Spend €1 billion on walking and cycling to help reduce emissions — campaigners urge Govt

— Spend would be €140m extra per year Govt target, but is needed due to inflation, campaigners say.

Cycling campaigners have urged the Government to spend a billion euro in the remaining two years of the term of government.

The Government has committed to spending €360 million per year on walking and cycling, but in a pre-Budget submission from Cyclist.ie, a national campaign group, has urged the Government to increase this to “€1B over the final two years of the current government term.”

Neasa Bheilbigh, chairperson of Cyclist.ie, wrote: “While Cyclist.ie welcomes the serious and continued investment into active travel that this government has brought forward, it has become clear that our 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation goals in transport are rapidly slipping out of reach. In the recent EPA provisional report on our emissions targets, they noted that transport was a key problem area that saw emissions increase by 6% despite the significant increase in electric motor vehicles.”

“Our current spend as per the Programme for Government is €360m per year. However, rising inflation levels has led to increases in the delivery costs of infrastructure projects, and this has been earmarked by the NTA as a barrier to achieving the delivery of the full complement of projects. This is placing an increase of approx 30% cost onto delivering active travel and other infrastructure projects,” she said.

Bheilbigh said: “From our engagement with local authorities, active travel teams and the NTA, there is a clear demand and willingness to do more but limited funding does not allow this. Quite simply €360m in 2023 does not deliver the equivalent in terms of infrastructure that it did in the first year of the Programme for Government.”

She added: “In short, high-quality infrastructure is what enables modal shift. Investment in this area will deliver huge value for money in meeting our climate targets. We are calling for an emergency measure raising this annual funding to €500m per year over the remaining two years of this government. The allocation of €1B of Active Travel infrastructure funding between now and 2025 to meet what is required in our climate responsibilities would send a clear sign that the government is taking this aspect of the climate emergency and the need to decarbonise transport seriously.”

Cyclist.ie is also looking for a commitment that a 50% minimum of new Garda recruits “are deployed to roads and community policing.” The campaign group said that this should be done in the “context of the rising numbers of road traffic casualties over the last two years.”

Incentives to buy bicycles

Both the Irish Wind Energy Association and accounting firm KPMG have separately used their pre-Budget 2024 submissions to ask the Government to “apply a reduced rate of VAT” to bicycles and electric bicycles “as permitted under the new VAT Directive approved in April 2022.” With the former group only mentioning electric bicycles and the latter mentioning both.

In its submission, Cyclist.ie campaigners are seeking a “decoupling of the Bike to Work scheme from PAYE tax”. Officials in the relevant Departments have frequently outlined how the Cycle to Work Scheme is a tax scheme that cannot be expanded beyond the PAYE or Pay As You Earn tax system.

Cyclist.ie said the scheme was “exclusionary and rewards the wealthiest with the biggest cost reduction”, but it did not outline any alternative system that it would prefer such as grants, or 0% or low-interest loans which are options on offer in other in other counties.

The group also said that it wants to see “business-focused cargo bike schemes for the city centres of the five Irish cities”, the funding of ‘Bike Libraries’ where people can try different bicycles, and a restructuring of Vehicle Registration Tax to take account of size and weight — outlining that “Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) should be specifically targeted for increased VRT”.

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