Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Cycling Facilities Provision
8. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an itemised list of all cycle routes, and proposed cycle routes, which are being supported financially by the National Transport Authority; if he will indicate the way the authority is supporting cycling initiatives in the commuter belt counties of Kildare and Meath; his plans to address infrastructural deficits in these areas, in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16517/15]
During the past 15 or 20 years, many cycleways have been constructed, some of which are not great because they mix buses and bicycles. Each local authority is doing its own thing, and we need an overview. The National Transport Authority, NTA, has a role and could design the cycleways such that they do not stop at country boundaries and leave gaps.
As the Deputy will be aware, the greater Dublin area, GDA, covers the four Dublin local authority areas as well as Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. In 2013, the NTA finalised its detailed work on the preparation of a greater Dublin area cycle network plan, which aims to bring to bear the kind of planning overview to which the Deputy referred. The plan was formally adopted by the NTA board in December of that year, and provides the blueprint for the development of a strategic cycle network in the greater Dublin area. The plan was prepared in consultation with the seven local authorities in the greater Dublin area and followed a public consultation process.
It followed a number of different steps. It marked the existing and planned cycle network, assessed the quality of service of the existing main cycle routes, identified gaps and looked at future demand. The plan provides for an overall network of 2,900 km of cycle routes in the greater Dublin area. With just more than 500 km in the existing cycle routes, this is an ambitious plan which will take over a decade to deliver.
As the statutory responsibility for the funding of public transport infrastructure, including cycling facilities in the greater Dublin area, is a matter for the NTA, I have requested that it provides Deputy Murphy with a list of all cycling infrastructure projects currently in receipt of funding. I believe that list will be forwarded to the Deputy within the next ten days.
There are lots of new initiatives underway including, for example, greenways and the use of the canals. In the case of the Grand Canal there is a very good quality cycle way up to the Dublin boundary but it needs to be extended to Naas, for example and I hope that is included in the list to which the Minister referred. Funding is required but the amount is relatively small for what will be delivered. The cycle ways also need to be connected up.
When I was in Boston a number of years ago, roads were closed to cars at weekends and opened up to anything else on wheels, whether roller blades, buggies, wheelchairs or bikes and lots of people went out and used them. Providing cycle facilities and taking a proactive approach to encouraging people to cycle both for leisure and work purposes can help to change habits. In countries like the Netherlands, the longer an uninterrupted cycle route is, the more people are inclined to use it. It is about connecting routes and the NTA providing funding, in addition to drawing up the plan. Will the money be forthcoming?
I accept Deputy Murphy's point that in order for these routes to work well they must be integrated and cover relatively long distances. I had the opportunity to experience the success of the greenway in Mayo just over two weeks ago, in the company of the Minister of State, Deputy Ring. That was delivered in an integrated manner through the local authority, with the consent of many private landowners along the way.
Deputy Murphy asked specifically about cycling projects that are underway in County Kildare and the level of funding that has been made available. There are three such projects, the first of which is the Royal Canal cycling project, which will finalise the design work on the Kildare section of the canal towpath, to progress through to construction of the section from Intel to the Maynooth railway station at a cost of €300,000. Work is also underway to provide cycle and pedestrian improvements alongside the Dublin Road corridor to Naas, at a cost of €200,000, while a further €50,000 has been provided for design work on the Naas canal greenway from Newbridge Road to Sallins.
All of those projects are very welcome. What impressed me about the Dutch cycle route model is the fact that it knits in with the train network. When one goes to a train station in Holland one sees that provision has been made for parking bicycles, getting them up and down ramps and so forth, which is also important in these projects. We need people to shift or mix their modes of transport. We need to take practical steps in the context of climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and pedal power is a great way of doing that.
I agree with Deputy Murphy's points. We are hoping, through our smarter travel initiative, to find ways to encourage more people to use public transport. The Deputy will be aware that the millionth Leap Card was issued in the Dublin area a few weeks ago. We are now extending that programme to different parts of the country. It is now being made available in Limerick, for example.
I accept the Deputy's point about the ability to carry bicycles on the rail network. In fact, this matter was raised with me by a constituent last night in Phibsborough. He had just returned from a cycling holiday in France or Holland and told me that he was able to transport his bike on the train and on getting off the train was able to access a cycle route immediately. I am aware that Irish Rail has similar arrangements in place but I will be raising this matter with the company.
I will conclude by saying that I have just provided details to Deputy Murphy of the investment of just over €0.5 million in her own county, which represents a genuine attempt by the Government to support the development of a cycle network across our country. We are working hard on the Dublin greenway route. The Deputy will receive details of all of the planned investment in her country within the next ten days.