Dáil debates

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Promoting Cycling: Motion [Private Members]


7:15 pm

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I want to be political about it. I am with Deputy Gino Kenny because there are a band of brothers and sisters who come in here every day on the bikes such as Deputies Gino Kenny, O'Callaghan and Tóibín. This House is about how we allocate resources and we must change the allocation towards cycling. It is time for us to stand up and say that we are fed up, that we have had enough and it has to change because it has not changed. I got involved in cycling campaigning almost 30 years ago. A friend of mine, Mike Curtis, was killed on Merrion Square by a truck turning left and after that a bunch of us got involved trying to do something and nothing has changed. A young man called Harry Boland was killed this year by a truck turning left. He was full of life and prospects and everything was possible for him.

We have to change our allocation of resources and how we manage our transport system. Deputy O'Callaghan probably cycles down Leeson Street most days and it is a nightmare and an utter disgrace to the road engineers who run this city. It is a free for all and it is like the racetrack from "Ben Hur". There are buses, cars, trucks and illegal parking and it does not have what similar cities have, namely, an ordered transport system with a safe space for cyclists. In this chaos, it has been allowed to turn into a war between cyclists and motorists because everyone is frustrated and the transport system works for no one, but it has to change. We have to start creating a safe space and safe conditions and this is the time.

I thank Deputy Troy for bringing this motion. It is our last debate of 2018 and we are going into the next year where the confidence and supply agreement is not saying anything. One of the things we should say is that we will fundamentally change our country to make cycling a real option, starting with our children. My daughter cycles into school and her bike is the lonely bike on the rack. There are ranks of racks but only one bike in the whole school and that has to change.

We have been campaigning on cycling for 35 years. How many times have we gone to Utrecht and Copenhagen and told our engineers what we have to do because we have seen it in those cities so let us translate it back home and we have not done it? The reason we have not done it is political because only politicians can decide in the end. We have the ultimate power in how we allocate resources and how we allocate road space, which is probably the most difficult challenge. It will not be easy to take road space for cyclists and we should have it for pedestrians too and have active travel come first. As has been said, it should be allocated 20% of the budget. If we are going to do that, political courage and conviction are required.

I worked in cycling tourism and Ireland should be the premier place for it because it is a fantastic place to cycle, it is mild, the countryside is beautiful and distances are not too far, unlike Texas, but we have done nothing in truth other than developing a small strand of greenway in Mayo and in Waterford; that is it. There is half an excuse for cycling infrastructure in other places but there is nothing on the scale that exists in the countries we are competing with for those tourists. This should be the tourism future for County Roscommon for example. The great thing about it is that it slows people down and gives them a connection to their sense of place and to the nature around them.

Dublin is in deep transport trouble and we all know it. Anyone driving in this city at the moment knows that it has gone to the edge of chaos and beyond. Once full road capacity is reached, which it has been, if there is a 1% or 2% further increase in transport - and with our economy growing by 6% to 7% - it is like the Richter scale because the gridlock does not just grow by 6% but it grows by 20% and that is what is happening at the moment. We need to react to that and one of the main ways we can do so is to promote cycling as the big commuter option because it can take the quantity to solve our transport problems.

What do we see instead? We see the BusConnects project which I completely support, but it is trying to ram four-lane highways through Dublin as much as possible, including taking out gardens, and if there is a pinch point anywhere the cyclists are forgotten about. On Rathmines Road, cycling is the main mode of transport. There are 1,600 cyclists in rush hour - Deputy Gino Kenny probably goes that way or perhaps he goes further up - and there are 1,300 cars. The IrishCycle.comwebsite got access to the initial drawings and designs and they showed us that the National Transport Authority is planning to take cyclists off the road and send them on a detour that is 1 km longer than the 1 km direct route that everyone takes. That is what is happening in our city.

We were in the committee on climate action and the environment today. We have such a big challenge with climate change and the national development plan says that we will only get a 22 million tonne reduction out of the 100 million tonne reduction we need in the next decade. I am sorry for the civil servants who are here but the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport officials came into that committee meeting and we asked them a few hard questions about what plans they had for changing that. They were like rabbits stuck in the headlights because they do not have any plans. That needs to change.

We do not need tinkering or marginal change but system change. We need system change so that every student in this country in every single secondary school can safely cycle and walk to school. Why do we not set that as a goal for next year as we have this year of consensus politics where we work through the confidence and supply agreement that does not have any particular objective? Let us make this an objective.

I am sorry to come back to my home city but Dublin is the most egregious case of nothing being done because nothing has happened. We have spent seven years waiting for the design of the Liffey cycle route along the quays. God help those people I mentioned who have died and we can all think of examples of people who have died on the quays, particularly young women, because it is a chaos. We have been waiting for a design for seven years and we are still nowhere. The College Green plan should have been the plan to start turning this city around and turning it into Copenhagen but it was ruled out by An Bord Pleanála because, as I understand it, they got a retired roads engineer to say that it might affect traffic on the M50 and therefore we should not risk it. That is a political decision that we have to change. The Sandycove cycle route is the same. The campaigners for that have been working for ten years. Dublin should be like Santa Monica and Venice Beach, we should have thousands of people going up and down the bay going to work and to school and as part of tourism. It would transform this city but it has been stuck in abeyance. We have nothing. We have had some development on the north side but on the south side it has died for lack of political will.

I regret that the Minister, Deputy Ross, is not here. It is a busy night and we all have things to be doing so he may have a reason but this has to come from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and it has to come with the new politics that this Dáil should and can deliver. We can reach agreement and we saw how we reached agreement earlier on today with the worker's rights issue. It is time for us to get political collaboration around cyclist's rights. It is not political in the sense that it is not party political. We all get this but we are not doing anything about it so we should set ourselves the task in this next year to demand that nothing less than 20% of funding should go to cycling.

The national development plan does not work and it has to change. Project Ireland 2040 will not deliver the climate targets and it has to be completely altered. We are widening all of the approach roads to Dublin and not a single cycling project or public transport project are being built. We are widening the N7, the N4, the N6, the N11 and the N2 and bringing more cars into Dublin. That has to stop and the money has to be put into cycling.


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