28 groups write to Minister Ryan seeking renewed focus on Cycling For All Ages and Abilities

— High-risk millions will be wasted without renewed focus on vision, policy, design guidance and standards, and legislation to support Cycling For All.

CAMPAIGN: CyclingForAll.ie and 27 other groups have asked transport and climate change Minister Eamon Ryan to urgently act to address the poor quality of provision for walking and cycling to avoid wasting funding.

CyclingForAll.ie is supported by over 150 elected representatives across Ireland. You can check the spreadsheet to see if your local politicians have signed up yet and ask those who are not to sign up at CyclingForAll.ie.

The letter follows from a Programme for Government commitment that funding for “cycling and pedestrian projects will be set at 20% of the 2020 capital budget (€360 million) per year” for the lifetime of the Government. The letter signees said that the funding increase undoubtedly marks a transformative change in both the vision, and investment in active travel. But have concerns about the implementation of this vision.

On-going issues include that the current cycling design manuals are of poor quality compared for what’s needed for Cycling for All Ages and Abilities, issues with the quality of projects funded in the last year, and elements of current policy and guidance are being ignored.

The letter asked Minister Ryan to issue interim standards, integrate all cycling standards into an expanded Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets, fund only high-quality projects, focus on demonstration areas such as Mini-Holland schemes, set up a national oversight committee, take funding back where needed, and review speed limits to support infrastructure changes.

As well as CyclingForAll.ie, the letter was signed by Better Ennis, Castlebar Community Cycling, Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, Cork Cycling Campaign, Cycle Sense Skibbereen, Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, Cycling Without Age, Cycling Works Dublin, D12BikeBus, Drogheda Cycling Campaign, Dublin Commuter Coalition, Dublin Cycling Campaign, Galway Cycling Campaign, Galway Cycle Bus, I BIKE Dublin, Irish Doctors for the Environment, Irish Pedestrian Network, Kerry Cycling Campaign, Leitrim Cycling Festival, Limerick Cycling Campaign, Love 30, Maynooth Cycling Campaign, Naas Cycling Campaign, Navan Cycling Initiative, Sligo Cycling Campaign, The Bike Hub, and Wexford Bicycle User Group. CyclingForAll.ie is also supported by IrishCycle.com.

LETTER TO THE MINISTER: 

Dear Minister Ryan,

As you are aware, walking and cycling can play a key part in tackling our climate change and inactivity crises, while having wider social, health and economic benefits. We support the initiatives that you as Minister for Transport and Environment, Climate and Communications have initiated. But there is a high risk that millions in funding will be wasted if we do not see a renewed focus on vision, policy, design guidance and standards, and legislation to support Cycling For All Ages and Abilities.

This is more important than ever given that: the UN Secretary-General described the recent IPCC report on Climate Change as a “code red for humanity”; the fact that, according to EPA data, 13% of Ireland’s carbon emissions come from car use; and that evidence shows that active travel can have a significant decarbonisation benefit.

Background and Context

CyclingForAll.ie is a national campaign to support Cycling for All Ages and Abilities and is supported by over 150 elected representatives and several groups. It seeks:

  • the reallocation of space and priority to walking and cycling,
  • to have cycle networks built/upgraded,
  • to put in place the planning, guidance, and legislation to support such, and;
  • for 20% of the capital transport budget to be spent on walking and cycling each year.

We welcome the Programme for Government commitment that funding for “cycling and pedestrian projects will be set at 20% of the 2020 capital budget (€360 million) per year”. This undoubtedly marks a transformative change in both the vision, and investment in active travel. But we have concerns about the implementation of this vision.

These centre on a fear that some funding is being wasted, and there seems to be a lack of focus from the Government to change this. The bases of our concerns are as follows:

  • Current cycling design manuals are of poor quality in the sense that they do not accommodate cycling for different groups of people — including children cycling to school, people with disabilities on adapted cycles, adults less willing to mix with traffic, etc.
  • Issues remain with the quality of projects funded in the last year (lack of protection at bus stops or proper protected junctions), the lack of focus (as compared to Mini-Holland schemes in the UK), and funding used on projects beyond walking and cycling (ie road resurfacing).
  • Elements of current policy and guidance are being ignored — for example, below-standard footpath and cycle track widths on sections of BusConnects and other projects to accommodate more priority or capacity for cars.
  • There is a lack of clarity on legislative structures to facilitate the rapid infrastructure rollout.

