I wish to make the following submission on the proposals for the Meadowbrook Cycle Scheme:
Newtown Road, which links Maynooth town centre to Castle Dawson and other residential estates to the south west of Maynooth, is a narrow regional road with inadequate footpaths and no cycle facilities. While it is outside the area of the proposed works, the proposals fail to address traffic management in the wider Meadowbrook-Newtown area which has implications for the junction radii and the road crossings by vulnerable road users. The Council should bring forward plans for area wide traffic management in conjunction with cycle proposals for the Meadowbrook Road and Beaufield Close.
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?
The big lie of road design is that designs are future proofed to take account of future demand. It is true that they are future proofed but they are future proofed on the assumption that use of private vehicles will increase. They are not future proofed in accordance with government policies to decarbonise transport or on health objectives.
Approximately eight years ago, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) in Ireland developed a suite of papers which led to the Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport (SFILT) and in 2015 the Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport (SIFLT). Both SFILT and SIFLT largely reflected 20th century thinking on investment in transport with a roads first policy. This was despite active travel having been identified as a major contributor to combating obesity and growing concern among public health experts about sedentary lifestyles and the impact on both adults and children. The suite did include a paper on climate change but the paper was published before the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2018 Citizen’s Assembly report.
In 2016, the DTTAS published the Common Appraisal Framework for Transport Projects and Programmes. Its purpose was
….. to develop a common framework for the appraisal of transport investments that is consistent with the Public Spending Code (PSC) and also elaborates on the Public Spending Code in respect of the appraisal of transport projects and programmes to assist scheme promoters in constructing robust and comparable business cases for submission to Government.
In essence, it set down the parameters for the assessment of road schemes based on the roads orientated SFILT/SIFLT. Needless to say, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) had identified a large number of major road schemes across the country and in 2018 the Common Appraisal Framework was used to justify their inclusion in the National Development Plan.
After the general election in 2020, the new Programme for Government included an unprecedented increase in funding for walking and cycling for which all government parties deserve credit. However, since then there has been pushback by officials and politicians who continue to prioritise roads. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published a Review of the National Development Plan (Review to Renew) in which the Strategic Investment Priorities list National Roads as the second priority behind Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, but ahead of Environmentally Sustainable Public Transport in fourth place, Climate Action in eighth place and Education, Health and Childcare in tenth place.
The cross-party Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport adopted a similar line. The Committee claims to accept the objective of decarbonisation of transport to meet national targets and/or that the carbon impact of projects should form part of project appraisal. However, in a submission to Review to Renew, the Chair of the Committee, Kieran O’Donnell T.D., listed the priorities as
(i) The national road network,
(ii) Environmentally sustainable public transport and
(iii) Airports and ports.
The Committee claims that the national road network is the key to regional connectivity, not only for motorised vehicles, but also for cyclists. (Only the 1% of cyclists “brave cyclists” would agree with that statement.)
The Committee also expressed concern that the current Minister for Transport had revised SIFLT and that the revision, now called the National Investment Framework for Land Transport in Ireland (NIFTI) was already being used to assess projects. The Committee welcomed the commitment from the Minister that the NIFTI will go to public consultation and will be approved by the government before finalisation of the Review to Renew but it put down a marker that it intends to engage further with the Minister and his Department on this strategy.
In planning future transport needs, two key steps are the use of databases to estimate current car trip generation and the extension of car trip generation to future decades. In plain English, this means estimating how many trips will result from a proposed development in the current year and how many additional trips will result in the future, typically a period of twenty or thirty years.
Irish engineers generally use a largely UK database such as TRICs to predict the number of journeys generated by private vehicles. However, the result of Ireland emulating a country with one of the highest car dependency rates in Europe (rather than a country such as the Netherlands with one of the lowest), reinforces the status quo and in Ireland in the last twenty years has contributed to flatlining in the proportion of people cycling nationally.
TII sets out the calculation of future demand on national roads for the next 30 years in its Project Appraisal Guidelines for National Roads Unit 5.3 – Travel Demand Projections. As it specifies a growth rate in future years of between 1% and 3% per annum depending on the county and assumed growth rate, TII are in theory designing roads on the basis of up to 90% more trips in 2051 than at present. In recent years, the TII has published National Road Indicators annually which report the actual growth of traffic on the national road network. The results are shown in Table 1:
Table 1: Annual Growth of Traffic on the National Road Network
So between 2015 and 2019, the actual annual growth of traffic on national roads is even greater than the TII’s highest prediction with some regions of the country experiencing rates in excess of 5% per annum. This gives rise to questions about the sustainability and cost benefit analysis of current road plans.
