TDs say Minister Ross not doing enough on cycling

TDs across all main opposition parties criticised transport Minister Shane Ross for not doing enough on investing in cycling in cities, towns and rural areas.

Cross-party speakers in the Dail said cycling had a wide range of benefits including health, environment and tourism. Many said that space needs to be transferred to cycling and that this might not always be popular and needed leadership.

Voting in the Dail this evening on a motion for greater focus on cycling was postponed until next year. The motion — full text below — included calling on the Government to prioritise the rollout of dedicated cycle tracks, that are physically segregated from other road users, across the country.

Junior minister Brendan Griffin said that he would put it to Minister for Transport Shane Ross that the Government would support the Fianna Fáil party motion. Minister Ross had left the Dail chamber before the end of the debate but had previously opposed the motion because it condemns the Government for inaction to date.

Robert Troy, the Fianna Fáil transport spokesman who put forward the motion, has said in the Dail this evening that Minister for Transport Shane Ross has “a problem with prioritisation” within his department, especially with cycling. He accused Ross of inaction on a minimum passing distance law and called for segregated cycle paths to be built.

Troy said that when the minister promised minimum passing distance law he either rushed to get publicity or did not consult legal advise first.

He said the Department of Transport’s allocation of cycling has gone from €16 million to around €10 million per year under Minister Ross.

He said he expects the minister to mention BusConnects but that the infrastructure side of BusConnects could take 10 years and the pace of progress on investment in cycling is too slow.

John Lahart, Fianna Fáil spokesman for Dublin, said: “The proof in the pudding for cycling safety is when parents of 12-year-olds let them cycle to school alone”.

He said somebody need to lead the change of use of public space and convince the public of the benefits.

Minister Ross said he agreed with most of what was said but could not agree to the Fianna Fáil motion because it “condemns the Government”.

He said that the motion was not focused on cycling and that the Government was already progressing cycling infrastructure by means of BusConnects and the Greenway plan.

The minister said he could accept the Labour Party’s amendment, but could not support the Green Party’s motion which also said the Government was not acting fast enough. He noted the lack of Green Party TDs in the Dail.

Minister Ross cited policy changes such as lower speed limits and he said that on the minimum passing distance law that he could not dismiss the Attorney General‘s advise against the law and that he would be bringing forward an alternative law, expected not to specify a distance.

Minister Ross said that the opposition was unwilling or unable to see that spending on cycling was increasing and said again referenced BusConnects and greenway funding. He said that roll of of cycling has been slow but that “the future is bright”.

Imelda Munster, Sinn Fein transport spokeswomen, said that people cycling having to share lanes with buses and other vehicles will not attract more people to cycling. But she said that Fianna Fáil is propping up the Government.

She said that “it wouldn’t be easy and sometimes people will have to give a little for the city to gain a lot” and space been given to cycling.

Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Fein spokeswoman on health, said: “Most people don’t want to be engaging with politicians and they would not be sending us emails on the motion if they thought everything in it was already been done.”

She said we have an issue and that people have “no faith” that it’s being done.

Labour TD Brenden Ryan referenced people in the public gallery including in Neil Fox, brother of Donna Fox, who was killed when cycling to work in 2016.

He said that Donna was cycling to work as we are asking people to do, but that safe infrastructure isn’t been implemented.

He said space would need to be taking away from motoring and this might not always be popular.

Labour TD Seán Sherlock said that the Minister always revers to the National Transport Authority when Parliamentary questions are asked about cycling and other sustainable transport issues and he needs to “roll up his sleeves” and words need to be “translated into real action on the ground”.

He also said that more people don’t cycle because they feel it is not safe.

Deputy Sherlock said that the National Transport Authority has stated that there is no funding for the expansion of public rental bicycles in regional cities and said that he is calling for Minister Ross to resolve this issue.

Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, Michael Fitzmaurice, said that that a minimum passing distance would not be workable on minor rural roads and that Government needs to work with farmers on greenways.

Gino Kenny, a Solidarity–People Before Profit TD, said that he cycles everywhere.

On infrastructure he said that “if you build it people will come”. He said: “We are far, far behind other European countries.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said “nothing has changed” in decades on cycling. He said: “We have to change…. we have to start creating safe space for cycling”.

He added: “How many times have we gone to Utrecht or Copenhagen and come back and nothing changes?”

Ryan said there’s “small strands of greenways” and disjointed cycle lanes in cities.

He said with BusConnects it is trying to fit in four lanes, two for buses and two for cars, and when there’s pinch-points cyclists are diverted. He highlighted Rathmines — where the NTA plans to remove cycle lanes and divert cyclists — and said diverting cyclists is wrong given they are

Ryan said the Liffey Cycle Route and S2S Dublin Bay routes have been delayed for years. He said that he regrets that Minister Ross is not in the chamber.

Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin West Jack Chambers and TD for Mayo Lesa Chambers said 10 years is too long to wait for BusConnects.

Lisa Chambers said that investment in cycling is also need in towns and not just cities.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin, responding for the Government, highlighted investment in Smarter Travel Demonstration Towns as another example of Department of Transport action on cycling — although this project was widely seen as underfunded and not delivering safe cycling networks.

He also said that Bike Week and European Mobility Week another example of Department investment in cycling.

