A promise to support up to 248 new jobs focused on walking and cycling infrastructure and promotion was announced by the Department of Transport.
The announcement was made by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for Roads Hildegarde Naughton. The Department of Transport said that it is expected that up to 218 staff could ultimately be assigned to the new active travel teams across all local authorities with a further 30 additional staff available through the Regional Design Offices.
The announcement differs from the approach in the UK where a departmental order was issued by the UK Department of Transport to follow improved design guidance ahead of new funding.
The National Transport Authority in Ireland has started a review of the National Cycle Manual, but this comes after long delays in that process and the orignal drafting of the manual also subject to delay. National Transport Authority has also been reluctant to accept Dutch designs for infrastructure elements such as protected junctions and bicycle priority roundabouts.
The Department of Transport said that the Programme for Government has already committed that €1.8bn, or around €1 million a day, will be spent on walking and cycling over the lifetime of the Government. It is unclear at this point how much of the funding will be spent on the 248 new jobs.
The Department said that the new staff will be dedicated to delivering and promoting active travel in Ireland and will work across design, communication/community liaison and construction oversight functions. The new staff will “support the delivery of almost 1,000 kilometres of improved walking and cycling infrastructure by 2025.”
A press release issued under embargo for midnight said that Minister Ryan has requested that councils “ensure that as part of the development of these teams that each will include an Active Travel Officer dedicated to behavioural change and promotional activity”.
Minister Ryan said: “Developing high quality walking and cycling facilities will encourage more people to switch to active travel and will contribute to tackling climate change. Really good design is what is needed to connect communities and make walking and cycling attractive, safe and accessible to everyone.”
He added: “I am delighted to confirm that we will fund dedicated resources in all local authorities to deliver on the commitments in the Programme for Government. This is a game-changer in terms of delivering high-quality infrastructure across the country in both rural and urban areas.”
Minister of State Naughton said: “Today’s announcement, underpinned by our commitment to spend almost €1 million per day on walking and cycling, focuses on resourcing the shift towards more sustainable modes of transport. Local authorities are at the heart of what we want to achieve and we need to ensure they have the right level of resources available to deliver this in every city, town and village across the country.
She added: “Vitally, we will use these dedicated resources to implement Government commitments such as the new Safe Routes to School programme. This Programme will ensure that children of all ages and backgrounds can travel to school safely, and in a healthy and active way.”
The Department pointed out that the proposal fulfils a number of important Programme for Government commitments in relation to active travel and will ensure that increased infrastructure investment is overseen by dedicated and adequately resourced local authorities across the country.
The Department said: “The National Transport Authority has been working with local authorities in recent months to develop a new structure for the delivery of active travel. That work has identified the type and level of resources required across the country to ensure that the increased levels of expenditure planned deliver the right type of infrastructure, in the right place and at the right time. This project will more than quadruple the number of staff working on active travel projects on local authorities.”