Meadowbrook Link Road – Upgrade of Cycle Facilities

Maynooth Cycling Campaign welcomes Kildare County Council’s (KCC) recent upgrade of cycle facilities on the Meadowbrook Link Road. This will allow cyclists to proceed from Meadowbrook Road to the Straffan Road junction off road instead of being unceremoniously dumped onto the road halfway along.

The existing width of cycle track on the Meadowbrook Link Road is 1.5m. While the Council maintained that width where space was limited, Maynooth Cycling welcomes that where space was available the Council increased the effective width to 2m. However, it was noted that the Council omitted to provide a kerb on the road side of the cycle track with the result that the quality of workmanship is poor in places. It was also noted that the original 1.5m width has been reduced to 1.4m due to the encroachment of grass. It would have been nice had the Council took the opportunity to cut back the grass.

It is regrettable that the Council maintained the shared path at the Straffan Road junction. Shared paths are opposed by both cyclists and pedestrian groups due to potential conflicts. Designs in Dublin, which now allow Dutch style protected junctions and separate path for pedestrians and cyclists, are long overdue in Kildare.

The Council  also  wasted an opportunity to do anything about the poor quality of the workmanship on the cycle track at the entrance to Hayfield Estate. Maynooth Cycling Campaign has complained about the flooding after every shower of rain but the Council failed to do anything about it.  The Council’s response was to the effect that repair works are required but there are no plans for the Council to do anything soon. The bigger question is why was the developer allowed to leave it in a substandard state.

Maynooth Cycling Campaign & Bikeweek 2021

At the end of August, Kildare County Council invited Maynooth Cycling Campaign to take part in Bikeweek. We proposed a number of actions including advance publicity, two organised cycles around Maynooth and engagement with secondary schools in Maynooth, Celbridge and Leixlip as well as Maynooth primary schools. We submitted an estimate of costs and added a percentage to cover the cost of our insurances and time in preparing and running the events. We also looked for clarification on a number of conditions but as we did not get a reply, we reluctantly decided not to proceed. Maynooth Cycling Campaign has been involved in Bikeweek since 2012 and have used Bikeweek funding to buy from local shops so we were disappointed not to be able to do so again this year.

Although Bikeweek is funded by the Department of Transport and organised in conjunction with the local authorities, voluntary groups are expected to pay the cost of insurances. Furthermore although prompt payment legislation ensures that invoices must be paid promptly, Kildare County Council has forced Maynooth Cycling Campaign to wait two lengthy periods – 8 and 11 months before being reimbursed for costs. As Maynooth Cycling Campaign does not have its own bank account, we informed Kildare County Council that we wanted funds to be temporarily transferred to us via Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG/Cyclist.ie (rather than an individual’s private account).   Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG/Cyclist.ie is a company approved by the Irish Charity Regulator and the intention was to improve the campaign’s cash flow. When Kildare County Council failed to reimburse Maynooth Cycling Campaign in a prompt manner, the effect was therefore to effectively retain money intended for a charity.

Report on Bike Parking in Maynooth

We commend the recent report by Seán Ó Broin on Survey of Car Parking and Bicycle Facilities in Maynooth and agree with many of his conclusions. However, we strongly oppose his suggestion that

There is no point in the Local Authority incurring expenditure on the provision of additional lane facilities within Maynooth in the absence of adequate facilities at starting ……. and finishing points

While the provision of cycle parking is an essential element in enabling cycling, the cost of an individual parking stand is minor compared to the cost of providing high quality cycle infrastructure. It remains the single most important element in enabling everyday cycling.

Car and bicycle parking is available at the following locations:

Table 1:            The Availability of Car & Bicycle Parking in Maynooth

While most of the locations have a lack of adequate / suitable parking facilities, parking is sufficient at a number of the remaining places. Specifically, it is our opinion that

  • At Manor Mills, the parking hoops are poor quality “wheel bender” frames which are poorly located as they are remote from the shopping centre entrances.
  • At Aldi, the cycle stands are substandard. Each should be able to cater for two bikes but have been placed too close together at 500mm apart rather than 1000mm.
  • The KCC Pay & Display Car Park is not a natural location for bike parking as there is no “destination” nearby. Cyclists would generally choose to park adjacent to their destination or even better at the entrance to their destination. Bike parking at a remote location would only be used if it offered increased cycle security  – which the Pay and Display Car Park does not do.
  • Carton Retail Park has bike parking but it is remote from the shops and is open to all weather conditions. The bike lockers are adjacent to one of the entrances to the Tesco supermarket. However, cyclists have to pay for the lockers whereas parking for car users is free.
  • There are also a number of individual Sheffield stands which are located in small groups along Main Street, on Straffan Road and at the Harbour Field. They are sufficient in number.

