What’s wrong with electric cars? Are they a (small) step forward or a red herring?

Any contemporary discussion about the environmental, health and social problems associated with mass car use will inevitably turn to electric vehicles (EVs). Plainly there may be some advantages to their use compared to that of current petrol or diesel (ICE) cars – but how much? More importantly, does the focus on EVs overall hold the potential for being a major diversion from where our concerns should be, rather than their use being some kind of step forward. Will EVs turn out to be a part of the problem rather than its solution?



What are the advantages of EVs?

(Note: when referring to electric vehicles (EVs) I mean the “best” electric vehicles, namely pure electric rather than hybrid or plug-in hybrid. I also refer essentially to cars and vans, although the same claims for EVs apply to electric motorcycles: there are prospects for electric HGVs, although our concern is now for the replacement of diesel and petrol driven (ICE) cars and vans.)

EVs have three potential advantages over internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles:
1. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions. By running off electricity potentially produced by fuels (nuclear, solar or other renewables like wind) other than fossil fuels (FFs) like oil, they have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GG) emissions. The transport sector is a major contributor to GG emissions, so obviously any reduction in these emissions from it may have the potential for cutting GG emissions overall. This is the principal reason for producing and using EVs. Relatively minor advantages are:
2. Cutting noxious emissions. Eliminating pollutants such as the NOx (nitrogen oxide) gases can play a big part in cleaning up the air we breathe.
3. Reducing noise pollution. While less of a public health problem than the above, this is still an issue. Safety concerns, particularly for visually impaired people, can be addressed by installing (minor) sound making devices to alert other road users.
Other issues are:
4. Energy security. A disadvantage of ICE vehicles is dependence on oil. Although oil is unlikely to “run out”, there are still advantages from not being dependent on oil: however, the UK is far from being self-sufficient in energy and this is not an issue that gets much discussion in current debates.
5. UK employment. At the 2019 Labour Party conference the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced a proposal for interest free loans for EV purchase that “will stimulate the automotive industry”. The RDRF does not see that as a reason for supporting EVs – other means can and should be sought to provide employment for motor industry workers.

What EVs do NOT address.

There are a number of problems associated with mass motorisation which EV proponents do not mention. To be fair, these proponents do not claim that EVs will do so, but we need to consider them for two reasons.

Firstly, there is a very real danger that in the rush to embrace a supposedly “clean” (or “cleaner”) “solution” to a problem of mass motor vehicle use these other problems will (continue to be) overlooked or dealt with inadequately. Secondly, there is an even more obvious danger that at least one of the problems – congestion – may be exacerbated by EV uptake to an extent which will minimise a key EV potential advantage, namely GG emission reduction. Since the principal alleged benefit of EVs is GG emission reduction, the most important section will be on this.

1. Road Danger.

Road danger from the (mis)use of motor vehicles is obviously something our organisation is interested in. As our followers know, it is not the same as aggregated “Road Traffic Collision” statistics, and is not being tackled appropriately by Government – not least by the absence of proper quality metrics. It is, above all, a moral issue about the supposed “right” of some road users to endanger, hurt or kill others.

I won’t spend time and space here detailing what road danger means. Suffice it to say that the massive advocacy of EVs seems to be part of a wider assumption that there is a fundamental “right” to drive, which is a key obstacle to reducing danger at source. In addition, we should note that fear of road danger is a key obstacle in achieving the higher levels of walking and cycling required for a genuinely sustainable transport policy.

2. Noxious emissions.

This is a key explanatory image for the EV question – the source of electricity production is critical in assessing the impacts of EVs, particularly with the GG emissions question.
Having said that, even when dirty sources (particularly coal) are used for electricity production for EVs, the noxious emissions from power stations will not have the same adverse effects as they would have from tail pipes, because the power stations are sited further away from people. So the noxious emissions, particularly smog producing NOx, will indeed be less.
That still leaves the fact that EVs release particle pollution into the air from the wearing of tyres, brakes and road surfaces. Already more particle pollution comes from wear than from the exhausts of modern vehicles.

The trend towards open disc brakes rather than sealed drums could be making the situation worse. For the effects of these very small particles see this article . With regenerative braking (where the electric motor puts the EV into reverse) this is supposed to not be so bad – but the extra weight of the batteries could (according to one study ) mean more particle pollution compared with the petrol or diesel vehicles that we buy today. Of course, this may all be alleviated by changes in EV technology in the future.

3. Consumption of space – congestion.

Cars and vans consume enormous amounts of space. This can be for parking, taking away space which could be used for housing, green space, or for other modes of transport when on the road. Or it can be in traffic restricting the efficiency of the journeys of other road users. These problems will remain with EVs, and in fact they could be become greater with the prospect of cheap EVs from China.

But it gets worse. We have to consider the effects of EVs in the general traffic mix, with ICE vehicles still being produced until 2035 (according to the latest Government pronouncements). This means that ICE vehicles will still be around as a major part of the motor traffic mix for another twenty years or so. It is generally assumed that congestion exacerbates the emissions problems of motor traffic (whether GG or noxious) – so for the next decade, or even two decades, the introduction of EVs could contribute to additional emissions as the remaining non-EVs carry on with their emissions.

