An Garda Siochana & Illegal Parking

On 29th July last, there was a funeral at St. Mary’s Church, Maynooth. This is not an unusual event in itself but what was unusual was that the funeral was larger than normal and from early in the morning, drivers began to park their vehicles on the footpaths and shared paths on the Kilcock and Moyglare Roads.

Kilcock Road
Kilcock Road
Moyglare Road
Moyglare Road
Moyglare Road

Members of An Garda Siochana were observed on duty adjacent to Manor Mills. It was assumed that they were taking action on the illegal parking. However, it turned out that rather than actively enforcing the law, they were merely onlooking as drivers parked cars illegally as far as Aldi on the Kilcock Road and the entrance to Mariavilla on the Moyglare Road.

Such drivers have an inflated sense of entitlement to park wherever they want. It is not just a temporary inconvenience to pedestrians and cyclists – it has resulted in fatalities elsewhere. Parking on footpath and cycle facilities is illegal under Irish road traffic legislation and begs the question was there an alternative to the Gardaí acquiescing in drivers breaking the law? Of course there were alternatives. Drivers could have parked in any of the following locations:

  • In the Leinster Street carpark which was adjacent to the Funeral Home.
  • In Manor Mills carpark
  • In Aldi’s carpark
  • In the teachers’ car park attached to St. Mary’s Boys School
  • In the car park attached to the Maynooth Post Primary school grounds
  • In Maynooth University’s several car parks
  • In St. Patrick’s University several car parks
Maynooth University North Campus

St. Patrick’s College

Maynooth Post Primary School

Leinster Street Car Park

Admittedly, some of these premises are privately owned as opposed to publicly owned and others would not be available for much of a normal year. However, as can be seen from the above photographs which were taken on the day, several were available so the Gardaí could have directed drivers to park legally but failed to do so.

Since then, Maynooth Cycling Campaign has emailed the Gardaí in Leixlip on more than one occasion looking for information on how many tickets were issued for illegal parking in  Maynooth on the 29th July and more generally in Kildare in 2020. We  are still waiting a response or even acknowledgement. At the recent meeting of Kildare County Council’s Joint Policing Committee, Maynooth Cycling Campaign also raised the issue through a question to the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Unfortunately, due to the meeting on Zoom rather than in person, the question was asked via a third party. This resulted in the question being inaccurately relayed to the Commissioner so his response failed to address the issue. On the bright side, according to the Chief Superintendent John Scanlan, the new Superintendent in Leixlip will be in contact with us in the near future.

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.

Time to Allow Public to Upload Video Evidence of Dangerous Road Behaviour

Recently the RSA published their 6 Month Road Safety Review which found that

  • Ireland did not meet its 2021 target for reduction in road fatalities even though traffic levels had reduced due to the pandemic.
  • Speeding had increased.
  • Most fatal accidents occur in the time period 12:00 (mid-day) – 4:00pm at a time at which most schools close and pupils are returning home.
  • Only 3% of trips nationally are by bicycle but 20% of serious injuries are to cyclists.

For some time, Cyclist.ie including Maynooth Cycling Campaign has been campaigning for the RSA and Departments of Transport and Justice to introduce a dedicated portal for road users to upload video evidence of dangerous behaviour. In non-fatal collisions with conflicting reports between drivers and vulnerable road users, An Garda Siochána is unable to decide on who is telling the truth without corroborating evidence. In the case of fatal collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians, the court often hears only one side of what has happened. However, many cyclists and indeed motorists use video cameras to record their journeys so that there is independent corroboration available. In the UK for the last three years, the authorities have encouraged people to upload such videos as the police cannot be everywhere..

In June during a debate in the Dáil, Deputy Ciarán Cannon called for An Garda Siochána to set up a similar portal in Ireland so that trained officers could assess the evidence and bring forward persecutions if warranted. The government rejected the proposal citing strict standards relating to photographic evidence. However, the UK legal system is similar to the Irish one so legislation could be introduced to resolve the issue. Furthermore, the government response ignores calls by An Garda Siochána for submission of videos in the case of road fatalities and serious crimes.

In 2017, Tonya McEvoy, while out with her cycling club, was fatally injured in a collision with a driver of a vehicle in Rathcoffey near Maynooth. In 2021 after a trial by jury, the driver was acquitted of a charge of dangerous driving. While there were a number of factors which may have contributed to the fatality, no-one – neither the car driver or drivers of other cars in the vicinity – were held responsible for the fatality. This is now history. The introduction of a video portal will not bring back Tonya McEvoy but it will help to make the road safer by reducing the number of near misses and close passes.

Postscript: In early July, Deputy Cannon  was cycling in Mayo when he sustained serious injuries in a collision with a vehicle. It will take a minimum period of 12 months assuming that he will fully recover. We wish him well.

Another Year, Another Increase in Cyclist Fatalities

Another year over and another year with a continuing upward trend in cyclist fatalities.

With a 3% level of cycling in Ireland, it is expected that the number of cyclists fatalities would be statistically insignificant from year to year ie it would follow a random pattern with fatalities increasing some years and decreasing other years. The number of fatalities (solid line above) confirms this pattern.