Parking is normally dealt with as a conditions of planning and the County Development Plan lays down a minimum standards of provision for the parking of both  cars and bikes. However, while parking for cars is rigorously enforced, parking for bikes is often overlooked and no enforcement action is taken to ensure that planning conditions are met in full.

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.

COVID-19 – RESPONDING TO AN EMERGENCY

Last January, the WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak as a global health emergency. When it spread to western Europe in February and March, most governments imposed lockdowns, and encouraged people to avoid crowds and observe social distancing. They also encouraged people to walk or cycle where feasible and provided funding to improve facilities for active travel.

By the end of March, the Dutch engineering consultancy Mobycon, had produced guidance  Making Safe Space for Cycling in 10 Days: A Guide to Temporary Bike Lanes from Berlin. The title came from the time required for a German local authority to provide temporary bike lanes.

During the summer, the Irish government through the National Transport Authority provided funding to improve facilities for walking and cycling and invited applications for suitable schemes. Kildare County Council were awarded funding for a number of schemes for Maynooth and other Kildare towns which included temporary cycle lanes. The funding was conditional on the work being carried out by the end of November. (In reality, councils knew that they have until the end of January to complete them.) However, in the four months since July, no Covid works have taken place in the town. In contrast, Dublin City Council publishes progress reports on Covid-19 schemes on a monthly basis.

One would hope that in the case of an invasion, that the army in Kildare will react faster to an emergency than the council.

Cycling Officers: What is their Background and What Should they Do?

At the recent meeting of Cyclist.ie to develop future strategy, there was discussion on the role of Cycling Officers in local authorities. Some of the comments showed a lack of awareness of Cyclist.ie’s position on the matter so this article was designed to clarify the subject. Cycle campaigners agree that there should be Cycling Officers in all local authorities but what should their background be and what should they do?

Cycling Officers were explicitly mentioned in the 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework where their sole task was defined as setting up a Cycle Forum but, since then, most local authorities have ignored the Department of Transport calls to appoint one. Where they have been appointed, some have an administrative background while others have a technical background and the underlying grade of appointed Officers includes Senior Executive Engineer, Administrative Officer and  Road Safety Officer with some working in “Sports Partnership” rather than “Transport”. In Kildare, the post of Cycling Officer was incorporated with the Road Safety Officer and the necessary qualifications uniquely included needing a driving licence but did not include being able to cycle.

In the past, the policy of Cyclist.ie was that the Cycling Officer should be appointed at an appropriate grade without specifying what that grade should be. At the October 2019 Council meeting of Cyclist.ie, a motion was passed that the Cycling Officer should be at Director of Services level and that the role of the Cycling Officer should be:

(1) to achieve an increased level of cycling and

(2) report progress or lack of it on an annual basis.

In large part, this was because in local authorities no-one is responsible for increasing the level of cycling. It also avoids the question of whether the required skillset should be technical or administrative. What is more important is the enthusiasm of the person for the job!

In 2005, following a road traffic crash in County Meath in which five schoolgirls were killed, safety procedures changed radically when Directors of Services in local authorities were given responsibility for new road safety procedures. This was a radical departure and led to an increased emphasis on health and safety in the upper levels of local authority senior management. In (most) local authorities, an equivalent radical departure is required in relation to cycling. Cycling Officers at Director of Services level with responsibility for increasing the level of cycling would be one step in ensuring that high quality is an integral part of new cycling infrastructure as low quality will not attract a high number of users.

Since the passing of the motion by Council, the Cyclist executive has raised the issue in its Pre-Budget submission to government but the Department of Transport has given no indication that it accepts Cyclist.ie’s position. Under it does, efforts to improve quality of cycling infrastructure will be handicapped.

So How Much did Shane Ross Really Allocate to Cycling in 2019?