The above issues are ongoing largely because current NTA and TII design guidance does not support international best practices. There has been a repeated unwillingness by officials to adopt best practices and often there’s an unwillingness to even follow existing policy and guidance. For example:

  • At the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action last March, the NTA’s CEO claimed that all of the designs in the National Cycle Manual were safe. However, we firmly maintain that the manual is not fit for all ages and abilities. In that regard, at the Committee chairperson Brian Leddin responded: “If we are designing infrastructure for everybody, from a four- or five-year-old children to elderly people and people with disabilities, the existing National Cycle Manual and what’s in it, I certainly would not regard it as safe.”
  • Then, in June, the NTA’s deputy CEO claimed to councillors at an online BusConnects meeting that tried and tested Dutch protected junctions are unsafe for pedestrians, while the NTA is implementing not just untested experimental “Dublin-style” junction designs but also continues to implement needlessly shared paths at junctions and roundabouts which put pedestrians and people on bicycles in conflict when there are alternatives. 
  • BusConnects, as currently planned, would leave some streets cycling unfriendly to the extent that Cycle Buses, where parents/guardians have to join together in groups to stay safe while guiding children, would still be needed to get children to school safely.
  • Current issues with cycling projects and BusConnects include downgrading space for walking and/or cycling rather than reconfiguring general traffic or bus flows, narrowing footpaths (including in high-density areas), not having pedestrian crossings at all arms of large junctions, use of narrow non-standard cycle lanes, putting bus priority over cycling safety etc.

The above needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency if the Government wishes to get the best return on spending and see positive results in the coming years. 

It is worth stressing that the undersigned firmly maintain that NTA’s BusConnects project needs to be supported, but the walking and cycling elements need to be significantly strengthened. In essence, a new vision is required and the official mindset needs to move beyond providing the minimal provision for walking and cycling because it is easier than disrupting cars or rethinking provision for buses.

To look at what is happening beyond our shores, in the last decade, London has leap-frogged the progress of Dublin, and the UK Government is now spreading this nationally. Last year, the UK Department of Transport sent a letter to councils stating that funding is dependent on a “swift and meaningful plan to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians.” In June 2021, a further letter was sent, stating that “The [UK] Department only intends to fund schemes which comply with the Cycling Design Standards set out in local transport note LTN 1/20… Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded.” 

In previous decades, walking and cycling demonstration areas in the UK and Ireland have failed to produce impactful results. But London’s well-funded and well-designed ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes prove that results follow sustained investment and political will. The UK is now expanding the model nationally.

Beyond one or two projects (for example, the Coastal Mobility Route in Dun Laoghaire), so-far there has not been a similar level of ambition shown on delivery speed, quality and focus in Ireland relating to walking and cycling funding, and this must change. It is not tenable that the Government is spending €1 million a day without providing even interim guidance.

Our Asks

We are asking the Minister and the Government to act to:

