Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Promoting Cycling: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
recognises:— the rapidly growing popularity of cycling as a means of transport, particularly in Ireland's urban and suburban areas, as evidenced by recent Census figures and the popularity of schemes such as the dublinbikes public bicycle rental scheme;
— the considerable health benefits that regular physical activity, such as cycling, brings to citizens and the need to promote such activity;
— the high level of economic returns and value for money that cycling projects give;
— that chronic congestion is grinding our cities and road arteries to a halt, making it more difficult and more unpleasant for people to get to work;
— that cycling is a zero-carbon mode of transport and one which can help to reduce Ireland's carbon emissions, as per our commitments at European Union and international level;
— that Ireland lags behind our European peers in the provision of safe cycling infrastructure, such as dedicated cycle lanes, secure bike storage facilities and cyclist-friendly traffic lights; and
— that the largest cycling conference in the world is due to take place in Dublin in June 2019, and that Ireland needs to show progress on the development of cycling infrastructure;condemns:— the considerable safety risks that cyclists face on Irish roads, owing to our poorly developed cycling infrastructure;
— the current low funding allocations for cycling at only approximately two per cent of the overall land transport capital budget; and
— the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport's failure to bring forward legislation requiring drivers to maintain a minimum distance when passing cyclists; andcalls on the Government to:— prioritise the rollout of dedicated cycle tracks, that are physically segregated from other road users, across the country;
— place cycling infrastructure at the heart of transport infrastructure planning by appointing a dedicated cycling officer to every local authority at an appropriate level of seniority, and by establishing a dedicated cycling division within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to coordinate activity and projects across all departments;
— introduce cycle friendly legislative initiatives, similar to those of our European neighbours to promote the growth of cycling, including contra-flow cycling, left turn at red lights and joint use of pedestrian crossings;
— build on the successes of bike sharing schemes by expanding these schemes to major suburbs of towns and cities;
— revise the Bike to Work scheme to allow commuters to purchase a new bike every three years instead of every five years, and to extend this scheme to pensioners and unemployed people;
— introduce immediate supplementary funding to local authorities to support the rollout of 'quick win' projects supporting safe cycling and walking routes in the short term;and— prioritise two cycling projects to be delivered in advance of Velo-City 2019.
I am sharing time with Deputies Lahart, Michael Moynihan, Cassells and Eugene Murphy.
I welcome the opportunity to move this motion. I welcome the groups attending in the Visitors Gallery to hear the contributions from each side of the House. I apologise for the late start. We were due to start at 6.05 p.m. but, between one thing and another, we are starting only now. I apologise to the visitors for the inconvenience. I thank them for the work they have done over many years advocating greater investment and the prioritisation of cycling in national policy.
The reason I am moving this motion is to try to encourage the Minister, Deputy Ross, and to highlight to him and his Department the urgent need to prioritise cycling. He seems to have a major issue when it comes to prioritisation in his Department. Only last week, despite the urgent need to consolidate road traffic legislation to prevent unnecessary legal challenges, he tried to introduce further amendments that would further complicate the Act and leave it open to further challenge. Again, there were disproportionate penalties for offences.
The Minister has a poor record on cycling. Since he came to office, the national budget for cycling has been cut from over €16 million to €10 million for the upcoming year. The Minister confirmed this with me in a reply to a parliamentary question. Earlier this year, he made a firm commitment to implementing the statutory instrument on the minimum passing distance.
I compliment the groups which brought that campaign to the gates of Dáil Éireann. I facilitated them and I was on the verge of bringing forward an amendment on Committee Stage of a road traffic Bill later that evening. The Minister tried to get the upper hand and play politics with the issue. On the morning of the day the amendment was due to be debated, he called a press conference to announce he would sign a statutory instrument in the immediate future. When pushed, he said it would be within weeks. We are now 12 months on and it still has not happened.
The Minister blames the advice of the Attorney General but he did one of two things. Either he called a press conference without having sought the advice of the Attorney General, and if he did it was a very poor action for a Minister to take, or he ignored the initial advice of the Attorney General and decided to plough ahead in the hope he would get publicity. The simple fact is it is cyclists who feel let down by the Minister's inaction on the minimum passing distance.
I do not for a second accept the Minister's contention that it is not workable. It is workable in many US states, in Australia and in many of our European neighbours. If it can work in so many other places throughout the world why can it not work here? It is because of the Minister's lack of priority to ensure it is progressed. Cycling increased by 43% between 2011 and 2016. Last year, 90,000 people cycled in Dublin alone. This in itself is a reason to prioritise cycling. Look at the chronic infrastructure in place. We need to invest in our infrastructure. Unfortunately, this year alone nine cyclists have lost their lives. Look at the benefits of moving people from cars to bikes, in terms of reducing our chronic congestion problems. Look at the positive benefits it can have on physical and mental health and the hugely positive effects it can have on the environment.
