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.

Health Bodies Call for Active Travel in Climate Action Plan

Major Health Bodies support call for Active Travel to be an integral part of the forthcoming All of Government Climate Action Plan

The Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society, Diabetes Ireland, Irish Doctors for the Environment, the Association of Health Promotion Ireland, Professor Donal O’Shea (National Clinical Lead for Obesity and Hon. President of Cyclist.ie), and the Irish Pedestrian Network have signed an open letter from Cyclist.ie to the Taoiseach asking for concrete measures to facilitate active travel to form an integral part of the forthcoming All of Government Climate Action Plan.

The Department of Transport’s walking and cycling budget is increasing this year, but planned expenditure comes nowhere near the 10% level demanded by Cyclist.ie for cycling in its Pre-Budget Submission 2019 and endorsed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA). The ground-breaking report by the JOCCA makes a very strong case for active travel with the statement – “active travel measures are also among the most cost-effective emissions reduction strategies”. Our particular focus is how this needs to happen on health grounds. There is overwhelming evidence that lack of physical activity is a contributory cause in a host of debilitating chronic illnesses, including heart-disease, stroke, some cancers and diabetes. Hence the endorsement of the letter by all of the above health bodies. The forthcoming Climate Action Plan presents an opportunity to set targets for active travel which will contribute to reducing emissions and promoting health.

The Taoiseach, Ministers for Health, Transport and Climate Action have been invited to an event in Buswells Hotel on Wednesday 17th April at 4:15 pm at which Professor O’Shea will make a public presentation of the open letter addressed to An Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar.

Public representatives, the media, and anyone who supports greater investment in active travel, to promote health and support climate action, are invited to attend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street

CYCLIST.IE PRESS RELEASE – Report by Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, warmly welcomes the Report on Addressing Climate Change in Ireland by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action. As acknowledged by the government, Ireland is behind other European countries in attaining its binding, EU agreed, 2020 and 2030 targets with regards to energy efficiency and reduction of GHG emissions.

Colm Ryder, Chair of Cyclist.ie, said “This report is an important step on the path to decarbonising transport in Ireland. In particular, the cross-party recommendation for an allocation to cycling of 10% of transport investment is a momentous decision and when properly expended will ensure that the government delivers far ranging change not only in  carbon emissions but also in personal travel, health, congestion and air/noise pollution”.

The Committee is to be highly commended for its prioritising of active travel by placing it front and centre in the transport section of the report. Transport policies often pay lip-service to active travel but rarely give it the serious consideration it deserves. We acknowledge the proposed government investment in active travel in cities and welcome its extension to larger towns across the country. We regret that the Committee did not adopt the Citizens Assembly recommendation of reversing the proportion of funding towards roads relative to public transport. Simple rules will be required to proportion the allocation of investment to different modes of transport for, unless there is transparency and clarity about the funding, there is a risk of investment being misdirected.

The Committee acknowledges the impact of car travel on congestion and that the ‘do nothing” scenario will only lead to increasing gridlock in our towns and cities. While it is accepted that the  Committee has not considered school travel in depth, it is regrettable that efforts to deter school trips by car such as the closing of streets near schools to private car traffic have not been referenced.

We share the Committee’s concern about the length of time it takes to deliver major projects and welcome its support for multi-modal travel. We applaud its recommendation for restrictions on access of private cars to large urban centres but we are concerned about local authorities preference for ‘balance between road users’ which is often a  synonym for maintaining the status quo.

While electric vehicles have a role in decarbonising the transport sector, we regret that there is no mention of the huge potential of E-bikes. In countries where the level of cycling is high, the sale of such bikes far outweighs the number of electric cars and at far less cost to the individual and to government. It is hoped that in the future the Committee will also have the opportunity to consider the increasing use of cargo bikes for last mile deliveries across Europe, so we can replicate it here in Ireland.

We are happy to see the reference to trials of free public transport in a number of European cities, although it is disappointing that the report does not refer to the removal of hidden subsidies to car travel such as free parking at places of work, at shopping centres and in public areas.  These areas need to be addressed.

In summary, the report is an important step on the path to a carbon free future and Cyclist.ie warmly welcomes its publication.  Its ultimate success however will depend on how it informs the adoption of appropriate targets and on the monitoring and reporting of progress in Minister Richard Bruton’s  eagerly awaited All-of-Government Plan on Climate.

Cycle Facilities – Not Just a Matter for Adjacent Residents

Maynooth Cycling Campaign was represented at the March Meeting of the Community Council at which there was a discussion of the footpath works at the Celbridge Road.

The question of cycling facilities on the Celbridge Road to the two schools was raised. Apparently, Kildare County Council has prepared a daft drawing showing proposed cycle facilities. (Cllr Tim Durkan informed me afterwards that he would forward a copy.) It seems somewhat dysfunctional that KCC has plans for cycling facilities but are proceeding with construction of a new footpath without any discussion/conclusion of what cycling facilities are appropriate.

The councillor stressed the need to consult with adjacent residents but a council member stated that cycle facilities were being opposed by one of the resident groups. There was also debate and conflicting views about the ownership of green areas and the entitlement or not of KCC to go in and carry out the works. This entitlement was related to the definition of green areas/amenity areas which were defined when the estate in question received planning permission.

Our view is that the rights of different groups must be balanced and that it is not simply a matter for the adjacent resident groups who generally drive, who often oppose improved facilities for cycling and favour the status quo. The needs of the wider population, objectives of the County Development Plan and government policy must also be taken into consideration.

