An Taisce Press Release – All Political Parties Must Commit to Deep and Rapid Emissions Cuts in Line with Science and Justice

AT                      27th April 2020

Much public and media discussion around the Green Party’s insistence on any future government committing to a minimum of 7% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions per annum appears to focus on the supposedly ‘unrealistic’ nature of these targets.

The former Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten TD has, for example, been quoted as describing this reduction rate as “unsustainable and unachievable”. In so doing, Mr. Naughten appears to have forgotten that the government he represented fully signed up to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which commits Ireland to urgent and dramatic emissions cuts in line with the science and climate justice.

Prof Barry McMullin of An Taisce’s Climate Committee, noted: “It is thanks to political procrastination and predatory delay that today’s targets have become so challenging. Every year that vested interests and lobbyists, abetted by politicians with little care for science, have enabled inaction and delay on tackling the climate emergency has made effective action far more onerous than would have been necessary had we collectively acted in a timely manner. Sadly, we cannot simply turn the clock back and ‘start over’: we must deal with the much deeper crisis we have now created.”

Despite this reality, current media commentary continues to place the onus exclusively on the Green Party both to insist on the required emissions reduction pathway, and to explain in detail how this should be delivered on. An Taisce believes this is misleading and unhelpful. Rather than making a political “demand”, the Green Party is simply reflecting the overwhelming scientific consensus on the minimum steps needed to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate change.*

[*Note that An Taisce is strictly non-party-political; these comments do not imply support or endorsement of any specific political party.]

Such targets, and the responsibility for measures to achieve them, do not ‘belong’ to any one party or group: they represent the clearest understanding of the scale of the challenge and the time frame within which global humanity, including here in Ireland, now has to respond.

The currently suggested figure of an overall emissions reduction compounding at a rate equivalent to at least 7% per year is based on the 2019 “Emissions Gap” Report from the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) which assessed the global average rate now required to maintain a plausible chance of limiting temperature rise within the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement as being at least 7.6% from 2020 onward.

But it is critical to emphasise that this does not apply as an equal requirement for all countries.

For a relatively wealthy, high per-capita-emitting country like Ireland, the required annual reduction rate is now considerably higher, as this must reflect the “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” between different countries.

Thus, it is An Taisce’s view not only that the suggested 7% per annum reduction rate is indeed the absolute minimum that must be included and actively endorsed by all partners in any proposed programme for government, but that the programme must commit to enshrining this in a new Climate Ambition Act, with full independent recourse by citizens to the courts to ensure enforcement, within the first hundred days of such a Government taking office.

Further, a restructured and rebalanced Climate Change Advisory Council, with appropriate expertise in physical climate science, ecological economics, international development and climate ethics, must be mandated to critically assess the further increase in mitigation ambition necessary for Ireland to play its fair share in this unprecedented global effort. This should be coupled to a properly scaled and resourced “national climate dialogue” process that gives the opportunity to every citizen to engage with and influence this immense national effort.

“We believe it is now incumbent on those parties and commentators who reject such commitments to declare openly and honestly whether they reject the science, or the ethics, or both”, added Prof McMullin.

In our view, you can’t claim to accept the expert diagnosis while rejecting the treatment path set out by those same experts. It is now beyond time to commit to “flattening the curve” on climate change, before our collective ability to respond is overwhelmed.

/ENDS

Is cycling priority on roundabouts a good idea?

Timely blog on cycle priority on roundabouts – the pros and cons. Important discussion on how the Dutch prioritise cycling over private cars in practice whereas in Ireland it is in theory.

BICYCLE DUTCH

Roundabouts are much safer than regular intersections. There is not much debate about that fact in the Netherlands. But when it comes to the priority rules on roundabouts the opinions differ sometimes. Why does cycling need to get the right of way over motor traffic on roundabouts? This guideline from the Dutch Ministry of Transport, “causes many unnecessary victims among people cycling”, a small minority of opponents claims. Is that true? Or do Dutch road safety experts, cycling advocates and most of the authorities maybe look at a bigger piture?

