Programme for government set to bring Ireland to Dutch level of cycling funding

— €360 million per year to be spent on walking and cycling if deal approved.
— Plan for major increase in children using active transport to school.
— Push for segregated cycle routes will not be confined to cities under plan.

A programme for government between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is understood to include a massive shift in walking and cycling funding, with a planned investment of just under €1 million per day for every day the coalition government is in existence.

The programme for government is expected to be published this afternoon. The party leadership of all three parties are then expected to sell the idea of the three-party coalition government, especially the Fianna Fáil and the Green Party leadership which both have to gain the support of their membership who will vote on the prospect of entering government.

Newspapers this morning have called the programme a “win” for the Green Party, including the cycling elements.

The approval of a programme for government with a high level of funding for cycling and walking comes after we reported last week that Ireland’s climate minister had argued against the move. Transport infrastructure funding is also expected to be adjusted to be 2:1 ratio in favour of public transport over new roads over the lifetime of the planned government — the lifetime measurement is favored because there can be a spike in funding year-to-year in one or the other when some larger projects are paid for. 

The programme of government, if approved, would bring cycling funding in Ireland from about 2% of the transport budget to around 10%. IrishCycle.com understands that the plan is to fix the amount at 20% of the 2020 Department of Transport infrastructure spend, rather than track the percentage rate over each year. 

The amount planned to be spent on walking and cycling would amount to €360 million per year. The funding will cover active travel projects, greenways and an estimated amount for the walking and cycling elements of BusConnects.

A UN report recommended “at least 20%” for walking and cycling, and 10% for cycling alone was recommended a Parliamentary vote in January 2019 and followed up by the all-party Report on Addressing Climate Change in Ireland published in April 2019. CyclingForAll.ie called for 20% of the capital transport budget to be spent on walking and cycling, while cycling campaign umbrella group Cyclist.ie seeks 10% for cycling projects. It’s unclear what reaction cycling campaigners will have to a fixed amount rather than a yearly percentage or that greenways are included in the total amount, but it’s understood that some view the percentage amount as important.

If the three parties go into government, regional design offices are expected to be set up to help improve the quality of projects. Campaigners have said that high-quality cycle networks suitable for all ages are needed to entice people out of their cars. 

In understood that councils will be told to develop cycling policies, map out cycle network plans, and help enable a major increase the number of children using active transport to school.

The programme is also expected to include covering electric bicycles and cargo bicycles under a type of expanded Cycle to Work Scheme, the details of which have yet to be worked out and it could come in the form of an electric-car-style grant system.

Also included is the expansion of the Cycle Right cycling training programme for children, and building improved bicycle parking at train stations.

In a press release issued when only the headline funding figure was reported, Cyclist.ie said: “We are seeking a 10% allocation for cycling from our government’s transport budgets. We are delighted to see that the initial figures emerging from the government formation talks appear to have recognised this urgent need to invest in ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling) by allocating €360 million per annum towards cycling and walking schemes. Cyclist.ie welcomes this commitment.”

“Cyclist.ie has consistently highlighted the multiple benefits of investing in cycling – across economic, societal and environmental headings. On the public health side, regular cycling for everyday journeys builds exercise into our busy lives and can be easier to maintain compared to recreational physical activity. Economically, each kilometre driven by a car incurs an external cost of €0.11, whereas cycling and walking bring benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometre, respectively,” the group said.

The cycling campaigners said that cycling and walking are an “essential part of the solution in decarbonising our mobility system and hence are a critical part of an overall transport mix”. 

Kevin Jennings, chairperson of the Galway Cycling Campaign said: “A commitment of 10% for cycling in the land transport budget could help change transport in Ireland. Investment in cycling is investment in public health. Better infrastructure will encourage more people to cycle during coronavirus, and enable the years of social distancing we must do until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.”

Jennings said: “The expectation is that cycling funding will be spent on quality infrastructure for all ages and abilities… so that we can grow cycling to levels common in places like Ghent, Seville and Leeds.”

He added: “We also need to support more women to cycle. The boom in bike sales is due to more women buying bicycles. Before coronavirus, only 27% of cycling commuters are female, according to 2016 Census data. Women typically have complex cycle routes involving trips to school, childcare, GP, local shops, public services like libraries, as well as to work. Safe and segregated cycle paths in networks that start from your residential area are necessary to support more women – and families – on bikes.”

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.

2 Comments

  1. Hopefully a way will be found to ringfence the spending to avoid the likelehood of sewers waterworks and road realignment being classed as cycle infrastructure .

  2. “…… grow cycling to levels common in places like Ghent, Seville and Leeds.” Leeds used to brand itself as “Leeds, Motorway City of the Seventies” Is it a typo?

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