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20 per cent of Ireland's transport budget to be spent on cycling and walking under new coalition agreement in massive boost to active travel

Green Party secures funding commitment from partner parties Fine Fáil and Fine Gael

Investment in cycling and walking is set to soar in the Republic of Ireland, with the Green Party securing funding of €360 million a year under the draft coalition agreement announced today with Fine Fáil and Fine Gael, equivalent to 20 per cent of the country’s transport budget.

With a population of 4.9 million, that means that Ireland plans to spend an astonishing €73 per person per year on active travel.

That equates to £66 per head each year, higher even than the £50 per head that Labour pledged prior to last December’s general election in the UK.

Meanwhile, the annual total, equivalent to £322 million, is around 80 per cent of the £400 million yearly average pledged for cycling and walking in England outside London.

With that area having a population nearly 10 times greater than that of the Republic of Ireland, it’s an astonishing level of spend.

The draft deal follows two months of negotiations between the parties and comes four months after a general election in which Fine Fáil secured 37 of the 160 seats, Fine Gael won 35, and the Green Party 12.

Since the general election, of course, the coronavirus pandemic has seen cycling and walking pushed up the political agenda in Ireland, as has happened in many other countries including the UK.

The Green Party is led by Eamon Ryan, who was the founding chairman of Dublin Cycling Campaign, and who prior to going into politics ran the businesses Irish Cycling Safaris and Belfield Bike Shop.

Dublin Cycling Campaign was among the organisations to applaud today's news.

Details of the planned spend on active travel were outlined today in a draft document entitled Programme for Government – Our Shared Future, in which the three parties said that they “are committed to a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland.

“Necessary improvements in climate impact, quality of life, air quality and physical and mental health demand that every effort is made by the Government to make active travel and public transport better and more accessible.

“Each local authority will be immediately mandated to carry out an assessment of their road network to see where space can be reallocated for pedestrians and cyclists. This should be done immediately.”

Here are the sections of the document headed Cycling and Walking, and Greenways.

Cycling and Walking

Cycling and electric cycling have enormous potential to facilitate a high proportion of daily trips if we provide an environment which protects and prioritises this mode of transport. We will promote cycling and pedestrian safety and enable this through improved design, increased separation and better signage and marking.

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.

This commitment will deliver a five-year, multi-annual funding programme linked with a specific target of new separated cycling and walking infrastructure which will be delivered or under construction by end 2024. This will enable a step change in the number of people taking daily journeys by foot and bicycle which will help improve quality of life and air quality.

The total spend on walking and cycling infrastructure includes committed funding from 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.

This funding will be subject to the normal rules in relation to the carry forward of capital funding.

In addition to this expenditure commitment we will undertake other measures to help enable the continued increase in the numbers of people walking and cycling each day.

We will:

• Mandate that every local authority, with assistance from the National Transport Authority (NTA), adopts a high-quality cycling policy, carries out an assessment of their roads network and develops cycle network plans which will be implemented with the help of a suitably qualified Cycling Officer with clear powers and role.

• 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.

Greenways

We will lead the development of an integrated national greenways strategy. This has the potential to transform modal shift, 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.

Under the draft coalition agreement, which now needs to be approved by the respective parties’ memberships, the position of taoiseach [prime minister] will be rotated between each of them, with Fianna Fáil’s Micheal Martin initially set to succeed Fianna Gael’s Leo Varadkar as the country’s next premier.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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