Cyclists in the Republic of Ireland have asked the government to halt a €4 million programme of cycling and walking paths and instead address what they see as the more urgent issue of repairing existing rural roads and cycle paths.
The call to action has come from the national cycling lobby group, Cyclist.ie, which has also highlighted that it believes that money spent on cycling infrastructure in the past has often resulted in misguided, poorly-maintained facilities.
In a press release published on its website, Cyclist.ie Chairman, Dr Mike McKillen said: “The construction of roadside cycle facilities should cease until a proper framework is in place to ensure their appropriate design, construction, application and subsequent maintenance.”
Cyclist.ie also reinforced its earlier call for a “moratorium” on the installation of new cycling infrastructure in the country, including the planned conversion of hard shoulders in rural roads into cycle paths under a €4 million job creation initiative, saying that “the inappropriate use of cycle facilities can actually end up making cycling conditions worse, rather than better.”
Outlining its opinion that hard shoulders are actually preferable to the cycle lanes that would replace them “since they are effectively self cleaning and avoid false expectations of safety among the users,” Cyclist.ie calls the initiative “nothing more than a make-work scheme that simply ignores cyclists' real need for safer interaction between motorised vehicles and riders on our public roads".
It adds that it has “offered to provide the Government with a range of alternative schemes that would represent a better use of the Smarter Travel money.”
The government scheme was announced last month as part of a wider Jobs Initiative, should create 330 jobs, along with details of some of the works proposed, including cycle lanes and cycle parking in various towns in the country, as well as conversion of hard shoulder to cycle path on a 54 kilometre stretch of the R448 in Limerick and North Tipperary.
At the time, Alan Kelly, Minister for Public and Commuter Transport, said: “Based on the local authorities’ estimates, delivery of these projects will provide the equivalent of some 25 person-years employment.
“Given that all these projects – which are spread throughout the country – must be delivered before the end of the year, this will represent a real and tangible boost to local economies in 2011.
“The benefits from the projects will, however, extend well into the future,” he added.
“Depending on the particular project, among these benefits will be increased safety for children going to and from schools; a chance to take to the bike or to your feet for commuting, fun or regular exercise; opportunities to grow the local tourism product or, quite simply, nicer places in which to live.”
Responding to Cyclist.ie calls to suspend work, a spokesman for the Department of Transport, quoted in the Irish Times, said: “This investment recognises the overriding need for employment generation given the current economic situation and it is not solely for cycling projects.
“Acting on Cyclist.ie’s call in full would not only deny employment opportunities but also mean not progressing a large range of footpath and pedestrian-focused works… including safe crossings, improvements for people with disabilities [and] traffic calming projects.”
It added that Cyclist.ie would be likely to support other features of the initiative such as improved cycle parking and, presumably to head off any potential criticism of infrastructure not being fit for purpose, reminded local authorities to use the National Transport Authority’s online design manual, Cyclemanual.ie.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.