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Govt target for 10% trips by bicycle dropped rather than updated by Minister Ryan

While Ireland continues to have a target of 1 million electric vehicles by 2030, Green Party leader and transport Minister Eamon Ryan has launched a new policy that has removed a firm target for cycling in Ireland.

Minister Ryan last week launched the new National Sustainable Mobility Policy which replaces Smarter Travel and National Cycle Policy. Both of the older policies committed to a 10% cycling modal share for cycling by 2020 — instead of updating the cycling target, the Department of Transport has removed it.

This 10% share for cycling was a national target for cycling and was expected to have to amount to at least 20% cycling in cities.

The only apparent firm target for cycling alone is now to “develop and commence implementation of a programme for secure bicycle parking in key towns and cities plus transport hubs” and with that to have “1,000 secure bicycle parking spaces implemented” by 2025. This target is compared to thousands of new bicycle parking spaces being added at numerous train stations and shopping areas in the Netherlands each year.

The new Sustainable Mobility Policy was launched by the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton just two days after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was issued.

The Department claimed that the “Sustainable Mobility Policy will play a key role in supporting Ireland’s goal to half its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” but this does not seem to be backed by the targets in the plan.

The National Sustainable Mobility Policy has a target of “500,000 additional active travel and public transport journeys per day”. IrishCycle.com put it to the Department of Transport that, given predicted population increases, the target would result in a modal share change for walking, cycling and public transport from 22.3% to just 23.9%, and it would mean over 561,000 extra trips per day.

IrishCycle.com asked if this really the low level of ambition that Minister Eamon Ryan is aiming for and why is the Minister is dropping a firm cycling target when the Planning Regulator is telling councils around the country to make sure to include firm and ambitious modal share targets in their Development Plans.

A spokesperson for the Department said: “The National Sustainable Mobility Policy is an ambitious and visionary plan to transform the way we travel and move around locally and nationally. The Policy states that its targets will be kept under review and may be subject to change.”

The spokesperson said: “The reason for this is that the process for settling carbon budgets and associated sectoral emissions ceilings under the Climate Act is currently underway. This may impact the targets for the transport chapter in the next revision of the Climate Action Plan 2022. Such changes will need to be considered as part of the on-going review of the associated targets and indicators for this Policy.”

On targets, the new National Sustainable Mobility Policy states: “Our overarching targets are aligned with the transport target metrics in the Climate Action Plan 2021 of 500,000 additional active travel and public transport journeys per day and a 10% reduction in kilometres driven by fossil-fuelled cars by 2030. It is estimated that this will deliver a reduction in greenhouse emissions of 1.4MtCO₂eq by 2030.”

It continues: “The process for settling carbon budgets and associated sectoral emissions ceilings under the Climate Act, which is currently underway, may impact the targets for the transport chapter in the next revision of the Climate Action Plan 2022. Such changes will need to be taken into account as part of the on-going review of targets and indicators for this Policy.”

The Department of Transport confirmed to IrishCycle.com that the phrase “10% reduction in kilometres driven by fossil-fuelled cars by 2030” should refer to “remaining” internal combustion engine cars.

Taking the 10% reduction in kilometres driven by fossil-fuelled cars by 2030 at face value would mean a very small switch over to electric cars and/or a slight car reduction in car use.

The error-inducing omission was caused by the removal of mention of electric car target in the Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan states: “Increasing the proportion of kilometres driven by passenger electric cars to between 40 and 45% by 2030, in addition to a reduction of 10% in kilometres driven by the remaining internal combustion engine cars.”

It is unclear why the Department of Transport did not include the Climate Action Plan target for electric cars, but its removal when the other targets were copied over from the climate plan clearly caused the error which was included both in the policy and the press release announcing it.

The National Sustainable Mobility Policy acknowledges that Smarter Travel failed to achieve its targets. It said that a review by the Paris-based OECD “concluded that a lack of an effective implementation structure led to the failure to achieve the modal shift envisioned in Smarter Travel”.

The National Sustainable Mobility Policy said that the OECD review “also considered that actions required to meet the targets were not put in place and there was no-coordination with relevant government departments to implement the policy. The review highlighted the importance of adopting a clear implementation plan, with intermediate and final targets, budgets and responsibilities, as well as a need to ensure that all governmental bodies apply the policy consistently to achieve any agreed policy targets.”

The Department of Transport said the “key action areas” in the policy include: Improving the safety and accessibility of walking, cycling and public transport networks; switching the public transport fleet to “low and zero emission vehicles”; improving rail infrastructure and services; introducing a more attractive fare structure; transport orientated development; and reallocating road space to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport.

It also said that it includes commencing delivery of BusConnects in cities and Connecting Ireland in rural areas, but as IrishCycle.com covered yesterday, the NTA BusConnect plan continues to cycling routes design which is not in keeping with best practices or accessible design.

The Department of Transport said in a press release that a “Leadership Group” will be set up to “drive implementation of the policy and agree a programme of ‘pathfinder’ projects at local level”.

A new annual National Household Travel Survey is to be conducted by the National Transport Authority and a new National Sustainable Mobility Forum to “engage with stakeholders”.

And the Department said that there would be “A public engagement strategy to promote the benefits of sustainable mobility and raise public awareness of options.”

The National Sustainable Mobility Policy and its 2022 – 2025 action plan can be found at Gov.ie.

Clarification: The headline in this article originally referred to 20%, this was edited to 10% very quickly after this article was published and an explainer about the 20% was added.

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Cian Ginty
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