“Radical change” needed on transport in Ireland, says cycling campaigners

— Campaigners says shift to cycling can help health and climate action. 

Any Government formation needs to include re-balancing of transport funding to give “cycling its logical share” and provide for high-quality cycling infrastructure, Cyclist.ie has said in a letter to political party leaders.

Cyclist.ie, which represents most cycling campaigns in Ireland, wrote the letter in the context of media reports outlining how Government formation may be close.

In the letter, Colm Ryder, chairperson of Cyclist.ie, said: “The election is over but a new government has not yet formed. The arrival of COVID 19 has added to the challenge of negotiations for a new Programme for Government but at the same time we cannot stand still on other issues.”

Ryder said: “Seville was able to provide a cycle network and increase cycling significantly to 8% in five years – the same period of office as an incoming Irish government. In the last five years, there has been little progress on the Greater Dublin Cycle Network and progress in Cork, Limerick and Galway has been even more protracted.”

“Cyclists in Galway and Cork are frustrated and alarmed by their respective Metropolitan Area Transport Strategies while Limerick cyclists have little confidence in efforts to date at urban improvement by their local authority,” he said.

On funding, Ryder said: “We accept that an immediate increase to 10% by the Minister for Transport is not practical in 2020 or 2021 but
it is realistic to ramp up investment to 10% within three or four years. Cyclist.ie is not looking for additional funding for transport – only a rebalance of transport funding to give cycling its logical share. Politicians have promoted cycling for some 20 years and in 2009
cycling policy set a target of 10% commuter cycling by 2020, but Ireland is nowhere near achieving this.”

He said: “The lack of vision on cycling by Irish local authorities is clearly demonstrated by several Dutch cities having current cycling levels in excess of 40% of journeys, whereas by 2039-2040 the predicted level of cycling in Galway city centre is 6% and in Cork is 4% – which are reductions from current levels.”

The Cyclist.ie letter said that the group believes that the Department of Transport should require Directors of Services for Transport to be appointed as Cycling Officers with responsibility for change in transport mode for their authority and for publishing annual progress reports.

Ryder said: “In the autumn of 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that there was only a period of 12 years left in which to limit climate change to less than 1.5 °C in order to prevent a climate catastrophe. This period is now reduced to less than 11
years.”

“The challenges to the next Irish government are unprecedented. It MUST introduce radical change to the way transport is managed in order to achieve the desired outcomes, or as close to the desired outcomes as possible, not just on movement but also on climate action, on the environment and last, but not least, on community health.”

MORE: Cyclist.ie letter to party leaders

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.

14 Comments

  1. Reappointing TII/NRA to oversee the installation of cycling infrastructure west of the Shannon was a huge mistake following their fiasco there in 2015. Cycling routes west of the Shannon must be decided by local communities and NOT TII/NRA or Westmeath CC.

  2. @Diff Daff
    So what will the farmers find acceptable? Some cycle signs on minor roads? Some paint on the hard shoulder of the motorway? Unless the end result is a safe and pleasant route that people will actually want to use, there is really no point in going West of the Shannon. The midlands are overlooked for tourism anyway and have some beautiful places to visit. That way everyone wins, except maybe the odd guesthouse, cafe, shop, pub or restaurant further West that might appreciate the potential for extra tourist euros in difficult times. But sure as long as the farmers are happy, that’s the main thing.

  3. @Aka what is your point? The farmers have repeatedly offered to work with the state and been rebuffed.

  4. @Shane Foran
    “Unless the end result is a safe and pleasant route that people will actually want to use, there is really no point in going West of the Shannon.”

  5. @Aka exactly. If you want “ a safe and pleasant route that people will actually want to use ” then the first thing needed is get the goodwill of key stakeholders. Hostile comments coming from anonymous and, at best, ill-informed contributors such as yourself do nothing to build that goodwill. Anyone looking at your contributions would think you are trying to sabotage Greenway efforts West of the Shannon.

  6. @Shane Foran
    I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject and I admit I was hostile to Diff Daff’s bellyaching, but not to the idea of a greenway. “Cycling routes West of the Shannon must be decided by local communities and NOT TII/NRA or Westmeath CC” is hardly an invitation to a cooperative solution, it’s just more of the same frustrating stubborn rhetoric that has characterized this whole debate.

    A greenway west of the Shannon would be a wonderful resource for the country that I would dearly love to see in my lifetime, but it’s been stuck in a rut for years because everyone dug their heels in and refused to compromise. The farmers are not blameless in this.

    So what was the thrust of these proposals that were rebuffed? Is there an actual plan on the table? If so, let’s hear it.

  7. @Shane the comments from *some* farmers and *some* of their representatives about (1) CPOs not being suitable for cycling and walking routes, ie farmers say never type of comments, and (2) the fear mongering around what greenways would bring to different areas, claims ranging from crime to greenway users have sex in the open, puts much of the offers of help or negotiation into the category of bad faith offers.

  8. It’s a pity that comments on Irish Cycles coverage of the letter to party leaders focus only on the controversy re 1 planned route., The letter itself is interesting, especially now, when there is talk re what the “new normal” post Covid19 will be and when people are rediscovering what it’s like to walk or cycle with little traffic. But on the topic of the Dub-Galway Greenway, since its a National Route and part of the Euro-Velo Network I dont think Diff Daff’s point re local decision-making only can stand. Consult by all means,( it’s difficult to accomplish much without goodwill) but there’s a national as well as a local interest at stake here, the same as for any other national transport infrastructure. Agree that TII’s expertise to date lies in motorways rather than cycle infrastructure though. Were they chosen because they do have expertise in negotiating land deals?

