Budget 2018 – Share Ross’s Three Card Trick

Last year, the government allocated approximately €12 million to cycling which was made up of some €10.4 million from the budget and a supplement during the year of a further €1.6 million for greenways. Cycling groups including Cyclist.ie support the allocation of 10% of transport expenditure to cycling or, at the very least, a roadmap to ramp up investment in cycling to that level. We will judge the budget on this basis rather than on the totality of the allocation per se.

Budget 2018 has now been published and the government has approved additional current and capital expenditure by the DTT&S. The multi annual expenditure ceilings for the department are reproduced below from the Part III Estimates for Public Services 2018:

2018 Budget Table

The Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport uses the term ‘Land Transport’ to describe two main areas – Roads and Public Transport whereas Public Transport is an umbrella term which is used to encompass expenditure on buses, rail, walking and cycling. Thus the Budget 2018 allocation for cycling should be €165 million.

What was allocated to cycling? Well who knows? In the manner beloved of the DTT&S, they lump cycling and walking together and have promised €110 Million over four years. This works out at €27.5 Million per year on average. So how much will the Minister give to cycling? Well he could give €27 Million to cycling and €0.5 Million to walking. Then again, he could €0.5 Million to cycling and €27 Million to walking. Or he could nothing in the first three year and backload cycling in year 4. Like any three card trick, the viewer has to try to guess where the Queen (ie money) is.

Cycling does get some further mention of minor funding but it is the headline figure of €110 million which stands out. In contrast, Sweden with a modal share for cycling of 9% (2009) and with twice the population of Ireland has just announced an allocation of €35 million JUST for the promotion of E-Bikes.

The Minister did agree to provide €30 Million for greenways. It should be pointed out that this was under the heading of tourism rather than transport. While this involves more people cycling, it will do little to increase the 3% of people who currently cycle and is rightly categorised under recreation rather than transport as it does not address the problems of congestion, community health, sustainability and climate change which every day cycling does.

The Minister protests that he is unable to quantify how much his Department spends on cycling and his latest pronouncement in the Dáil is that he doesn’t understand modal change. It is hoped that he is a fast learner because in January when budget details have been confirmed to TII, NTA, local authorities and such like, Cyclist.ie proposes to find out through parliamentary questions just how paltry the allocation for cycling is and will forward the news to him.

On one level, it is astonishing that a mode of transport of transport which can carry over 25% of the population is so overlooked. At another level, however, it is hardly unsurprising as it is totally in keeping with the view set out in the totally autocentric document Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport. There may be individuals in the Department with an alternative vision for the future but they only produce nice sounding policy documents. The decisions on finance remain firmly in the hands of those who favour road building.

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