An Freedom of Information request for details of recently announced walking and cycling funding worth €240,057,943 was rejected last week by the National Transport Authority.
The NTA rejected the release of the documents because it said it would take up too much resources to release the requested records. A schedule, or list, of the records which would fall under the request — which requesters are supposed to get even where a request is rejected — was not released for the same reason.
It follows on from February 11 when IrishCycle.com reported how 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. The extent of how much of the funding is for what type or what quality of project is unknown because so little information was released about the funding.
Last week further doubts were raised that the National Transport Authority (NTA) will be able to deliver on higher standards of cycling infrastructure when its CEO Anne Graham defended existing designs in the National Cycle Manual as safe for children — which was quickly disputed by TDs and cycling campaigners.
Local authority sources have also said that the NTA has not facilitated the use of Dutch protected junction designs (an example pictured above), and cycling and sustainable transport campaigners have said the alternative NTA-supported and experimental Dublin-style protected junction is unsafe.
In the UK where the Government has also increased the level of cycling funding, providing better standards was already an on-going process and temporary improvements in guidance was released before the first funding round. A new body is also being set up in the UK to seek to ensure standards are upheld.
In 2020, The Guardian reported: “But under the new No 10 plans, bike lane design standards are not only being updated, but will be enforced by a body called Active Travel England. Billed as a travel equivalent of Ofsted, it can insist on certain designs, inspect what is built and withdraw funding from councils that are too tardy or unambitious.”
The Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the NTA asked for the applications by local authorities for the 2021 Funding Allocations for sustainable transport projects as listed in a PDF on the NTA’s website.
The request was not granted and the reasoning given was under Section 15(1) of the FOI legislation which allows for rejecting requests where “in the opinion of the head, granting the request would, by reason of the number or nature of the records concerned or the nature of the information concerned, require the retrieval and examination of such number of records or an examination of such kind of the records concerned as to cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption of work (including disruption of work in a particular functional area) of the FOI body concerned..”.
The NTA said “The above notwithstanding, and in line with the provisions of Section 15(4) of the Act, the NTA would like to assist you to the fullest extent possible and as such we respectfully suggest that you amend your request such that it reflects information which is accessible.”
Ten days ago this website replied asking can the NTA make suggestions to reword the request to get details of the projects and how the funding was applied for. We also asked if the NTA at least has the successful applications in an accessible format. We’re awaiting a reply.
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Separately IrishCycle.com has submitted a Access to Information on Environment (AIE) request for the same information. This was originally submitted at the same as the FOI request but was not dealt with due to a miscommunication on this website’s behalf.