Minister defends Cork’s cycle paths despite opposition; Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman still has issues

— Despite of health benefits, Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman says cycle paths should not “inhibit or impact” on commercial life

Minister for agriculture, and TD for Cork South–Central, Simon Coveney told the Irish Examiner that councils should not have to apologies prioritising bicycles in cities.

His comments, which were made when officially launching the Bikeshare.ie on-street bicycle rental system in Cork yesterday, sit against a backdrop of a number of local politicians fighting against Cork’s fledging network of cycle paths and lanes.

The Irish Examiner today said that the Government minister was asked about the complaints Cork motorists have made about new cycle paths.

Coveney replied: “We’re prioritising bikes in the city. It’s as simple as that. Obviously there are safety issues and there is more work to be done to connect cycleways, but I don’t think we should be making any apologies to anybody for prioritising putting in cycleways into busy streets like Washington St that are wide enough to be able to carry that.”

He said that people in cars in Dublin had also found road changes for cycling “frustrating”, but they had to adapt and change.

It follows comments from Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman, who told the Irish Times recently that he has “questions” about the bike lanes. He told that newspaper that the cycle paths “seem to be taking up a large proportion of road space, which is causing big problems.”

Last week IrishCycle.com questioned deputy Kelleher on the issue. We put it to him that experts working on obesity, and other health problems which are made more likely by or worse inactivity, say that our environments need changing, including our streets and roads. We followed this by asking: “is there not a conflict with Deputy Kelleher’s position on the Cork Cycle Network and his role as the party’s health spokesman?” and asking: “While cycling may not suit everybody all the time, should Deputy Kelleher, as a health spokesman as well as a TD generally, not be playing a positive role in getting more Cork people using active travel which has many health benefits as well as deducing the impact on congestion?”

Deputy Kelleher responded by saying: “I fully support encouraging people to take up activities, cycling included. In the context of health and environmental impact it is great activity and one that can be shared with all the family.”

However, he went on to say: “With regard to cycle lanes in Cork my point is simply that lanes have to be strategically thought out so has not to inhibit or impact on the commercial life of city centre.”

He followed that by saying: “Fitness is a key element of tackling obesity and again I support measures that encourage the public to become more active.”

We also asked the Fianna Fáil press office if they could confirm the party’s health policy is on cycle lanes/paths in the context of their health benefits and the removal of space for cars which have negative health impacts.

They responded by referring to the Fianna Fáil cycling policy document — ‘Improving The Urban Cycling Experience‘.

Press officer Greg Moroney said: “The policy document sets out Fianna Fáil’s view regarding the health benefits of cycling and the need for more cycle lanes in order to ensure greater road safety for all road users. Fianna Fáil is continuing its consultations with relevant stakeholders and we expect to add to our policy regarding cycling and cycle lanes in advance of the General Election.”

MORE: ‘No apology’ for prioritising bikes in Cork city
MORE: Cork bike-share scheme starts with a rattle

6 Comments

  1. There was an awful lot of naysayers and doubters when Dublin bikes started as well. We know how that ended up. Although acknowledging that Cork has a different set of dynamics, I think that, in time, the bikes will ultimately be a success.

  2. Cian…..its good that you are like a ‘dog chasing a bone’ in following up with Fianna Fáil and Billy Kelleher and his negative comments on bike facilities in Cork. Speaking out of both sides of the mouth is a great Irish politician’s trick! Let him be hoisted by his own petard! Let politicians and people see the need for greater biking facilities, from a health point of view, as well as the creation of greater mobility options and public spaces!

  3. Kevin O'Farrell March 3, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Funny when I visit Cork and Limerick, seeing cyclists but no way near the diversity quickly evolving in Dublin. Sharebikes were very important in fuelling this, together with having places to use them like the Grand Canal cycleway. It will interesting to see how all this unfolds in these cities too.

  4. Mike McKillen March 3, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Well said by Minister Coveney. About time a minister was positive about promotion of everyday cycling when set against the backdrop of obesity, urban air-quality deterioration, transport GHG emissions and climate-change.

  5. That FF policy document is a joke. Worthless.

  6. We should have Bertie back as FF minister for health and he could tell cycling advocates that they can go kill themselves, or something along those lines, because as everyone ‘knows’ providing facilities for bikes just gets in the way of economic growth.

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