Ireland needs a faster roll-out of high-quality cycle networks to enable people to choose walking and cycling over car use, a new grouping called the Active Travel Coalition has said.
The Active Travel Coalition, which said it is forming in the lead up to COP26, is a grouping of health, climate and cycling groups.
It includes the Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Cancer Society, Diabetes Ireland, Irish College of General Practitioners, Sport Ireland, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Cycling Campaign, Irish Pedestrian Network, Friends of the Earth, Irish Doctors for the Environment, and the Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine (RCPI & RCSI).
It said there needs to be a reallocation of road space to walking & cycling, and more commitment from local and national politicians to lead.
The coalition also wants to see firmer legal backing for trial infrastructural change legislation.
“Transport accounts for 20% of emissions in Ireland,” said Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth. “Given our carbon reduction targets in transport, a modal shift away from the private car is needed towards sustainable modes. Segregated cycle tracks, particularly in Dublin, are urgently needed to support this.”
Dr Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics at Sport Ireland said: “Sport Ireland research shows that only 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 5 children meet recommended daily physical activity levels. Reaching the physical activity guidelines will require a mix of sport, recreational physical activity and regular active travel.”
She added: “Investments in active travel infrastructure can increase cycling to school and work, helping increase the number of children and adults meeting the recommended daily physical activity levels.”
Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, said: “30 minutes of moderate intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, five days a week, reduces your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and contributes to overall improved levels of health. However, we know that if we want more people cycling, particularly school children, we need a major expansion of safe cycling tracks.”
Dr Sean Owens, from the Irish College of General Practitioners, said: “The strongest evidence for reduced incidence of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease is lifestyle measures centred around physical activity and healthy diets. Getting our patients, our families and our staff on their bikes for pleasure, or for a commute, is a triple win; better health for patients and families, better for the environment and better value for the public purse.”
“Only 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 teenagers who cycle in Dublin are female,” said Mairead Forsythe from ‘Women on Wheels’, a research group linked to the Dublin Cycling Camapign. “The figures show a major gender gap in cycling in Dublin and while the barriers to more women and girls cycling are varied, the number 1 barrier is fear of mixing with motor traffic.”
David Timoney, a spokesperson for the Dublin Cycling Campaign said: “We know from research and from the cycle traffic on the Grand Canal and Dun Laoghaire and Seapoint cycle tracks that segregated routes enable people of all ages and abilities to cycle.”
Colm Ryder, Chairperson of Cyclist.ie, said: “In many areas developing cycle infrastructure will require a re-allocation of road space from the motor vehicle to active travel. We need to adapt our private car use to achieve the critical goals of an improved and safer public realm and more efficient movement of people around our towns, cities and rural areas.”