where the All Party Cycling group was set up as a non-party forum for TDs and senators with an interest in cycling. Maynooth Cycling Campaign wishes it well and hopes that it will prove to be as successful as the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group at Westminster. Hopefully too some of the TDs for North Kildare will consider joining!

National Road Network Indicators 2016

The National Road Network Indicators for 2016 which was recently published by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) makes for interesting reading.  The report is split into five parts – Network, Economic, Road Condition, Safety and Accessibility/ Environment.


 The first part deals with the extent of national roads, traffic levels, and level of service which essentially means whether a road is congested or not. Chart C1 shows the level of service during the morning peak and demonstrates that over the whole country the level of congestion is surprisingly low with congestion apparent only in the vicinity of the cities – Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.  With a surprising degree of honesty, the report admits that

                Following the substantial investment in National Roads over the last decade, most route sections are operating to the highest standard of service. However, for certain roads such as the M50, further interventions such as demand management are required to ensure that higher levels of service are achieved.

So it concedes that most of the network is operating to a high standard and accepts that congestion will worsen on the M50 unless more measures such as demand management are introduced.  As the principle type of demand management is road pricing or a congestion charge, this will not be to the liking of government which is opposed to such measures. The most interesting sections are Charts E and F which show Trip Duration and Trip Distance for National and Regional Roads and which are based on national computer models. The main findings are

  • 28% of trips last less than 10 minutes
  • 11% of trips are for a distance of less than 5km
  • 38% of trips are for less than 10km
  • 24% of trips are less than 7.5km
  • In 2016 traffic growth was 4.6% across the network
  • In 2016 growth in the Dublin region was 6.9%.

The 24% of trips less than 7.5km show the potential for substituting trips by car for trips by bicycle. It demonstrates clearly that congestion will not be solved by building more roads but by providing for more efficient modes of transport in terms of space and speed.

The second part Economy deals with estimates of future levels of population, car ownership and vehicles kilometres. By 2050 the ESRI forecast that the population will increase to between 5 and 5.6 million while TII expects total car ownership to increase from 2.5 million in 2013 to 3.5-4.0 million. The number of vehicle kilometres travelled is also forecast to increase from just over 40 billion in 2013 to between 52.0 and 58.5 billion in 2050 depending on future growth rate. Obviously, TII don’t agree with the concept of Peak Car or Peak Car Use. It also appears not to agree with Smarter Travel targets for reduction in commuting by private car although Smarter Travel uses a short time frame to 2020 while TII forecasts take a longer time frame to 2050. Although traffic growth was 4.6% nationally (and 7.4 in the Mid East region ie the commuter belt), it assumes that traffic will grow at an average rate of about 1% between 2016 and 2050 but this still implies an overall increase of nearly 40%. Just where this traffic will go is unclear but it is likely to lead to an increase in demands for yet more investment in roads for motorised traffic. This is already apparent in calls by groups like the Small Firms Association for a new motorway, the Leinster Outer Orbital Ring, to be developed to supplement the M50 at the same time as TII complains about inadequate funding to maintain existing roads.

The final section looks at Accessibility/Environment and includes the statement “the key benefit of a quality road system is improved accessibility to jobs”. This statement can be interpreted in two ways. The benign view is that a quality road system will reduce congestion and reinforce economic development thereby leading to increased employment. The alternative view is that the development of a better quality road system will lead to an increase in congestion and longer commuter times due to induced demand ie more people choosing to travel further to jobs because of an improved road system. Now looking at Dublin and the other Irish cities, I wonder which view predominates?