In response to parliamentary questions, Minister Shane Ross is very keen to point out that in addition to funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS), the government also funds cycling through other departments including the Department of Community and Rural Regeneration and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. We decided to investigate the contribution to cycling by these departments.
Michael Ring is Minister for the Department of Community and Rural Affairs. In May 2018, he announced the allocation of €4.5 million. This was followed in September by an additional allocation of €8 million. This funding was under the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) which supports disadvantaged communities throughout the country by providing capital grants to community groups so none of this funding was for cycling or cycle related projects.
In January 2019, the Minister and Fáilte Ireland jointly announced funding of €10.8 million for 78 outdoor recreation infrastructure projects. Of the 78, 19 were identified as wholly or partially cycle related at an estimated cost of €1,680,786.
In February 2019, the Minister made a major announcement with an allocation of €62 million for Rural Regeneration and Development projects across the country at a cost ranging from €20,000 to €10.2 Million. There were three cycle related projects. The first which was a 100% cycling related project, was for the development of a cycle network in Mayo/Galway at a cost of €75,000. The second in County Meath was allocated €845,250 for a navigation/greenway project. The cycling component was assumed to be 25% cycling or €211,312. The third was a flagship project of national importance– the development of mountain biking trails at a cost of €10.2 million. Mountain biking is a sport which is growing in popularity but it is a niche sport. Even among current cyclists it is very much a minority sport and has nothing to do with utility or everyday cycling. Although funding was provided by the Department of Community, it could equally have been provided by the section of government dealing with sport or tourism or transport. Omitting the mountain biking scheme, the total component allocated for everyday cycling from the other two amounts to €286,31. In total, Minister Ring allocated approximately €2 million out of €86 million.
In November 2018, as part of Project Ireland 2040, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government announced an allocation of €100 million for 88 projects under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF). The schemes were classified under various headings including community development, culture, specific capital projects, energy development, integrated urban development, library development, public realm regeneration, road/strategic infrastructure and strategic acquisitions.
There may be a number of projects which involve a small component of cycling eg projects involving public realm improvements but in isolation these are unlikely to make any significant impact to the level of cycling either nationally or locally. Cycling is only explicitly mentioned in the following five:
The total value of the five is estimated at €5.7 million but the likely cycling component is only of the order of €1-2 million out of an allocation of €100 million.
We warmly welcome the additional contribution to everyday cycling by Ministers Ring and Murphy. However, this is a long way from Cyclist.ie’s campaign for 10% of the DTTAS Land Transport capital budget or €149 Million based on the Budget 2019 allocation. In Budget 2020, this rose to €194 Million. As everyday cycling is essentially about transport, the heavy lifting for providing funding rightly belongs in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. If the Department fails to provide adequate funding for cycling, the primary responsibility rests with Shane Ross, the Minister in Charge.