A key report (if not the key report) is by Professors Phil Goodwin and Jillian Annable (Chapter 4 here ) , whose conclusion is quoted sympathetically in the August 2019 Parliamentary Select Committee’s report on “Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the U.K.’s emissions reduction targets,”
It is worth quoting in full:

“This chapter reinforces the growing consensus that the ambition in relation to fuel switching and vehicle efficiency could and should be strengthened. We nevertheless question the almost exclusive reliance upon technical improvements for two main reasons.
• The Department for Transport’s (DfT) own scenario forecasts show that the uptake of ULEVs is likely to put upward pressure on traffic growth by lowering the costs of motoring. ‘Clean’ growth involves more than attending to the carbon implications; it means considering the combined effects of continued car dependency leading to more urban sprawl, inactive lifestyles and congestion together with the lifecycle impacts of vehicles and batteries, charging infrastructure, and road and car parking capacity.
• The almost exclusive reliance on technical solutions will only be able to produce the necessary reductions if the DfT’s lower traffic growth futures are assumed. Evidence suggests a lower rate of demand for passenger mobility is credible, but this would require a different policy package to achieve and ‘lock in’ the new demand patterns. Thus, whether we assume underlying high growth trends whereby technological developments cannot hope to mitigate the externalities from traffic demand, or we assume that lower or even negative rates of growth could instead be enabled, a different suite of policies focused on shaping the demand for travel is required.”

4. Physical health of EV users.

The latest major call for a move to active travel – cycling and walking – from sedentary motor vehicle use comes from the BMA in October 2019, who want an annual £1.2 billion  budget for active travel in the UK. We have seen numerous reports on the health risks of inactive travel since Adrian Davis’ report for the BMA “Road Transport and Health” in 1997. Life years lost in the current road transport system are associated primarily with climate change (mostly in the future); inactivity; then noxious emissions and deaths/injuries from road crashes; and investment put into road building and other support for mass motor vehicle use which could go into health care.

Here is just one of many illustrations of the health benefits of shifting from car use to cycling:

5. Local environmental damage and road building.

The amount of space taken by mass motor vehicle usage is evident in the continuing costly programmes to accommodate (and also generate) motor traffic, with inevitable adverse effects on local community and the local environment. Despite warnings for the last half century, the continuing centrality of car dependence leads to urban sprawl and forms of low density development that have adverse environmental effects. For example, it is generally assumed that low density building is more inefficient in terms of provision of energy, and it makes public transport and walking and to some extent cycling) less attractive as transport options.
Also, the processes of building roads and associated infrastructure like car parks are themselves GG emitting processes.

6. Financial cost to society.

Mass motorisation imposes what conventional economists call “external costs” to society. Monetising these adverse effects (damage to public health, the environment, casualties from collisions etc.) is a dubious activity, although decisions on transport projects are often supposedly based on cost benefit analyses that do this. It is, however, worth looking at the costs to society, not least as a part of the dangerous “Road Tax” myth which facilitates motorist entitlement on the basis that drivers have somehow paid for the “right” to drive.

Here I just want to point out that the money paid by drivers has been repeatedly cut by Government since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat regime of 2010, with an amount lost to the Exchequer of some £100 billion. With EVs replacing ICE vehicles that amount would rise again: the mainstream Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned of an extra annual £28 billion loss of revenue:

“Cuts to fuel duties over the last two decades have contributed towards revenues’ being £19bn a year lower than they would have been. Another 2p cut, as reportedly mooted by the prime minister, would cost a further £1bn a year. The bigger challenge is that revenues are now set to disappear entirely over coming decades as we transition to electric cars. The government should set out its long-term plan for taxing driving, before it finds itself with virtually no revenues from driving and no way to correct for the costs – most importantly congestion – that driving imposes on others.”

All of this is without the costs to the Exchequer of road building planned and maintenance that happens without a significant reduction in motor traffic; existing EV subsidy or schemes such as interest free loans for EV buyers suggested by the current Opposition. These costs are also evident in:

7. Provision of a charging network.

Such a network’s installation involves massive cost. It also involves an addition to the demands for scarce street space in urban areas, competing with the needs of other road users. There are other problems with trip hazards highlighted by visually impaired road users.

8. Use of scarce resources

August 2019 Parliamentary Select Committee’s report on “Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the U.K.’s emissions reduction targets”  refers to the United States Geological Survey which warns of a likely future shortage of the minerals required for electric vehicle batteries. Globally, the supplies of lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel that could be economically extracted equate to just 30 years of car production at the current rate, but this supply could be adversely impacted by strife in the regions where the minerals are mined. This also applies to other kinds of battery use, including those for e-bikes. Historically fears of resources running out have often proved unjustified, although concerns may be relevant here.

9. Miscellaneous car culture problems.

These are just some of the problems of a car-centred society – here are more:
(a) Personal alienation.
Separation from other human beings and the everyday social interaction that has characterised human societies for millennia is a key feature of car culture. Earlier this year the then Transport Minister Jesse Norman said of EVs:
“Just swapping thirty million petrol and diesel vehicles for thirty million electric ones would do nothing to solve our problems of congestion, obesity, or growing social individualism (my emphasis). In fact, it might well be a policy failure of epic proportions”.

(b) Children’s independent mobility.
The now classic 1990 study by Adams, Hillman and Whitelegg showed how fear of motor traffic has restricted children’s independent mobility with attendant adverse physical and psychological health effects

(c) (Hyper)mobility.
For the wider ramifications of the continued push for ever increasing personal mobility, see the work of John Adams on hypermobility and John Whitelegg 

…and finally:

10. Greenhouse Gas (GG) emissions.

This is, after all, the central justification for the roll out of EVs. I have shown above that introducing EVs into a traffic scenario with no big reduction in overall motor vehicle use will not result in sufficient reduction in GG emissions to meet Government targets (quite apart from the other adverse effects of continuing high levels of mass motorisation). Indeed this is the conclusion of the Labour and Conservative (and one Liberal Democrat and one SNP) MPs in the August 2019 Parliamentary Select Committee’s report on “Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the U.K.’s emissions reduction targets,”
as well as the academics’ CREDS report .

