Cyclist.ie – Political Asks in GE2020

(This article was previously published in GreenNews.ie in a series under the heading of  “What the experts want from GE 2020 “. In this case the expert is Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, which is represented by Martina Callanan of the Galway Cycling Campaign.)

Over the past three weeks, as in all election cycles, we have become accustomed to the knock at the door from canvassers or candidates themselves are they vie for our number one at the ballot box.

We have asked leading climate and biodiversity experts to tell us the key policy asks that they have raised with candidates when they come a-knocking.

Next up is Martina Callanan who represents Galway Cycling Campaign on the executive council of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, whose vision is for cycling to become a normal part of transport and everyday life in Ireland.

The network sees cycling as a vital part of building healthier and less polluted communities, and has developed 10 election asks that it Martina has boiled down to three kernel points below.

Make cycling a normal everyday activity

Cycling is a critical part of the transport equation in combating Climate Change. We need everyday cycling to be better and safer, more convenient, and easier. Hopping on your bike should be a more attractive option for the so-called first-mile and last-mile journeys.

No more slashing of funding or paltry rises: major investment is needed to shift people away from car dependency, especially for short journeys under 5km. This means greater investment in cycling infrastructure and promotion.

We need our next Government to allocate a minimum 10 per cent of transport funding to cycling immediately as promised under the National Climate Action Plan. Currently, cycling is allocated a tiny two per cent of our transport spend.

We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Bike safety is highest in countries and cities where bike use is high and people cycling have interconnected networks of segregated routes such as in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Bristol and Manchester in the UK.

It’s as easy as ABC: Allocate 10 per cent of transport funding to cycling; Build safer infrastructure, and everyone will cycle more.

Build safe segregated networks

Manifestos that mention school cycle buses should make us weep with rage. There should be no need for parents and adults to marshal kids to school on bikes, forming human shields between small soft bodies and big, motorised, metal boxes. Cycle buses must not become the norm.

What we need are safe routes to schools and throughout populated areas: networks of segregated cycle paths along roads; safe junction design with priority signalling for people on bikes; and quiet routes through permeable neighbourhoods. Let’s get designing and building!

Increasing cycling numbers in Ireland will cut congestion, improve public health, and reduce pollution. To get more people cycling, we need to make it an easier and safer choice. Let’s have real cycle networks, safe school routes, and coordinated planning, policy and policing that protects us.

Design fit-for-purpose planning, policy and policing system

The 3 Ps of Planning, Policy and Policing seem a little dry at first glance – but these are the actions that make the good things happen.

Planning – Building safer cycling infrastructure should be guided by our National Cycle Manual. This design guidance needs urgent updating to upgrade our standards and bring us into line with best international practice.

Policy – We need joined-up thinking for everyday cycling across a myriad of Departments – Transport, Health, Environment, Housing, Education, and Justice. We need a resourced National Cycling Office, preferably within the Department of Transport to coordinate policy and ensure action.

Policing – We have road traffic legislation that considers people who cycle and walk, but enforcement needs greater priority. People who cycle are frustrated and frightened by illegal parking in cycle lanes and dangerous overtaking.

So Near, So Far — The Ranty Highwayman

Quote

I happened to be in Cambridge this week and I also happened to see some relatively new streets. You would think that in the UK city with the highest rate of cycling that I’d have seen some world class cycling infrastructure? Sadly not.OK, what I did see in the Eddington development, in the northwest of…

via So Near, So Far — The Ranty Highwayman

Dropbox to Support Dublin Cycling Campaign

On Thursday 23rd January 2020, Dropbox will formally launch its initiative to support everyday cycling in Ireland at an event in its European Headquarters in Hatch Street in Dublin. Dropbox has agreed to support the work of the Dublin Cycling Campaign and to help it develop as a stronger cycling advocacy force.

Dropbox is the first company in Ireland to formally support the work of Dublin Cycling Campaign as Business Members. This follows its pioneering support for other progressive causes over the years such as the Marriage Equality and Pride campaigns.