A pedestrian and a cyclist on a roundabout in ’s-Hertogenbosch, both have priority over the drivers who wait patiently for their turn.

Every now and then the discussion flares up about the priority of cycling on roundabouts. In the Netherlands the guidelines are clear: in the built-up area cycling must have priority over motor traffic and outside the built-up area…

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So Near, So Far — The Ranty Highwayman

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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

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.

Cyclist.ie Demands ‘Revolution’ in Cycle Transport Funding! – PRESS RELEASE

Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are  – Jim Frick, Notre Dame USA.

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, calls on the Government to implement the recommendation of the all-party Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) Report and of its own Climate Action Plan by allocating 10% of the Land Transport budget to cycling with immediate effect from Budget 2020. Currently, despite the fact that cycling provides the highest rate of return on investment of all transport projects, as well as numerous co-benefits for health and the environment, it receives less than 2% of the land transport budget, notwithstanding recent increases. According to the Chairperson of Cyclist.ie, Colm Ryder, “10% of Transport funding is required, in order to expedite the development of a comprehensive cycle policy and long-stalled strategic cycling infrastructure projects not just in Kildare but in all of our urban and rural areas”.

Read Budget 2020 submission here: https://cyclist.ie/2019/08/cyclist-ie-pre-budget-submission-2020/ .

In addition to essential cycling infrastructure, ranging from commuter routes to greenways, Cyclist.ie is calling for the establishment of a National Cycling Office within the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport, to oversee overall development in Policy and Legislation, and for the appointment of dedicated cycling officers at senior level in all local authorities.

Cyclist.ie points out that one striking, short-sighted and regrettable omission from the Government’s Climate Action Plan is the absence of any incentives towards the purchase of electric bikes, or electric cargo bikes. This is in spite of projections from the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport that the cost of congestion in the Greater Dublin Area will amount to €2Billion per year by 2033. Instead, the very first action mentioned in the Transport Section of the Plan is to develop the EV charging network so as to support “at least” 800,000 EV’s by 2030. Modal shift is mentioned in the Plan only in the context of Public Transport. E-bikes (including e-cargo bikes) have great potential to encourage modal shift and change the transportation dynamic. E-bikes have the potential to replace a family car, enable longer commutes, enable older people to remain active for longer, facilitate cycling in hilly areas, increase levels of everyday cycling, and help to reduce congestion levels

For these reasons, from Budget 2020 onward the Government must develop and operate a purchase subsidy for e-bikes, in parallel with the subsidy for electric cars. An extra generous allowance should be given to those who show that they are replacing a car with an e-bike. It is critical that e-cargo bikes are included in this scheme as they are a cost effective and low emissions means of freight deliveries in cities, as well as potential family transporters.

Other asks in the Cyclist.ie budget submission include mandating the provision of high-volume safe and secure bike parking at all public transport hubs, all public buildings such as schools, hospitals, libraries etc, and all major event centres such as sport and concert venues as well as provision for the carriage of bikes on trains and buses. In addition, the organisation wants to see cycle training being made available free of charge in all primary and second level schools. It wishes to see greater flexibility in the Bike to Work scheme including its extension to those not in work such as students, the unemployed and retired people. Finally, Mr Ryder states that legislation and enforcement are crucial – “The long-promised safe passing (of cyclists) legislation is by far the most urgent need, but other laws, to bring us in line with our European neighbours, such as contra-flow cycling on one-way streets and turning left on red lights are required” he stated, “as well as enforcement action on parking in cycle lanes”.

ENDS

How cycle friendly is Dublin?

If Ireland is really interested in increasing the level of cycling rather than just ticking the cycling box, it needs to pay attention to the views of international experts.

