Maynooth Cycling Campaign – May 2017 Notes

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?

Maynooth Cycling Campaign – April Notes

200th Anniversary of the Bicycle               

The year 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the invention by Baron Karl von Drais of what is generally regarded as the first bicycle – the Laufmaschine (“Running machine”). It was also known as a velocipede or draisienne (in French) or as a hobby or dandy horse (in English).


Karl von Drais was born on April 29, 1785 in Karlsruhe, capital of Baden, Germany. His father was Baron von Drais and although the family was not rich, it was highly influential, his godfather being the Grand Duke of Baden. He went to school in Karlsruhe where he studied forestry and later enrolled at the University of Heidelberg where he studied Mathematics, Physics and Architecture. In 1811, he went to Mannheim in order to concentrate on inventions. At that time, Europe was suffering from a series of poor harvests, a situation which was worsened by an Indonesian volcanic eruption in 1815. As a result ash in the atmosphere affected the climate across the entire world and Europe saw snow all summer long. The starvation and death of horses following the crop failure encouraged von Drais to focus on a replacement means of transport.

On his first reported ride from Mannheim on June 12, 1817, he covered about 10 km in less than an hour. The Laufmaschine had no pedals and was powered by the feet with the rider balancing the machine to keep upright. Constructed almost entirely of wood, it weighed 22 kg, had brass bushings within the wheel bearings, iron shod wheels and a rear-wheel brake. He patented his design in 1818 and it was the first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine. It was initially manufactured in Germany and France and several thousand copies were built and used, primarily in Europe and in North America.

It soon became apparent that roads were so rutted by carriages that it was difficult to balance the Laufmaschine so riders took to the footpaths which gave rise to an outcry from pedestrians (some things never change!). Consequently, authorities in Germany, Great Britain, the United States, and even Calcutta banned their use which caused their popularity to fade. Due to later political upheaval in Germany, von Drais lost all his money and died in poverty in 1851. Nevertheless, the Laufmaschine deserves to be celebrated this year on the 200th anniversary of its invention as it was the forerunner of the modern day bicycle which has given great pleasure to countless people.

National Mitigation Plan

It has been revealed that Ireland is one of only two EU member states that has failed to meet EU emissions and renewable energy targets after the government conceded that it was set to fall well short of required progress. A 2014 report by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform estimated that missing greenhouse gas emissions targets could cost Ireland €90 million while missing the 2020 renewable energy could cost between €140 million and €600 million.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is currently consulting the public on its draft National Mitigation Plan which contains measures aimed at addressing these failures. However, despite looming EU fines lip service is paid to the need to increase cycling and other sustainable modes of transport.

 Kildare County Development Plan 2017-2023

Kildare County Council has released its new Development Plan on 1st March. From first glances, it looks very much like a curate’ s egg – partly good and partly bad. While the chapter on Movement and Transport refers to ‘sustainability’ and ‘promoting walking and cycling’, what stands out are nearly two and a half pages of roads identified for improvements and priority road and bridge projects whereas the only cycling/walking schemes are projects that have been on the books for a number of years. Put beside Kildare’s Capital Programme and the absence of any intention to provide safe cycling routes to schools such as on the Celbridge Road, it suggests continuing congestion and a continuing token commitment to cycling.

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, the Irish Cyclist Advocacy Network and through it to the European Cycling Federation.

How much does Ireland spend on cycling?

Local and central governments are fond of ‘promoting cycling’. They have been promoting it for some twenty years with grants here and there, photo opportunities at the opening of cycle facilities, giving out hi vizjackets, exhortations to get on your bike, advertisements in the media and so on. In most of this time, cycling nationally has declined. Brendan Behan once suggested that in order to revive the Irish language, books which were banned for their sexual content in English should be printed in Irish. Perhaps local and central government should trying promoting car use – the outcome could hardly be worse!

There is a lack of knowledge of how much Ireland actually allocates to cycling.  It is difficult to be precise as cycling infrastructure can be provided  by funding from central or local government but can also be provided by private developers in the same way as other infrastructure such as road or sewers. Furthermore, some types of cycling infrastructure such as shared footpaths or greenways are provided to be shared with pedestrians so how do you determine the separate contribution for cyclists from pedestrians?

In most countries the critical figure is the amount of funding provided by central government. In 2014 in response to a question in the Dáil from Deputy Catherine Murphy, the Minister for Transport reported that a total of  €11.1 Million was allocated by his Department and gave a breakdown of the allocation to individual local authorities. However, this was only the direct budget allocation from the Department.  The National Transport Authority also provided funding of €8.2 Million to local authorities In the Greater Dublin Region and in May the government announced a Stimulus Programme which included funding of €10 million for greenway developments. Finally, in November, a supplementary budget was passed which included funding of €1.6 million also for greenways. Overall it is estimated that funding of €21.2 million was directly and indirectly provided for cycling by central government. With a population of 4.66 million, this equates to an expenditure of €4.55 per person for 2014.

How do we compare internationally? Well pretty badly. The Netherlands spends approximately €30 per person per annum. In the UK, politicians at Westminster estimate that expenditure of £10 per head per annum is required. Norway, with a similar population as Ireland has just announced an investment of almost €1 Billion in cycling infrastructure although it helps if you have extensive oil resources.  What is clear that unless spending is increased substantailly, the level of cycling in Ireland (outside of the capital) will remain under  3%.