Amongst the speakers at the special event on 23rd of January in the company’s Dublin headquarters will be Paulo Rodriguez, Director of Solutions EMEA, Klaus Bondam, CEO of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, Dr. Sabina Brennan, Neuroscientist and Active Travel Advocate from Trinity College Dublin and Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network. Invitees will include senior executives from many of the country’s largest tech and finance firms, together with figures from the transport world.

Dropbox’s employee led initiative responds to the urgent need to develop Dublin and other Irish cities as bicycle friendly and Active Travel cities. Compared to other places where large tech companies are based – such as Copenhagen, Berlin, Stockholm and Amsterdam – Dublin and other Irish cities need to recognise the necessity to become properly bike and family friendly. This means ensuring greater investment in high quality segregated cycling infrastructure, making the most hostile junctions cycle friendly and lessening car domination of our streets, to encourage all ages, genders and ethnicities to be ‘active travellers’.

Speaking before the event, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama from Cyclist.ie, stated: “We are really delighted with Dropbox’s support for cycling advocacy. A recent internal employee survey found 85% of Dropbox employees, bike, walk or take public transport. Our advocacy work is continually pushing cycling up the political agenda. Our recent detailed budget submissions and presentations to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport succeeded in further raising awareness around the need to bring cycling into the core of transport thinking and practice. We now want this translated into higher levels of national investment, and quality schemes on the ground so our communities are cycle friendly for everyone aged 8 to 80. The support of Dropbox – and other progressive thinking companies – will enable us to transition into a much stronger advocacy force and accelerate this necessary transition.”

Speaking on behalf of Dropbox, Paulo Rodriguez, Director of Solutions EMEA added the following: “We understand the importance of making cities and towns bicycle friendly, and are delighted to partner with Dublin Cycling Campaign. They are advocating to make cycling a safe aspect of everyday life. We have been very impressed with their unceasing work to effect change at national, local and community levels.”

ENDS

COP-25 Report (Prof. John Sweeney): Naming and Shaming the Countries that have held the World to Ransom

15th December 2019
Prof. John Sweeney’s final report on the UNFCCC COP-25 Meeting in Madrid, December 2019.

See also his three previous reports : No Real Progress in Week 1, Waiting for Leadership and the EU’s Green New Deal, Deadlock at COP – Can the Chilean President Deliver Progress on Key Issues?

And so after two weeks of negotiations, COP25 finally came to a fractious end on Sunday, some 40 hours past the scheduled close. As the remaining bleary-eyed delegates gathered for the final plenary, the stands were being dismantled, the protesters had departed and the motto of the meeting “Time for Action” had a hollow ring to it. Make no mistake, this was a failure of epic proportions. Whereas in Paris in 2015 the countries of the world had come together to do business, in 2019 some of them came to obstruct progress and to place narrow national and financial interests ahead of the urgent needs of the global community. The science that told them there was less than a decade of present carbon budget left to burn to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the climate tipping points associated with a global warming of 1.5oC did not sway them. Neither did the vigorous participation of the global youth represented, nor the urgings of the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who expressed himself disappointed by the outcome. In his view, the international community had lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.

The main objective of COP25 was to finalise the remaining rules under which the Paris Agreement would be administered. Most of the non-contentious aspects had been agreed at earlier meetings. The chief concern at Madrid was how the global trading of carbon would be implemented, and how countries would be rewarded for safeguarding their carbon sinks, especially forests in areas such as the Amazon. There was also the issue of whether unused credits carried over from previous agreements would be recognised as part of any new trading regime. In these areas it was the big emitting countries of the USA, Australia, and Brazil who sought to thwart the wishes of the smaller and more climate vulnerable countries. It was hoped that any agreed arrangements would not facilitate large increases in global emissions from these big countries that could be offset against their credits. This would have the effect of causing further acceleration of global warming, with all the distress this would entail for the most vulnerable developing nations and small island states. For some of the large emitting countries, however, it was all about exploiting loopholes that might even enable them to double count their forest credits. The stalemate that resulted pitched the US, China, Australia and Brazil against a coalition of smaller states and the EU. No resolution was obtained after two weeks of bitter wrangling. The issue was left unresolved, to be returned to in COP26, and so another year has been lost while global emissions continue to climb.