Reflections on the Citizens’ Assembly by Leinster Wheeler

 

I had the pleasure of attending as an observer the Citizen’s Assembly dealing with Climate Change in Malahide on 4th and 5th November. Here are my thoughts of the weekend.

Day 1

The first speaker on transportation was Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority. She began by pointing out that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions per person are among the highest of any country in the world and outlined the characteristics of our transport network and the travel mode share. The problem with a speaker from the NTA is that it is dependent on the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport  for funding so is not in a position to criticise its parent body. As a result, the talk was largely a restatement of current policies rather than mapping out a brave new path to the future or highlighting current deficiencies.

The second speaker was Dr. Brian Caulfield, Associate Professor at TCD. He outlined two options aimed at achieving a low carbon transport network – changing how we fuel our transport and reducing our reliance on private vehicles. A future low carbon transport model would see

  • Much greater use of public transport
  • Electrification of our car stock
  • Sustained growth in walking and cycling for lower distance trips
  • In rural areas the use of demand responsive transport

He pointed out that even if we achieve the targets of 25% electric vehicles by 2025 and 50% by 2030 (which is very ambitious) our carbon emissions would still grow by 22% rather than decrease. He pointed out that cars spend 95% of their time parked and when use for short journeys their emission profile is inefficient with cold starts. He went on to describe the change in car ownership models with the advent of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and ‘Netflix for Cars’ ie you only pay for a car when you use one.

The third speaker was Connie Hedegaard the former Danish Minister for Climate and Energy and former EU Commissioner for Climate Action. Unfortunately, at the last moment, she was unable to come to Ireland for personal reasons but sent a message which is available on YouTube. The first part of her talk was about climate change in general while the second half focused on the role of bicycles in Copenhagen.

During a discussion which followed, one of the assembly members suggested that government ministers should have to use public transport for a month. This was warmly welcomed but the Chair stated that unfortunately that message could not be conveyed to government. There was also a suggestion (which I thought had some merit) that subsidies for electric vehicles should be greater for people living in rural areas than in Dublin.

Later sessions dealt with energy and agriculture.

 

Day 2

The second day began with an address by John Fitzgerald, Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council. He gave a speech which was well received by the audience in which he discussed the scale of the problem and the degree of change that would be required to meet Ireland’s challenge on climate change.

The secretariat and a panel of experts had drawn up a draft Ballot paper which was divided into four sections including one on Transport. Based on feedback from the members, they proposed three questions related to transport on sustainable travel, electric vehicles and public transport.

In the initial draft, there was no text entered for the question on sustainable travel. Text in red proposed a ‘great’ increase in cycling, park and ride and ‘much greater priority’ for them over private cars. The problem was that ‘greatly increased’ or ‘much greater priority’ was not defined.

The second question was in relation to the electric vehicle promotion and referred to year on year increases in taxes on petrol and diesel.

The third question was in relation to expansion of public transport spending over road infrastructure at a ratio of no less than 2:1. This was quite a radical view but the original wording was watered down by the change of ‘road infrastructure’ to ‘new road infrastructure’. The addition of ‘new’ was very significant as most road expenditure is on existing roads rather than ‘new’ roads per se. The wording also referred to public transport with particular attention on rural areas. However, the economic reality is that public transport will always be concentrated on urban areas due to the higher population density.

Overall, I doubt that the motions will cause the mandarins in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to lose any sleep.

Observations on the Process

It felt good to be see democracy in action (even as an observer) where people had come together to come to discuss and reach agreement on topical subjects. The Chair had commented that there was a greater number of observers for this meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly than previous sessions.  One observer present was a representative from the Council of Europe while another had come from Belgium. This brought home to me the international interest in the proceedings of our Citizens’ Assembly. Justice Mary Laffoy was an excellent Chair, but with the benefit of hindsight I had a number of reservations about the process. While the wordings and amendments to wordings were all proposed and accepted by the Assembly, my concern was about the information which was presented to the Assembly.  As someone who believes in the benefits to society of mass cycling, it was disappointing that the two of the three nominated speakers only referred to cycling in passing. The third speaker did devote half of her talk to cycling but it was in terms of the level of cycling in Copenhagen. Rather than ‘experts’, someone locally could point out barriers to cycling in Ireland, to the lack of children cycling to school, to WHO recommendations on levels of spending on walking and cycling and to the financial cost of Ireland failing to achieve climate change targets. I accept that cycling plays only a small part in the prevention of climate change and that not everyone would be exercised by it but I strongly feel that the motion on greatly increased cycle lanes was too bland, too general and too open to interpretation to carry much weight. For a mode of transport which in other countries can carry more than 20% of people, I regret to say that the outcome was disappointing.

Secondly, the experts and their areas of expertise was also open a cause of concern. A member of the Assembly raised the issue of a congestion charge which politicians in London introduced and which Stockholm citizens voted to introduce. One of the panel of experts replied that a congestion charge could not be introduced until public transport and park and ride facilities in Dublin are improved. I very much doubt that people in London or Stockholm were asked for their opinion on public transport before politicians introduced the congestion charge in those cities. While congestion, air pollution and health concerns are among the main drivers for change, it was troubling that  ‘business as usual’ was considered acceptable until however long it might take to bring public transport and park/ride facilities in Ireland up to an ‘acceptable’ level.

Finally, there were thirteen votes on different aspects of climate change. Most of the votes were overwhelmingly carried with more than 90% of citizens in favour which indicated to me that the motions were designed to reflect overwhelming majority opinion rather than gauge where people stood on a contentious issue.

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.

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.