Cork City accused of aiming too low with 10% target for cycling for 2028

— “Tiny incremental changes” are the enemy of climate action, says campaigner.

Cork City Council has been accused of aiming too low in setting a 10% target for the modal share of cycling in its Draft Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028.

The new target is higher than the widely-criticised 4% in the Transport Strategy for the Cork Metropolitan Area, which was supported by the city council and National Transport Authority (NTA). The NTA has defended its figures in a number of cities by outlining it is modelling rather than targets, but the Office of the Planning Regulator has called on councils to set more ambitious targets.

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The Government’s Smarter Travel policy, published in 2009, had a target that “10% of all our trips
will be by bike” nationally “by 2020”. It was widely understood that cities would need “do the heavy lifting” and aim for between 15-20% to achieve that national target.

The Smarter Travel policy was backed by the National Cycle Policy framework but authorities across the country have failed to build the network of cycle routes promised. Over a decade later, there still isn’t even a single continuous suburb to city centre cycle route in any Irish city.

The Cork Cycling Campaign said that a 20% modal share target is what Cork City should be looking at. In Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council currently has a 20% modal share target in its draft Development Plan — as reported recently by IrishCycle.com, this target is backed by the Planning Regulator.

Conn Donovan, chairperson of the Cork Cycling Campaign,  said: “The draft Cork City Development Plan now includes an amendment for the Plan to have an ‘ambition to increase the modal share of cycling to 10%’. This now means that Cork has a 2028 ambition to reach a bike target that in 2009 the Government set for all trips nationally by 2020.”

Donovan pointed to the latest IPCC report published yesterday which supports using cycling in cities to quickly lower transport-related carbon emissions.

Cllr Dan Boyle (Green Party) however defended the target. He said: “It was a hard-won amendment. If not accepted there would have been no target for cycling within the Cork City administrative boundary only a 4% target for the greater Cork metropolitan area.”

But Donovan said: “There’s many people (ourselves included) pushing for a higher bike modal share in Cork. I get the feeling that most councillors / the executive are making decisions that seem to be addressing the challenge, but fall significantly short of what is needed to unlock health benefits and climate action.”

He said: “Inaction isn’t the enemy of advocacy. The enemy of advocacy is tiny incremental changes that allow a body to claim they are on the right path or taking action while simultaneously achieving very little change.”

Cllr Boyle said: “Many factors stymie activity. Some feel that having targets that aren’t reached is long term damaging. Change is happening. Infrastructure has increased enormously. If only a modest target can be agreed and is exceeded so much the better.”

Donovan replied: “Yeah that’s a valid point re failure to reach the target. The alternative view is that a higher target focuses the efforts more. Infrastructure is just one piece of the puzzle. Efforts needed in other areas too, eg maintenance, communications, wayfinding, speed limits etc.”

Another Cork campaigner, Orla Burke said: “Is there any evidence that “having targets that aren’t reached is long term damaging” – like people can “feel” these opinions all they want but there is a huge body of evidence around behavioural change that should relied on, not just feelings about targets.”

Cllr Boyle said he was not arguing the point but rather reporting on held views on whether there should be a target and how the target was agreed on.

Burke said: “I know, we are singing off the same hymn sheet Dan. But we should be engaging in evidence-based policy making. If people are letting their feelings get in the way of that.”

IMAGE: Cork Cycling Campain using CSO Census data.

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