There are a number of key reasons we are bringing forward this motion in the hope we can put pressure on the Minister to include cycling in his departmental priorities for 2019. As I have said with regard to safety, in the past five years 59 people were killed on our roads and we must express our sympathy to the families who were bereaved. In 2017, by way of a freedom of information request, we realised that 350 cyclists were treated for head injuries and 345 for elbow and forearm injuries. This in itself clearly demonstrates the need for segregated cycle lanes to enable people to cycle safely. I have no doubt that in his reply the Minister will speak about BusConnects and his plans for it. In some instances, we will be waiting ten years for BusConnects to have an effect. The pace is too slow and we need acceleration of the roll-out of segregated lanes.
I want to take this opportunity to compliment the then Minister of State, Deputy Regina Doherty, and Deputy Cannon, who brought forward a Bill on minimum passing distance more than two years ago. For one full year, the Minister resisted its implementation or facilitation. The huge positive effects and benefits cycling can have for physical and mental health cannot be understated. We have a huge task in how we will meet our targets with regard to climate change. One of the areas that would seriously benefit and help is cycling. The EU has set a target for Ireland of a reduction of 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Figures from the EPA suggest Ireland will only be able to reduce its emissions by a maximum of 1% by 2020. We are so far off meeting our targets it is unbelievable.
Dublin City Council was fortunate to win the bid to host the Velo-City cycling conference in 2019. I would like to hear from the Minister what are his priorities on projects that can be delivered in advance of this conference to show that his late conversion to cycling last year was not merely words but can be demonstrated by action.
I thank my colleague, Deputy Troy, for raising this issue. I thank those in the Gallery for their patience. There are a number of issues but I will frame my short contribution around several key points. Clearly cycling's time has come. There has never been such an appetite or enthusiasm for cycling and such a growth in cycling and the use of bicycles in Ireland. I am particularly referencing this as Dublin spokesperson. There is a huge desire on the part of people of all age groups and genders not only to do their bit for climate change but to do something they enjoy, which is cycling, whether to work, as part of an amateur sporting pursuit or just a leisure activity. The proof of the pudding in terms of cycling safety will be when parents of 11 or 12 year olds feel safe in allowing them to cycle alone on properly segregated off-road obstacle free cycle tracks. I am speaking about this from a national perspective but specifically from a Dublin perspective.
I commend Deputy Troy because we on this side of the House have raised this issue continuously. There will be a day of reckoning on the issue of cycling when parties will go before the people and we will be able to say these are our ideas, we have given an awful lot of thought to this and we have engaged with all of the cycling bodies, regardless of size and scale, to get their ideas and involvement in the development of innovative policy. At some time in the future, parties will go before the electorate and will be able to state what they are offering. There will be others who will have to state they had huge power and influence but, unfortunately, concentrated a lot of that power into stuff that was not germane to the Ministry or Department they had authority over.
Deputy Troy raised the issue of what happens in the gap between 2018 and 2027 when all of the BusConnects projects are to be completed. The Minister does gravity exceptionally well but he does not do urgency particularly well. The climate change urgency is something this side of the House takes particularly seriously. Someone needs to lead the debate on the public space that motorists by and large have taken for granted as theirs over the years. It does not belong exclusively to them anymore. It is a space that must be shared with cyclists, pedestrians and public transport. This is a step change that has to be made and it requires significant leadership. It has to include advances that no one seems to have taken into account, such as scooters and electric bikes, because our existing bus lanes do not cater for their speed.
These are the key points on which the Minister must lead. It will require radical decisions and a lot of leadership to persuade the public that the public realm must be shared.
Cycling's time has come and the Minister must give us ideas. We have plenty of them on this side of the House. What does the Minister intend to do now before BusConnects and cycling infrastructure is built out?
In the two minutes I have, I would like to compliment Deputy Troy on bringing this motion forward. It is vitally important we treat this discussion and this Private Members' motion with the seriousness it deserves. There is no doubt about the number of people engaging in cycling as part of their commute or as a leisure activity. There is a huge growth. It behoves us in this House and, in particular, the Minister and his Department to accept this is a growth area with many more people participating.
Over the last number of years, we have seen cycling clubs right across the country encourage young people to get involved with cycling as a sport or recreation. Cycling has also come into the mainstream with many people attracted to it. There is, however, one fundamental issue. That is the safety of cyclists and how they perceive the State acting to welcome cyclists onto the roads and make an accommodation for them. As the previous speaker said, cycling's time has come. There is no doubt about that.
I ask the Minister to engage with the discussion and to listen to the points we are making. This is fundamentally important. If he could leave his phone alone for the moment and listen to what we are saying, it is important for us to articulate that there is concern for cyclists. Cycling is the way to go and everybody is telling us that because of a whole raft of issues from commuting, health and safety and physical and mental well-being. The public are streets ahead of politicians, this House and the Minister's Department. They are certainly streets ahead of the Minister in respect of where they want to take cycling and cyclists. It behoves us to listen to the contributions tonight and make sure this is prioritised. The budget should not be slashed in half, as we have seen. It should be increased and accommodation made for people cycling for their commute or for leisure and the benefits derived from that.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Michael Aherne, the head of the transport development division of the National Transport Authority, to Navan. He walked the town and examined the traffic movement, the state of the pedestrian links and the complete lack of cycle ways. That visit was to see how we could improve our urban space. Following on from that engagement, we have launched a €12 million project called "Navan 2030". It is currently underway and is aimed at making our town safer and a better experience for everyone. The project is intended to improve public transport, pedestrian links and cycling usage between residential areas of the town and the town centre. We just completed an opening phase some weeks ago with a new cycling bridge into the town.