It is clear that many countries are not keeping to the pledges to contain emissions that they made five years ago in Paris. Under the International Treaty that they signed then, a further round of stricter pledges are due to be made by the end of next year. Some of the biggest emitters questioned whether they would comply with this requirement. Perhaps the only positive outcome of the meeting was a decision that new pledges will be delivered by this time next year. But the enthusiasm for this came mainly from 80 countries, mostly small developing countries accounting for around 10% of global emissions.

The US will, of course, have exited from the Paris agreement altogether by this time next year and will not have to make any commitments at all. But this did not stop it from being obstructive, in particular when discussions concerning how to financially support poor countries seeking to cope with extremes associated with climate change. Loss and Damage discussions have historically been uncomfortable topics for the US in particular given its historically high contribution to the present problem. Rising sea level, severe droughts and floods and unprecedented storms are affecting many poorer tropical countries who have no significant greenhouse gas emissions, but bear the brunt of climate change impacts. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change recognises this in its principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities. It was hoped this would be addressed in Madrid by an appropriate funds transfer arrangement; but once again the big developed countries baulked at the prospect.

Among the big power blocs, the EU (minus Poland) emerged with some credit as it unveiled its plan for carbon neutrality by 2050. But the EU only accounts now for 10% of global emissions and needs active partners such as China, India, and the USA if the curve of increasing global emissions is to be turned downwards. Ireland also needs to actively support EU ambition in a way that has not characterised its actions in former years. The recently unveiled Climate Action Plan is wholly deficient in contributing appropriately to emission reductions which the UN Secretary General estimated as requiring on a global basis 7.6% reductions every year for the next decade. We cannot criticise other nations for playing the national self interest card if we ourselves seek to do the same.

There is no doubt but that the failure of COP25 is symptomatic of a world failing to advance the multilateralism ideals many of us grew up with. International cooperation in economics, politics and in solving environmental problems, such as ozone depletion, have now given way to narrow national and populist ideologies. What is most worrying about current developments in tackling climate change is however the disconnect between the power brokers and society at large. The advice of the scientists and the pleas of the young were ignored in Madrid. Indeed some 200 young people were summarily ejected from the conference after a protest, and the eloquent arguments presented by the young Irish activists at several side events fell on deaf ears. Attempts by some world leaders and some media commentators to direct personal vitriol against young activists even surfaced. In the words of Greta Thunberg:

“As you may have noticed, the haters are as active as ever — going after me, my looks, my clothes, my behavior and my differences…..It seems they will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis. Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions — it’s facts.”

The denial of facts, and the unwillingness to address the urgency of climate change as expressed so clearly by different segments of society, and the supremacy of national self-interest over the needs of ‘Our Common Home’ will unfortunately be the abiding memories of COP25.

Minister’s statement at COP 25 was a missed opportunity to show Ireland is ready to take leadership

Stop Climate Chaos Coalition – Press Statement
Immediate release 11th December 2019

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition has today (December 11th) said that the Minister’s national statement at COP 25 this morning, was a missed opportunity to show that Ireland is ready to take leadership to avert climate breakdown. The Minister participated in the high level segment, where Heads of State and Government make national statements on increasing their targets.

Earlier this week, Stop Climate Chaos wrote to the Minister in advance urging the Government to align Ireland with other EU member states calling for an increase of the EU’s 2030 target to at least 55%, and for Ireland to urge the European Commission to advance a proposal to increase the EU NDC target (in line with the science and the EU’s fair share of the global effort) in the first 100 days in office.

Catherine Devitt, Head of Policy with the Stop Climate Chaos coalition commented,

“2020 marks the beginning of a decade in which global emissions must reduce by 55% before 2030 if the 1.5oC limit in the Paris Agreement is to remain at all feasible. We need bold political leadership now more so than ever, and this needs to be matched with bold commitments that will drive deep and sustained emissions reductions over the next decade. Therefore, it’s deeply disappointing to hear nothing new from Minister Bruton’s contribution at COP25.”

