A RANDOM DÁIL SKETCH, OF SORTS: Everybody wants climate action and, more public transport. Athough some people seem to want some public transport just because Dublin has it, and some people in Dublin want electric cars to avoid using buses or — worse still — becoming one of those cyclist things.
In a recent debate on the Climate Action Plan 2021 — which can be read in full on kildarestreet.com — TDs discussed a wide range of measures. Here, we look at a sample of their views on transport.
“There is an idea about 1 million electric cars. When I heard that first, I thought it was a joke,” said Gino Kenny, a People Before Profit Alliance TD for Dublin Mid West. “We want to get away from car culture and congestion. People want to use public transport.”
Overall, he said action is needed collectively. “If it is looked at individually, it will be doomed to failure.”
Deputy Kenny is a cyclist himself — he really is and a fairly committed one at that. Like many TDs who cycle (there’s a surprising number of them), he does not always mention cycling when transport is discussed.
Memo to TDs: We’re in a struggle to cut emissions. No one thing alone will do it. It needs a mix. Including making cycling mainstream again.
Donegal-based Independent Thomas Pringle was on the ball when he said that there will be an immense personal cost for some families to switch to EVs, and they will be needed to be supported better especially in areas where there’s a higher need for cars.
But he also said that there’s a need for a huge investment in public transport, including a well-functioning train service that might extend to his constituency of Donegal… a place which is famous for one-off housing which does not lend itself to rail services without immense subsidies. For most of Donegal better electric car subsidies might be a more effective in reducing emissions in the short-term.
Wicklow-based Social Democrats TD Jennifer, Whitmore, outlined how the Government has high targets, but that’s not been met by delivery.
She said: “The Minister announced the roll-out of 1,000 public charging points. Since that time, only two councils have implemented that measure and just 29 out of 1,000 charging points have been installed.” That’s the joke right there and it’s hard to add anything to it.
Kieran O’Donnell, a Fine Gael TD for Limerick, said: “I will confine my comments to transport to electric vehicles.”
Look, that’s not ideal Deputy O’Donnell, but it’s a common issue for policymakers worldwide, including Minister Ryan extending grants for electric vehicles while still not including electric or cargo bicycles.
“I speak to taxi drivers and ordinary people,” said Deputy O’Donnell. Sorry, we’re going to have to stop you there again before we get angry comments from our taxi driver hate mail writers: Some readers might claim otherwise, but IrishCycle.com would like to put it on the record that taxi drivers can be ordinary people too.
Deputy O’Donnell said the switch from an internal combustion engine to an electric one is a “seismic shift”… for those that can afford it, is it really, Deputy?
He adds investment in charging points before hyping range anxiety, stating EVs are “good for commuter driving but travelling any sort of distance depletes the battery.”
In Dublin Bay South it is possible that too many constituents are ready to commute short distances by electric car.
Labour TD for Dublin Bay South, Ivana Bacik, said: “…in Dublin Bay South, there is huge frustration at the delays built into the BusConnects and…” sorry for the interruption, but It should be pointed out that this Dail debate happened before the first revised routes under Busconnects started to service Sandymount and some constituents started to complain that the buses were getting in the way of their SUVs.
And, anyway, the buses should switch back to Strand Road because they don’t want the cycle route regardless of what the Supreme Court might say. Bacik has not commented on this, it’s just worth mentioning what has happened since the Dáil debate.
“I am communicated with daily by constituents who are looking to do the right thing, who want to move to active travel and who want, if they have a car, to switch to an EV. Motorists are stymied unless they are lucky enough to have a driveway,” Bacik said in the Dáil.
She said there needs to be electric charges on streets in places like Portobello… many local readers would say hopefully not on the narrow footpaths.
But some local councillors don’t like the idea of reducing car parking space for bicycle parking. One has to wonder what their position is on charging points? Is it like car wheels?… put them on the footpaths?