One of the remarks Mr. Aherne made that day on cycling was what he described as the litmus test for how safe a road is for cyclists. His simple philosophy was would he let his granny cycle on that road. If we were to take the granny test and apply it to the majority of roads in Ireland, the truth is we would be looking at possible UN sanctions for grannycide. Our roads would simply not stand up to Mr. Aherne's test. We heard the statistics from Deputy Troy. I refer to the nine cyclists killed this year, the 59 killed over five years and the large number of injuries incurred by cyclists on our roads. It is imperative that more is done to try to make it safer for cyclists using our roads.
I hope the proposals contained in this motion are not rejected but embraced by the Minister and the NTA. It is already very proactive in trying to roll out schemes beyond the Pale and into provincial Ireland. I pay tribute to Mr. Aherne and his team for doing so. Outside of the physical improvements we are seeking, and the improvements already being made to our urban spaces, we see other people, beyond the realms of this Parliament, bringing fresh new ideas to the issue of cycling safety.
I will finish with the story of one young man whom I want to mention in particular. His name is Ben Soroos, a junior certificate student in Beaufort College secondary school in Navan. At the start of this year, at the BT Young Scientist Awards, Ben made a device that is secured to the handlebars of a bike. It records video of any vehicle that comes within 1.5 m of the bike. His device, Safe Ride, records for 60 seconds after an unsafe pass occurs. It will record and save all of the licence plate numbers detected as well as all of the video for later viewing from a local website. Previous occurrences of close incursions can also be viewed there. There is also a button to save the previous 120 seconds of video so that cyclists can save video of other incidents they witness. Ben's aim is to limit the number of unsafe passes cars make past bicycles. Using the device will make reporting unsafe passes easier. We hope, of course, if we can see the improvements called for by Deputy Troy implemented that we will have no need for Ben's device and he can use his creative mind to invent other devices in another sphere.
I am delighted to be here. I appreciate my colleagues giving me a few minutes to support what Deputy Troy has brought before us. We could put it this way: we are listening to people and that is our job as politicians. One thing that has happened in this country over a long period of time is that politicians have stopped listening to people. In my constituency of Roscommon-Galway, thousands of people cycle, during the week in summer and on the weekends in the winter time when daylight and conditions are not as good.
As a rural Deputy, I travel thousands of kilometres some weeks. I applaud the cycling community for its safety consciousness. Cyclists are well lit up, they travel together and have respect on the roads. It is time we acknowledge what those people are saying, move forward and do what we need to do. We should not be cutting budgets for cycling. It is a healthy exercise and good for people. It is also very good in regard to the issue of mental health. It brings people together. I know people who suffer from depression but because they go out two or three times a week, meet with their friends and colleagues and go on a cycle they feel an awful lot better.
I will also refer to one instance concerning rural Ireland that perhaps nobody else will bring up. I was talking to an old lady who is a neighbour of my own who made the point to me recently that for years nobody was living on her road. Cyclists now regularly go down the road, and they stop and have a chat with her. We should remember that. I urge the Minister to support what we are doing here and to stick with the cycling community. We should do what we can for that community. Things change and we need to move on with this. We need to put proper infrastructure in place in every county and every constituency so as to support what cyclists are doing.
I move amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:“welcomes:
— the growing popularity of cycling as a means of transport, particularly in Ireland’s urban and suburban areas, as evidenced by recent census figures;
— the ambition of the Government to deliver strategic cycle networks in our major urban centres, and high-quality greenways in rural areas;
— the Government’s commitment towards delivering improved cycling infrastructure as part of the BusConnects programme in our major cities;
— the unprecedented funding made available under the National Development Plan to support such delivery;
— the establishment of the Cycle Right training programme in primary schools and its expansion in 2019; and
— the planned construction of a number of significant cycle projects in 2019; and calls on the Government to:— prioritise the delivery of improved cycling infrastructure in both urban and rural areas in line with the commitments made under the National Development Plan;
— continue to work with the National Transport Authority, as the relevant statutory authority, in ensuring the timely and effective implementation of cycling-related programmes and projects; and
— consider, within the context of the ongoing review of public and sustainable transport policy, and taking cognisance of the overall budgetary parameters as set out in the National Development Plan, whether further cycle-friendly legislative, policy or institutional initiatives could usefully be applied in Ireland.”
I applaud what has come from the other side of the House. On the whole, we are in agreement on virtually everything that has been said and we are pursuing the same goals. We cannot agree the motion because it condemns the Government and we believe that what we are doing is a full commitment to cycling in the future. I want to start by making a concession and state that in the past there has been inadequate support for the cycling community and we have indeed fallen behind the standards and ambitions we should have lived up to. That though is in the past.
