No quality control linked to Minister Ryan handing out €240m in walking and cycling funding

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has allocated €240m to walking and cycling projects, including to low-quality projects which are already designed, and new projects to be designed using old design standards.

This is in stark contrast to the UK where cycling route design guidance was updated before the extra funding was announced and before it was allocated. Funding was linked to higher-standards.

While the cycling infrastructure in the UK is far from perfect, the quality of projects in London and elsewhere has started to far surpass the quality of street changes built in Ireland in recent years. The higher standard infrastructure in the UK includes Dutch-style designs — including Dutch style crossings, protected junctions and roundabouts — which the National Transport Authority has resisted implementing.

The National Transport Authority said that the local authorities included in the announcement today are the four Dublin councils, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow; Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Limerick City and County Council, Galway City Council and Waterford City and County Council. It said that more funding for “rural” towns and villages will be made in the coming weeks.

The projects highlighted included the Dodder Greenway in South Dublin County Council — the council only last year installed restrictive kiss gates another section of this greenway and, when the route was being planned, council officials rejected a call from one councillor for better segregation between walking and cycling despite ample space along most of the route and it being designated as a primary commuter cycle route.

Another project highlighted is the Bury’s Bridge (Dunkettle) to Carrigtwohill Cycle Route by Cork County Council which is interurban walking and cycle route which mixes walking and cycling on what is shown in a video by the council as little more than a footpath.

IMAGE: Bury’s Bridge to Carrigtwohill Cycle Route

The outline of projects includes funding for building long-planned projects, building new projects, and the design of future projects. A list of projects published by the authority does not outline what stage each project is at. The allocation by local authority is as follows:

  • Dublin City Council €49,875,000
  • South Dublin County Council €20,705,000
  • Fingal County Council €14,870,000
  • Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council €34,145,000
  • Meath County Council €12,885,000
  • Kildare County Council €7,730,000
  • Wicklow County Council €7,616,000
  • Cork City Council €29,606,000
  • Cork County Council €15,781,943
  • Limerick City and County Council €17,372,500
  • Galway City Council €11,865,000
  • Waterford City and County Council €13,886,500
  • Campuses, Hospitals and Educational Institutions €3,720,000

A statement by the National Transport Authority today said: “The NTA will be tasked with overseeing and supporting the development of the high-quality mobility infrastructure across all projects. The state agency will also ensure that projects are accessible, age-friendly and maximise comfort to people of all ages and abilities.” However, this seems to be the case of press releases including terms like “all ages and abilities” and “high-quality” without detailing any way that such will happen.

National Transport Authority — which was tasked with allocating the funding to councils — has long resisted the best international practice of Dutch-like standards for cycling.

The National Transport Authority’s own BusConnects project often fails to even follow its own National Cycle Manual. As IrishCycle.com reported in December the BusConnects project fails to even meet the basic cycle track width requirements in the National Cycle Manual — meaning the National Transport Authority own flagship project has been planned around sub-standard cycling provision.

It is also widely viewed that elements of BusConnects fails to follow the Manual for Urban Roads and Streets, which is mandtory for road changes. The Authority is planning footpath narrowing and road widening in a number of locations including the north Docklands and Phibsborough.

After IrishCycle.com requested comment today, the Department of Transport referred back to a statement it gave on February 5, it relation to a future article covering how Minister Eamon Ryan endorsed sub-standard infrastructure.

In that statement, the Department referred to the establishment of the National Transport Authority Cycle Design Office, which was set uo under former Minister Shane Ross.

It then pointed to the new fund for walking and cycling in towns and villages, but did not give any details on how higher standards would be ensured on such project funding. According to the announcement today, this town and village funding is now expected to be allocated with an incredibly quick turn around time within two months of when some councillors in local authorities were first briefed about the funding, leaving little time for quality control.

The Department said: “In January Minister Ryan announced funding will be provided to local authorities across the country to establish dedicated active travel units. This is a potentially transformative intervention as many stakeholders have recognised the lack of adequate, dedicated resources in local authorities was inhibiting the development and roll-out of high-quality active travel infrastructure” — this too was covered by IrishCycle.com, but there was no detail on how the words high-quality would translate into high-quality infrastructure on the ground.

The Department added: “Finally funding provided by the Department will support the review of the National Cycle Manual, which is due to commence shortly and is expected to be completed by the summer. Finalisation of this revised and improved NCM will be accompanied by an extensive training programme by the NTA to ensure the NCM’s principles of high-quality and accessible design are embedded in the work of local authorities and other relevant stakeholder.”

But, today, did not outline how a review of the National Cycle Manual could apply to projects which are going to be tendered for to be built or designed before the manual review is completed. In the UK, new guidance was issued quickly by its Department of Transport before funding allocation.

The original drafting of the National Cycle Manual took years and is viewed by most cycling campaigners in Ireland to be defective in allowing councils to pick from the lowest quality options and state that the project complies with the manual.

Dermot O’Gara, a spokesperson for the National Transport Authorly said: “All the schemes and projects are governed by NTA cycle design guidance.”

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.

1 Comment

  1. This is the sort of thing that the Dublin Cycling Campaign should be lobbying the minister hard for (apologies in case they are doing this anyway!). Implemetation of the highest international standard of cycle infrastructure, that being found in the Netherlands, should be a prerequisite of funding. The NTA’s flawed design standards applied to these schemes are not what we should be getting at all.

Leave a Reply

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

%d bloggers like this: