Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Active Travel and Urban Planning Focusing on Cycling: Discussion
I am just back from Velo-City 2019, to which I will return later. It was really exciting and stimulating. Mr. Keegan's contribution was matched by Alex's from Scotland. I am astounded by the figures. The poorer one is, the more likely it is that one will be hit or run over by a car. He also gave the socio-economic reasons which Mr. Keegan reinforced.
The delegates walked into a trap on the bus corridor issue. The flaw in the Government's proposals on bus corridors is that they are attempting to accommodate car, as well as bike and public, transport. We are talking about the great boulevards, as I call them, into the city which, in some cases, would be absolutely destroyed if the proposals were to go ahead. The context is different.
What are our guests' views on e-bikes which do not the figure at all in the Government's climate action plan? Coming from a conference such as Velo-City 2019 - it is just one conference in one city - one can see that because of its size, scale and make-up e-bikes would be very well suited to this city, but we have to start at the bottom with education. There is nothing in the Government's climate action plan about educating people about the benefits of cycling, never mind e-cycling. There are huge gaps in that regard.
Emissions, particularly in Dublin, are associated with transport, yet the Government's plan puts a heavy focus on the use of electric cars. One could, therefore, end up with one cause of congestion replacing another. If that is the way we go, that is exactly what will happen. Electric cars will congest the city in the same way as diesel and petrol cars. There is very little emphasis on cycling as an alternative. One of the things that dismays me, as a public representative at local level for almost 20 years and at national level for four years, is that the Government has given the National Transport Authority responsibility to drive the cycling piece. If any State agency does not have the confidence of the people because of the manner in which it has attempted to implement phases 1 and 2 of BusConnects, it is the National Transport Authority.
That brings me back to Mr. Keegan's piece about local democracy. When it comes to transport, the process has to be democratic. People must have an input into it and a say. However, I liked what he was saying about leaving out the word "cycling". The first time I heard the phrase "active transport" was in the past few weeks. It is one that is growing on me.
The city bikes scheme has become static. The figures grew exponentially, but they have been static in the past two years, I suspect probably in part because of safety measures.
There are a number of questions I wish to ask our guests about the e-cycling issue. We move from education to tax deductions and incentives, infrastructure, safety, parking, planning and so on. There is not one word about it in the Government's climate action plan, from the development of buildings through to being able to attend a soccer match and parking one's e-bike safely. Visitors to the Velo-City 2019 conference were brought to Drury Street car park to see the only municipal bicycle park in the city.
I would not show it off to anybody. Fair play to Dublin City Council for doing something, but we need legislation and regulation in order that people can come into this city, park their bikes anywhere, and know that they will still be there when they come back. We should also incentivise the car parks. We should legislate to force them to provide bicycle bays. Do the representatives have any information on the reductions in emissions that have come about as a result of cities shifting towards e-bikes or bikes, as opposed to electric vehicles? Are any trends emerging in that regard?