Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Promoting Cycling: Motion [Private Members]
In the few moments I have, I will refer to the Minister's speech where he talked about how there has been a particular problem in Dublin regarding some of the larger signature projects. He went on to say that those problems arise because of different reasons that make them trickier to solve but he did not articulate what those problems are or what he proposes to do. There was a certain amount of motherhood and apple pie in the Minister's speech. He spoke about €53 million being rolled out in 2019 and €135 million being rolled out in sustainable urban transport programmes. All of this will be up to 2021. To my knowledge, we have not had any new greenways since the Minister took office. I am putting a hand up here boldly for the Lee to Sea greenway in my native Cork and the Midleton-Youghal railway line in respect of which there has been a proposal for a greenway. If the Minister is serious about delivering on greenways and having a proper regional spread of them to facilitate cycling and families being able to cycle in a safe way, those two proposals should be top priorities. I make no bones about making that request.
When I put down parliamentary questions about cycling policy such as the roll out of dockless bicycles or extending schemes beyond cities like Cork, Limerick and Galway, I am always referred to the National Transport Authority, NTA. In replies to parliamentary questions, the Minister always says that he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, including the management of public bicycle schemes. I received that response to a question I put down in July. In reply to a question I put down regarding dockless bicycles and the potential for rolling them out across the country, he said that he is not involved in the day-to-day delivery of walking and cycling infrastructure, including the management of public bicycle schemes. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he needs to roll up his sleeves and be more engaged with the NTA. I do not think it is sufficient for him to come into the House and say he has set up a greater Dublin area, GDA, cycle network plan to deal with the issues in Dublin. I do not have an inferiority complex I think - I am from Cork - but the Minister must look beyond the Pale, possibly come outside Dublin, see what is going on regarding cycling initiatives in cities like Cork, Limerick and Galway, roll up his sleeves, get down into the nitty gritty and meet and engage with more of the stakeholders on their territory rather than having a very distant and nebulous involvement and coming in here with speeches that do not deliver anything in real terms or where things are pushed out to another time.
I suggest that the Minister has an opportunity to leave a legacy in respect of cycling policy depending on the length of his mandate. To be fair to the Minister, there is a nice parcel of funding but we want to see that translated into real action on the ground. The key to all of this is, and I say this as an occasional cyclist, changing the culture and mentality in this country regarding cycling.
People are discouraged from cycling because they do not feel it is safe to alight onto a public road. If the Minister can be the advocate, take leadership and change the culture through simple policy and by engaging with the local authorities in a way that will not put up barriers to more people using their bikes in their day-to-day lives, he will have done a great day's work.
In answer to a question I asked about the Cork city cycling scheme I was told by the NTA that, while funding was available for capital investment, financial support to meet the operational costs was more challenging. The scheme costs just over €1 million a year. The response from the NTA goes on to state Exchequer funding to meet this expenditure is not available to it and that local authority support in funding the cost is essential. The issue of funding to meet increased operational expenditure in a Cork scheme expansion - for Cork read Limerick, Galway or any other urban conurbation - has not been resolved. I ask the Minister to resolve that matter.