Deputy Bacik added: “It is difficult to see how we meet…. our targets of significantly fewer journeys by car, if we do not build and put in the infrastructure. I will not even start on the difficulties of getting pedestrian crossings and better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians in my area. There is frustration there.”
But the local frustration from some is strong towards Labour councillors who object to any walking and cycling projects which impact on car users. There’s signs that the party are also fed up with them and hopefully this might help nudge them in the right direction. One can hope… Seriously, Deputy Bacik deserves credit for being one of a minority of TDs in the debate to mention cycling and not just EVs or public transport.
Fianna Fail TD for Dún Laoghaire, Cormac Devlin, said the Minister needs to “…inject a sense of urgency into Government agencies that manage and deliver public transport. We need more urgency around major projects.”
Urgency indeed. Deputy Devlin who, readers might remember, launched a campaign against a quick-build cycle route in his area.
Waterford-based Green Party TD, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, said building for active travel “will ensure that kids can get to their school independently, older people can walk safely or cycle around their own communities and our towns and cities are not choked with fumes, noise and unsafe streets.” He just forgot to add in #bancars.
Meath East TD and Sinn Fein transport spokesperson, Darren O’Rourke, wants more school buses for much the same job.
He said: “I have been consistently putting forward ideas to kick-start emission reductions in the transport sector. School bus transport is significantly oversubscribed year on year but the current target outlined in Bus Éireann’s sustainability strategy would only see a 20% increases in bus places by 2030. That is the equivalent of just 1,000 extra places each year. We are turning thousands of children away from public transport each year and putting them back in private cars, which makes no sense at all.”
Overall he said we’re not seeing the ambition to develop long-overdue public transport infrastructure. Which it’s hard to disagree with when we’re told projects which like Metro and Dart+ which definitely are delayed somehow aren’t.
He was backed on the school bus issue by Longford-Westmeath, Sinn Fein TD, Sorca Clarke, who said that their idea would remove tens of thousands of car journeys from our roads each day.
She added: “When something makes sense for the climate and reduces the burdens on families but also makes sense fiscally but is still not being done, that is when frustration grows and the Government loses the support of people.”
It’s great to hear Sinn Fein are going to more actively support cycling investment… well, they were talking about school buses alone… anyway, why not both? …safe routes to schools and more school buses? Can anybody argue with that?
Independent TD for Kerry, Michael Healy-Rae, told the Dail: “I am not a climate change denier but I have heard from other Deputies who buy into this and they are saying that we should go further quicker. What do they mean?”
First, Michael, can you tell me, what do you mean? If you’re not denying it and you also have not bought into it… what is your position exactly?”
“They say they want to get away from the car culture,” Healy-Rae. That was the radical socialist who said that. The Greens won’t even slip in #bancars.
“What do they want? Do they want people at home to be walking around or going on bicycles?” Yes! You got it. They do want that and it would be better for everyone involved. But Minister Ryan spoils the party by quickly clarifying that cars will still exist and, in so many words, that nobody is going to forcefully take cars off Irish motorists.
First, Danny Healy-Rae, the older brother who’s another Kerry TD, said there’s no point because of China etc etc… or whatever the tired old climate denial talking point is.
“I always say transport will be more difficult because, in truth, through our planning in the past 50 years, we have embedded dependency on the car,” said Minister Ryan. “Which will be hard to unwind. It is not that we are saying ‘No’ to people driving. Cars will be electric. We will need people to have those choices and freedom to be able to move around, but the current system does not work, not just in climate terms but also due to gridlock geometry.”
But fewer cars are needed too, said Minister Ryan — “switch fuels” and “shift to other modes of transport,” he said. Lucky recovery there Minister, you nearly lost the votes of some readers.
He added: “#bancars.” He — of course— didn’t say that, but he might as well have been saying that to most of the rural independent TDs as well as some in Government, who see no different between reduce car use and banning cars.
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