COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Here’s six problem areas for the promotion of cycling as everyday transport in Ireland and some solutions…
Along with an edited version of our article, 10 reasons why cycling is Ireland’s only hope for low-carbon transport, the following is part of the IrishCycle.com submission to the National Mitigation Plan for Climate Change.
1. Poor planning, design and implementation
ISSUE: Cycling infrastructure built as cycling projects, road projects and other construction (ie housing, business parks) continues to be designed in a way where it is not attractive to cycling for all ages and abilities and does not amount to a well-connected, safe and attractive network. Left unresolved, it will stop cycling from fulfilling its potential.
Not a single town or city in Ireland has a comprehensive cycle network which is attractive or suitable for all ages and abilities. The so-called networks in Ireland remain disconnected and of a poor or very poor standard.
SOLUTION: Update planning and design guidance to follow the best international practice — cycling policy and design from the Netherlands. (a) Implement traffic circulation plans (including cycle network plans), starting with all urban areas and area of urban influence and inter-urban links, and (b) intergrade common Dutch cycling elements — as per the Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic, CROW, 2016 language edition — into Irish design guidance.
2. Low level of funding
ISSUE: There is not enough funding allocated to cycling to build current planned cycle route, parking or bicycle share projects, and thus there is also not enough funding to expand cycle provision quick enough to have a significant impact on climate change emissions.
SOLUTION: Increase the funding for walking and cycling to at least 20% of the Department of Transport’s capital budget for transport projects.
3. Access to bicycles
ISSUE: While access to basic bicycles is not a problem to many people, it is a problem for some people. The affordability of electric bikes and cargo bikes is also an issue — especially for those who have no access to the Bike to Work scheme and low-paid workers who do not benefit much or at all from the scheme.
SOLUTION: A number of different solutions are required, these could include:
- Follow the example set by a number governments who are giving incentives for the purchase of electric and/or cargo bicycles. For example, the city of Oslo are giving residents a grant of 25% of the cost of an electric cargo bicycles (up a maximum of 10,000 Norwegian Krone, which is around €1,000); and the island of Jersey offers a grant of £300 for electric bicycles over £1,500 and a 20% discount below £1,500. Oslo uses its Climate and Energy Fund to give its grant, but there is no reason why such a grant should not also apply to non-electric cargo bicycles which have in their own right the potential to replace many car trips for parents with children and others in need of extra carrying capacity.
- According to the EU-funded CycleLogistics project, cargo bicycles have the potential to be able to transport 25% of all goods and 50% of all light goods in urban areas, so the above mentioned grant for cargo bicycles should also be open to businesses or a separate scheme should be made available to businesses.
- Investigate the possibility of supports for the purchase of bicycles, safety equipment and child seats for low-paid workers, those on social welfare, and people who are retired.
4. Poor integration of cycling and public transport
ISSUE: In the Netherlands 40% of daily users of the rail network travel to bicycle, but in Ireland there is poor integration between the public transport and cycling: there is limited parking at train and bus stations; bicycle theft is a large problem at suburban and city centre stations; and carrying bicycles on intercity public transport can be expensive and suffers from capacity issues.
SOLUTION: Public transport planners and companies need to see the parking and carrying of bicycles as helping gain bus or rail passengers they would not otherwise have. A number of different solutions are required, these should include:
- Large-scale investment in high-density, secure and free or very low cost bicycle parking at the main city train stations, bus stations, and other transport hubs. The preference for this is that it is guarded when the train station is open. This could be trialled at Pearse Station in Dublin where there is currently a large and mostly underutilised area at platform-level (mainly used for staff / company car parking).
- Secure and free or very low cost bicycle parking at intercity and suburban train and bus stations.
- A public transport bicycle share system (separate from local bicycle share) rolled out nationally to all city stations, most suburban stations, all regional towns and even villages where there is demand. The system should be similar to OV-fiets in the Netherlands and be mainly aimed at allowing railway users to rent bicycles use them for the duration of their trip away from their home station — this is opposed to city bicycles which are aimed at a fast turnover of bicycles.
- The fee carrying bicycles on intercity trains and buses should be reduced to zero or at the very most a nominal daily cost (ie €5 per day) and not be based on a per trip cost. The price of carrying bicycles on intercity and regional services in off-peak and on low demand routes needs to be fully waved.
5. Promotion of unproven safety gear vs promoting cycling
ISSUE: There is little to no promotion of cycling as a form of transport, while the promotion of unproven safety gear usually takes central place.
SOLUTION: Alongside the rollout of safe cycling networks, measures must be taken to promote cycling and its benefits. However, as per international examples (Australia, Copenhagen, etc) the promotion of safety gear which is unproven or of limited benefit, can have the opposite effect and decrease cycling’s attractiveness to few beyond committed individuals.
The message should be about the advantages of cycling, including that cycling faster many areas for many trips, that cycling can give freedom and that it is a relatively cheap form of transport. Environmental and health benefits should be part of the messaging but only a secondary part as there’s evidence that few people are motivated mainly for these reasons.
6. Law, policing and enforcement
ISSUE: There are a number of issues in regards to law, policing and enforcement. Some of the main ones include:
- (a) a number of UK police forces in the UK have started to implement checks on motorists dangerously overtaking cyclists and growing number of counties have a minimum passing distance in place where motorists must give cyclists at least 1.5 metres in speed limits beyond 60km/h and 1 metre in areas with lower speed limits
- (b) cycle lanes are often blocked by motorists who are dropping off, parking and loading, and, in some areas, too much leeway is given or a blind eye is given to the policing this issue; and
- (c) some Garda officers need a culture change in terms of victim blaming (as shown most lately by the focus unproven safety gear by a Garda representative body).
SOLUTION: The proposed minimum passing distance should be supported; there must be an acceptance that discretionary policing has gone too far in allowing illegal parking and loading to continue unchecked, and treatment of cycling issues should be addressed as part of the wider planned culture changes in the Gardai.
The bicycle is Ireland’s best or only hope for a low-carbon transport future in the short to medium term. Some of the issues may seem like these go beyond climate change mitigation, but these are the issues in the way of cycling having a positive effect as much as, for example, planning or tariffs issues hinders low-carbon energy generation — it is for this reason that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and anybody interested in low-carbon transport cannot leave the detailed issues unresolved.
ALSO SEE: Submission to Draft NMP consultation (PDF)