— Construction inflation means funding does not go as far as it did in 2020.
The Government is allocating €290m for walking and cycling projects to local authorities via the National Transport Authority — the NTA said today that the latest allocation means “the Government’s total investment for active travel infrastructure since 2020 will smash the €1bn mark” this year.
The figure excludes greenways and other walking and cycling funding distributed by local councils by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), so, it cannot be fully compared to the Government’s target of spending €360 million per year on walking and cycling.
The full list of funding via the NTA can be found at nationaltransport.ie. The TII greenway funding is announced separately.
A statement from the NTA on the funding today highlighted that “This investment has seen more than 600km of cycling, walking and wheeling infrastructure delivered since 2020 under the NTA Active Travel Programme”, but cycling and other transport campaigners have been highly sceptical at the focus on the distance of the projects which have been delivered so-far.
Dave Tobin, the vice-chair of the national cycling campaign group the Irish Cycling Campaign, said: “While the metric of kilometres delivered may be of value at the coal face, engineering level, the real metric of success in active travel projects, needs to also be measured in targets showing how this funding addresses the larger climate responsibilities that cycling and walking have an important role in, as well as the liveability improvements it provides for people.”
He said that metrics such as modal shift targets, estimated transport emission reductions, air quality improvements, reductions in childhood asthma rates, and the network connections that provide proper continuous links between homes, work and schools are “far more real and meaningful for most users and potential users”.
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“I would hope that the imminent release of the Walking and Cycling Index reports for the metropolitan areas due in the coming weeks and the end user experience within could be used in developing complementary targets that could better communicate the real difference the NTA and Active Travel teams are making in communities,” said Tobin.
He said: “With Ireland significantly falling behind on transport emission targets as we get closer to our 2025 and 2030 targets it’s clear we need to see a further increase in funding from Minister Ryan and the current Government, especially in the context of the current high inflationary issues in construction. Put simply the money we are getting in 2024 doesn’t deliver as much as it did in the first year of the programme for government.”
Tobin added: “Many of our local authorities and Active Travel teams have done wonders over recent years but it’s becoming clear that funding is impeding the ambition and vision they have at transforming our cities, towns and villages for the better.”
The statement also highlighted that some of the major projects completed in 2023 include the Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway City, the Hyde Road Scheme in Limerick City, the MacCurtain Street Public Transport Improvement Scheme in Cork City, the Ardmore Road Scheme in Mullingar Town, Co Westmeath, and an extension of the Coastal Mobility Route in Dun Laoghaire.
However, there are also issues with the majority of these projects.
For example, just last week, local journalist Dara Bradley highlighted in his weekly newspaper column in the Galway City Tribune that access to the Salmon Weir Bridge is a “deathtrap on foot and bikes”. He said that the “entirely predictable” issues were “pointed out repeatedly” but nothing was done and nothing apparently is being done.
The MacCurtain Street scheme has also been subjected to near-continuous issues with illegal parking on footpaths, at bus stops, and in cycle lanes, and the illegal use of bus lanes. Councillors’ and campainers’ calls for enforcement have been faced with inaction from Cork City Council and the Gardaí.
The Ardmore Road Scheme in Mullingar Town is a short project at just 425m and it is also what is viewed widely as low-quality provision, it consists of shared walking and cycle paths.
The Hyde Road Scheme in Limerick City and the extension of the Coastal Mobility Route in Dun Laoghaire are seen as higher-quality and quick-build schemes.
In a press release issued this morning, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said: “A key commitment in the Programme for Government and something that has been a cornerstone of our National Transport strategy over the past few years has been the dedication to making walking, cycling and wheeling safer and much more accessible throughout the country. It’s great that this year we will hit the €1bn investment mark.”
“He said: We are seeing the impact of this continued and substantial investment in our towns, villages and cities, where we are delivering large and small scale projects that are transforming where we live, making them much more attractive, safer and healthier.”
Minister for State Jack Chambers said: “I am delighted to announce that funding of €20 million has been allocated to the Safe Routes to School Programme, providing safer cycling and walking facilities for many schools across the country. So far around 50 projects have been completed under Round 1 and 2 of the Programme and the associated health and wellbeing benefits for children and parents are already being felt in schools in towns and villages all over the country.”
He added: “I am looking forward to seeing more and more infrastructure delivered at schools to encourage children and parents to choose to walk or cycle for their daily commutes, as well as the huge range of other active travel projects being funded as part of today’s announcement.”
Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO of the National Transport Authority said: “2024 will be a milestone year for active travel in Ireland. Over the course of this year, total investment by the NTA in walking and cycling infrastructure since 2020 will break the €1bn barrier.”
“Building on the progress of recent years, the €290m being made available this year will ensure the delivery of cycle lanes and footpaths as well as pedestrian and cycling bridges across the country. All of these active travel projects will make it easier and safer than ever before for people to cycle, walk or wheel within and beyond their local area,” he said.
Creegan added: “The NTA will work alongside local authorities to help deliver the projects which have been given funding and identify additional opportunities across the year that can help encourage people to choose sustainable transport modes.”