Programme for Government 2020

PfG 2020

This is Maynooth Cycling Campaign’s response to the section of the Programme for Government which impacts on cycling. It is divided into five parts.

1.   Financial Commitment
The Government will commit to an allocation of 10% of the total transport capital budget for cycling projects and an allocation of 10% of the total capital budget for pedestrian infrastructure. The Government’s commitment to cycling and pedestrian projects will be set at 20% of the 2020 capital budget (€360 million) per year for the lifetime of the Government.

The total spend on walking and cycling infrastructure includes committed funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for active travel, greenways and an agreed pedestrian and cycling allocation from the Bus Connects programme.
Additional funding to meet the annual ceiling will be provided through the Recovery Fund, with a focus on jobs-intensive infrastructure. 


The first sentence is straight forward, clear and unambiguous except for the reference to the total transport capital budget rather than the Land Transport capital budget. The former includes investment in other areas such as marine, civil aviation and tourism – it would seem unfair to impact on them but it is thought that this was just a minor error in the text. The second sentence sets the financial commitment at €360 Million per year for the lifetime of the next government ie 20% of the 2020 budget allocation. Cyclist.ie was looking for a straight percentage which would increase if overall capital expenditure went up and would go down if overall capital expenditure was reduced. The one area of possible concern is what percentage of Bus Connect will apply to cycling. Bus Connect has the potential to swallow up a lot of the funding intended for cycling depending on motives.

2.    We will:

        • Expand and enhance the expertise on active travel needed to dramatically improve infrastructure and participation both in the NTA and local authorities, including by establishing Regional Cycle Design Offices, co-located in the seven Regional Design Offices for roads, to support local authorities.
        • Dramatically increase the number of children walking and cycling to primary and secondary school by mandating the Department of Transport to work with schools across Ireland, local authorities, the Green- Schools programme and local initiatives, including Cycle Bus and School Streets.
        • Widen the eligibility of the Bike to Work scheme. We will provide an increased proportionate allowance for e-bikes and cargo bikes.
        • Ramp up the Cycle Right programme to ensure that all children are offered cycling training in primary school.
        • Conduct a review of road traffic policy and legislation to prioritise the safety of walking and cycling.
        • Conduct a review of road traffic policy and legislation to prioritise the safety of walking and cycling.

While the additional measures listed do not specify any particular commitment or targets, they are all measures that cyclist campaigners would welcome. Linking the implementation of cycle network plans to a suitably qualified Cycling Officer with clear powers and roles is a major advance. In the 2009 National Cycling Policy Framework, the only task of the Cycling Officer was to set up a Cycle Forum in a local authority. The reference indicates movement towards Cyclist.ie policy, namely that the appropriate level for a Cycling Officer is Director of Services. The emphasis on travel to school and school streets is also warmly welcomed. Travel to school is important as it ingrains good behaviour at a young age. The promotion of Cycle Buses is a little surprising as Cycle Buses are a short term reaction to the absence of quality infrastructure and it is hoped that Cycle Buses will have a short life. Cyclist.ie has long campaigned for increased support for the purchase of E-bikes and cargo bikes, comparable to the support for the purchase of E-cars. A review of road traffic policy and legislation to prioritise the safety of walking and cycling suggests that the issue of enforcement may finally be addressed.

3.   Greenways
We will lead the development of an integrated national greenways strategy. This has the potential to transform modal shift and improve air quality and public health.
This commitment to cycling will enable us to achieve the huge ambition of developing an integrated national network of greenways to be used by commuters, leisure cyclists and tourists. We will continue the coordinated approach between central government, local authorities, and agencies to deliver on this ambition.


The reference to a national greenways strategy is welcome as in recent years the DTTAS had moved away from references to a “national” network. The Programme states that a national greenway strategy has the potential to transform modal shift and improve air quality and public health. In theory, this is correct but in practice, conditions imposed by local authorities and by bodies such as Waterways Ireland on widths, surfacing, lack of lighting and access have the effect of suppressing demand by both utility and recreational cyclists. Furthermore, to transform modal split, provision for cycling will be required between proposed greenways and adjacent towns and villages. In the past, proposed greenways have excluded such links.

4.   Transport Infrastructure
In relation to new transport infrastructure, the Government is committed to a 2:1 ratio of expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads over its lifetime. This ratio will be maintained in each Budget by the Government. In the event of an underspend on roads, this will not impact on public transport spending.
Essential road and public transport maintenance and upkeep budgets will be fully protected to ensure continued public safety and connectivity.
We will develop and implement the existing strategies for our cities, such as the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, the Galway Transport Strategy, the draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, as well as strategies being developed for Waterford and Limerick, and other projects progressing through planning.
We are committed to maintaining the existing road network to a high standard and funding safety improvements.
We will continue to invest in new roads infrastructure to ensure that all parts of Ireland are connected to each other.


The commitment to rebalance transport investment to 2:1 between public transport and roads is warmly welcomed. It is unclear what the sentence “In the event of an underspend on roads, this will not impact on public transport spending” means as there is unlikely to be any underspend on roads. If it merely means that underspend on roads will not be transferred to public transport and active travel, that is reasonable as long as underspend on public transport and active travel will not be transferred to roads, once investment on active travel has been ramped up to the levels agreed.

It is right and proper that essential road and public transport maintenance and upkeep budgets will be protected. However, as the cost of essential maintenance is questionable, it will require close examination to ensure that essential road maintenance budgets are not suddenly inflated. Old habits die hard and one of the big challenges for the new Ministers will be to ensure that their Department is singing off the one hymn sheet!
The undertaking to develop the existing transport strategies in Cork, Galway and Limerick will be warmly welcomed by our colleagues in the regional cities as the current transport strategies are based on negligible increases in levels of cycling. This clause has the potential to enable the cities to develop systems fit for the 21st century with walking and cycling at the heart of their transport strategies.

5.   Carry out a comprehensive review of PPNs and LECPs, to ensure that they are fit for purpose for climate action and community development

This final clause is generally overlooked by cycling advocates as it is not centrally concerned with cycling per se but it also has great potential to focus on local authorities which are “half-hearted” in their enthusiasm for public participation.

Conclusion

The Programme for Government has been described as like a visit from Santa. we would hope that it will work out that way. However, we recall a union leader who promised his members that a government pay award would be like “getting money from a cash dispenser” but things did not quite turn out as thought. While the Programme holds out great potential for Ireland being a leader rather than a laggard in cycling and walking, we stopped believing in Santa a long time ago. We wish the new Transport Ministers, senior and junior well and look forward to working closely with them in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s