Let’s look in more detail at what the introduction of EVs means for GG emissions.
A crucial issue is what the energy source is: at present the UK grid has about half its electricity supplied by non-FF sources. We also have to consider the production, transport and disposal emissions involved in the life-cycle (“cradle to grave”) of EVs. So consider this illustration:

(click to enlarge all images)

The CO2 emissions from production and disposal (in blue) mean that even with the energy source being completely from renewables (middle column), CO2 emissions from EVs through their life cycle will be about 30% of a petrol driven car (and about 36% of a diesel car). But we’re a long way from totally renewable energy sourcing: in 2017, at the EU average the EV CO2 emissions were about 75% and 80% that of petrol and diesel cars. At the moment in the UK we are at about a 25% cut in CO2 emissions for an EV compared to petrol driven car. That is not very dramatic in the context that I have described above. So much for “zero emission” cars.

But what about a future where the UK grid becomes more based on non FF sources? Firstly, there is the question of priorities: if we are going to move to cleaner energy, where do we think it is most important that it should be used? Energy is used primarily for domestic (heating, lighting, cooking etc.) use; then there are industrial, commercial uses, street lighting, powering railways etc. Are these uses not more important than personal motor vehicular transport? So here’s a thought: if we are to have EVs, shouldn’t their owners pay the full costs of the additional “clean” energy that they would have to use in order to fulfil their potential? (When I say “costs” I mean the costs of installing and operating the solar/wind/wave or whatever green energy source is used – also, why not internalise the external costs, such as disruption to local communities of building the power stations?).

Then there’s the issue of exactly how much reduction in GG emissions we should be aiming for. Even if we go for an officially agreed target such as the Paris accords, and press for international agreements to be supported globally, such targets are inevitably compromises. Furthermore, there will be plenty of debate (see for example this discussion) as to whether we are actually progressing towards these targets, as the Government claims that we are. And all this is without questioning claims such as the supposed “zero-emissions” of nuclear power (as done e.g. by Jacobson ).

So, in summary, GG emission reduction from EVs is minimal and cut further by not reducing the amount of motor traffic including ICE vehicles or making changes (such as higher density housing) to be part of that reduction.

(One more point: any meaningful discussion about climate change has to look at us as members of the world population. If we assume that adults in the UK should have the easily available use of motor vehicles, there is no reason why people in other countries should not. In the UK we have about one car for every two people. Very roughly calculated, there are about 1.2 billion cars in a world populated by 7.6 billion people, or one for every six people. Bringing the world’s population “up” to UK levels would mean an extra 2.5 billion cars on the planet (with associated roads and infrastructure). That is impossible with any realistic attempt to cut GG emissions.)

Red herrings and the driver sense of entitlement.

Let’s look at the context into which EVs are being introduced: it is one of a culture where the unwarranted domination by the car is taken for granted by all too many. Indeed, the word “culture” in its sociological or anthropological sense directs us to precisely the unstated assumptions of a society. Our job is to highlight and criticise those background assumptions.

Consider the response to the UK Government’s consultation on introducing EVs (including green number plates for EVs) in October 2019 from the RAC:

While the sentiment seems right, there are question marks as to whether drivers would see this as a badge of honour or alternatively it could foster resentment among existing drivers of petrol and diesel vehicles. Incentives may make a difference in the short term and the possibility of free parking and the permission to use bus lanes at certain times could encourage some to switch, however many drivers remain cool on the idea even with this encouragement.”
“We continue to believe that the best way of encouraging drivers to ‘go electric’ is for the Government to be providing the right financial incentives at the point of purchase, and investing in better charging infrastructure.

In other words, we are supposed to worry that drivers may “feel resentment” by seeing green number plates on some vehicles, reminding them that their vehicle pollutes even more. We should also expect drivers to want even more money being given to them (“right financial incentives”), as well as even more perks such as use of bus lanes and extra subsidy for parking, and for them to feel even more unhappy (“cool”) if they don’t get them! Such is driver entitlement – an entitlement which in our view is utterly unjustified.

Or see the comments from the Minister:

Local Transport Today (LTT 784 25/10/2019)

Note that he thinks there is ‘Absolutely no disadvantage at all’, despite everything I have pointed out above, and key elements of which (such as the August 2019 Parliamentary Select Committee’s report on “Clean Growth”) he would be sure to know about. Also, the traditional car supremacist assumption that “everybody” drives: about a quarter of the UK adult population does not have a full driving licence, with plenty of licence holders not having access to a car and yet more not driving as their form of transport on any given day. Yet we are supposed to think that “most people” will be driving EVs in a “very short period of time”.

Now, when he spoke to the same Select Committee on 16th October 2019 (referred to here ) he said he was very keen to support cycling – but cycling remains at a tiny modal share with no obviously appropriate level of investment to genuinely support cycling as an everyday form of transport, while the foreground is full of support of EVs, as well as the actual or proposed investment behind them.

And that’s the whole point. What is actually happening is that sustainability and active travel get the fine words – and have done by Ministers to no adequate effect for some 35 years (in 1984 I was at a conference where the then Minister, Lynda Chalker, promised to “encourage” cycling) with minimal genuine support – while motoring gets the actual support.