Phil Goodwin is emeritus professor of transport policy at a number of UK universities and some twenty years ago was one of the first academics to report on the phenomenon of “evaporating” or “disappearing traffic“. In an article last year on the appraisal of road schemes,he challenged the cost of carbon used in the cost benefit analysis of new roads and how the increase of carbon emissions from cars using new roads is minimised by comparison to the percentage of overall carbon emissions. This is in contrast with employment, where additional employment, whether for 10 or 1000 new jobs, is welcomed as a positive thing rather than comparing the increase as a percentage of overall employment levels. In response to the largest ever road building programme in the UK, he wrote
The new decarbonisation strategy requires that we will use cars less, by a substantial amount.
A similar reduction is required in Ireland. The Appraisal Guidelines refers to four scenarios – Sustainable & Urban Communities, Global Communities, Dispersed Communities and Car focussed Communities but it appears that local authorities, which are responsible for planning transport infrastructure only concentrate on the last scenario – Car Focussed Communities – in developing their Transport Strategies.
Neither the Department of Transport nor the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport acknowledges in a meaningful way the central role of transport in creating unhealthy communities and the financial burden it imposes on society. If this government is to be successful, the current road projects in the National Development Plan must be reviewed with revised appraisals and realistic models to ensure that future investment is in accordance with current government objectives rather than ones that belong in the past.
(A default limit does not prevent a different limit being introduced)
Maynooth Cycling Campaign joins Love 30, The Campaign for Lower Speed Limits, in calling on the Oireachtas to provide for a default urban speed limit of 30 km/h in the forthcoming Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
Ireland was a signatory in February 2020 of the Stockholm Declaration of the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, which was subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Paragraph 11 committed to:
“mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries;”
Love 30 calls on the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, and on the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, to fulfil the commitment in the Stockholm Declaration by including provision for a default speed limit of 30 km/h in built-up areas.
It will then be for councils to decide which roads should have a different speed limit. A default limit does not prevent a higher limit being introduced where it is deemed necessary and safe, but the ultimate benefit of a low speed limit would be a cleaner environment and improved safety for people walking and cycling while also protecting our right to health and wellbeing. 30 km/h speed limits have long been recognised for the safety benefits they offer and in addition can assist in reducing noise and emissions and can help to make our towns and cities more pleasant places to live, work and play.
Many cities including London (20 mph), Brussels, Milan, Santander, Bilbao, Paris, Washington DC (20 mph), Boulder (Colorado, 20 mph), Wellington, have introduced widespread 30 km/h limits. Several countries are introducing default 30 km/h speed limits in all urban areas including Netherlands, Spain, and Wales (20 mph). Some locations have speed limits as low as 10 km/h. Love 30 believes that Ireland should follow this best international practice and legislate for a default 30 km/h limit in built-up areas.
Joan Swift of Love 30 Sligo said: “Ireland needs to move quickly to implement the Stockholm Declaration and introduce default 30 km/h speed limits in all built-up areas. We have fallen behind our UK and EU neighbours where 30 km/h is increasingly becoming the norm in town centres and in residential areas. The Welsh Parliament has voted for a 20-mph default urban speed limit and more than a hundred French cities have introduced default 30 km/h limits.”
Mairéad Forsythe of Love 30 Dublin said: “We need 30 km/h speed limits on our residential roads, outside our schools and in the centres of our cities, towns, and villages so that people can move about more safely and enjoy a more people-friendly space. This is more important than ever during COVID-19 restrictions when there has been a surge in the number of people moving about outdoors on foot and by bicycle”
Who are we? Love 30 is an alliance of organisations and individuals who support the concept of lower speed limits in urban areas. We are campaigning for the introduction of more 30 km/h zones in urban areas, but particularly in town centres, residential areas, and near schools and other places of public assembly. You can find more information at www.love30.ie or contact us at email@example.com .
Maynooth has finally seen Kildare County Council’s Transportation Department react to the Covid-19 health emergency with works on the Dublin Road, Mill Street and Laurence’s Avenue
Although the Dublin Road work s limited, Maynooth Cycling Campaign welcomes the pop-up cycle lane which has appeared on part of one side of the road. While it will not attract many more cyclists, it will give more space to pedestrians and reduce the risk of a collision between cyclists and motorised vehicles – at least when they are travelling towards Carton Park Shopping Centre.
Bollards have also appeared on Mill Street to form a pop-up footpath at the Rye Bridge on Mill Street on space which had formerly been allocated for cycling. Several cyclists thought that it was a pop-up cycle lane. They were astonished to learn that the space was to be reallocated from cyclists to pedestrians and that cyclists were expected to move out to the traffic lane and “share the road” with cars. Most other councils are improving conditions for pedestrians AND cyclists, rather than pedestrians OR cyclists. Legibility is an important aspect of road safety. Legibility means that road users can “read” where they are supposed to go – be they pedestrians, cyclists or drivers. While he changes was intended to benefit pedestrians, it is doubtful that many cyclists will swing out into the traffic lane.
When the work was announced as part of the July Stimulus, a requirement was for the work to be completed before the end of November but was only carried out in February. Thankfully Kildare’s Fire Service is more responsive to an emergency than the Transportation Dept.
