Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Active Travel and Urban Planning Focusing on Cycling: Discussion

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour) | Oireachtas source

This has been very interesting so far. I thank the witnesses for their contributions because they have certainly broadened my perspective regarding the issue of cycling and what can be delivered. From listening to the witnesses, one thing strikes me. There seems to be a common denominator based on my interpretation of what they said. If we look at Cambridge, Brussels or Manchester, we can see there is a cultural shift in the mindset of policymakers at ground, local authority and government level towards wanting to make this happen. They are now embracing this as a concept and clear policy provision.

The challenge we face in this country involves shifting the psychology towards creating the infrastructure. What is it that Brussels can do? I lived in Brussels and used to cycle everywhere. I could move from the city centre to the countryside in Flanders. It is effectively cycling heaven because the cyclist is king or queen. It is a mindset that favours the cyclist whereas in this country, the car is king or queen. If I have a car, I have the God-given right to go anywhere and own the public thoroughfare, and everybody else is incidental to my enjoyment of my vehicle. How do we get policymakers at local authority level to shift their thinking away from designing infrastructure? Based on my experience as a former member of a local authority and a Member of this House, I can say that everything was designed by engineers. I do not want to criticise engineers in any way but they think in straight lines from A to B and there is no input from architects or town planners. What advice can the witnesses give us in respect of seeking to shift that mindset within the local authority paradigm? Where do we get the paradigm shift?


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