— Minister Ross commissions research rather than fixing claimed error
— RSA says it would be “inappropriate” to outline cost of research
— Ross’s office yet to clarify if he has read files from Gardai and DPP
Transport minister Shane Ross last week admitted for the first time that a law change in 2012 was designed to revoke requirement for mandatory use of cycle tracks by cyclists, but the minister has opted to spend taxpayers’ money on new research rather fixing the claimed error in the legislation.
Last year the Department of Transport claimed that there was no error in the legislation, and that the “explanatory note attached to the 2012 Regulation is incorrect in stating that only use of contraflow cycle track and of any cycle track in pedestrianised area is mandatory.”
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The return to research and consultation on the issue by the Minister Ross goes against a commitment in the National Cycle Policy as well as a clear Government commitment in a Dail statement made by former transport minister Leo Varadkar, which stated it was Government policy to revoke mandatory use.
The Department of Transport press office and the minister’s office have yet to reply to questions from IrishCycle.com asking if Minister Ross is fully informed on the issue and if he has viewed the documents his department refuses to release under a Freedom of Information request.
Back in October the department said it only has three documents to support the claim that the legislation which revoked mandatory use of cycle tracks is incorrect — but one of these has no detailed information and the department refused to release the other two relate to contact between the department and the Director of Public Prosecutions and Gardai.
In a written parliamentary response published on kildarestreet.com last Tuesday, Minister Shane Ross said: “The intention of the current legislation Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 332 of 2012) was to make cycle tracks non-mandatory except for contraflow tracks and tracks in pedestrianised areas. However, this is not what the Regulations, as drafted, provide for.”
He added: “Officials in my Department have sought the views of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána with regard to the Regulations and to the use of cycle tracks by cyclists. The RSA is currently undertaking a study on the mandatory use of cycle tracks. The results of this study are expected by the end of March. Based on the outcome of this study and taking into account the views of stakeholders, appropriate amendments to the Regulations will be made as soon as is possible thereafter.”
Minister Ross was responding to a question by Catherine Murphy, a TD for Kildare North who is one of the joint leaders of the Social Democrats party. She asked if the regulations were not as intended, would Ross “update the regulations as a matter of urgency”.
Yesterday, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) contradicted the department and its own statements and said that the research was being conduced “by the Department of Transport”.
Elaine Gibson, a spokeswoman for the RSA, said: “We have provided as much information as we can on this project which is being conducted by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. As such, it would be inappropriate to provide anything further.”
On January 31, the Gibson said: “Following a request from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the RSA prepared a review of the available research on the topic of the safety benefits of cycle lane infrastructure in September 2016. At this point in time, the RSA stated that it would be beneficial to conduct Irish research on the topic to inform the Department in its work. The Research Department of the RSA made a number of suggestions for improving the availability of specific Irish research on the topic. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport subsequently requested that the RSA conduct this research.”
The RSA said that the research it is conducting for the Department of Transport includes: (1) An observational study of cyclist usage of cycle lanes in locations where cycle lanes are present, (2) A face-to-face in-home survey of cyclists attitudes & behaviour with regard to cycle lane usage, (3) A systematic review of the literature regarding the safety benefits of cycle lane infrastructure, and (4) A qualitative study incorporating a series of in-depth telephone interviews with relevant stakeholders.
On January 31, the RSA said: “All components of the research cited above will be conducted by third party agencies with relevant experience in the respective methodologies. Therefore there are costs associated with each element. Costs include fieldwork, analysis and reporting as relevant.”
In relation the question of if the RSA has in previous years given a view to the department on mandatory use of cycle tracks, the RSA said yesterday that “we will need to consult further on this internally”.