— Coalition partners and Department officials opposed Green’s push for bicycle incentives.
The Department of Transport has said today that it will “continue to undertake research” bicycle incentive options after the Budget which did not include any new incentives.
It was widely expected that Green Party leader and transport Minister Eamon Ryan would secure incentives for bicycles such as grants, low-interest loans, a VAT reduction or a scrappage scheme, but there was pushback from officials and the other coalition parties.
The Cycle to Work scheme is widely viewed as too restrictive on its eligibility, and not comparable in its relative level of an incentive compared to vehicle and charging grants for electric cars. A range of different incentives for bicycles are available in other countries.
Programme for Government promises wider incentives for bicycles, and the move to provide such was supported by Ibec, a number of Government and opposition politicians, Department of Transport officials, active transport and climate experts, and campaign groups.
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As reported yesterday, sources told IrishCycle.com that incentives to buy bicycles were opposed by officials within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and some within the Budget teams of the Green Party’s coalition partners — it’s not clear if it was just one or both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael who were behind this.
Sources said that the Greens had to use its ‘political capital’ to retain the 20% decrease for public transport fares and the increase of on-going spending relating to the rollout of the BusConnect routes as part of the network changes which are underway.
The responce today from the Department of Transport is in line with what sources told this website, although obviously couched in more diplomatic terms,
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “The Department is continuously exploring ways to encourage the uptake of cycling as a mode of transport. Initiatives such as grants have merit but must be assessed in order to achieve maximum impact and value for money.”
The spokesperson said: “This assessment also has to be undertaken against the backdrop of the full budget package and competing needs across different departments. All budgets are a balancing act. This year, the Department of Transport focused on the retention of cheaper public transport fare, on consolidating funding for the ongoing development of public transport services and on continuing to fund our €1 million a day cycling and walking programme.”
They added: “However, the Department will continue to undertake research into the best possible interventions which could be introduced to encourage modal shift away from private car and towards bicycles.”
In the Budget debate in Dail yesterday, Duncan Smith, a Labour Party TD for Dublin Fingal, said: “It is senseless that the Government has not introduced an expansion of the Cycle to Work scheme to allow parents to purchase a bike for their children under such a scheme. The recent school transport scheme fiasco and the Government’s handling of it only drives this point home further.”
He added: “We also need to get innovative in our approach to transport in Ireland. France plans to introduce a car scrappage scheme that will provide grants for trading in an old car in exchange for an e-bike or a cargo bike. What is stopping this Government from introducing a similar scheme here? Again, it is a simple measure that has been introduced elsewhere that will encourage people to get out of their cars, reduce their costs and give us a better chance of meeting our climate targets.”
The Department of Transport also said that VAT rules were an issue for the Department of Finance — it did not reply to a request to comment before the publication of this article.