At its October meeting in Dublin, Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, changed policy in relation to the appointment of Cycling Officers in local authorities. The National Cycling Policy Framework (NCPF) (2009) was the first government document to refer to such posts but although the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport called for local authorities to appoint Cycling Officers, most ignored the call.
Previous Cyclist.ie policy was that Cycling Officers should be appointed at senior level but did not define what that level should be. At its recent meeting, Cyclist.ie defined “senior” as Director of Services level.
After the global recession, the UK financial industry introduced the Banking Executive Accountability Regime which puts responsibility on a single individual rather than having a “system failure” which is the norm in Ireland with no-one being held responsible. A similar approach is used with the design of reservoirs. As the consequences of a failure are so severe, one designer is held responsible and faces the risk of jail for negligence. In relation to construction health and safety, the buck stops at management level rather than at general operative level for ensuring that the company has procedures on safety. Cyclist.ie believes that change in how people travel is equally important.
If the Directors of Services were appointed Cycling Officer, the primary responsibilities should be
- To reach the target on cycling set by the council, and
- To report annually on modal split to the Chief Executive for inclusion in the Annual Report.
Other tasks which a Cycling Officer currently does should be delegated to the most appropriate member of staff, whether technical or administrative.
International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practice Guide point out that among the requirements for increased cycling is strong support by officials. The National Cycling Policy Framework notes that the Cycling Forum in Tilburg (twice the size of Cork) includes the Chief Executive. Having a Director of Services as Cycling Officer would be a signal that local authorities recognise the importance of cycling in addressing climate change, sustainability, pollution and congestion.
Although government has “promoted” cycling for nearly twenty years, the level of cycling nationally is virtually unchanged over that period. If politicians want this to change, fresh thinking is needed on the way forward.