Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Promoting Cycling: Motion [Private Members]
I will speak as a cyclist rather than as a Deputy. I am an avid cyclist and cycle to Leinster House every day from Clondalkin. I have cycled all my life and have never had a car. As I cycle everywhere, I know what the people in the Visitors Gallery think.
Deputy Troy's motion is a good one and largely there is nothing with which to disagree. I am trying to be as positive as possible on the subject. There are very welcome things in the Minister's statement about BusConnects and the extra 200 km of cycle tracks. There are positive things for cyclists, but everything is not perfect by any means. It is quite dangerous to be a cyclist. Cyclists need to be kept safe by taking them off the main arteries.
It is safe to say there has been a renaissance of cycling under way in Ireland in the past eight or nine years because of the bike to work scheme. In the 1980s everybody cycled because of Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly and there was an explosion of cycling. There are still about 12% of people who cycle to work every day, which is good. If the Minister builds the infrastructure required, people will use it. For example, the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal are the best possible greenways. They run from the city centre to the River Shannon and 95% of the routes are off the main road. We should utilise them more. The new greenway running from Mulranny to Achill and the one in County Waterford are fantastic. The Waterford greenway runs from Waterford to Dungarvan and is incredible. I urge everybody to cycle some part, if not all, of it as it is a fantastic amenity. Cycling is egalitarian. Everybody can cycle without having to cycle the entire length of a greenway. It is a great activity for families and tourists. Cycle tourism will be enormous in Europe and across the world. Ireland could become a Mecca for such tourism if we can gear our infrastructure towards the provision of more greenways and cycle-friendly options for commuters and tourists. There are many secondary and tertiary roads which are not safe but which are often used by cyclists.
There is a lot of potential, but the main issue is safety. Last year was an annus horribilisfor cyclists when 17 were killed. Fewer have died this year, but one death is one too many. People put on their helmets and gloves before going to work in the expectation that they will arrive at their workplace or in their community, but they do not. It is absolutely tragic. If we can save one life by taking cyclists off the main road and ensuring a safer journey for them, that is what we, as legislators, should be doing. I will not go into all of the other things we need to do. The Government needs to take stock that we are far behind our European counterparts in the provision of infrastructure for cyclists. We only spend 2% of funding for transport on cycling infrastructure. Cycling groups are asking for that figure to be increased to 10%, or five times more. The UN environmental programme calls for 20% of transport funding to be spent on walking and cycling infrastructure to make it safe for those who are trying to commute and involved in leisure activities. Cycling is a fantastic occupation and sport and a fantastic way to get from A to B. It is also great for mental health and the environment because it is carbon neutral. It has everything. We need to catch up with most of the rest of Europe and provide cyclists with a safer environment. Three or four years ago I was lucky to be in France and cycle the longest green cycle route in Europe. It stretches for 1,400 km from Roscoff to the Basque country. It is incredible. France is an amazing country for cyclists. It is geared for them and they almost take precedence over motorists. We are way behind, but with vigour and cross-party consensus we can get to a point where cycling will be seen to be fun, safe and accessible for everybody.
I welcome this debate about cycling. I do not want to be political about it but as legislators we can play a part in making it as safe as possible for cyclists across the country.