Tuesday 21 April 2009

Policy aims to encourage more cyclists

A NEW Government policy on cycling proposes to make Ireland one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world by 2020.

The National Cycle Policy Framework was launched yesterday by the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey who said he wanted to increase the number of people who cycle each day from 35,000 to 160,000 in a little over a decade – an increase of over 400 per cent.

The new policy contains 109 separate actions to make the transformation. Included are ambitious plans to retrofit all urban roads with cycle lanes and promises to introduce widespread traffic calming and bike-friendly road designs.

It also provides for the integration of public transport and cycling, allowing bikes to be carried on buses and trains; the provision of shared bicycles in major towns, like the French Vélib scheme; safe bike-parking facilities; and the retrofit of major road junctions which can currently pose dangers for cyclists.

Mr Dempsey acknowledged there had been a marked decrease in the numbers cycling to school and work in the past 20 years but said that this new policy would fully address it. He said he had sought the advice of the best cycle planners in Europe when drawing up the policy.

“I am determined that we will have a world-class cycling infrastructure in place in this country by 2020 so that biking becomes a safe and enjoyable option for commuters and school-kids alike,” said Mr Dempsey.

He accepted that the total plan has yet to be costed, though he said a total of €14 million would be provided during 2009 for various schemes, some of which are engineering and others promotional.

However, there is no specific commitments in relation to funding the actions.

“Over the lifetime of the scheme what we intend to do within the road-work programme is to provide specific funds for engineering to make existing roads much safer particularly in . . . urban areas,” he said.

The cycling campaign group, cyclist.ie, gave a broad endorsement to the new policy.

Dr Darren McAdam-O’Connell of the group said that recognition of cycling by policy makers was long overdue. “We strongly welcome a document that contains many of the measures that cyclists have been demanding for a long time, such as stronger measures against urban speeding, on-road cycle training in schools, improved driver training curriculum, dismantling of dangerous multi-lane one-way systems and permitting of bike carriages on trains and buses.”

However, Dr Mike McKillen, also of cyclist.ie, said it would never become a reality without a “fundamental change in attitudes in official circles”.

Fine Gael’s transport spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said that Mr Dempsey launched his cycling wish-list just as the roads programme was coming to an end. He claimed the policy would “gather dust” in the Department of Transport.

Likewise, Labour’s spokesman Tommy Broughan described the policy as being full of vague aspirations, without full commitments to implement them. “The policy is also vague on how and when funding will be provided and merely states that we will provide appropriate levels of, and timely, funding towards implementing the plan,” said Mr Broughan.

Main measures

- 160,000 people cycling to work each day by 2020 – up from 35,000


- Safe cycling routes to all schools in the State;

- A speed limit of 30km/h near schools;

- New secure bike parks in bus and train stations and other public


- Adapting trains and buses to carry bicycles;

- Shared-bicycle schemes in all cities

with populations over 100,000;

- Better training for cyclists and drivers in relation to cyclists;

- Traffic-calming in urban areas;

- Redesign of major road junctions to make them cycle-friendly;

- Retrofitting of roads, quality bus corridors and bus-lanes to accommodate proper cycling lanes;

- Two-way cycling lanes on streets that are one-way for traffic;

- A proposed scheme where workers who use bikes instead of cars will be entitled to receive travel/mileage expenses.

Irish Times


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