Why would Irish councils not spend Active Travel funding allocated to them?

Comment & Analysis: There’s various reasons, but the main one is that the nature of these things means that a lot of funding is only drawn down close to the deadline. I’m told the drawdown deadline was today.

The Business Post reported yesterday how less than half of the Active Travel has been drawn down and “four local authorities had drawn down less than 20% of their allocated budget with just weeks to go until the end of the year”.

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The data the Business Post used was from November 18.

The article included a quote from the National Transport Authority spokesperson who outlined how “traditionally most of the claims come in over the final four or five weeks of the year”.

Why was there then an urgent need to get the article published ahead of the end of the year?

It won’t however be a surprise if some councils fall short of spending all of their allocation.

The scale of €360 million per year on walking and cycling is massive

This is a huge jump in funding in the last two years and capacity to handle that is only catching up. Active Travel sections within councils are still being staffed up and engineering consultant capacity is constrained that international consultants are being sought out to fill that gap.

The engineering capacity constrains are not the only issue — projects that are anyway half decent or extensive are subject to a high amount of opposition. This puts extra pressure on limited resources.

The question of the quality of Active Travel projects is now more important than percentage of funding spent. Most councils — and the NTA itself with BusConnects — are still failing on basic design issues issues, including needlessly mixing pedestrians and cycling, narrow cycle paths, junction designs, non-continuous route and an unwillingness to reallocate space.

These are basic issues. If motorway designers or house builders were failing on them the media would be covering it. Over the years, I’ve only known a few national newspaper editors and news editors who has been willing to cover these cycling issues in any detail and over any amount of time.

Most newspapers and media outlets are all too willing to cover objections to cycle routes, including utter bad faith nonsense from objectors. A bit of detail about how a cycle routes might get someone killed or are inaccessible or just is kind of rubbish in a way that it’s a waste of money? No way, sure, cyclists get everything (Again: There are some exceptions across the media).

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