“Ramping up emissions cuts before 2030 is in line with the commitments made by Ireland at COP 21 in 2015, and a higher target will increase the chances of reaching global net zero emissions well before 2050. The longer we delay, the costlier and sharper the social and economic adjustment will be. It is disappointing that the Minister did not use the opportunity at COP 25 in front of the global community, to explicitly express Ireland’s support for a higher EU 2030 of at least 55%, and to put pressure on the Commission to urgently increase 2030 ambition in line with the science and the EU’s fair share of the global effort.”

“We very much welcome the Minister’s commitment to enshrine net zero by 2050 into law. 2020 will be a crucial year for the climate, as will be the next decade. If this Government is now serious about stepping up to the challenge, we need to see the new draft Climate Law before Cabinet before Christmas and the new law being passed without delay in 2020.”

In reaction to the Minister’s national statement in Madrid, Christian Aid’s Policy and Advocacy adviser, Jennifer Higgins, said,

“We need the enthusiasm in Minister Bruton’s speech to translate into concrete and ambitious climate action. We’ve learnt nothing new in terms of Ireland’s planned response to the climate crisis, and the existing climate action plan still places Ireland as a low performer on climate action in the EU.”

“Ireland needs to be doing far more than doubling our contribution to the Green Climate Fund if we are to fairly contribute to efforts to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown. Ireland’s overall annual climate finance contributions will need to increase six-fold if we are to meaningfully support developing countries, who on the frontline of the climate emergency, to cut their emissions and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change.”

Later this month, Ireland is required to submit to the EU its national energy and climate plan for the coming decade. Stop Climate Chaos has called on the Government to use this opportunity to close Ireland’s glaring emissions gap, to drive sustained and deep emissions reductions, and pave the way for Ireland to move from laggard to leader at European level.

Ends

Government (excluding DTTaS) allocates €3.5 Million out of €186 Million for Everyday (Utility) Cycling

In response to parliamentary questions, Minister Shane Ross is very keen to point out that in addition to funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS), the government also funds cycling through other departments including the Department of Community and Rural Regeneration and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. We decided to investigate the contribution to cycling by these departments.

Michael Ring is Minister for the Department of Community and Rural Affairs. In May 2018, he announced the allocation of €4.5 million. This was followed in September by an additional allocation of €8 million. This funding was under the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) which supports disadvantaged communities throughout the country by providing capital grants to community groups so none of this funding was for cycling or cycle related projects.

In January 2019, the Minister and Fáilte Ireland jointly announced funding of €10.8 million for 78 outdoor recreation infrastructure projects. Of the 78, 19 were identified as wholly or partially cycle related at an estimated cost of €1,680,786.

In February 2019, the Minister made a major announcement with an allocation of €62 million for Rural Regeneration and Development projects across the country at a cost ranging from €20,000 to €10.2 Million. There were three cycle related projects. The first which was a 100% cycling related project, was for the development of a cycle network in Mayo/Galway at a cost of €75,000. The second in County Meath was allocated €845,250 for a navigation/greenway project. The cycling component was assumed to be 25% cycling or €211,312. The third was a flagship project of national importance– the development of mountain biking trails at a cost of €10.2 million. Mountain biking is a sport which is growing in popularity but it is a niche sport. Even among current cyclists it is very much a minority sport and has nothing to do with utility or everyday cycling. Although funding was provided by the Department of Community, it could equally have been provided by the section of government dealing with sport or tourism or transport. Omitting the mountain biking scheme, the total component allocated for everyday cycling from the other two amounts to €286,31. In total, Minister Ring allocated approximately €2 million out of €86 million.

In November 2018, as part of Project Ireland 2040, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government announced an allocation of €100 million for 88 projects under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF). The schemes were classified under various headings including community development, culture, specific capital projects, energy development, integrated urban development, library development, public realm regeneration, road/strategic infrastructure and strategic acquisitions.

There may be a number of projects which involve a small component of cycling eg projects involving public realm improvements but in isolation these are unlikely to make any significant impact to the level of cycling either nationally or locally. Cycling is only explicitly mentioned in the following five:

Screenshot 2019-10-24 at 11.33.48

The total value of the five is estimated at €5.7 million but the likely cycling component is only of the order of €1-2 million out of an allocation of €100 million.