All of the speakers have asked me to outline what we are doing. I apologise to Deputy Michael Moynihan, I was using my phone but just to look something up to answer one of his questions. I will outline what we are doing, what we are going to do, the commitments we are solemnly keeping already and the ones we intend to act on in the future. I hope the Fianna Fáil Party and the Green Party, which have amendments, and the Labour Party will join with the Government in pursuing these goals which are genuinely felt.
I may be a late convert but having come to this job, as Deputy Troy acknowledged, I have said that commitment is there and that cycling is the future.
We have to support it because it is part of the Government's policy to get people out of their cars. It is the main thrust of transport policy. I also believe Members will agree with the Government in its commitment to safety on the roads. We must join together and not be too abrasive about what we say on this serious issue to which we have given much commitment.
There are elements of Fianna Fáil’s motion and amendments from others which are acceptable. While the Labour Party’s proposed amendment is perfectly acceptable, it fails to acknowledge that the design manual for urban roads and streets does precisely what its amendment proposes. Accordingly, I am unable to accept its amendment. The Green Party’s amendment alleges a failure of the Government to implement policy, a claim I cannot accept. The motion, however, is not about starting a real debate on cycling. Instead, it is being used as an opportunity to grandstand. Any real consideration of the motion would confirm that in my view.
The motion calls on the Government to prioritise the roll-out of segregated cycle lanes which is being done through the BusConnects programme, the greenways strategy, as well as under other programmes funded both by my Department and the Government’s urban and rural regeneration and development funds. The motion calls on the Government to establish a division in my Department which has already existed for some time. It seemingly calls on the Government to short-cut planning and procurement to just build two cycling projects in advance of the Velo City conference next year. I could go on but I will not.
Instead, as I have been asked by other speakers, I propose to take stock of what has been achieved, look at what can be improved and seek consensus as to how we can build on the very welcome increases in the numbers of people cycling across the country. The national cycle policy framework, as published by the then Minister, Noel Dempsey, was a significant and welcome development. This was under Fianna Fáil and I applaud the party for what it did for cycling. As he stated in the introduction to the framework, no single action will prompt people to cycle. These are words on which we should all reflect, particularly those who have tabled this Fianna Fáil motion.
The economic and financial crisis meant that among the 19 objectives and 109 actions in the framework, priority had to be given to those that were possible from within the much reduced financial resources available at that time and the years that followed. However, progress has been made and should be recognised. In terms of planning and design, for example, the National Transport Authority published its cycle manual in 2011, while in 2013 the design manual for urban streets and roads was published. Development of both was a key recommendation of the framework.
In rural areas, Members will acknowledge the wonderful amenities created through the development of greenways, a point absent in all speeches so far. That is why I was delighted to launch the new greenways strategy with the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, earlier this summer. In launching that strategy I also ensured we had the funding framework in place to back up its delivery. The funding I secured provides the link between ambition and delivery. I look forward to the announcement of successful projects next year.
The cycling safety programme provided training for around 20,000 primary schoolchildren this year. Thanks to the additional money I have secured in the budget, it will expand again next year. This is in line with the ambitions contained within the national cycling policy framework but which, due to those funding constraints, was not implemented in 2009. Safety is critically important. All Members agree that the loss of any life is a tragedy. Last year, there was, unfortunately, an increase in the number of the cyclists who lost their lives on the roads. Since 2000, the average number of cyclists killed on the roads has been ten per annum. Last year, however, it was 15, the highest since 2007. Numbers this year show a decrease but I know there is no cause for complacency.
As Minister, I am personally committed to the issue of road safety and how to improve it. In 2016, I secured Oireachtas approval for the Road Safety Act 2016 which made provision for a new 20 km/h speed limit, in addition to the 30 km/h and 40 km/h limits already available to local authorities. My Department’s guidelines for setting and managing speed limits encourage local authorities to use reduced speed limits in residential areas. Many are expanding the areas covered by these special speed limits.
Another topical legislative issue is the proposed minimum passing distance. I applaud the consistent efforts made by Mr. Phil Skelton in this regard, a person with whom I have had a close working relationship in the past. In terms of the legislation, the Office of the Attorney General raised issues with the initial proposed legislative solution. I cannot ignore those issues. I cannot tell the Attorney General I am going to introduce legislation willy-nilly. Instead my officials have developed an alternative solution in consultation with both the Office of the Attorney General and the Garda Síochána. There are several administrative supports which need to be put in place. The Department is reliant on outside stakeholders to deliver these. Once these supports are set up, the legislation will be commenced without further delay.
On other safety measures, just a few weeks ago, I announced an additional €400,000 in funding for Dublin City Council to allow the council install cycling safety technology on 40 of the busiest junctions across the city. This has great potential and I look forward to hearing about its impact once rolled out. Any discussion of cycling must consider the issues of funding and infrastructure. On the issue of funding, Deputies seem unwilling, or unable, to accept that funding for cycling is increasing thanks to the budgetary increases I have secured. Over the period 2018 to 2021 we will provide €750 million to BusConnects Dublin which will deliver 200 km of largely segregated cycle lanes; €110 million through a dedicated cycling and walking infrastructure funding programme; €135 million to the sustainable urban transport programme which funds the delivery of traffic management and smarter travel projects in our cities; and €53 million from 2019 to support the greenways strategy.