  1. Issue interim standards: Urgently — within months — issue interim standards which are in line with CyclingForAll.ie and similar to the UK’s Cycle Infrastructure Design (Local Transport Note 1/20) to get a higher level of standards applied before any design manual is perfected. This might best be done by issuing a supplementary DMURS guidance note, similar to what was done for COVID Mobility measures last year. 
  2. Integrate all cycling standards into an expanded DMURS: Within a year, issue new combined standards and guidance on walking and cycling as an amendment to the existing cross-departmental Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS). The Department must make sure such is line with CyclingForAll.ie, and act to:
    1. Ensure that expanded DMURS supersedes all standards on walking and cycling, including the National Cycle Manual, TII Rural Cycleway Design, and all other relevant standards and restate to relevant State bodies that DMURS is mandatory to follow.
    2. Look at renaming DMURS to the ‘Design Manual for Roads and Streets’, and to cover an expanded remit of safer walking and cycling on rural roads and higher speed roads.
    3. Make it crystal clear that the standards extend beyond walking and cycling projects and must be followed for road maintenance, road building, public transport projects, and other projects such as housing, schools etc.
    4. Set compliance with the revised standards as a clear funding and a planning requirement backed by ministerial orders or, new legislation. 
    5. Updated standards should not be limited to future projects — planned schemes not yet at the construction stage should be reviewed to be made compliant with the standards.
  3. Fund only high-quality projects: Ensure that funding is focused on high-quality projects which are in line with the above mentioned standards and which will deliver change, for example, remove barriers, increase permeability, and create safe and continuous routes for people of all ages and abilities which link residential areas with trip generators (schools, universities, urban centres, sports grounds, shopping centres, offices, factories etc.).
  4. Focus on demonstration areas, and strategic network plans: Focus funding on local authorities who are willing to build coherent strategic networks and demonstration projects:
    1. Each year, a large percentage of funding should be allocated to (1) Mini-Holland schemes, and (2) strategic urban and rural networks. 
    2. Mini-Holland demonstration areas — which need intensive multi-year spending — can be an area of a city, or a town and its rural hinterland with a mix of greenways, inter-urban cycle paths and low-traffic rural roads linking villages towns to a hub town.
    3. In Mini-Holland schemes, roads and streetscapes should, over time, be made as cycle and pedestrian-friendly as their Dutch equivalents, including high quality, separated cycle paths on main roads, and low-traffic neighbourhoods and low-traffic urban centres. Selected areas must have a serious political commitment to dramatic change. 
  5. Set up national oversight committee: This committee should have the Minister in a supervisory role to oversee the investment in walking/cycling. Targets need to be set alongside evaluating and tracking investments in projects so effectiveness can be measured and lessons learnt, with a feedback loop informing the next iterations of DMURS.
  6. Take funding back where needed: Ensure funding is returnable to the Department of Transport to be reallocated to other areas if the quality of projects does not meet the requisite standards, and/or if projects are not undertaken in a reasonably quick timeframe, and/or if trials are abandoned prematurely or without due process.
  7. Review speed limits to support infrastructure: Undertake an urgent review of the Department of Transport speed limit guidance, to support the above. The review should include default 30km/h limits in built-up areas, as committed to by Ireland in the 2020 Stockholm Declaration, and using lower speed limits in rural areas off main roads (for example, a possible default of 60km/h for rural local roads).

In Conclusion

We are concerned that, without decisive action on the above, Ireland will miss the opportunity to provide for Cycling For All, help to decarbonise the transport sector and get more people active. 

We await your reply and are happy to discuss this letter further with you and/or your advisors.

Kind regards,

  • Síle Ginnane, Better Ennis
  • Celine King, Castlebar Community Cycling
  • Allison Roberts, Clonakilty Bicycle Festival
  • Conn Donovan, Cork Cycling Campaign
  • Ruth Bullough, Cycle Sense, Skibbereen
  • Dr Damien Ó Tuama, Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network
  • Clara Clark, Cycling Without Age
  • Peter Collins, Cycling Works Dublin
  • Cian Ginty, CyclingForAll.ie
  • Aodhán King, D12BikeBus
  • Noel Hogan, Drogheda Cycling Campaign
  • Kevin Carter, Dublin Commuter Coalition
  • Kevin Baker, Dublin Cycling Campaign
  • Roselyn Carroll and Kevin Jennings, Galway Cycling Campaign
  • Alan Curran, Galway Cycle Bus
  • Ciarán Ferrie, I BIKE Dublin
  • Vincent Wall, Irish Doctors for the Environment
  • Lauren Tuite, Irish Pedestrian Network
  • Keith Phelan, Kerry Cycling Campaign
  • Jo Sachs-Eldridge, Leitrim Cycling Festival
  • Conor Buckley, Limerick Cycling Campaign
  • Mairead Forsythe, Love 30
  • Gerry Dornan, Maynooth Cycling Campaign
  • Conor Winchcombe, Naas Cycling Campaign
  • Kevin Corrigan, Navan Cycling Initiative
  • Nessa Cosgrove Sligo Cycling Campaign
  • Stephen McManus, The Bike Hub
  • Phil Skelton, Wexford Bicycle User Group
Cian Ginty
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.

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