He said that “greenway should be called goldways” because of the tourism benefits they bring. He said that the greenway investment fund is oversubscribed with applications and that this is a good sign.

He said that a number of projects are due to start construction in Dublin next year including the Royal Canal Greenway. A project is also due to start in Navan.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said that there needs to be an official change in attitude on cycling and said that most cycle lanes were “token cycle lanes”.

“We need somebody to sell this” and he said that he doesn’t think Shane Ross is that person.

Robert Troy said that that cycling campaigners had reservations about the design of BusConnects and that they needed to be listened to.

He echoed the Sinn Fein point that members of the public clearly do not agree with the Minister that enough is been done.

The postponed motion said:

“ That Dáil Éireann:

recognises:

— the rapidly growing popularity of cycling as a means of transport, particularly in Ireland’s urban and suburban areas, as evidenced by recent Census figures and the popularity of schemes such as the dublinbikes public bicycle rental scheme;

— the considerable health benefits that regular physical activity, such as cycling, brings to citizens and the need to promote such activity;

— the high level of economic returns and value for money that cycling projects give;

— that chronic congestion is grinding our cities and road arteries to a halt, making it more difficult and more unpleasant for people to get to work;

— that cycling is a zero-carbon mode of transport and one which can help to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions, as per our commitments at European Union and international level;

— that Ireland lags behind our European peers in the provision of safe cycling infrastructure, such as dedicated cycle lanes, secure bike storage facilities and cyclist-friendly traffic lights; and

— that the largest cycling conference in the world is due to take place in Dublin in June 2019, and that Ireland needs to show progress on the development of cycling infrastructure;

condemns:

— the considerable safety risks that cyclists face on Irish roads, owing to our poorly developed cycling infrastructure;

— the current low funding allocations for cycling at only approximately two per cent of the overall land transport capital budget; and

— the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport’s failure to bring forward legislation requiring drivers to maintain a minimum distance when passing cyclists; and

calls on the Government to:

— prioritise the rollout of dedicated cycle tracks, that are physically segregated from other road users, across the country;

— place cycling infrastructure at the heart of transport infrastructure planning by appointing a dedicated cycling officer to every local authority at an appropriate level of seniority, and by establishing a dedicated cycling division within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to coordinate activity and projects across all departments;

— introduce cycle friendly legislative initiatives, similar to those of our European neighbours to promote the growth of cycling, including contra-flow cycling, left turn at red lights and joint use of pedestrian crossings;

— build on the successes of bike sharing schemes by expanding these schemes to major suburbs of towns and cities;

— revise the Bike to Work scheme to allow commuters to purchase a new bike every three years instead of every five years, and to extend this scheme to pensioners and unemployed people;

— introduce immediate supplementary funding to local authorities to support the rollout of ‘quick win’ projects supporting safe cycling and walking routes in the short term; and

— prioritise two cycling projects to be delivered in advance of Velo-City 2019.” — Robert Troy, Bobby Aylward, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, James Browne, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Lisa M. Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen, John Curran, Stephen S. Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Sean Fleming, Pat the Cope Gallagher, Seán Haughey, Billy Kelleher, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Eugene Murphy, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, Darragh O’Brien, Jim O’Callaghan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Willie O’Dea, Kevin O’Keeffe, Fiona O’Loughlin, Frank O’Rourke, Anne Rabbitte, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

4 Comments

  1. Many thanks for update as was unable to listen live. Another bite of the cherry in the new year because of postponement. Gives them all a chance to familiarise themselves with Cycling for All! Was delay because of Gov briefing to Opposition re EU no deal planning?

  2. Gutted that I was unable to make it into the Dail tonight as I was stuck in work until late. :( However, from the reports I’ve seen there seems to be growing awareness for the need for greater investment in sustainable transport. Lets hope something comes from it all.

  3. My comments as a Dutchman on some parts of the above text.

    “Cross-party speakers in the Dail said cycling had a wide range of benefits including health..”
    Because cycling has a benefit on the health of people it also has an further advantage on the costs spend on health care.

    “The proof in the pudding for cycling safety is when parents of 12-year-olds let them cycle to school alone”.
    This morning, 20th December 2018, I saw a girl of 5, 6 year old cycling to school during rush hour. She was accompanied by her older sister. No parents.

    “He added: “How many times have we gone to Utrecht or Copenhagen and come back and nothing changes?”
    On YouTube there videos about people coming to The Netherlands to see how our infrastructure is for themselves. E,g, This video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp3s2EP0zVo In the first 30 seconds the man says: “We are her in The Netherlands, because it is the world’s most advanced country for bicycling and we are here to understand why that is, how that’s done and what lessons from that might be translatable and applicable to American cities.” My comment was: “Alice Bravo says from 4:24 till 4:35 that she wants to find out what it takes to make it happen that the culture embraces the bike as a mode of transportation. It only takes one thing to make that happen and that’s the right mindset.”

  4. Some of those names are consistent advocates for cycling but others I am suspicious they are just saying what seems popular at the moment and when it comes time to actually do something they won’t be anywhere around or even worse they’ll decide some rubbish about nurses with triplets needing their cars to save lives and row in behind some groups that wants to preserve on street parking for their cars (that are in no way related to the purely hypothetical figure being used to sell the idea)

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