We have funded public bikes schemes in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. We have also funded their expansion with new stations opening in Cork and Dublin this year and more planned for Galway, while work is well under way to extend the scheme to include Waterford. This collective level of funding is unprecedented. It will make a real and lasting difference to cycling infrastructure across the State.
There are those in the House, however, who refuse to acknowledge that. I said at the outset that I wanted a real debate. In that spirit, I will obviously acknowledge that, despite the improvements that have happened, we still have a long way to go. Multi-annual infrastructure projects and programmes do not always flow seamlessly. There are a range of issues which impact on delivery. I do not mean money, I mean issues like organisational capacity, design, planning and environmental considerations. I agree that in recent years we have not built as much of the infrastructure that we wanted to see delivered.
The future is bright for cycling and the commitments to it are in place.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. Sinn Féin is very much in favour of the promotion of all sustainable forms of transport, in particular public transport and cycling. A wider view needs to be taken and all planning initiatives must prioritise public transport and cycling, along with the reduction of private car usage in our cities. These go hand in hand. The best way to reduce car use is to ensure public transport is reliable, frequent and affordable. There is a long way to go in this regard, particularly in rural areas. While many parts of Dublin are well served, other areas could do with some improvements. Rural public transport services vary with some areas having reasonable services while others are poorly served.
Some areas have no service at all. In our alternative budget for 2019, Sinn Féin pledged to increase spending on CIÉ companies by a quarter, or more than €70 million, with most of this funding targeted at rural bus services. Removing cars from roads is a no-brainer but, unfortunately, rather than increasing services by investing in CIÉ companies, the Government is instead privatising Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus slowly but surely. A second tranche of Bus Éireann routes is due to be put out to tender in the near future despite the fact that the Government has no idea if the previous round of privatisation has been successful.
Cycling is another area that needs an increase in investment. Greenways and cycleways must be developed and the infrastructure in our cities must be altered to ensure our roads are cyclist-friendly. The number of people cycling has increased dramatically in recent years in our cities and we must ensure cyclists can travel safely. We must work towards ensuring that cycling infrastructure provides for safe journeys for cyclists. Sharing lanes with buses and other vehicles is simply not safe and this acts as a barrier to those who would like to cycle but who feel it is simply too dangerous in our cities.
I support much of what is called for in this motion, including dedicated cycling lanes and improved infrastructure. We are all in agreement on that. It is a bit rich for Fianna Fáil to put down this evening's motion as last week it announced it would happily prop up the Government for another year. The party did not revise its requests of the Government or raise any objection to more than 10,000 people being homeless or the crisis in our health service. Fianna Fáil did not ask for an increase in funding for cycling infrastructure either. It supported the last budget, which saw funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport increase by only €20 million; current funding increased by €50 million, with €35 million of this going to tourism to take the bad look off the VAT rate increase in the sector. It seems only €9 million of the funding will be available for transport overall. The allocation of capital funding for the Department was decreased by €30 million, and Fianna Fáil gave this allocation a thumbs-up two months ago by facilitating the passing of the budget. It provided next to nothing for transport. I urge Fianna Fáil to use its position to hold the Government to account instead of sitting on the fence.
I agree with some of the matters raised in the amendment put down by the Green Party, especially the Government's failure to implement such Government policies as Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Transport Future and the national cycling policy framework. The Minister has been a bitter disappointment when it comes to transport infrastructure and as a consequence, the general public has been sorely let down by his inaction. It does not help that we have a history of poor planning and short-sightedness when it comes to our infrastructure. We also lost a decade of investment during the recession. The Government must prioritise sustainable methods of transport; we have the plans and the know-how but we just need the political will to secure funding and drive this project.
This will not be easy and some may have to give a little in order for our cities to gain a lot. Dublin is 1,000 years old and we all know that it and other cities in Ireland present difficulties when it comes to widening roads or building new lanes and tracks. We must prioritise cycling and public transport. We must shift the mindset from accommodating cars to prioritising sustainable transport. I support the motion but it must be pointed out that as a motion, it is really only a statement with no legal standing whatever. It is important that interest groups understand that. It is positive that almost all parties appear to be on the same page on the matter. I hope the Minister will focus more of his energies on sustainable transport, including cycling, in the coming year.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion this evening and I also welcome the people from the campaign groups in the Gallery. It is a matter that has exercised people hugely, and as Deputy Munster indicated, there are many positives within the motion. We know a motion has no legal standing but it provides an important opportunity for me and others to state that this topic is a priority. It is an opportunity to debate it this evening.
