COMMENT & ANALISIS: Yesterday, this website reported how Minister Eamon Ryan is seeking what is termed as ‘Pathfinder’ transport projects to “demonstrate a pathway to achieving climate goals”… this should be an opportunity to revive the idea of walking and cycling demonstration towns.
Walking and cycling demonstration towns don’t have a great record on outcomes in Ireland, partly due to the scope and funding allocation of the past — to make it worthwhile, significant levels of focus and investment would be required in one or two locations, be they a town or section of a city.
The ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes in London have proven successful as walking and cycling demonstration areas and have helped spur on more progress in London.
Isn’t it about time Ireland tried the same? To be clear: The Department wouldn’t reveal the budget of the Pathfinder programme, so, we don’t know if it can even support the investment needed for proper demonstration areas.
Community and political support would be needed from the outset. If most of the below-mentioned buy-in isn’t possible, then the town or area should not bid for the programme. The town or area having input and making the bid — not just council officials doing so — would be vital.
There must be a general acknowledgement that there will be opposition to different parts of the project, but the climate, health, safety, accessibility, tourism and business benefits are greater than the downsides.
If mention of relocation of space, traffic calming, making some streets one-way or making other access-only for motorists scares off all the local councillors, then there’s no point proceeding with a bid.
Before any such ‘bid’, it would need at least most of the following:
- A cross-party political agreement, not on every little detail but at least to the extent that there most councillors/TDs will not be objecting to every single thing or second thing and will have to show leadership and have some “weathering the storm” moments.
- A serious communications effort.
- Strong community buy-in and input.
- Schools, doctors, the hospital, health centres, sports clubs etc on board.
- Buy-in from as many businesses as possible.
Maybe some or all of the timeframes I have listed below are optimistic (this is me thinking out loud, not an actual briefing or request to bit), but I’d expect this level of intensity to make the bid and programme a success:
Pre-bid to 0-2 months and onwards
- Communications/community office in the town/urban centre.
- Open community consultation — from asking about the gaps in the current walking and cycling network (ie where are the roads you find it hard to cross or cycle on? ) to asking about how the changes are affecting people and how can things be done better.
- Website portal.
Infrastructure measures within 2-8 months:
- Walking and cycling crossings, especially ‘missing links’ on main roads within the urban area.
- New footpaths and/or cycle paths, especially on higher speed roads with missing links to estates etc.
- Quick-build measures to make cycle routes safer in the short term.
- Upgrading existing in/formal permeability access points, including, where needed, new or renewed surfacing, lighting, attractive fencing, crossings etc.
- Routings to schools — helping people access what’s there now and plan for what’s needed.
- Bicycle parking (ie outside all supermarkets).
Infrastructure measures within 8-16 months:
- Continuation of walking/cycling route upgrades, including moving to construction on at least two cycle route upgrades on existing roads.
- Improving low-traffic routes, both urban and rural — linking up, signage, resurfacing, markings and traffic calming (included, if needed, filtering out through motor traffic).
- Relatively short links of greenways/cycle paths on main roads or partly cross county to get cycling quite roads to work — potential to be inter-urban / urban to the hinterland in scope.
- Bicycle parking within disused or underused buildings (ie secure, limited access in town centre or near transport stations/stops/hubs or venues etc).
- Town centre street renewal, if including clear active travel improvements.
Infrastructure measures within 16-24+ months:
- Continuation of walking/cycling route upgrades.
- Greenway or other longer sections of inter-urban routes that cannot be built quickly.
- Elements such as high-quality walking and cycling underpasses and other main road crossings to enable safe inter-urban routes/routes to hinterland areas.
- Bridges or other structures that are needed for key links.
- Localised bicycle hub — workshops, bicycle lending ‘library’ and try it before you buy it ‘library’ etc. as offered by thebikehub.ie in Dublin and by directly/indirectly councils in the UK etc.
- Electric bicycle demos.
Would your town or area be up for it?
Subscription drive update: IrishCycle.com reached its target of 270 subscribers by the end of August -- thank you to all who have helped! Our new target is to have 300 subscribers by the end of 2022 -- originally this was hoped to be exceeded by the first year of running the site full time (end of October).
If you can help push IrishCycle.com above 300 subscribers, please subscribe today for €5 or more. If you have already done so -- thank you!
Please remember, every month there's a natural drop-off in subscriptions due to people getting new cards, cards stolen, Revolut not topped up etc.
IrishCycle.com is a reader-funded journalism publication. Effectively it's an online newspaper covering news and analyses of cycling and related issues, including cycle route designs, legal changes, and pollical and cultural issues.
There are examples, big and small, which show that the reader-funded or listener-funding model can work to support journalism -- from the Dublin Inquirer and The Guardian to many podcasts. To make it work for IrishCycle.com, it just needs enough people like you to believe!
Monthly subscriptions will give IrishCycle.com's journalism a dependable base of support. But please don't take free access for granted. Last year IrishCycle.com had an average of 15,800 readers per month and we know our readers include people who cycle and those who don't, politicians, officials and campaigners.
I know only a small percentage of readers will see the value of keeping this open enough to subscribe, that's the reality of the reader-funded model. But more support is needed to keep this show on the road.
The funding drive was started in November 2021 and, as of the start of June 2022, 250 readers have kindly become monthly subscribers -- thank you very much to all that have!
But currently, it's only around 1.6% of readers who subscribe. So, if you can, please join them and subscribe today via ko-fi.com/irishcycle/tiers