We warmly welcome the additional contribution to everyday cycling by Ministers Ring and Murphy. However, this is a long way from Cyclist.ie’s campaign for 10% of the DTTAS Land Transport capital budget or €149 Million based on the Budget 2019 allocation. In Budget 2020, this rose to €194 Million. As everyday cycling is essentially about transport, the heavy lifting for providing funding rightly belongs in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.  If the Department fails to provide adequate funding for cycling, the primary responsibility rests with Shane Ross, the Minister in Charge.

Railpark and Rat Running

 

20191006_170313Since the removal of the slip lane  at the Staffan Road / Celbridge Road junction, the residents of Railpark have been concerned about the significant increase in motorised traffic which passes through the estate on a daily basis. Most of this traffic is only using the route for convenience – they are not stopping to visit. T hey are merely passing through and using the route as a “rat-run”. Traffic levels are reported  to be as in excess of 4000 vehicles (?) per day which is greater than the threshold for a “major” road, as defined in the EU Environmental Noise Directive.

Rat-running is not a new phenomenon and the way to eliminate it is cheap and readily available. It consist of stopping motorised traffic from passing through by blocking one or other entrance or by blocking passage in the middle. This is termed “filtered permeability” whereby pedestrians and cyclists are permitted to pass but motorised traffic is not and is widely used in other European countries.

Kildare County Council suggested that it would introduce filtered permeability at Railpark but a number of the residents objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would inconvenience driving. Other residents, who were concerned about the risk to children playing in the estate, supported the proposal. The position of councillors is unclear at this time – they appear to want to introduce filtered permeability but do not want to antagonise vociferous residents.

The Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS) establishes a road user hierarchy with pedestrians and cyclists at the top and private car users further down so filtered permeability is in accordance with the principles of DMURS. The position of Maynooth Cycling Campaign is clear – we consider that the safety of vulnerable rod users takes precedence over rat-running.

In the UK, the debate is framed about Healthy Streets where car use is discouraged as opposed to streets which cater for large volumes of traffic. Healthy Streets developed out of concerns about issues such as road safety, child obesity, air and noise pollution and lack of sustainable development – problems which all affect Maynooth. In particular, there is increasing concern nationally about the effects of air pollution from traffic and the EPA has estimated  that nearly 1200 premature deaths per annum are caused as a result.

The selfishness and sense of entitlement of some people who drive – that they would place their convenience of driving over the safety of their neighbour’s children – is mind-boggling but we have already seen such attitudes in parts of Dublin. In the 19th century, when local authorities decided that clean water and sewage systems were required to avoid preventable deaths, they did not have to consult with the public. One would have hoped that if they had, they would have ignored narrow self interest and thought of the interests of the wider community. Local politicians should do likewise today.

Are You a Cyclist or a Wheeler?

E-scooter

If you are reading this blog, the probability is that you understand that a cyclist is someone wearing their ordinary clothes in an urban situation but to most people a cyclist is someone in lycra riding at high speed a bicycle with dropped down handle bars.

In Ireland we have multiple names for rain. In Iceland they have multiple names for snow. In the Netherlands, they have two words for people who ride bikes. There is a “wielrenner” (wheel chaser/sport cyclist) and a “fietser” (everyday cyclist).

How can we differentiate between the two in an English speaking country if we use the same word for both? We could use bicyclist but that would not be applicable to tricycles or four-wheeled “bicycle vehicles” which have been around for some time.

In recent years, new and innovative forms of personal transport devices have emerged such as electric scooters (e-scooters), segways, trishaws, hoverboards, u-wheels, powered mini scooters (go-peds), and powered unicycles. Such devices may be classified as “Powered transporters” – “novel personal transport devices which are mechanically propelled (propelled by a motor) as well as or instead of being manually propelled”. And this is not to mention hybrid or cross-over devices. So what does you call the people who use such devices. Perhaps it is time to abandon the term “cyclist” to sport cyclists and instead adopt the term “wheeler” to cover people who use wheeled devices.