UPDATE APRIL 2, 2023: This news was only valid on April 1.
In a radical move, transport Minister Eamon Ryan is to make designing for walking and cycling a priority by making a high standard of active travel infrastructure a requirement of all transport funding.
A new transport agency, Active Travel Ireland, is to be set up to oversee the radical shakeup. It will be modelled on Active Travel England, which sets out to promote walking and cycling.
The requirement of priority for walking and cycling will also extend to other transport agencies such as Transport Infreasture Ireland and Irish Rail too where they are building road, metro, tram or rail projects which have or should have walking and cycling elements.
“We still have many roads and streets across this country designed to old National Road Aulthorty design standards because it was made a funding requirement for councils to follow those car-centric design guidance, now we’re going to do the same,” a high-level source close to Active Travel Ireland said.
The source said: “For too long the Minister has listened to the people who are saying ‘everything is fine with our designs’, ‘the Dutch are anti-pedestrian’, ‘reinventing the wheel is better’ and ‘sure mixing people walking and cycling is fine when it suits us or suits traffic flow’.”
“At the moment, the National Transport Authority’s BusConnects team are willfully ignoring the current National Cycle Manual and Manual For Urban Roads and Streets, the Minister going to direct them to stop doing this and actually design properly for walking and cycling,” they said.
The design manuals and guidance that the Minister has referred to have been in place for over a decade but largely ignored or selectively used to defend rubbish designs.
“The National Transport Authority is tasked with handing out most of the walking cycling funding, it does not make sense to allow its own BusConnects team to have such scant regard for walking and cycling design,” they said.
“There has been an extreme level of exaggerating the risk of the conflict between walking and cycling has been allowed to dominate the conversation when councils and the NTA have been allowed to design poorly for people walking and cycling,” they said.
“More generally the NTA has admitted several times in official transport plans that those plans are not compatible with the Government’s transport plans, it might seem strange that the Minister has not said anything about this until now. But he’s going to act by redirecting the BusConnects programme to focus on reallocating road space rather than overcomplicated plans which still include too much road widening,” the source said.
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“Climate action requires action, not endless planning and projects overly focused on widening roads, cutting down trees. Bus gates will also be in force for all the hours that buses run, peak-time only bus gates will not be enough to give bus priority,” the source said.
“The Minister has also talked of the usefulness of greenways for not just tourism but also people cycling from rural areas to villages and from villages to town, but I’ve ignored that the designers of these greenways have literally installed chicane barriers which wreck the potential of greenways for commuting use, and his Department’s guidance has not just allowed this but promoted this idea,” they said.
“Minister Ryan is going to show he’s serious by stopping officials from pretending there’s some kind of overriding safety need for these barriers at each and every junction, and crossings at every laneway, and driveway.”
The super-high-level source added: “It’s not a Minister’s job to micro-manage designs manuals or project design but he can say that funding should be well-spent, he can set out principles, and he can set up processes in place so that the principles are followed.”
Active Travel England’s plans have suffered from major budget cuts for walking and cycling announced last month and the same is expected to happen to Active Travel Ireland. It should take 2-5 years for the new Irish transport agency to be set up.