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Planning Regulator backs 20% cycling target for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

— NTA suggested 10% by 2028 when DLRCC was already at 7% in 2016.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council may soon have one of modal share targets for walking, cycling and public transport which combined are the most ambitious in Ireland.

The targets for commuting trips are contained an amendment to the council’s Draft County Development Plan 2022-2028. As well as setting a cycling target of 20%, the amendment sets new targets for walking at 15%, micro mobility at 5%, and public transport at 30%. This leaves the car modal share target at 30% of peak trips.

In 2016, when the last Census was taken, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had a modal share of 14% for walking, 7% for cycling, 25% for public transport (including 11% bus and 14% rail), and 53% combined for car drivers and passengers. Cycling use is already expected to have increased and so too has rail use with a capacity expansion on Luas green line, but it’s unclear how this will stand up post-Covid.

The Office of the Planning Regulator said: “The Office welcomes the material amendments included in response to Recommendation 7, including the ambitious modal share targets for the plan period…”

The development plan is expected to be finalised at a special council meeting on the plan next Tuesday.

But while the Office of Planning Regulator is backing what it calls ambitious targets, the councillor who suggested the targets has accused the National Transport Authority (NTA) of trying to keep ambitions low for cycling targets and not including targets for other modes.

The NTA said that “at a general level” it uses the 10% target ” figure as guidance for cycling objectives in urban areas”. The 10% was a target which was not achieved under the now out-of-date National Cycle Policy Framework 2009-2020.

The policy had a 10% cycling target nationally, but it was always understood that cities would have to aim for at least 20%. In the timeframe of the plan not a single continuous segregated or low-traffic cycle route was built from the city centre to suburbs of any Irish city, something which is set to change in the coming years.

At a DLRCC development plan meeting in October, Cllr Oisín O’Connor (Green Party), who suggested the targets, said: “The NTA and the [DLRCC] executive have recommended that we set a modal share target for cycling of 10%, but not to set a modal share for any other mode of transport… ‘What gets measured gets managed’ and this is true for modal shift as anything else. I don’t see any solid reasons not to include any targets for other modes of sustainable transport.”

He called the targets “not necessarily binding” but instead showing the “aspiration of the county in moving away from heavy car dependency towards more public transport use, more walking and cycling and new modes of mobility.”

On cycling, he said: “The 2016 [Census] baseline was 7% cycling modal share. Even before the pandemic in 2019 we saw a large increase in the numbers of people cycling and due to the change the county has made, including the Covid mobility measures and the coastal mobility route, and the plans that are being working on now, I just think going from 7% in 2016 to 10% in 2028 is a very unambitious plan.”

At the same meeting, Louise McGauran, a senior planner at DLRCC, said: “When we were asked by OPR to put in modal share targets we did speak to the NTA — it was very much their advice that we stick with the 10% in terms of a cycling target.

She said that the council is designing its infrastructure so that people can choose to make all of the trips they want by walking, cycling and public transport. But then added “…our advice was ‘let’s not be so prescriptive to people’ and to go with the carrot rather than the stick approach, and create that choice” — it’s unclear what this has to do with modal share targets.

In a written response to the motion, DLRCC management said: “The Executive disagrees with this motion which does not accord with National policy. Following the advice of the NTA, the Executive included a single target namely for 10 % cycling (this is not a limit) as a realistic target for modal share for travel to work, school and college based on the Census in Table 15.5.5. (page 339) with respect to Policy Objective T10 Walking and Cycling.”

The written response added: “The 10 % cycle target is consistent with the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009. The monitoring arrangements in the plan are flexible such that any new targets set by government, NTA etc will be monitored as appropriate. It should be noted that there is currently no legislation to cover some of the micromobility means of transport. The sample 2022 Census form on the CSO website does not refer to micromobility but refers to “motorcycle/scooter””.

In September 2021, Dermot O’Gara, a spokesperson for the NTA, said: “In its submissions on city and county development plans, at both the Pre-Draft Issues Paper and the Draft Plan stages, the NTA has not been specifying any particular mode share targets for cycling, for local authorities to apply.”

He said that the NTA has “not recommended that a target cycling mode share of 10% is applied in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan.”

“The Department of Transport publication Smarter Travel, A Sustainable Transport Future states, under Action 15, that ‘10% of all our trips will be by bike’. At a general level, the NTA uses this figure as guidance for cycling objectives in urban areas, he said.

In response to a question on decarbonise of transport, O’Gara added: “In regards to Government objectives and the need to decarbonise transport, the NTA would place a critical emphasis on the consolidation of urban generated development, consistent with National Planning Framework objectives, as a basis for reducing car dependency, providing a foundation for effective investment in sustainable transport alternatives to the car and the achievement of higher non-car mode share outcomes, including cycling.”

However, on January 12 of this year, IrishCycle.com asked the NTA if it opposed a proposal to include modal share targets or the target as proposed in the DLRCC County Development Plan, and, if so, why?

Karl Coleman, a spokesperson for the NTA said: “The NTA has not ‘opposed a proposal to include modal share targets or the target as proposed in the DLRCC County Development Plan’, and has not told councils to set low targets for cycling mode share. The Department of Transport publication Smarter Travel, A Sustainable Transport Future states, under Action 15, that ‘10% of all our trips will be by bike’.  At a general level, the NTA uses this figure as guidance for cycling objectives in urban areas.”

He said: “The NTA has been working with the Office of the Planning Regulator and with local authorities, through the development plan review process and the preparation of Area Based Transport Assessments, to establish ambitious but achievable mode share for sustainable transport, and will continue to engage with them and other relevant stakeholders in this process.”

Campaigners have also said that targets for sustainable transport are too low for the Greater Dublin Area, Cork, Limerick and Galway in both development and transport plans. Although it is understood that the NTA has asked Cork City Council to increase its cycling target in a submission on Cork City’s development plan.

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