— Government accused of lack of vision on cycling.
— Half of all particulate matter air pollution from cars comes from breaking and tyre dust.
Despite most of the population of Ireland living in areas which have lower or similar yearly rain fall as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, transport minister Shane Ross claimed yesterday that rain was the main reason people in Ireland are wedded to their cars.
Ross made the comments in a glowing endorsement of electric cars made exactly two months to the day after a top UK environmental health adviser said in The Guardian that electric cars are not the solution to air pollution which is linked to making health conditions worse and thousands of premature deaths a year.
“Our cities need fewer cars, not just cleaner cars. One issue is that electric vehicles will not sufficiently reduce particulate matter (PM), the other toxic pollutant emitted by road transport. This is because PM components include not only engine emissions, but also a contribution from brake and tyre wear and road surface abrasion. Governments don’t currently pay much attention to PM, but it is in fact highly polluting, with strong links to cardiopulmonary toxicity,” said Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at Kings College London and chair of the UK government’s advisory committee on the medical effects of air pollutants.
The World Health Organisation stares that there is no safe limit of tiny pollution particles, and a recent European commission research paper found around half of particulate matter comes from these sources.
In scripted comments for the 2017 Electric Vehicle Summit in Croke Park yesterday, Minister Shane Ross (independent) said: “Currently, the car remains the dominant choice of transport in Ireland. The rain may have something to do with this. We like the comfort and the privacy. But a whopping 74% of all journeys are taken by car. Far too many. These journeys account for half of all our transport emissions.”
“Obviously, the constant improvements in public transport are designed to encourage people to leave the car at home and travel by bus, Dart, Luas or on the new cycle lanes and Greenways being developed. As well as being good for the environment this is also good for our basic health and fitness and as Minister I am committed to increasing the subvention for public transport annually and decreasing the use of fossil fuels in our public transport system,” said Minister Ross.
He added: “But many of us will still need to travel by private car and if we wish to continue doing so, we have to change what we put into it. This isn’t wishful thinking – no matter what the cynics say. The end of the age of the internal combustion engine is in sight. The shift to hybrids is already well under way. Many car manufacturers are producing new electric car models that will be far more affordable as well as more practical than earlier models.”
The lack of vision for cycling by the Government was criticised by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Writing in thejournal.ie this morning, Ryan said: “Paschal Donohoe says everything is fine, while Shane Ross doesn’t seem to realise he’s Minister for Transport. Our Taoiseach is into high end triathlon cycling but I’ve never heard a single idea from him about making the city a better place for the everyday cycling commuters.”
Ryan’s article said “After 25 years of polite argument and positive suggestions it’s time for the cycling campaign to step up a gear”.