Cyclist fatalities in Ireland have been increasing over the last ten years. In the Netherlands, increased cycling led to a reduction in fatalities due to their high quality infrastructure and Sustainable Safety policies.
Sustainable Safety is one of the corner stones of the Dutch road safety policies. Its ultimate goal is to make traffic so safe that everybody can get home safely. Not only fit able-bodied people or drivers in protected vehicles, but every road user – the schoolchild, the commuter, the commercial driver and the active senior, whether they walk, cycle or participate in traffic in any other way. I’ve published about Sustainable Safety before, in 2012 and in 2017, but the policy was updated in 2018. That is why I want to start this year with another look at Sustainable Safety. First, I would like to wish you all the very best for this new year! I also – as you will have noticed – updated the look of my blog.
The three editions of the Dutch Sustainable Safety policies from the 1990s, 2005/2006 and 2018 respectively.
The concerns of drivers in Horsham are similar to the concern of drivers in Maynooth. The reaction of politicians to the concerns are similar too.
In the time that they have developed six vaccines, Horsham Council has at least provided emergency pop-up cycle lanes, albeit on a temporary basis, whereas Maynooth is still waiting for its emergency cycle lanes.
Between the end of September and the end of November this year, Horsham briefly had a pop-up cycle lane, created in the space of less than a day by the addition of some bolt-down plastic wands and painted markings, converting one lane of our four/five lane wide inner ring road into a cycle lane.
The Albion Way pop-up lane. Note that, thanks to a watering down of the original scheme, it only went in one direction, and was therefore unlikely to attract people who weren’t already inclined to cycle here before the protection was added.
The reaction to this scheme (and the others across the major towns and cities of West Sussex) was predictably vitriolic and the County Council, whose commitment to active travel is as shallow as a film of diesel on a puddle, rapidly announced they were removing every single one of them – spitefully, even the one…
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.
Much public and media discussion around the Green Party’s insistence on any future government committing to a minimum of 7% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions per annum appears to focus on the supposedly ‘unrealistic’ nature of these targets.
The former Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten TD has, for example, been quoted as describing this reduction rate as “unsustainable and unachievable”. In so doing, Mr. Naughten appears to have forgotten that the government he represented fully signed up to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which commits Ireland to urgent and dramatic emissions cuts in line with the science and climate justice.
Prof Barry McMullin of An Taisce’s Climate Committee, noted: “It is thanks to political procrastination and predatory delay that today’s targets have become so challenging. Every year that vested interests and lobbyists, abetted by politicians with little care for science, have enabled inaction and delay on tackling the climate emergency has made effective action far more onerous than would have been necessary had we collectively acted in a timely manner. Sadly, we cannot simply turn the clock back and ‘start over’: we must deal with the much deeper crisis we have now created.”
Despite this reality, current media commentary continues to place the onus exclusively on the Green Party both to insist on the required emissions reduction pathway, and to explain in detail how this should be delivered on. An Taisce believes this is misleading and unhelpful. Rather than making a political “demand”, the Green Party is simply reflecting the overwhelming scientific consensus on the minimum steps needed to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate change.*
[*Note that An Taisce is strictly non-party-political; these comments do not imply support or endorsement of any specific political party.]
Such targets, and the responsibility for measures to achieve them, do not ‘belong’ to any one party or group: they represent the clearest understanding of the scale of the challenge and the time frame within which global humanity, including here in Ireland, now has to respond.
The currently suggested figure of an overall emissions reduction compounding at a rate equivalent to at least 7% per year is based on the 2019 “Emissions Gap” Report from the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) which assessed the global average rate now required to maintain a plausible chance of limiting temperature rise within the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement as being at least 7.6% from 2020 onward.
But it is critical to emphasise that this does not apply as an equal requirement for all countries.
For a relatively wealthy, high per-capita-emitting country like Ireland, the required annual reduction rate is now considerably higher, as this must reflect the “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” between different countries.
Thus, it is An Taisce’s view not only that the suggested 7% per annum reduction rate is indeed the absolute minimum that must be included and actively endorsed by all partners in any proposed programme for government, but that the programme must commit to enshrining this in a new Climate Ambition Act, with full independent recourse by citizens to the courts to ensure enforcement, within the first hundred days of such a Government taking office.
Further, a restructured and rebalanced Climate Change Advisory Council, with appropriate expertise in physical climate science, ecological economics, international development and climate ethics, must be mandated to critically assess the further increase in mitigation ambition necessary for Ireland to play its fair share in this unprecedented global effort. This should be coupled to a properly scaled and resourced “national climate dialogue” process that gives the opportunity to every citizen to engage with and influence this immense national effort.
“We believe it is now incumbent on those parties and commentators who reject such commitments to declare openly and honestly whether they reject the science, or the ethics, or both”, added Prof McMullin.
In our view, you can’t claim to accept the expert diagnosis while rejecting the treatment path set out by those same experts. It is now beyond time to commit to “flattening the curve” on climate change, before our collective ability to respond is overwhelmed.