The red herring effect is already visible. EV drivers have the prospect of extra free parking and use of bus lanes, as well as consideration of a higher speed limit on motorways. But this effect goes much deeper than that. Throughout my career I have been informed by drivers that they are “good drivers” because they don’t drink and drive, or that they are sensitive to the environment because their car is “small”. Any actual or alleged alleviation of a problem created by driving is seen as some sort benevolent progress which should allow further pampering of the motorist, or at the least a refusal to criticise the transport status quo. At present that looks very much like happening with EVs.

Or consider the transport activist Joe Dunckley’s tweet:
“The general/media narrative lately seems to have taken to treating private transport emissions as if that problem can be ignored now, because [waves hands] “electric cars are coming”, without ever checking that the problem is not in fact getting worse.”

The context for his tweet is the news about the massive contribution to emissions of various kinds from SUVs  – we have had more fuel efficient ICE cars for a while, but without the necessary restrictions on car ownership and use (particularly cost) we end up with mass SUV use. Such is the effect of red herring trailing. Then there is the Director of the so-called “Green Alliance” calling for the Minister to “make EVs available to everyone.

EVs in this context are thus set to become very much part of the problems of mass motorisation.

Trailing a red herring: The term was popularized in 1807 by English essayist William Cobbett, who told a story of having used a kipper to divert hounds from chasing a hare.

So should we oppose the introduction of EVs?

EVs could be part of a sustainable and healthy future transport scenario, but only if a number of conditions are met. If there is:

• The introduction of a well-integrated and appropriately financed transport strategy. This would be based on the significant reduction in car, van, taxi and motorcycle mileage and a reduction in their modal share, with a big increase in walking, cycling, and public transport modes.

• The financial costs of new green energy supply required to fuel EVs being fully met by the driver and/or owner, with additional internalisation of external costs (such as effects on the local environment of installing new power stations) meaning that drivers pay an additional nominal sum as well. If ICE vehicles were then to become obviously cheaper and more attractive, their price (and other restrictions on their use would have to be increased).

• Space re-allocation from motor vehicles to walking, cycling and public transport (through low car access housing and retail developments, introduction of protected cycle lanes, reduction in car parking at current origins and destinations, widespread filtered permeability, bus lanes etc.)

• High level traffic law enforcement targeting those most likely to endanger others on the road, backed up by well publicised deterrent sentencing.

• Proper financing for local public transport, as well as for cycling and walking.

– then the remaining cars (often through shared car schemes), vans and taxis could be EVs – but there would be far fewer of them and doing much lower mileage than at present.  Earlier this year Transport for Quality of Life suggested that for net zero emissions by 2045,  the level of traffic reduction needed by 2030 should be anywhere between 20% and 60%, depending on factors including the speed of the switch to electric vehicles and how fast the electricity powering them is decarbonised.

That is a very big “if”. There are those such as Cllr. Jon Burke of LB Hackney  who plan a roll out of on-street charging – but also plan a 25% reduction in car ownership in the Borough and oppose additional subsidy to EVs. That kind of thinking could work, but is regrettably the exception which proves the rule. There are also issues such as how to price ICE vehicles at the same time – increasing their costs as well.

But those issues need to be confronted and are not even apparently part of Governmental thinking. As John Dales  puts it : “No one with real authority and power seems to be driving the comprehensive change in transport and travel that the environmental, public health, population growth and economic challenges we face demand.”

Conclusion

Photo: Getty Images: Sean Gladwell

Are you thinking of buying an EV? Our society would be far better off if you drove your current car much less (and more carefully) than you do now. Much more importantly, you need to campaign for a society with real (financial and other) disincentives to drive and incentives to use the sustainable and healthy alternatives. If you already drive the least possible amount and shift to an EV, remember that benefits in terms of greenhouse gas and noxious emissions are small.
With the current transport status quo, even significant changes to EVs will have small beneficial results for the reasons explained above, as well as not confronting most of the main problems associated with mass car use.

Unless that status quo changes – and the indicators are not good – then EVs will be part of the problem, although with the changes I have indicated necessary in place, they could be a (small) part of the solution. And if buying an EV now gives you that nice warm feeling from doing something you think is good, then the red herring will have been very effectively trailed.

Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF , 28/10/2019

Global Coalition Calls on Governments at COP26 to Boost Cycling Levels

(ECF Press Release)

Today, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) and a global coalition of pro-cycling organisations are publishing an open letter calling on governments attending COP26 in Glasgow to commit to significantly increasing the number of people who cycle in their countries in order to reach global climate goals quickly and effectively.

The world needs much more cycling if we are to combat climate change. Without quicker and more determined action by governments worldwide to cut transport carbon emissions, we will be dooming present and future generations to a world that is more hostile and much less inhabitable.

CO₂ emissions from the transport sector continue to increase. Meanwhile, the transition to zero-emission cars and trucks will take decades to complete and will not solve other problems like traffic congestion and sedentary lifestyles. Despite this, COP26 Transport Day on 10 November is set to focus exclusively on the electrification of road vehicles as a solution to the climate crisis we are facing today.

ECF and its allies believe cycling represents one of humanity’s greatest hopes for a shift towards a zero-carbon future. Bicycle use produces zero emissions, delivers far-reaching positive societal impacts and – most importantly – is a technology that is already widely available today. The world cannot afford to wait decades for fossil-fuel cars to be fully phased out and replaced by electric vehicles. We must urgently leverage the solutions that cycling offers by radically scaling up its use.

