Transport Minister Shane Ross has told the Dáil that he expects Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford to follow Dublin City in developing COVID 19 Mobility Frameworks with a focus on active travel to support people to switch to walking and cycling and facilitate social distancing in urban centres.
The measures will aim to keep public transport for those who have no other choice while avoiding cities getting further clogged up with cars after the lockdown.
While Dublin City Council is planning to implement measures to allow for social distancing space around shops and make space for cycling post-lockdown, the response from other cities has been seen as lackluster. Cork City Council’s CEO Ann Doherty has even refused requests from campaigners and councillors to even open a gate to a park due to claimed “safety” issues.
Earlier today we reported how Dublin City Council CEO has responded to criticism from companies with an internist in car parks on the council’s plans to give more space to walking and cycling. Owen Keegan said: “We are dealing with an emergency situation. Residents who want wider footpaths don’t want them in 6 months or 18 months, they want them now. ”
In the Dáil today, Minister Ross said: “In the short term, more people will wish to walk and cycle, to the shops, to work, or just to get some exercise. I’m glad to say that my Department, through the National Transport Authority (NTA), is helping rethink how best our cities can support people switching to active travel modes and facilitate social distancing in urban centres.”
“The NTA is working with local authorities to develop COVID Mobility Frameworks which will set out specific plans to improve walking and cycling infrastructure. The first Framework is being developed with Dublin City Council. I understand that the initial draft will be available in the coming days. It will set out measures to be put in place in the coming weeks and months to facilitate the safe resumption of social and business activity,” Ross said.
He said: “I intend that similar plans will be developed for Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. This emphasis on active travel isn’t just a short term measure, it has been a feature of the submissions we received during our consultation on our sustainable mobility policy in the last few months.”
“So along with these much needed temporary measures, we are continuing to fund the longer term projects like the Royal Canal Greenway in Dublin, the Parnell Street improvements in Limerick, and the extension of the Waterford Greenway into the city centre,” said Ross.
Ross added: “On 1st May the Government published the roadmap for easing of restrictions, phase one of which begins next Monday. The challenge for the transport sector is to deliver services safely as restrictions are eased. The sector has continuously engaged with public health advice and we will work to provide safe transport services, for our economy, for our people and for our country.”
Cycle campaigners call for action
In a press release issued a short time ago, Cyclist.ie — an umbrella body of most cycling campaigners in Ireland — said it is calling on the Irish Government to “urgently follow the lead of European and United Kingdom governments regarding emergency Covid-related active travel measures.”
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Joan Swift, a Cyclist.ie spokesperson and member of the Sligo Cycling Campaign, said that the Government “Needs to ensure that the remaining Dublin council areas and our other cities of Waterford, Limerick, Cork Galway – and major towns such as Sligo – will not be left behind”.
Damien Ó Tuama, national cycling coordinator for Cyclist.ie, said: “Initially the required segregated space can be secured quickly and cheaply by reallocating road space using a combination of wands, bollards, orcas and planters.”
The group also wants the introduce of a €1,000 electric bike grant to facilitate longer journeys by people who will be unable to use public transport, introduce incentives for bike repairs as implemented in France and UK, and to ensure that the Cycle to Work scheme continues to be available to workers who could avail of the scheme pre-COVID 19.
It also said that the Cycle to Work scheme should be expanded to include an equivalent scheme for those dependant on social welfare, and increasing the limit from €1,000 to €2,000 for purchases of cargo bikes.