I am not a cyclist, although I have cycled on occasions. Frankly, I would be petrified to do it. I have cycled around the city recently enough and it is absolutely terrifying. I live in Skerries and some of the smaller roads there can be quite scary for the people using them, even when motorists give as much space as possible. Although it may not necessarily dangerous where I live, it is dangerous to cycle in the city. I do not know how people manage to navigate the city even with helmets and everything else. When we consider other cities that have got this right, they are much more pleasant places to be and walk around because there are fewer cars. Currently, there is no incentive to cycle a bike here and I would be scared to do so. I know there are some dedicated and designated cycle lanes but very often they taper to nothing. I notice it as a motorist and pedestrian. It must be terrifying for cyclists.
This motion contains very sensible suggestions. The Minister has indicated he is doing everything suggested in the motion and if it were not for the hint of condemnation of the Government, he would probably support it. To be fair, people in the Gallery and others have contacted us all this week and last week about the motion. If they thought everything was already being done, they would not look to talk to us. Most people do not want to engage with politicians, if we are honest.
They would quite happily not engage with politicians if they could reasonably avoid it. These people have engaged with us nonetheless. If they thought everything in the motion was already being done and was a priority on the Government's agenda, they would probably be in town doing some Christmas shopping or at home with their families. They would not be sending us emails or contacting us in other ways because they would not need to do so. There is a clear issue and the motion provides an opportunity to collectively say it is the will of the Dáil that greater priority should be placed on cycling and other sustainable forms of transport. We really cannot keep going the way we are. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and although the number of people cycling is growing, the number of people campaigning for better infrastructure for cyclists is also increasing at a similar rate. They see the problems and that much can be done to make not just our city but the State a much better and safer place for cyclists.
In my area there are plans for a greenway going from Skerries to Balbriggan and from Baldoyle to Portmarnock and linking Malahide. This is fantastic but it is at either end of north County Dublin. It would be a great boost for tourism if the cycleway went the full length of the north county coast. It would be a great statement to give a full and clear commitment with funding to ensure this could happen.
The Minister was fairly clear in saying he wanted to do everything in the motion and it is only the hint of condemnation that stops him from crossing over and joining our side of the argument. If those actions were being taken, we would not be here debating the motion as there would be no need. We would not be here talking about how we need more investment. The people in the Gallery watching the debate would not be here either. I thank the Deputies for bringing forward and moving the motion which was due to be discussed last week.
We had very time-sensitive legislation and are grateful to the Deputies for moving the motion forward to facilitate that.
If the Minister looks up at the Public Gallery, he will see that we have a problem. Clearly, there is no faith that it is being done so perhaps the Minister can inject some hope into this debate that he will do what is in the motion, which he says he agrees with, because it is not us that he must convince, it is the people who are campaigning for it.
Amendment No. 3 reads as follows:
To insert the following after "pensioners and unemployed people;":
"— introduce urban planning measures that return our cities to the people, by prioritising cyclists, pedestrian and public transport users in urban centres, and ending the dominance of the private motor car;"
I am sharing time with Deputy Sherlock. I thank Deputy Troy for bringing forward this very important motion. I acknowledge those in the Gallery, some of whom are here in memory of loved ones who have died as cyclists on our roads - people like Neil Fox, a constituent of mine who is here in memory his sister Donna who sadly died in Dublin city centre while commuting to work on her bicycle. She was doing what we all say we want people to do, which is to commute to work or school or college in a clean, green and environmentally friendly way. We let people like Donna and other victims down by not providing the proper infrastructure to allow them to do this safely and to ensure that when they do commute to work, school or college, they also return home safely that same day.
Urban planning measures are needed in order to deliver what we actually need in this city and every other city and town throughout the country, namely, dedicated and segregated cycle lanes, particularly on the main arteries into and out of our urban centres. This can involve making difficult decisions. While this motion does call for these segregated lanes, the proposers and supporters need to follow that up when politically unpopular decisions need to be made at local level. In 2017, we saw Dublin City Council roll back on plans for a segregated cycle lane in Fairview due to trees being deemed historically important. I received a lot of representations on this as many of my constituents travel through Fairview either by car, bus or bicycle. As Members can imagine, I received varying representations on this issue. However, the biggest pressure was to protect the trees and thus the segregated cycle lane was cobbled. Unfortunately, the pressure was so great on Dublin City Council that it abandoned the plan and to date, no progress has been made. Progress on the delivery of cycle lanes requires politically difficult choices as well. Segregated lanes need land so parks, paths, gardens and roads all come into play.
Labour fully supports the provision of cycling infrastructure. We led on the delivery of the Dublinbikes scheme, which continues to go from strength to strength. We want to see it expanded to all Irish cities, big towns and major suburbs. My colleague, Peter Horgan, is pushing for the expansion of the Cork scheme to the suburbs. In Labour's alternative budget, we proposed a 20 cent investment for every journey on the public bicycle schemes in order to help finance further expansion.
