The public and political approach to BusConnects needs leadership, not scaremongering according to the Active Travel Coalition, which is made up of health groups and transport campaigners.
The group said that it is aware of weaknesses in BusConnect designs, and acknowledges the loss of private garden space but that it thinks that losses will be far outweighed by the gains
The Active Travel Coalition was established in 2021 with the “goal of enabling people of all ages to have healthier choices in transport”. Members of the group include the Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish College of General Practitioners, Irish Doctors for the Environment, the Royal College of Physicians, the Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie, a national cycling campaign group.
Dr Sean Owens of the Irish College of General Practitioners said: “BusConnects will provide more reliable, punctual bus services, better footpath and crossing facilities for pedestrians, and joined-up bike lanes across Dublin and other cities. Regular physical activity has been found to be one of the most sustainable ways of improving health.”
He added: “Designing a transport system that builds in some level of exercise, whether that be a 10 min walk at either end of a bus journey or a cycle to work or school, is the easiest way of achieving this. Active travel projects will have significant public health benefits and we need our public representatives to stand up and support them.”
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Roisin Breen, from the HSE’s Strategy and Research group, said:“Supporting healthy behaviours from childhood through to healthy ageing is a key pillar of the HSE Healthy Ireland Plan for 2023-27. The plan calls for a shift towards a culture that places greater emphasis and value on prevention and keeping people well.
One of the key focus areas in the plan is on active living. BusConnects helps facilitate active living which will keep people healthier longer.”
She added: “In addition The HSE Climate Action Strategy 2023-2050 includes action to enable the transition to low carbon and active travel alternatives for people working in, visiting and using our services.”
Dr Colm Byrne, consultant geriatrician and member of Irish Doctors for the Environment, said: “Ireland has a transport problem, but more specifically a car problem. We rank only behind Cyprus as the most car-dependent country in the EU, with 76 per cent of people using a car as their daily transport, with even very short journeys done by car.”
Mark Murphy, an advocacy officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, said: “30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, five days a week, reduces your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and contributes to overall improved levels of health”.
The group said that cycling has “immense pent-up demand” and “cycle traffic would be greatly increased by BusConnects”.
David Timoney, a spokesperson for Cyclist.ie, said: “In Dublin, for example, roughly 25% of adults cycle one or more days per week. There is a further 21% who would cycle if they felt safer. The number one reason given by people for not cycling is fear of sharing road space with motor traffic.”
He said: “With safe segregated cycling infrastructure therefore, we could almost double the numbers of adults cycling in Dublin. This is to not even consider the potential for growth in schoolkids cycling to school. Cycling can be an option for almost everyone if we design for it correctly. Segregated bike lanes will be delivered alongside the improved bus routes as part of BusConnects.”
Timoney added: ”We’re aware of weaknesses in the designs, and we do acknowledge that the loss of private garden space and the inconvenience of losing habitual car park spaces are difficult for those affected, but we are convinced that BusConnects will bring such major benefits to the public good – improvements in peoples’ cardiovascular and respiratory health, even their sense of general wellbeing – that any losses will be far outweighed by the gains.”