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 Cyclist.ie (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 <oisin@foe.ie>
Date: Tue 10 Jan 2017 at 17:47
Subject: [SCC members] Document for discussion and decision at Thursday morning’s meeting in Concern
To: stopclimatechaos@googlegroups.com <stopclimatechaos@googlegroups.com>

 
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.
Yours,
Oisin
on behalf of the SCC Review Group

Increased Number of Cyclist Fatalities but Slight Dip in Trend

At the end of December, the RSA issued their customary end of year press release on road fatalities. In 2016 there was a 15% increase in fatalities as 186 people were killed on Irish roads including 10 cyclists. This was one more cyclist fatality than in 2015 and the second highest since the low point in 2009.

For cyclists the 3 year average shows a slight dip compared to 2015. The general trend since 2009 shows increased fatalities following increased traffic as the economy recovers rather than any safety in numbers effect from more cycling.

2016-fatalities                  Number of Cyclist Fatalities 1996 – 2016 (No. of Fatalities vs Year)

Although the large increase in fatalities had been well flagged from earlier in the year, the response of Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport was to issue a press release reminding people to share the road and a promise of more legislation rather than a government commitment to enforce existing laws. We expect  this to have a similar impact on road fatalities in 2017 as Project  EDWARD. For those who do not know, Project EDWARD (European Day Without A Road Fatality) saw European police forces and road safety organisations tackle road safety by urging motorists to sign a pledge. In Ireland, on that day two people died.

Meath Co Co Rejects Submission on Moygaddy Road

Meath County Council has rejected all the points raised in Maynooth Cycling Campaign’s submission on the Moygaddy Road, part of the proposed ring road around Maynooth.

The main point  concerned the separation of an off road cycle track from the road. The council proposed a separation of 1.5m whereas Table 4.3 of TD300 Provision of Cycle Facilities in Rural Areas requires a minimum separation distance of 2m for speeds of 80km/h or less. The council’s response was “The separation distance at 1.5m is deemed to be appropriate”.

The second point of the submission was differentiation of cycle track from the footpath in level and material. Meath County Council responded that there would be suffice demarcation with different  materials.

The third point was for the provision of filtered permeability on the existing road. Meath County Council undertook to implement some traffic calming but did not state whether or not filtered permeability would be included .

A common aspects of all three responses  is that they fail to address the points raised in the submission and recommend no changes regardless of standards, best international practice or any other arguments or precedents. This continues the practice in most local authorities of looking for public submissions but rejecting submissions from cycling groups if it does accord with their proposals .

SUBMISSION ON NATIONAL AMBIENT AIR QUALITY MONITORING PROGRAMME 2017-2022

Maynooth Cycling Campaign welcomes the public consultation on National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme 2017-2022 and the proposed expansion in the monitoring nationally.

We note from the Consultation Paper that

            The criteria for the selection of Tier 2 AQIH monitoring stations ……….. is as follows:

  1. a) Inclusion of all urban areas with populations greater than 15,000. The rationale for inclusion of these areas is to provide information to the public on air quality in those            areas of highest population density.

We propose that Maynooth be added to the towns monitored on the basis that its population is above the 15,000 threshold ie 15,909 according to the results of the 2016 Census. Although the people of Maynooth are currently highly car dependent, the National Transport Authority is providing funding for improved walking and cycling facilities so the town would potentially be a good location to monitor changing air quality resulting from transport modal change.

Yours sincerely,

Maynooth Cycling Campaign

December 2016 – Notes

Royal Canal Greenway

Maynooth Cycling Campaign is disappointed at the lack of conditions attached to the approval of the Part 8 Report for Royal Canal Greenway between Maynooth and Dublin. This was a lost opportunity of providing a good quality greenway as opposed to a mediocre one – one which will compares unfavourably with the Waterford Greenway now under construction. The area engineer reportedly gave an undertaking to councillors that he would fully address the concerns of Maynooth Cycling Campaign. He hasn’t.

There were five pro-cycling submissions – one was an internal submission, one was from a prescribed body and three were from the general public. A number of secondary issues were raised but there were two primary issues which were common to all five submissions – surfacing and width.

In response to surfacing, the Kildare County Council’s consultant is alleged to have come out against the use of a bituminous surface. It is noted that the Consultant is employed by the officials and future work is dependent on his relationship with the same officials but in an earlier report on surfacing options, the same consultant concluded

It  is  recommended  to  provide  a  bituminous  surface  on  the  full  length  of  the  Galway  to  Dublin Greenway for reasons of quality, comfort, safety, reduced maintenance and better whole life costs.

The consultant also pointed out that a dust surface would not attract foreign visitors. Waterways Ireland claims to require a dust surface in rural areas for environmental and ecological reasons. However Waterways Ireland is happy to provide a bituminous surface for motorised traffic on some rural parts of the canal – it only develops environmental and ecological concerns where cyclists are involved.

The reasons for rejecting widening of the path are equally disingenuous. Maynooth Cycling Campaign  accepts that it is not feasible to widen the greenway everywhere but it does not accept the starting point of Kildare County Council which is that it cannot be widened anywhere. Kildare County Council proposes a greenway 2.5m wide in parts – one to be shared with pedestrians. Conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians are common on such towpaths across the UK. The way to eliminate such conflicts is to follow international best practice (in so far as is feasible) such as from Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark where inter urban routes for cyclists are 4m wide.

We had also raised the following issues with councillors which we considered pertinent  to any decision on the project: 

  • Why a (50%) more expensive dust surface should be preferred rather than a cheaper and maintenance-free blacktopped surface?
  • Who pays for the additional maintenance?
  • Why was there no cost benefit analysis of the scheme on the Royal Canal

None of these points  were addressed in the Part 8 report.

Kildare County Council has been ‘promoting’ cycling for nearly twenty years and over most of that time the level of cycling has declined. A recent report into the outcome for cycling of the Smarter Travel Towns by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport found that the level of cycling increased by 0.2% per year.  With the proposed low quality greenway, the level of cycling in Kildare is unlikely to increase.

A more comprehensive report on the proposals for Royal Canal will shortly be available on our website.

EPA Consultation on Air Pollution Monitoring

The EPA recently released a report on the Ireland’s Environment: An Assessment 2016 which estimates that there are 1200 premature deaths annually resulting from air pollution and follows the UK government losing a case in the courts over its failure to tackle air pollution. While the concern is mainly in relation to Irish cities, the EPA proposes to introduce a national air pollution monitoring programme which includes Celbridge, Leixlip, Naas and Newbridge. Maynooth Cycling Campaign  has proposed that monitoring should also include Maynooth because of the high levels of traffic congestion here.

Netflix – Bikes vs Cars

One of the  films currently on offer to Netflix subscribers is  Bikes vs Cars. This is a documentary film about the struggle to provide cycle facilities in the Americas and while the situation in North and South America is different from that in Europe, there are many similarities. Well worth a watch!

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.