THE Government has set itself the ambitious target of overseeing a fourfold increase in the number of people who travel to work by bicycle by 2020.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the Government wanted to develop a culture of cycling in Ireland that would see 160,000 commuters cycling to work within the next 11 years — an increase of 125,000 on current levels.
Launching the first-ever National Cycle Policy Framework in Dublin yesterday, Mr Dempsey said the aim was to have 10% of commuters travelling to work by bicycle by 2020 compared to the current rate of just 2%.
In 1986, the cycling population stood at 7% but has decreased steadily ever since. A little more than 4,000 schoolchildren cycle to class compared to more than 23,600 in 1986.
Mr Dempsey said cycling was the preferred commuting choice of just 35,000 people, despite the fact that more than 100,000 drove less than 4km on a daily basis to reach their workplace.
Mr Dempsey said the Government intended to raise the number of people cycling to work through increasing the number of better and safer cycle routes to work and schools.
In addition, there would also be increased investment in parking facilities for bikes in towns and cities around the country, while transport companies would be encouraged to provide extra facilities to carry bicycles on buses and trains.
Measures will also be introduced to reduce the volume of through-traffic in the vicinity of schools and colleges.
The new cycle policy document lists a total of 109 actions to be taken.
Mr Dempsey said cycling had many benefits for society, including a reduction of traffic congestion, lower greenhouse gas emissions and improved personal health.
A National Bike Week, to be launched in June, will raise awareness of the benefits of switching to cycling, while 140,000 schoolchildren will receive safe cycle training during 2009.
Mr Dempsey said that €3 million would be invested in the refurbishment of key cycle routes in Dublin this year.
Work would also commence on the Sutton to Sandycove cycle route around Dublin Bay.
Dublin City Council is also expected to introduce a bike rental scheme later this year.