In 2019, with the assistance of parliamentary questions by TDs of all parties as well as independents, Cyclist.ie estimated that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) spent 1.4% of its capital budget on cycling in 2018. This article carries the results of a similar exercise for 2019 funding. Again it focuses on the DTTAS and ignores the funding of cycling by other government departments such as the Departments of Health or Education.

DTTAS funding for cycling is generally provided under the  heading of Land Transport but additional funding for cycling (greenways) was also provided under the heading of Tourism.

The principal source of data for Land Transport funding was the National Transport Authority (NTA) 2019 Annual Report Sustainable Transport Measures Grant.  The NTA lists all scheme according to the implementing local authority or other recipient. Some of their schemes are cycle only, while others are for more than one mode of transport. The proportion allocated to cycling was estimated on the basis set out in the following table:

The main categories of multi-mode projects were  – greenways, shared paths, shared space and BusConnects. Greenways and shared paths were divided on the basis of 50:50 expenditure while shared space was divided on the basis of 331/3  : 331/3  : 331/3 .  BusConnects was more problematic as its proportion of cycling can vary significantly. However, it was decided to proportion 10% of funding for cycling for a number of reasons. In particular, the primary objective was the need to reorganise the bus service but It was considered reasonable that a proportion should be allocated to cycling as the project includes segregated cycle facilities. It was decided to proportion 10% for cycling as that was the 2009 government target for cycling. There are grounds for arguing that 10% is too high and other arguments that 10% is too low but as BusConnects is a new project, it was decided that 10% was reasonable until its outcome in terms of provision of quality cycling infrastructure is clearer.

The NTA reported that in 2019 total expenditure on sustainable transport schemes was €39.6 million. Each NTA scheme was considered in turn and the appropriate percentage was applied in accordance with the type of scheme. In this way, NTA expenditure on cycling was estimated at  €17.9 million or 45% of NTA STMG grants. Tourism allocated €9.8 million to greenways, of which €4.9 million was deemed to be for cycling. Other cycling related spending by the DTTAS and NTA at €1 million included Cycle Right and Bikeweek, and was assumed to be 100% cycling related. Green Schools spending, with a budget of €2 million, was assumed to be 331/3% cycling related. Combining Land Transport and Tourism funding, total DTTAS expenditure on cycling in 2019 was estimated at €24.48 million.

The total Land Transport capital expenditure for 2019 was €1493 million. In calculating the appropriate amount, this figure was increased to take into account the Tourism expenditure on greenways so the overall total figure for expenditure by the DTTAS was €1,503 million. On this basis, the estimated proportion of DTTAS expenditure on cycling increased in 2019 from approximately 1.3% to 1.6% – a modest increase, which with ex-Minister Ross’s record, should surprise no-one.

APPENDIX 1       ESTIMATE OF CYCLING RELATED NTA GRANT       

RefGrant RecipientNTA GrantCycling Related NTA Grant % Cycling related/NTA Grant
CCC/Cork City Council€6,808,976€3,048,41944.8%
CCO/Cork County Council€1,327,678€138,10410.4%
DDCTotal€15,956,908€7,929,68249.7%
DCUDCU Cycle Parking€62,104€62,1041
DLRCCDun Laoghaire Rathdown€1,413,278€956,87467.7%
FCCFingal County Council€2,292,155€1,143,94449.9%
GCCGalway County Council€620,140€280,75745.3%
KCCKildare County Council€728,138€380,13652.2%
LCCCLimerick City & County Council€3,327,944€1,290,21738.8%
MCCMeath Coiunty Council€2,650,571€245,3239.3%
NTA Regional Bikes Capital CostsCapital Costs€309,854€309,854
SDCCSouth Dublin County Council€1,758,660€1,174,07766.8%
An TaisceGreenschools Cycle & scooter parking€124,617€62,30950.0%
UCDPed Cycle facility€119,884€59,94250.0%
WCCWicklow County Council€399,077€138,97434.8%
WDCCWaterford City and County Council€1,722,907€701,06840.7%
Grand Total€39,622,891€17,921,78245.2%
A breakdown of expenditure within local authorities is available here.