The signatories to the open letter call on governments and leaders attending COP26 to declare commitments to significantly boost cycling levels at home and collectively commit to achieving a global target of higher cycling levels. The letter was sent to governments and transport ministers ahead of COP26. 

Jill Warren, CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation: “There is no conceivable way for governments to reduce CO₂ emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis without significantly more cycling. The devastating effects of accelerating global warming should be clear to everyone, and boosting cycling levels is the best way to quickly cut carbon emissions from transport on a massive scale.”

Henk Swarttouw, President of European Cyclists’ Federation and of the World Cycling Alliance: “Cycling should be a cornerstone of global, national and local strategies to meet net-zero carbon targets. At COP26, governments must commit to providing the financing and legislation for safe and equitable space for cycling everywhere. Citizens are ready for the change; now our leaders need to enable it.”

About the European Cyclists’ Federation:

With over 60 member organisations across more than 40 countries, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is the world’s largest and best-known cyclists’ advocacy organisation. Our aim is to improve and increase cycling by influencing policy and harnessing the power of the European cycling movements.

ACTIVE TRAVEL COALITION CALLS FOR FASTER ROLLOUT OF CYCLE ROUTES

Active Travel Coalition Press Release – for Immediate Use

In the lead-up to COP26, and the World Health Organisation’s call for more cycling to improve health through increased physical activity and improved air quality [1], a newly-formed Active Travel Coalition is today seeking urgent action on the rollout of safe cycle routes nationwide.

The Active Travel Coalition is bringing together health, medical, environmental and cycling campaigners to call on the Irish government to show leadership on cycle infrastructure to enable families make the switch from the car to active travel modes of walking & cycling.

The coalition says that many people want to make the switch to cycling but are put off by the lack of safe, segregated cycle routes.

The Active Travel Coalition is seeking:

●        Faster rollout of the proposed high-quality ‘Safe Routes to School’ cycle path network.

●        Trial infrastructural change legislation & re-allocation of road space for walking & cycling.

●        Commitment from local and national politicians to lead the move to greater Active Travel.

●        Continued strong funding coupled with rigorous oversight for safe cycle route development.

●        Creation of networks of cycle routes, not just one-off routes that don’t interconnect.

Between 1991 and 2016 walking and cycling to school in Dublin fell from 64% to 46% while the percentage being driven to school increased from 17% to 41% [2]. Dr. Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics at Sport Ireland said “Sport Ireland research [3] shows that only 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 5 children meet recommended daily physical activity levels. Reaching the physical activity guidelines will require a mix of sport, recreational physical activity and regular active travel. Investments in active travel infrastructure can increase cycling to school and work, helping increase the number of children and adults meeting the recommended daily physical activity levels.”

According to Mark Murphy, advocacy officer with the Irish Heart Foundation, “30 minutes of moderate intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, five days a week, reduces your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and contributes to overall improved levels of health. However, we know that if we want more people cycling, particularly school children, we need a major expansion of safe cycling tracks”.

Ireland’s policy is to reduce carbon emissions in 2050 by 80% on 1990 levels. Oisín Coghlan from Friends of the Earth says “transport accounts for 20% of emissions in Ireland. Given our carbon reduction targets in transport, a modal shift away from the private car is needed towards sustainable modes. Segregated cycle tracks, particularly in Dublin, are urgently needed to support this”.

Research from the National Transport Authority shows that 11% of adults cycle daily in Dublin but 46% would like to cycle or cycle more if they felt safer [4]. Dublin Cycling Campaign’s David Timoney says that we know from research and from the cycle traffic on the Grand Canal and Dun Laoghaire & Seapoint cycle tracks that segregated routes enable people of all ages and abilities to cycle.”

Dr. Sean Owens from the Irish College of General Practitioners says “the strongest evidence for reduced incidence of diabetes, obesity & cardiovascular disease is lifestyle measures centred around physical activity and healthy diets. Getting our patients, our families and our staff on their bikes for pleasure, or for a commute, is a triple win; better health for patients and families, better for the environment and better value for the public purse”.

Only 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 teenagers who cycle in Dublin are female. Mairead Forsythe from ‘Women on Wheels’ says that “the figures show a major gender gap in cycling in Dublin and while the barriers to more women and girls cycling are varied, the number 1 barrier is fear of mixing with motor traffic.”

Colm Ryder from Cyclist.ie and the Rural Cycling Collective adds that “In many areas developing cycle infrastructure will require a re-allocation of road space from the motor vehicle to active travel. We need to adapt our private car use to achieve the critical goals of an improved and safer public realm and more efficient movement of people around our towns, cities and rural areas“.

*The Active Travel Coalition consist of the following organisations:

Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Cancer Society, Diabetes Ireland, Irish College of General Practitioners, Sport Ireland, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Cycling Campaign, Women on Wheels, Irish Pedestrian Network, Friends of the Earth, Irish Doctors for the Environment & Faculty of Sports & Exercise Medicine (RCPI & RCSI).

For further information contact:

Dublin Cycling Campaign: David Timoney (083.333.9283 & davidtimoney@yahoo.com).

Cyclist.ie: Colm Ryder (087.237.6130 & colmryder@gmail.com)

ENDS

[1] https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/Transport-and-health/news/news/2021/6/promoting-cycling-can-save-lives-and-advance-health-across-europe-through-improved-air-quality-and-increased-physical-activity

[2] https://www.cso.ie/en/index.html

[3] Sport Ireland 2018 CSPPA and 2019 ISM studies.

