Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Promoting Cycling: Motion [Private Members]
Is it not utter madness that we expect a cyclist to share a lane with buses? The sad reality is that Irish cyclists are endangering their own lives every time they take to our roads because of the chronic lack of infrastructure for cyclists. I have cycled around Dublin city many times, and I lived here when I was going to college. It is remarkable to think that when one is cycling up the quays, one is in the left hand lane with the buses and trying to weave one’s way through the bus lanes. To cross the River Liffey, one has to cross two lanes of traffic before one can make that right hand turn, all the while navigating cars and buses at busy rush hour times. It is simply not safe. I have some sympathy for the bus drivers and for the car users because there is not enough space for everybody as the infrastructure is currently built. Waiting for ten years to change the current infrastructure is not good enough, particularly when we can see that the demand for access to proper cycling infrastructure is increasing all the time.
When I was a member of Mayo local authority, we took a trip to a small town in Germany with which Castlebar is twinned called Höchstadt to see how the Germans did their cycling infrastructure. It was fantastic to see very wide roads and separate, distinct cycling lanes just for cyclists. They were not for buses or cars. Their plan was that every time they upgraded a road or built new road infrastructure, the cycling lanes were done at the same time. Why do we not have a similar policy across the country?
Much of the focus is on the cities, and rightly so because that is where there is the greatest problem. However, in a rural constituency like County Mayo, where we have the Great Western Greenway, which has been a huge success, we can see the numbers increasing year on year. People want access to cycling facilities.
Aside from the recreational use of those facilities, we also need smaller urban centres, the small towns across rural Ireland, to get with the programme. They should be given proper funding and direction through policy to develop cycling infrastructure in the smaller towns. In towns like Castlebar, Westport and Ballina, one should be able to cycle from one side to the other but it is as dangerous in those towns as it is in the cities because there is not the space to do that. It is not something that would be the norm. We have one single cycling lane in Castlebar town. That is it, and other towns have nothing.
I ask the Minister of State to look not just at the cities but at the wider policy around cycling across the country and instruct local authorities that when upgrading the roads they should provide cycling infrastructure at the same time. That would ensure that at least at some point in the future we will achieve that.