I like the call in this motion to revise the Bike to Work scheme. A revised and improved scheme with further political impetus and pressure would be of great benefit and I believe the uptake would be very strong. Currently, there are considerable risks to cyclists who use shared roads due to the interaction between cyclists and motor vehicles. In 2017, 15 cyclists died as a result of motor collisions and hundreds more were injured. That figure shows a 50% increase from 2016. Future deaths can be prevented if we invest more in cycling. Currently, less than 1% of our transport budget, around €3 million, is spent on promoting cycling and the cycling infrastructure. It is not enough. One thing that we can invest in is a better cycle infrastructure such as more dedicated cycle tracks that are physically segregated from other road users.
I fully support the "Staying Alive at 1.5" campaign and I was very proud of the Labour group on Fingal County Council, which led the way in delivering a pilot Staying Alive at 1.5 scheme in Fingal. Now every large vehicle in the council has a Staying Alive at 1.5 sticker and there are popular cycling routes with dedicated 1.5 m signage. Investing in cycling infrastructure will reap its own rewards and has been proven in other cities.
Ten years ago, the city of Seville invested in cycle infrastructure that provided 80 km of connected, segregated cycle paths. Since then, cycling numbers have increased from 6,000 to 70,000 a day. We can do the same and deliver the same results. The real work will be done in county and city development plans. Pressure needs to be put on councillors to incorporate pro-cycling objectives into these plans. We need a political consensus and a real will to invest and deliver.
In the few moments I have, I will refer to the Minister's speech where he talked about how there has been a particular problem in Dublin regarding some of the larger signature projects. He went on to say that those problems arise because of different reasons that make them trickier to solve but he did not articulate what those problems are or what he proposes to do. There was a certain amount of motherhood and apple pie in the Minister's speech. He spoke about €53 million being rolled out in 2019 and €135 million being rolled out in sustainable urban transport programmes. All of this will be up to 2021. To my knowledge, we have not had any new greenways since the Minister took office. I am putting a hand up here boldly for the Lee to Sea greenway in my native Cork and the Midleton-Youghal railway line in respect of which there has been a proposal for a greenway. If the Minister is serious about delivering on greenways and having a proper regional spread of them to facilitate cycling and families being able to cycle in a safe way, those two proposals should be top priorities. I make no bones about making that request.
When I put down parliamentary questions about cycling policy such as the roll out of dockless bicycles or extending schemes beyond cities like Cork, Limerick and Galway, I am always referred to the National Transport Authority, NTA. In replies to parliamentary questions, the Minister always says that he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, including the management of public bicycle schemes. I received that response to a question I put down in July. In reply to a question I put down regarding dockless bicycles and the potential for rolling them out across the country, he said that he is not involved in the day-to-day delivery of walking and cycling infrastructure, including the management of public bicycle schemes. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he needs to roll up his sleeves and be more engaged with the NTA. I do not think it is sufficient for him to come into the House and say he has set up a greater Dublin area, GDA, cycle network plan to deal with the issues in Dublin. I do not have an inferiority complex I think - I am from Cork - but the Minister must look beyond the Pale, possibly come outside Dublin, see what is going on regarding cycling initiatives in cities like Cork, Limerick and Galway, roll up his sleeves, get down into the nitty gritty and meet and engage with more of the stakeholders on their territory rather than having a very distant and nebulous involvement and coming in here with speeches that do not deliver anything in real terms or where things are pushed out to another time.
I suggest that the Minister has an opportunity to leave a legacy in respect of cycling policy depending on the length of his mandate. To be fair to the Minister, there is a nice parcel of funding but we want to see that translated into real action on the ground. The key to all of this is, and I say this as an occasional cyclist, changing the culture and mentality in this country regarding cycling.
People are discouraged from cycling because they do not feel it is safe to alight onto a public road. If the Minister can be the advocate, take leadership and change the culture through simple policy and by engaging with the local authorities in a way that will not put up barriers to more people using their bikes in their day-to-day lives, he will have done a great day's work.
In answer to a question I asked about the Cork city cycling scheme I was told by the NTA that, while funding was available for capital investment, financial support to meet the operational costs was more challenging. The scheme costs just over €1 million a year. The response from the NTA goes on to state Exchequer funding to meet this expenditure is not available to it and that local authority support in funding the cost is essential. The issue of funding to meet increased operational expenditure in a Cork scheme expansion - for Cork read Limerick, Galway or any other urban conurbation - has not been resolved. I ask the Minister to resolve that matter.
As Deputy Sherlock used all of his time and more, poor Deputy Fitzmaurice has been excluded. As I know that would not be the desire of the House, if it is its wish, he can have a two-minute slot. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome the holding of this debate and compliment Deputy Troy. It is clear to anybody who drives into a city every morning that more and more people are using bicycles. This can be seen every single day, especially in the larger cities. Motorists always fear encountering a cyclist when turning left. We need to consider constructing something like a flyover. It is a death trap when motorists are turning left and cyclists are going on straight. We need to do something about this issue in and around cities as, unfortunately, accidents will happen.
The Wild Atlantic Way has been a huge success. I also echo what was said that the bike to work scheme is a good one.
We need to include sensible laws in upcoming legislation dealing with bicycles. There is a proposal on the what the distance should be between a car and a bike. Some roads, especially in rural areas, are not wide enough for a car to go down, never mind stay one and a half metres from a cyclist. We need to make sure we are not codding ourselves in some respects.