The  trend line (dotted) looks at longer term patterns and show a continuing increase in cyclist fatalities. Admittedly, using a different baseline, say 1990, would show a different picture but the graph above uses a baseline of 2010 as that is the year with the minimum number of cyclist fatalities and minimum level of cycling as measured by the 2011 National Census.

From the 1970s when the Netherlands prioritised cycling and began to provide high quality infrastructure, cyclist fatalities dropped despite increased cycling. Irish local authorities have still to recognise the link between high quality infrastructure and the safety of cyclists. Despite increased cycling during the pandemic, the removal of “emergency” cycle infrastructure and opposition to reallocation of road space shows that we have quite a way to go.

Government’s July Stimulus -Does It Deserve a Welcome?

Cyclist.ie has stated that it is broadly welcomes the recently announced €88m stimulus funding for active travel. If Cyclist.ie welcomes the funding, it should give credit to the Minister where credit is due. As Cyclist.ie did not name the Minister responsible, this article will name him – so thank you Minister Shane Ross, or rather former Minister Ross. The announcement of 2020 funding was made in October 2019 by the then Minister Shane Ross. Yes, he may have got mixed up over the details of the funding of cycling, but he is responsible for the funding allocation.

Cyclist.ie states that cycling campaigners around the country need to try to ensure that the monies are spent wisely by the local authorities as there are a number of listed projects that are of dubious benefit to cyclists and pedestrians. It does not explain how the campaigners are supposed to do this considering that most local authorities have no Cycle Forums and a lot of the proposed schemes will have no drawings to examine. Cyclist.ie states that there are number of dubious projects but gives no indication if it is a big number or small number.

In relation to cycling schemes, the current Minister invited local authorities to submit proposals for active travel schemes with the result that in most local authorities, schemes were proposed by road engineers. Cyclist.ie did urge caution but it is unclear exactly who should be cautious – cyclists, the Minister, local authorities? Cyclist.ie is on record as being in favour of the re-education of road engineers. It is contradictory if on the one hand, Cyclist.ie want road engineers to be re-educated and on the other hand it welcomes their proposals for expenditure of €88 million which includes dubious schemes. In Kildare, a number of the proposed cycle schemes actually worsen conditions for cyclists.

In South Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, local authorities have minimal allocations for cycling, with most funds being spent on pedestrian improvements such as footpaths and crossings. This confirms the necessity of Cyclist.ie to continue to monitor the expenditure on walking and cycling separately. It is too easy for councils to combine the two modes and allocate significantly more for walking than cycling schemes as the latter are much more controversial.

Cyclist.ie did criticise the proposal on greyways. The attempt to convert hard shoulders to cycling infrastructure was tried five or six years ago and was soon abandoned – presumably on the grounds that they did nothing to increase the level of cycling. In 2020, the idea was revived with no less than seven counties proposing greyways. Now you can believe that it was random chance that seven counties happened to think of the concept of hard shoulder conversion at the same time. An alternative more realistic explanation is that officials in the Department of Transport were behind the idea of hard shoulder conversions – not because it was an effective method of increasing cycling but because it was an ineffective method of doing so. Just because we have a new Minister for Transport doesn’t mean that the Department officials, who were in charge when cycling got just 2% of transport funding, have thrown in the towel. They haven’t gone away you know!

As for the new team of politicians in charge of the Department of Transport, it was never a realistic possibility that there would be a sea-change in management in Kildare Street. We should give them at least a year, if not two, before we judge them.

Greyways – An Irish Solution to an Irish Problem

A Greyway?

It is with some concern that that we read about “Greyways” in the details of the government’s July Stimulus package. We googled “Greyways” and found no reference to Greyways pertaining to cycle infrastructure. There is also no reference to Greyways in the National Cycle Manual, the Design Manual for Urban Road and Streets or Rural Cycleway Design. So it appears to be yet another Irish solution to an Irish problem. Lack of quality cycle infrastructure is not an Irish problem – it is a world wide problem in many if not most countries.

Converting hard shoulders to cycle infrastructure is not a recent idea. Back in 2012-13, the Department of Transport funded a number of such schemes. An example was the R420 between Tullamore and Clara in Offaly.

As far as I am aware, one of the requirements for the scheme was that local councils had to include counters to measure the effectiveness of the scheme but there appears to never have been any publication of the results. Nevertheless, although there was no official announcement of its failure, the initiative was soon abandoned and the Department made clear that they were not going to fund such infrastructure in the future.

The July Stimulus package claims:

             “This would provide better and safer cycle facilities, between towns and villages,         facilitate modal shift and also help to reduce vehicle speeds because of reduced    carriageway widths. “

The addition of cycle logos has been proven not to protect vulnerable road users. While such hard shoulders are used by road cyclists, most people perceive them not to be safer especially where the speed limit is 80 or 100 km/hr?  They also do nothing to facilitate modal shift. They may help to reduce vehicle speeds of the majority of drivers but what is the evidence that they reduce the vehicle speed of the fastest drivers? We may be premature in jumping to conclusions about the quality of proposed infrastructure but we will wait and see.

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.

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.