OPEN LETTER: A call for more funding for walking and cycling is needed, but that call to date has lacked clarity on the quality needed and that is having practical effects.
The designs released for BusConnects last week should be the final straw not just for Dublin but for campaigners around Ireland — it should be crystal clear that the National Transport Authority’s National Cycle Manual is not fit for purpose in providing cycling fit for commuter adults, school children, leisure or sporting cyclists or tourists. The desperate state of the BusConnects proposals as well as other recent projects in planning or under construction has hardened my view that standards need to change before more money continues to be put into not just cycling projects but also new roads, bus projects, housing developments and greenways too.
New designs for roads and streets and even cycle route projects continue to disappoint, use unsafe designs and fall far short of Cycling for All. Common flaws includes dangerous slip turns, cycle lanes between traffic lanes, shared use footpaths, and bus stops interrupting cycle tracks even where there’s space for “bus stop bypasses”. On rural routes, including greenways, routes are still being planned and built with unnecessary barriers, loss of priority sometimes over the smallest of roads, and dangerously poor gradients and other flaws.
The ongoing low standards on cycle routes and lack of progress on key things like contra-flow cycle lanes and permeability is why I am writing to all cycling groups in Ireland. I am asking you to support the CyclingForAll.ie principals — and to discuss and vote on such at your group’s next meeting.
I am including commuter cycling campaign groups, sporting cycling clubs and greenway advocates in this call — CyclingForAll.ie looks for Dutch-like infrastructure and this accommodates everybody from a five-year-old cycling to school with their parents to a middle aged man on a racer to retirees enjoying themselves cycling safely in the countryside.
The alternative to CyclingForAll.ie is to continue with current Irish standards of cycle tracks which make few people happy, is unattractive to everyone from schoolchildren to leisure cyclists, and causes conflict with pedestrians and motorists. It’s no longer good enough to say we need top class cycling infrastructure — we need to spell it out and that’s what CyclingForAll.ie does.
Design standards in a book or an online document will, of course, not change everything. But when councils and other authorities are told and reminded again and again to design for Cycling For All — and keep all types of uses in mind — things will start to change. This will be underpinned by making it clear that choosing better design and transferring space to cycling is a political issue, not something just to be left to civil servants, even the most well intentioned ones.
I know this request will be met by some thinking that we’re just too far behind the Netherlands and elsewhere, but cities like Seville show that even a small city can expand its cycling infrastructure 12km long of unconnected cycle paths in 2005 to 120km of segregation cycle paths in 2010 and another 60km since. Even in the Netherlands cities like Utrecht and Den Bosch have shown how a large percentage of the bicycle networks can be upgraded in just a decade. Cycle routes are being built in Ireland, we need to demand that the quality is better, that there is more funding, and that routes are built at a quicker rate.
Supporting CyclingForAll.ie includes:
- Ask your members to sign the CyclingForAll.ie petition at https://my.uplift.ie/
petitions/cycling-for-all-in- ireland — and make sure to send out reminder emails and posts on social media.
- Write to the Minister for Transport outlining how the National Cycle Manual and TII rural cycle route guildines should be rewritten within six to 12 months to follow the CyclingForAll.ie principals.
- Write to your local council CEO and the head of the NTA stating they should be designing routes to a higher standard than the national cycle manual even before it is rewritten.
- Write to your local politicians and ask that they sign up to CyclingForAll.ie and push them on following through when it comes to public consultation for projects, council votes etc.
- Issue a press release to your local print, online and broadcast media highlighting how children and adults need segregated cycle networks. Outline how you calling on politicians to support CyclingForAll.is, and that the public should do the same, especially if they want a better future. You might want to highlight inactivity and climate change but also tell people it’s in their own self-interest, ie less school children are being driven to school, and that cyclists will use Dutch-like infrastructure.
- Include following the CyclingForAll.ie principals in response to local project consultations.
- Continue to promote CyclingForAll.ie on your website, on social media, in interviews etc.
Before starting CyclingForAll.ie, I extensively consulted as widely as possible in Ireland, and with a number of international contacts on the Cycling For All goals, and with best practices — what’s on CyclingForAll.ie is a product of that. But I am happy to hear any input on refining that message.
If you have any questions at all please let me know. Please feel free to share this message and my contact details with your members.
CyclingForAll.ie was set up by IrishCycle.com in the same campaigning journalism vain as Cities Fit For Cycling by The Times in London, The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign or similar campaigns by local and national newspapers and websites.
An excellent initiative. Well done Cian. As you pointed out the proposed Bus Connects routes that we have seen are not just wholly inadequate but also actually dangerous and discriminatory. We need to stop this sort of dangerous rubbish being put forward. We need proper standards. I hope all the cycling groups can get behind this initiative and help make a difference.
Maybe we need a campaign for a set of mandatory minimum quality standards for cycleways which can be drawn up away from the passion and controversy of any particular plan so it is not coloured by local issues like loss of parking,loss of road space for cars or whether it allows cyclists to look into a farmers field to see what he is doing. We need to agree what the right way to provide safe usable cycleways is and then to do it.