[4] https://www.nationaltransport.ie/bike-life-2019-dublin-metropolitan-area/

Model for Cycling in Rural Ireland now needs Cash Injection

Clon Bikes

Today, Clonakilty is best known for its black pudding and its characteristic Irish architecture. It possesses no greenways or cycle lanes but despite this, the people of Clonakilty have come together as a community to promote cycling in a way that would put to shame government supported SmarterTravel towns such as Westport or Dungarvan. It holds an annual Bike Festival (just over) which went global this year. It has its own community bike workshop ‘The Bike Circus’ which also runs an active apprenticeship program. The town has a chapter of Cycling without Age/Wind in Your Hair and has its own Trio E-bike which they use to bring out elderly and sick from hospital or nursing homes. The most remarkable aspect of the cycling culture of the town, however, is that they have their own bike share with almost no financial assistance from Cork County Council or the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Tom O’Donovan of O’Donovan’s Hotel was one of the founders who established the Clonakilty Bike Share 6 years ago with some 60 bikes. He recalls that Cork County Council refused to give them public space for bike hubs so a number of hotels offered a section of their car parking area. With contributions from the hotels and private local sponsors and a small financial contribution from government bodies, they purchased bicycles, paid for parking racks and developed a website through which people could book and pay for renting. Most of the work was carried out by community volunteers so any money raised from renting was reinvested in the scheme. While the bike scheme originated in Clonakilty, it soon spread out to hotels in a number of locations across West Cork as far as Courtmacsherry and Rosscarbery. The scheme allowed users to stay overnight in different places and ensured that more money was retained in the local community than from individual day trippers.

Clonakilty also procured funding to erect directional signage designating a number of nearby cycling routes along quiet roads. Although funding has been available from late 2018 the County Council Area Engineer refuses to erect the signage as he is concerned about the legal consequences to Cork County Council of encouraging cycling on quiet roads. (Apparently, he has no concerns about the consequences to the Council of cyclists travelling on heavily trafficked national or regional roads). The Area Engineer and his Senior Engineer, want an independent safety assessor to tell them that it is safe before they agree to erect the signage. If they have such doubts about the safety of the roads, it is potentially negligent for them not to alert the public in general and cyclists in particular as to the nature of hazard and the risks of exposure.

The Clonakilty bike share was already facing increased maintenance costs due to an ageing fleet of bikes. Now, the rising cost of insurance is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and Clonakilty has been forced to shelve its bike share. Clonakilty is a model for a small community based cycling town. At a time when

(1)  A new Programme for Government prioritising cycling has been agreed
(2)  Over €1 million has been invested in bike share schemes in Cork, Limerick and Galway
(3)  Due to Covid-19, the health authorities urge people to walk or cycle where possible,
4)  The NTA are offering funding to encourage active travel and
5)  Cork City proposes to expand its bike share,

it is ironic that the Clonakilty bike share would be allowed to fail. While West Cork politicians have been vocal in their support, Clonakilty has received almost no state funding. Clonakilty’s most famous cyclist is of course Michael Collins who was born nearby. Looking down from heaven (or up from the other place if that is your politics), what must he think of Cork County Council and current councillors.

PRESS RELEASE Cyclist.ie Welcomes the Programme for Government Commitment to Active Travel

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, has been calling for a revolution in the funding of cycling and walking for many years. We are seeking a 10% allocation for cycling from our government’s transport budgets.

We are delighted to see that the initial figures emerging from the government formation talks appear to have recognised this urgent need to invest in ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling) by allocating €360 million per annum towards cycling and walking schemes [1]. Cyclist.ie welcomes this commitment.

Cyclist.ie has consistently highlighted the multiple benefits of investing in cycling – across economic, societal and environmental headings. On the public health side, regular cycling for everyday journeys builds exercise into our busy lives and it can be easier to maintain compared to recreational physical activity. Economically, each kilometre driven by a car incurs an external cost of €0.11, whereas cycling and walking bring benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometre, respectively (see New study reveals the social benefits of cycling and walking in the EU). On the emissions reduction front and responding to the Paris Climate Agreement, cycling and walking are an essential part of the solution in decarbonising our mobility system and hence are a critical part of the overall transport mix. This has been recognised in many progressive countries in North West Europe since the mid 1970s.

It is estimated that spending on cycling currently amounts to less than 2% of transport capital spending, as shown in Cyclist.ie’s 2020 Budget submission. Meanwhile the Third Report and Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action [https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/32/joint_committee_on_climate_action/reports/2019/2019-03-28_report-climate-change-a-cross-party-consensus-for-action_en.pdf] and the 2019 Climate Action Plan all endorsed the spending of 10% of the transport budget on cycling.

Our expectations are that this funding will be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure in our towns and cities so that we can grow cycling to levels common in many continental countries. We also urgently need to redress the gender balance in cycling (currently only 27% of all persons commuting are female, as per Census 2016 data). As Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie summed it up, “we need to renormalise cycling to the shops, to school, to work and for other daily activities”.



Open Letter to KCC : CHANGE OUR STREETS – MAKE SAFER STREETS FOR ALL

NOTE If you like the NEW NORM with reduced traffic and more Kildare people walking and cycling, we invite you to email maynoothcycling@gmail.com (or Shamrock Spring at shamrockspring@gmail.com) to demonstrate your support for Change Our Streets. We will add your name to the list of supporters.

Make Walking And Cycling Safer To Go To Work, To Shops And Pharmacies, To Volunteer And To Exercise


Dear Mr. Carey,

We are an alliance of Kildare groups and residents, led by Maynooth Cycling Campaign and Kildare Environmental Network. We live, work, trade or shop in Kildare. We want our Council to urgently Change Our Streets by reallocating space for people on foot and on bikes during this long COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

We want to express sympathy with those who have died of COVID-19, their families, friends, and colleagues. Using our expertise in road safety to help ease social anxieties around social distancing, we wish to give support to people with an added reason to walk or cycle.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that ‘whenever feasible, consider riding a bicycle or walking to provide physical distancing and daily physical activity’ during the COVID-19 emergency. In Ireland, we have seven exceptions to the ‘Stay at Home Order’, including exercising within 5 km from home.

We want safer streets for all ages and all abilities in our ‘new normal’. We are supported by doctors, nurses, health professionals, resident associations, community groups, businesses and associations. [Note: health professionals – to be finalised]

We have two requests to reduce preventable deaths and injuries, and create pedestrian- and cycle-friendly streets:

1.    Reallocate road space to people walking and cycling.
2.    Temporarily lower the speed limit to 30 km/h in urban areas.

We ask that Kildare County Council arranges a Transport SPC meeting as a matter of urgency and that the agenda be devoted to Change Our Streets. [Note: This paragraph to be finalised]

How COVID-19 Impacts on the Use Of Public Space

  • An increasing number of Kildare residents live in apartments with no access to a private garden. Over 9% of households in Kildare do not have access to a car. Children need 60 minutes of daily exercise. Access to green and blue spaces has detectable mental and physical health benefits.
  • There is an increase in individuals and families walking and cycling in their local areas, whether for exercise or essential journeys. 
  • Healthcare workers and other essential workers have reported incidents of feeling unsafe while walking or cycling to work.
  • There is a lack of space for social distancing across the county for people walking and cycling. Narrow footpaths and painted cycle lanes do not provide the space to adhere to HSE social distancing guidelines.
  • There are road safety issues with the reduced vehicle traffic. Most significant of which is speeding but also red light breaking and phone use by motorists.
  • People queuing outside shops that have in-store limits, are lining up on narrow footpaths next to wide roads with multiple parking and driving lanes.
  • Public transport numbers are down as people stay home. There is a risk that levels of private car traffic may increase sharply in the intervening period before a vaccine is found and widely distributed.
  • With an increase in unemployment, and good summer weather ahead, the bicycle offers an affordable transport option to many who may not have considered cycling to date.
  • The demand for parking has drastically reduced.

Kildare County Council has closed or restricted access to playgrounds, skateparks and outdoor gyms, even to people living within 5 km. Residents of places with natural beauty are concerned that people in groups are travelling by car to these pleasant places for exercise.


Make Safer Streets for All – Reallocating Road Space to People Walking and Cycling
Expedient, wide-ranging action will reconfigure Kildare’s public spaces to decrease public health risk, social anxiety and the risk of increased traffic levels as the restrictions begin to be lifted over the coming months and years.

These types of measures have already been rolled out internationally, especially in the German capital Berlin. In Ireland, Dublin City and Fingal County councils have started to reallocate road space.

We ask Kildare County Council to implement temporary measures, including:

  • Install temporary cycle lanes along the key traffic routes where feasible.
    • Example: Main Street Newbridge, Main Street Celbridge, Newbridge Road Naas and Dublin Road Maynooth
  • Widen or introduce footpaths using cones on busy streets, outside lines of shops or areas with queues, or thoroughfares to shops and essential businesses. This may need the reallocation of space from on-street parking and loading bays.
    • Example: SuperValu Main Street South, Naas.
  • Temporary use of cones, bollards and planters to filter through-traffic in housing estates, and so make roads safe for children playing and people exercising.
    • Examples: Laurence’s Avenue and Rail Park Maynooth, and Monread Naas.
  • Automate pedestrian signal crossings during daylight hours and increase pedestrian crossing times in urban areas. Add signage to prevent people pressing the buttons.
    • Example: as Greystones Municipal District and other councils have done.
  • Temporary suspension of extra lanes alongside roads with shared walking / cycling facilities or narrow footpaths. Turn the extra lane into a barrier / cone-protected cycle lane and, if shared facilities are present, temporarily designate the shared facilities as pedestrian-only.
    • Examples: New Caragh Road Naas adjacent to the Newbridge Road.
  • Removal of turn right lanes where footpaths are narrow and/or there is no cycle facility.
    • Example: New Caragh Road Naas adjacent to Newbridge Road
  • Revise traffic management arrangements in order to change a two way road with no cycle facilities with a one way road and two cycle lanes (one a contra-flow cycle lane).
    • Example Newtown Road, Maynooth
  • Temporary pedestrianisation of roads and creating ‘quiet streets’ to connect residences and essential destinations.

Lower the Speed Limits
In relation to urban areas, we request the introduction of a temporary blanket 30 km/h speed limit on all local and regional roads during the pandemic. In addition, drop the speed limit on roads with 60 km/h areas to 50 km/h and 80 km/h to 60 km/h. This will make walking and cycling more pleasant, reduce the risk of collisions, and reduce the severity of injury on impact, should any collisions occur. Professor John Crown of St Vincent’s University Hospital has made a similar call.

The Isle of Man introduced a temporary speed limit island-wide to 40 mph at the end of March, following NHS doctors stating that this is the number one action to ‘lower the baseline’ of critical care admissions.

Brussels will introduce a city centre speed limit of 20 km/h from May 1 until the end of August. Milan’s ambitious Strade Aperte (Open Streets) plan has 20 km/h speed limits at its heart. This is to make living in urban areas more pleasant during the coronavirus.

Change Our Streets – Make Safer Streets For All
The Minister for Health says that physical distancing measures will be with us until a vaccine is available. We know that this will, at least, be months from now.

In general, please:
• Keep stable or expand the resources budgeted for footpath and cycling schemes.
• Bringing forward of timelines for National Transport Authority cycling schemes.
• Include footpath widening as part of footpath repair schemes.
• Include reallocation of space as part of road maintenance schemes.

This COVID-19 crisis offers a unique opportunity to implement and trial low or zero-cost solutions for a more resilient, pleasant and accessible public realm in Maynooth and other urban centres in Kildare. We can create a liveable city whose streetscape is designed with empathy and flexibility for the mental and physical wellbeing of all who live here.

We, the undersigned, strongly request that you consider, plan and implement these measures in the interests of public health and safety.


CC Mr. Tadhg McDonnell, Director of Services for Transportation



Change Our Streets


Hello – You are invited to the following event:  CHANGE OUR STREETS

Event to be held at the following time and date:

                            Tuesday, 5 May 2020 from 19:00 to 19:45 (BST)

Tickets on Eventbrite – https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/lets-change-our-streets-tickets-104165200920?

Let’s Get Moving

          Tune in – Tuesday’s meeting is devoted to Sustainable Transport solutions

 We invite you to watch IN ADVANCE a short film (15mins) by Streetfilm        https://vimeo.com/76207227 on Groningen best cycling city in the world.

          Then from 7:00pm on Tuesday, we will meet on Zoom to discuss ways to                                #ChangeOurStreets to more sustainable future.

         *    What drives Dutch bike culture, socio-economic rewards of cycling, health                           effects of clean air and bonus lower noise pollution brings.
          *   How complementing wider investment into cycling infrastructure can help                          create  more  value in future.
          *  Lessons for Kildare

 Do share this event on Facebook and Twitter.

We hope you can make it.

All the Best,

Gerry Dornan, Maynooth Cycling Campaign

Deirdre Lane, ShamrockSpring 

Party Rankings on Cycling Policies – Check Them Out!

We are urging all cyclists to get out and vote on Saturday for the

political parties that have promised to make a difference for everyday

cyclists. Check out our comparative ratings of the political party

manifestos above, and think about how you cast your vote! These

ratings are based simply on what the various parties have outlined in

their manifestos in relation to proposed investment and policies to

grow cycling in Ireland. **YOU BIKE – YOU VOTE!**

Matrix

Cyclist.ie – Political Asks in GE2020

(This article was previously published in GreenNews.ie in a series under the heading of  “What the experts want from GE 2020 “. In this case the expert is Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, which is represented by Martina Callanan of the Galway Cycling Campaign.)

Over the past three weeks, as in all election cycles, we have become accustomed to the knock at the door from canvassers or candidates themselves are they vie for our number one at the ballot box.

We have asked leading climate and biodiversity experts to tell us the key policy asks that they have raised with candidates when they come a-knocking.

Next up is Martina Callanan who represents Galway Cycling Campaign on the executive council of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, whose vision is for cycling to become a normal part of transport and everyday life in Ireland.

The network sees cycling as a vital part of building healthier and less polluted communities, and has developed 10 election asks that it Martina has boiled down to three kernel points below.

Make cycling a normal everyday activity

Cycling is a critical part of the transport equation in combating Climate Change. We need everyday cycling to be better and safer, more convenient, and easier. Hopping on your bike should be a more attractive option for the so-called first-mile and last-mile journeys.

No more slashing of funding or paltry rises: major investment is needed to shift people away from car dependency, especially for short journeys under 5km. This means greater investment in cycling infrastructure and promotion.

We need our next Government to allocate a minimum 10 per cent of transport funding to cycling immediately as promised under the National Climate Action Plan. Currently, cycling is allocated a tiny two per cent of our transport spend.

We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Bike safety is highest in countries and cities where bike use is high and people cycling have interconnected networks of segregated routes such as in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Bristol and Manchester in the UK.

It’s as easy as ABC: Allocate 10 per cent of transport funding to cycling; Build safer infrastructure, and everyone will cycle more.

Build safe segregated networks

Manifestos that mention school cycle buses should make us weep with rage. There should be no need for parents and adults to marshal kids to school on bikes, forming human shields between small soft bodies and big, motorised, metal boxes. Cycle buses must not become the norm.

What we need are safe routes to schools and throughout populated areas: networks of segregated cycle paths along roads; safe junction design with priority signalling for people on bikes; and quiet routes through permeable neighbourhoods. Let’s get designing and building!

Increasing cycling numbers in Ireland will cut congestion, improve public health, and reduce pollution. To get more people cycling, we need to make it an easier and safer choice. Let’s have real cycle networks, safe school routes, and coordinated planning, policy and policing that protects us.

Design fit-for-purpose planning, policy and policing system

The 3 Ps of Planning, Policy and Policing seem a little dry at first glance – but these are the actions that make the good things happen.

Planning – Building safer cycling infrastructure should be guided by our National Cycle Manual. This design guidance needs urgent updating to upgrade our standards and bring us into line with best international practice.

Policy – We need joined-up thinking for everyday cycling across a myriad of Departments – Transport, Health, Environment, Housing, Education, and Justice. We need a resourced National Cycling Office, preferably within the Department of Transport to coordinate policy and ensure action.

Policing – We have road traffic legislation that considers people who cycle and walk, but enforcement needs greater priority. People who cycle are frustrated and frightened by illegal parking in cycle lanes and dangerous overtaking.