  9. One of the key points of the letter (omitted from the Irish Cycle article) is in relation to the Strategic Framework Investment in Land Transport (SFILT) which is a straitjacket on transport funding. There won’t be any significant rebalancing of funding from roads to sustainable transport unless it is ditched.

  10. @Cian the comments of some stakeholders regarding the Greenway are no different to some comments of some Dublin contributors regarding the Bus Connects proposals or to school streets proposals. But that would not allow anyone to charactarise this as the bad faith claims of the “Dubliners” or the opposition of the “Dubliners”. It is clear to me that some who put themselves forward as Greenway proponents have a specific anti-rural and anti-farmer agenda. They should save that for another debate. As regard Joans question there are numerous options for rural cycling routes and sections of Greenway through East Galway. why should there only be one? As regards it being a national route most national routes in other countries grew out of local routes that connect together. Why are we unable to follow the same model here? There are already over a 100 golden mile schemes in Galway.

  11. @Shane — loads of the Dublin objections to the likes of BusConnects and cycle routes are clearly made in bad faith.

    If you want to propose other route or promote existing routes of different types, fire ahead. That’s not a reason to object to greenways being built just because they use CPOs.

    Others have suggested that maybe routes from Athlone to Mayo or Sligo should be looked at instead of Galway. There might be no harm in that now.

  12. @Cian that is exactly my point, because some contributors in Dublin are clearly acting in bad faith that is not a justification for accusing all contributors of acting in bad faith simply because they are from Dublin.

    As you are very aware already – the central trigger to objections in East Galway was that CPO for the construction of a brand new road through farms was the “only” mechanism proposed.

    If you then want to characterise that as “That’s not a reason to object to greenways being built just because they use CPOs” then with regret you cannot accuse others of bad faith.

  13. @Shane There’s loads of people in rural areas (including some farmers) who see the arguments from other farmers and farming groups as bad faith.

    Very similar issues have come up on permissive access greenways (which are not sustainable).

    Your issue may be that you have a problem with the greenway-only mechanism (correct me if I’m wrong on that or my phrasing, please), but that’s not what’s outlined by farming groups — their publicly stance is that walking and cycling routes are not good enough reason for CPOs.

  14. @Shane Foran
    You should maybe take a look at your own comments on the matter of greenways West of the Shannon. In fairness to Cian, Irishcycle is generally an oasis of considered debate and not infested with trolls. Your comments are generally worth reading but your prickly defensiveness in any conversation on this matter over the last five years is curious. You have no hesitation in slinging personal accusations and misrepresenting those with whom you do not agree as being ill-informed and of having anti-rural and anti-farmer agendas in an effort to dismiss their opinions. That is hardly conducive to an informed debate on the matter.

    Indeed it would be easy to accuse you of being a shill and a mouthpiece for farmers interests masquerading as a cycling commentator but I don’t actually think that is the case. In fairness it is clear from your record that you have a genuine passion for cycling as well as (I would guess) a farming background and are naturally defensive of farming in general. That is understandable, but while I have no particular beef with farmers, they are not above criticism. It is beyond question that farmers do provide a vital service to the country and deserve the respect and support of the population, but they do have a case to answer on several fronts, particularly in relation to habitat destruction and public access.

    I have no doubt that there is a new generation of farmers coming through that have begun to realize that they will need to change their intensive farming methods and be more considerate of nature. I am old enough to remember the smeared bodies of hundreds of flies on car windscreens in high summer. That this is no longer the case (as is backed up by many recent studies and not just my hazy memories) is largely down to the colossal amounts of pesticides sprayed by farmers as well as the leveling of the habitats that allowed these creatures to exist. It is not anti-farmer to state this, it is simply a fact. It needs to change. I hope that young farmers recognize this.

    And when it comes to public access, Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe where there is very little public access to farmlands. In Scotland all land is publically accessible with certain limitations, in England and France there are strong protections of extensive rights of way. It is only in Ireland that we are forced to walk along minor roads in lieu of proper countryside because very few such rights exist and the number of houses built along those roads make walking or cycling on them a dangerous proposition.

    Preventing access to land is presented as a logical and even historic position, protecting the property of hardworking landowners from destructive interlopers, but in fact it is relatively unusual in Europe. Furthermore most of these inalienable rights have only come about in relatively recent times when we went from being a nation of peasant farmers scraping a living on rented land to being the owners of that land. Ironically it is likely that this sudden change of ownership status has contributed to the possessiveness and hostility that characterizes the response of landowners to any suggestion that restrictions on access be relaxed. But maybe farming needs to change and provide more than just food, maybe environmental and social responsibilities will become more important elements in the farming world as we move through this century. I would suggest that this has to happen.

    As someone with an interest in cycling and a love for both nature and farming as well as a platform for your opinions and perspective to be widely heard, you should be in a unique position to act as a conduit to bridge the often fraught relationship between the environmental and farming agendas as well as urban / rural differences of opinion. You should use that position productively and refrain from aggressively attacking any dissent. Explain why comments are wrong, don’t just accuse those who make them of having an agenda. Use your influence and knowledge positively and don’t be so damned cranky.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: