Minister Ryan claims “acceleration in active travel” but funds low-quality projects, again

— Minister outlines €289m on walking and cycling infrastructure in 2022.
— Walking and cycling funding goes to public transport scheme which excludes cycle paths on main section of project.

Transport Minister and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has again highlighted the funding of low-quality projects and he claims to be starting an “acceleration in active travel post covid”.

Many of the projects were already contained in a Government announcement last year about the projects allocated in Budget 2022. The Department of Trasport issued an embargoed press release but did not respond to a question of the quality of the projects before the embargo ended at 1.30pm.

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Minister Ryan has promised action on design standards and principles of projects, but has so-far failed to act on this while continuing to fund low-quality projects.

The approach taken by Minister Ryan is in stark contrast to the situation across the Irish Sea where a new body, Active Travel England, will start operating this week and will be “responsible for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that meet the new national standards set out in 2020.”

It was announced over the weekend that Active Travel England will be headed by Olympian Chris Boardman. He is currently Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner and will now take up the role of the first national walking and cycling commissioner for England.

The funding of €289 million in 2022 announced again today covers 1,200 “Active Travel projects”.

MORE: List of project here.

The Department of Transport claimed that “This will contribute to the development of almost 1,000km of new and improved walking and cycling infrastructure across the country by 2025 as per the NTA’s multi-year draft programme to be published shortly” but the reality is that the list of projects includes mostly low-quality, short and disjointed projects.

Today, the Department of Transport press release highlighted a lists of projects, including the Clontarf to City Centre route in Dublin, MacCurtain Street in Cork, O’Connell Street in Limerick, the Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway, a Waterford Greenway link from Bilberry into the City Centre, the Hanover Pedestrian and Cycle Scheme in Carlow and the N63 pedestrian and cycle scheme in Longford

Speaking with IrishCycle.com when the MacCurtain Street Public Transport Improvement Scheme was developed by Cork County Council. Cork Cycling Campaign chairperson Conn Donovan said: “The campaign is disappointed that the quality of the cycling infrastructure isn’t of the standard we expect for a city the size of Cork.” It is also unclear why a public transport project is being funded by walking and cycling money.

O’Connell Street in Limerick was also seen as a disappointment to most local campaigners, with expensive stonework but not enough change which has typified public realm projects in Ireland for decades.

In Galway, the Salmon Weir Bridge is seen by many campaigners as a sub-optimal solution. The Galway Cycling Campaign said that unlikely to get more people out of their cars and onto bikes, and while it’s called a walking and cycling bridge it doesn’t make much sense for cycling, leaving people cycling mixing with general traffic over the existing narrow historic bridge.

Clontarf to City Centre is one of the highest quality projects listed but the project is a complex 2.7km bus and cycling project and, even if it starts this year, it will not be “delivered” this year.

The Hanover project in Carlow is less than 400 metres long — it includes an experimental junction which campaigners have criticised its general use and includes shared footpaths at one and an unchanged large urban roundabout without walking or cycling priority at the other end.

In a press release, Minister Eamon Ryan said: “It is great to see our investment in active travel starting to bear fruit. I want us to now accelerate delivery of sustainable transport modes as we come out of the majority of covid restrictions. It is vital that we do not allow a return to gridlock as we come out of the pandemic. We need to use the switch to remote working as an opportunity to reallocate road space to create a safer and more efficient transport system.”

He said: “Local authorities and the NTA have been provided with an unprecedented increase in funding for additional staff for active travel. I will be bringing forward further amendments to the Road Traffic and Roads bill in the coming weeks, which will also enable them progress experimental traffic management schemes and other measures which fast track active travel infrastructure. We need to be quick, to help reduce our climate emissions but also to use this unique moment in time to create a more attractive and safer local environment.”

The junior Minister at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said: “Today, over 1,200 projects across the length and breadth of the country are set to receive targeted funding towards making walking and cycling in our villages, towns and cities safe and sustainable. As we continue to meet our commitment of spending almost €1 million on walking and cycling projects each day, I am particularly happy to confirm that the schools participating in Phase 1 of our new Safe Routes to School Programme will also benefit. With 170 schools currently progressing plans customised to their specific needs and challenges, the Safe Routes to School Programme is delivering infrastructure on the route to and in front of our schools making it easier for children, parents and teachers to safely walk, cycle and scoot to school every day.

Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority — who previously claimed all of the designs in the National Cycle Manual are safe — said: “It’s great to be in position once again this year to make such a substantial investment in infrastructure for active travel. The funding we are announcing today will support the provision of walking and cycling facilities in every part of the country.”

She added: “More people than ever want to cycle and walk as part of their daily journey, and it is incumbent on us to encourage them to precisely do that, so they can leave the car behind. This investment will make a big difference, not just in our major cities, but in towns and villages across Ireland. We will work with our partners in the local authorities to ensure that the projects announced today become a reality as soon as possible.

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