Dáil debates

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Other Questions

National Cycle Policy.

9:00 am

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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Question 8: To ask the Minister for Transport the position regarding the cycle ways that have been approved for funding including Carrigaline to Crosshaven in County Cork and the cross Dublin cycle route; the cycle ways which are awaiting funding approval; the estimated cost of same; his views on the number of cyclist fatalities and the level of enforcement of road traffic law as regards cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39539/09]

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Since announcing the national cycle policy framework in April, I have indicated my intention to provide financial support to exemplary, demonstration, cycling infrastructure projects in the following areas: the Phoenix Park; Carrigaline; Eyeries; Passagewest, with a link to Rochestown; Crosshaven to Carrigaline; Dublin city, from Portobello to Fairview Park; Galway, comprising the Fisheries Field greenway; Fenit to Tralee; Castletroy; Newport to Mulranny; Westport greenway; and south Dublin, to link Adamstown directly to the Grand Canal cycle path. In addition, I am supporting refurbishment of cycle lanes in Dublin City, new cycle parking facilities in Galway and Waterford and in schools and workplaces and other cycling-related initiatives around the country. My support for the foregoing projects, some of which will be provided over this year and 2010, will be some €18.4 million. This is a significant increase in investment which will not only will facilitate cycling but seek to deliver a safety dividend.

On the safety issue, I understand from the Road Safety Authority that seven cyclist fatalities have occurred to date this year. This is a decrease of 46% on the full year figure for 2008. I offer my condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones in traffic accidents. However, I should record that the Government is making significant progress in delivering the road safety strategy and in achieving its objective of reducing road fatalities to 60 fatalities per million of population, or 252 per year, by 2012.

Regrettably, use of our roads, whether by motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, can never be risk free. The safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users is and remains a matter of concern. The development of a national cycling safety strategy by the Road Safety Authority has been amalgamated into the national cycle policy framework. Enforcement is, of course, a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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It is tragic that cyclists are still being killed on our roads. I echo the Minister's comments in that regard and sympathise with the relatives and friends of the people who died so tragically. There have been 11 cycling related deaths in this city over the past seven or eight years. The Dublin cycling campaign, the Galway cycling campaign and other cycling campaigns with which I have liaised have made the point that the enforcement of the rule on overtaking cyclists is not being carried out by the Garda Síochána. Will the Minister look at that issue in the context of his cycling strategy?

I thank the Minister for the details he gave us on the overall programme. Going into 2010, what level of funding is being requested for cycling projects generally and what level of funding will the Minister be able to provide? I am aware there was a row between the Minister and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, with regard to the Sutton to Sandycove route. Are the Ministers talking to each other again and will there be further progress on that project? I tried to launch the project 17 or 18 years ago, but we are still waiting for it. An astonishing figure of €7 million per km was given by Dublin City Council for that route. Has the Minister discussed the matter with the city council? I am aware the Minister has an overall budget, as indicated in the cycling strategy, of €1.2 billion. However, is it realistic to expect these additional resources will be brought forward in the next couple of years?

I congratulate my colleague, Councillor Andrew Montague, who proposed the free bike scheme which has been so successful for Dublin. It is a wonderful initiative. When I was on the council some years ago, I proposed the radial cycleway network, which was the beginning of the cycling programme. I congratulate Councillor Montague on the major step that has been taken and hope it will be replicated in other major cities throughout the country.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I do not have the full accurate figures before me for the projects I mentioned, but next year's expenditure, which will bring most of them to a conclusion, will be approximately €11 million. The total amount we are making available for those projects has been committed to them. Some are already completed, for example, the Phoenix Park project.

If we are to get a change in attitude to cycling and walking and if we are to get people out of cars, something to which I am committed, we will have to use some of the money we used previously on roads to provide the facilities to encourage them. I am committed to doing this. Some wonderful schemes have been put forward and while some people consider it a waste of money to spend it on cycle lanes etc., at a time when money is tight they are missing the point. I acknowledge Deputy Broughan's support in that regard. Some of the €1.2 billion we will require to cover us up to 2020 will have to come from the roads budget and we will have some fighting to do to get extra money from that.

I never had a fight with my colleague and friend, the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, on the issue of the Sutton to Sandycove project. We are providing approximately €3 million for that this year, as part of a package.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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Did he not threaten to lie down on the beach until he got the funding?

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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He did not. Some €3 million will be spent on that project and he will provide €1.5 million of that, which I appreciate greatly. I wish to acknowledge Councillor Montague's contribution to the cycling programme. I hope to meet him early in the new year. On the bus gate issue and not making a political point about it, the decision made, supported by the Labour Party councillors, does enormous damage to Councillor Montague's efforts.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I asked a parliamentary question about the bus gate, but a response was not allowed. The Minister lectured us outside with the media, but now he has answered the parliamentary question he refused to answer. The bus gate will return in mid-January. There are issues also with regard to jobs. The bridge should have been open, but it was not.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Deputy is out of order.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I am surprised by Deputy Broughan's approach to the bus gate because he is a favourite of Dublin Bus, whose facts and figures show that as a result of the bus gate buses move much faster through the city. I am disappointed with him in that regard.

We are all of the same view with regard to cycling and walking and I welcome the Minister's views on the issue. In some cities in France I have visited recently the pedestrian is king in the city centre, the cyclist follows and then comes the motorist. In some cities in France, the traffic stops for pedestrians crossing the roads at designated areas. Could we look at the law on this in urban issues? It is a critical issue.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Have any of the tourism interests in the midlands been in contact with the Minister about the development of cycle paths in the area, particularly in the lake county of Westmeath? A significant amount has been spent to develop the canal system across the country. The canal banks offer great opportunities for cycling routes that would open up paths from Dublin to the Midlands and the Shannon. Could that facility be opened up further?

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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We must use our imagination in this area. The canals offer an extensive cycle and pedestrian way. The Royal Canal will be completely open next year. The railways are similar, some of the projects I read out run along disused railway lines. As the Deputy says, there are great opportunities for tourism and related projects. We have advertised two schemes we hope will get local authorities to think more about how they might to do this.