Cycle Right – No Substitute for Infrastructure

Maynooth Cycling Campaign welcomes the launch of Cycle Right and congratulate Cycling Ireland and Celbridge’s Barbara Connolly on their leading role in its development. We now hope that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will follow up with the second essential element to achieve mass cycling to school – increased funding for the provision of high quality infrastructure. Being able to cycle is not the same as willing to cycle and unless the road environment is made safe for all ages the Minister’s hope for support from parents and for more children to choose cycling will remain that – a hope.

In his press release, the Minister also expresses a hope  that the initiative will ‘show his commitment to improving road safety and reducing the number of fatalities’. Considering that the bulk of fatalities involved drivers and pedestrians, it is hard to see how cycle training will improve road safety generally.  His use of ‘we’  as in  we must … remember to take particular care around vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists… reveal with which group of road users his empathies lie. While details of the rollout of Cycle Right have not been revealed, the key figure will be the outcome of cycle training – that is the increase in the number of children cycling to school. This will show the Minister’s true level of ambition and commitment to cycling.

Most countries provide cycle training to children as a means of encouraging cycling. In the Netherlands, having learnt how to cycle from their parents at a young age, children undergo a cycle test at the age of eleven so the test is in reality a confirmation of their ability rather than the acquisition of a new skill. In the UK, most parents do not cycle and it is likely that many feel that they do not have the skills to teach their children. While children there are being trained in large numbers, this does not lead to them cycling. Conditions on UK streets simply remain too unpleasant and too dangerous for more than a very small proportion of parents to allow their children to cycle. Unless additional funding for infrastructure is provided, the mistakes in the UK will be repeated in Ireland.

Irish Independent & Victim Blaming

We are only three weeks into January 2017 and already there has been 11 fatalities on our roads. Seven are pedestrians, two are drivers and two are passengers. The reactions of government and government organisations are remarkable. Although drink driving has been identified as one of the causes of the increase in fatalities, Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has outlined how he wants to ‘name and shame’ the offenders. Well name them anyway. It is debatable how many will feel any shame.

Of the seven dead, one happened in an urban area, two had just come off a bus, two were walking along a national road – one in daylight, one in the dark, one died on the M50 while the last was walking along a regional road on the fringe of the city. The first four out of the seven were killed in a situation where motorists should have seen or anticipated vulnerable road users. In an article on road safety in the Irish Independent, the journalist Luke Byrne referred three times to the Road Safety Authority urging pedestrians to make themselves more visible.  In contrast, there was only one reference urging drivers to slow down. It is not known if this emphasis was as a result of the Road Safety Authority briefing or journalistic licence. Either way, the primary responsibility does not lie with vulnerable road users – they are the wrong target.

Stop Climate Chaos -Discussion on Strategy

The Letter below was sent to the Stop Climate Chaos members including (of which Maynooth Cycling Campaign is a part) on a Draft Strategic Plan which was discussed on Thursday 12th January.
From: Oisin Coghlan – Friends of the Earth <>
Date: Tue 10 Jan 2017 at 17:47
Subject: [SCC members] Document for discussion and decision at Thursday morning’s meeting in Concern
To: <>

Dear all,

You will remember last year that our coalition decided that we should review our ambition and our structure in the light of the increased urgency of climate action on foot of the Paris Agreement and our own Climate Action Act.
A small Review Group was set up last summer: Lorna from Trocaire, Phil from An Taisce, Sorley from Christian Aid and myself. We were mandated to look at what was happening in England and Scotland, consult various external stakehoders, and come back to you the members with a proposal.
That proposal is now attached in the form of a draft Strategic Plan and Thursday’s meeting is to consider it and the next steps.
The Plan takes as its starting point the campaign vision we agreed last year: “That Ireland makes a rapid and just transition to a carbon free future”.
It proposes three strategic objectives, in the following areas
1) Growing the climate movement
2) Influencing policy
3) Engaging the widest possible public audience
Thursday’s meeting will be asked to approve each of these objectives.
The second part of the Plan is about about “Delivering our Vision”
That involves a proposal for an independent chairperson as our chief spokesperson, clear governance procedures and a process to enable us to increase SCC’s staff capacity from about 0.6 FTE (i.e. around one person on average 3 days a week) to about 1.8 FTE (full-time equivalent).
The last element of this is the financing, which has two dimensions. Firstly, a renewed and if possible enhanced buy-in from the member organizations of SCC. And secondly a proposal that SCC should for the first time apply for institutional grant funding. Lorna will outline the first opportunity for this at the meeting on Thursday for your consideration.
I’ve often said that Stop Climate Chaos is the smoothest running and most effective coalition I have ever worked in. That is down to the enthusiastic participation of many members over the years and the rock solid trust and commitment of all members. The current climate policy landscape in Ireland means there are big opportunities for our coalition. Thursday’s meeting is about gearing up to make the most of them, rather that risk missing them. We very much hope you can join us at 10am on Thursdsay in Concern in Grantham Street.
on behalf of the SCC Review Group