APPENDIX 2 SUMMARY OF DTTAS EXPENDITURE ON CYCLING

 Year20182019
Gross Voted Capital* €000s  
DTTAS – Dept Total Gross Voted Capital €2,005,308€2,343,869
DTTAS –  Land Transport Total Gross Voted Expenditure€1,660,507€1,934,981
DTTAS – Total Land Transport Gross Voted Capital€1,242,591€1,493,523
DTTAS – Tourism Greenways Gross Voted Capital€3,255,000€9,798,000
DTTAS – Total Land Transport+Greenways Gross Voted Capital€1,245,846€1,503,321
* Source Databank  
   
NTA Expenditure on Cycling   
NTA Annual Expenditure STMG€34,700€39,622
% Cycling 45.2%
NTA Cycling Expenditure €17,921
Walk/Cycle€21,600(€26,850)
Bus€4,100(€2,600)
Traffic Management€6,900(€7,480)
Alternative Estimate of NTA Expenditure on Cycling* €13,205 
 *Note – NTA expenditure on cycling was calculated differently in 2018 and 2019.  
   
Other DTTAS/NTA Expenditure  
Cycle Right/Bikeweek€1,000€1,000
Green Schools€2,000€2,000
Greenways€3,255€9,798
Other DTTAS/NTA Expenditure€3,288€6,559
   
   
Total DTTAS Expenditure on Cycling€16,492€24,480
% Total DTTAS Expenditure on Cycling*1.3%1.6%
Note there is a discrepancy in the 2018 estimates of percentage expenditure on cycling between 1.4% at the start of the article and 1.3% at the end. This is due to slight differences in the method of calculation.

Kildare Town – Council Fails to Provide for Cycling

Kildare County Council recently carried out Covid-19 works in Kildare Town. Part of the works included the reallocation of space in the town square from car parking to tables and benches for people to sit and relax. The change in the environment from a place dominated by cars to a place for people to linger is striking and has deservedly been warmly welcomed.

However, the same cannot be said of the second works in the town on Cleamore Road (Academy Street). Cleamore Road is approximately 250m long and contains a school, community building, shops, factory unit and private houses. Its cross section varies from 7.5m at the lower section, 8-9m in the middle section and increases to 15m at the upper end. Traffic has been restricted to one direction and footpaths have been widened to give more room for social distancing.  The photographs below show the result of the works.

Cyclists from the north west of the town have to take a circuitous diversionary route via Grey Abbey Road to access the school as no contraflow cycle track has been provided. Rather than providing a School Street or School Zone to enable children to safely cycle to school, the work is more likely to encourage cycling on the footpath than to encourage more cyclists.

The works have been heavily criticised by cycle campaigners for its failure to properly provide for cycling. Covid funding was intended to provide for increased walking and cycling, not walking OR cycling. Over 1000 children attend the adjacent St Brigid’s School but according to the 2016 Census, only 7 children cycled to primary school. As can be seen from the photograph, cyclists are expected to share the road with cars.  Few parents allow young children to share the roads with cars anywhere, so why does the Council expect them to do so in Kildare Town?

Kildare County Council made a short video of the works which can be seen here. A council engineer describes how the works allowed the footpath on one side  to be widened a minimum of 3m and on the other side to nearly as much. While this is true of the lower section, it is patently untrue in relation to the middle section. As can be seen from the photograph, there is room for parking on both sides of the road and a footpath on just one side ( and also hatching for vehicles) but there is no room for a dedicated cycle path. To crown matters, parking on the west side is perpendicular to the road – just what is needed for reversing cars to deter any cyclists with doubts about cycling safety. Further along the road, there are road markings which indicate “Private Parking” in front of the factory unit so the Council acquiesces in the decision to allocate public space to parking for a private company. The Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets sets out a road user hierarchy with pedestrians at the top, followed by cyclists and with drivers of private cars at the bottom. The design for Cleamore Road ignores this but councils get away with such decisions as they are judge and jury on the matter.

In Ireland, cycling has flatlined nationally for the last twenty years. Unless Kildare County Council starts to provide high quality cycle infrastructure,  it won’t change in Kildare for the next twenty. In the July Stimulus,  Kildare only received half the allocation of similar commuting counties such as Meath and Wicklow. If the council continues to ignore the needs of cyclists with designs such as Cleamore Street and even worse recent examples in other Municipal Districts, Kildare will be lucky to get half in the future.

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.