BICYCLE DUTCH

I couldn’t remember when I last felt afraid on my bicycle. Not just anxious, but genuinely fearing for my life. I do now, after I cycled in Dublin last week. The 4-kilometre-long ride from my hotel near the Phoenix Park Gate to the Conference Centre of Dublin was just one long straight line on the quays of the river Liffey. The route couldn’t be easier. According to plans from 2011 there was supposed to be a cycle route here, but there wasn’t. Instead, there were multiple lanes for motor traffic. The drivers of most vehicles showed little respect for cycling. I can’t tell you what was worse; the quays during rush hour, with the many large vehicles that you had to find (and fight) your way through, or the quays outside rush hour, with motor traffic passing just centimetres from you at incredibly high speeds. The leap·frogging with the many…

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Big data surprises

Interesting article including information on benefits of cycling in Utrecht.

Cargobike Dad

It has been quite the week for data.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have launched their annual Staff Travel Survey. Last year’s results are available in the Trust’s Travel Plan. It reveals that 9% of staff cycle to work:

The official figures for Belfast indicate cycling is somewhere between 3 and 5%, with cycling across Northern Ireland at 1% stubbornly refusing to move out of the statistical noise (i.e., the margin of error in the stats is greater than the reported number) in the past decade.

The 2018 staff travel survey shows the number of cycling commuters are at least double the city’s average.

This has big consequences for Belfast. The Trust is responsible for 1/3 of Belfast traffic. And how Trust staff travel has a real effect on congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions.

The targets for 2020 are mind-boggling:

The Trust are aiming for a 16%…

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#Allocate4Cycling Working Group

Following the launch of its Budget Submission 2019 in September 2018 and the Lobby Day in Buswells Hotel, Cyclist.ie set up a working group to progress the #Allocate4Cycling Campaign which involved individuals from a number of campaign groups including Maynooth Cycling Campaign.

There were five objectives to our work:

  • Create a logo for #Allocate4Cycling
  • Clarify government expenditure on cycling
  • Make a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport with an objective of being invited to present before them
  • Engage with political parties, and
  • Publicise our efforts through the issue of press releases.

We designed a logo for #Allocate4Cycling to try and create a recognisable brand. #A4C LogoOriginally it was similar to a speed limit sign – with black text, white background  and surrounded with a red circle. After mature reflection, however, it was thought  that such signs indicate prohibition rather than approval so the colour was changed to white text, blue background and white circle. The intention was that the  logo would appear on websites and correspondence with external parties but the outcome has been patchy at best.

Estimation of government expenditure  was linked to engagement with political parties. We contacted all the parties which had indicated their support for #Allocate4Cycling as well as some independents and asked them to put down parliamentary questions on finance to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Some of the department responses were so obtuse that they shone no light on the issue at all but gradually the picture began to get clearer although we still require one final answer to fully resolve the question or as least as much as is possible.

We wanted to raise an issue with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport (JOCT) which might get have the same impact as Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA). We contacted Catherine Murphy TD who is an Oireachtas committee member for advice on how to raise such an issue. We had already made a submission on Budget 2019 and decided to submit a related one to the secretary of the JOCT. This may seem strange as the JOCCA has already endorsed the recommendation that 10% of transport capital funding should be allocated to cycling. However, it was felt important that the issue should be kept in the news to ensure that the recommendation is carried through to the All of Government Plan for Climate Action. This is especially important as the main government party representatives, Fine Gael, voted against the 10% allocation but were outvoted on a motion submitted by Eamon Ryan and supported by the members from other parties and independents.

One of the greatest difficulties for Cyclist.ie is having an impact in the media. Cyclist.ie is made up of a number of geographically spread  groups which are trying to make an impact in their own locality  as well as nationally. We have learnt lessons from our support for Stop Climate Change and the campaign for Active Travel. However, it would be fair to state that we have still to make an impact on this area  but hope to do better in the future. All in all though, we feel that progress is being made but that the next twelve months will be critical due to elections  (local, European and probably national),  the All of Government Report on Climate Action and Budget 2020.