On greenways, there is a need to work with farming communities. In fairness, everyone is in favour of having them; it is just a matter of how we go about providing them. Sometimes they are imposed on people and there are certain worries in that respect. The Minister should try to work with people on cycle ways. Ordinary byroads in countries such as Holland can resemble barley fields. There are a lot of byroads, with interconnection, that would be suitable for use, especially in rural areas, but it is only in working with farming communities that the Minister will get to the destination required.
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.
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.
I am sharing time with Deputies Lisa Chambers and Jack Chambers. I compliment and congratulate my party colleague, Deputy Troy, on bringing forward this motion. While other speakers indicated that it is not legislation, it is a motion and it is important because it affords us on this side of the House the opportunity to set out our vision on cycling and the infrastructure that is required.
To be fair to the Minister, who is not in the Chamber, it afforded him the opportunity of setting out the Government's response, and some of the elements he mentioned in his response are to be welcomed. As Deputy Ryan said, this is our last debate before the recess and it is important that we reflect on that.
There is no question that the number of people who engage actively in cycling on a daily basis, both here in the city and across the country, has increased significantly in recent years. The real challenge is that the necessary infrastructure to make those cycling journeys safe has not been put in place at the same pace. Undoubtedly, there have been some very good developments. We talked about some of the greenways in Waterford and so on. In terms of our own areas, Deputy Gino Kenny spoke about the Grand Canal greenway, particularly from Inchicore to the 12th lock. They are fabulous facilities. The Deputy was right when he said if we build it the people will use it. That has been the experience. The Grand Canal greenway is being used, if we look at the national greenways. When the dublinbikes scheme was introduced, there were approximately 4,000 or 5,000 users per day. It is approximately 16,000 now, so there is a major demand for it.
My concern is twofold. First, the existing infrastructure is not fit for purpose from a safety point of view. People have spoken about the number of fatalities, and the number of serious accidents and injuries, on the roads. In his contribution, the Minister, Deputy Ross, said that he was spending €400,000 on technology solutions through Dublin City Council with regard to some of the busiest journeys. I ask the Minister and the Department to do an analysis of the existing road structure in terms of what needs to be repaired or upgraded. Every day we see cyclists avoiding potholes and other impediments on the road, bringing them into the line of traffic. Those issues should be dealt with without having to require new cycleways.
In terms of new cycleways, we hear about BusConnects and whatever. The problem with the BusConnects solution is that it will be a decade before all of it is complete. There is an increasing number of cyclists on our roads year in, year out, and they deserve better than what is currently in place. In the past week I was involved in a debate where we spoke about meeting our 2020 emissions targets. I was involved in another debate about young people and obesity. In all those areas, cycling has a very positive outcome for those people and for society in general.
There must be an audit of areas where accidents have occurred. We need to upgrade and maintain the existing infrastructure as well as provide new, properly segregated cycle lanes but we cannot wait for BusConnects, which will take a decade to be fully delivered.
I thank my colleague, Deputy Troy, and I welcome many of the cyclists in the Gallery. The Dublin Cycling Campaign goes through the key pillars of this issue, including cycling for health, cycling for infrastructure, proper legislation and road enforcement, but what we did not hear from the Minister was a plan, a timeline or a hope that this will happen. It was the same projected goals and projected resources.
We know that Dublin as the capital is not a safe place to cycle. Some 90,000 cyclists run the gauntlet of trying to navigate the city every day, putting their lives in the hands of other road users and hoping for the best. Drastic action is needed. I read the Official Report of a debate in 2017 which referred to traffic congestion issues with cycling, and nothing has changed since then.
It is important we become political about this issue. The Minister is accountable for transport policy. For the benefit of anyone watching this debate at home and those in the Gallery, the Minister, Deputy Ross, has spent more time talking about judges inside and outside this Chamber than he has about transport policy or cycling policy, for which he is accountable. We can hear all about the projections but it is clear that the Judicial Appointments Bill is a bigger priority for him than delivering a safer cycle network for people in Dublin and beyond. He needs to be made accountable for that.
Some 59 cyclists have been killed on Irish roads in the past five years. Nine cyclists have died this year, and even more have been injured. Those are damning statistics. The absence of segregated cycling lanes means the most vulnerable road users are going bumper to wheel vying for space with the largest vehicles on our streets.
My grandmother lives outside Newport in County Mayo. The Westport to Achill greenway has shown that proper segregation encourages people to cycle. While we cannot have a similar space in terms of a greenway, we need to have proper planned cycle lane segregation in our city. What we have in our local authorities is the painting of lines in some instances where they can tick a box to say that they have cycle lanes when they do not. We have examples of cycle tourism being undermined and the Minister, Deputy Ross, again delaying legislation to provide cyclists with a 1.5 m road space that is continually being pushed back.
In my constituency in Dublin West, we have seen the Royal Canal greenway again being delayed and not being delivered in terms of the capital allocations. To take the Phoenix Park as an example, thousands of cyclists use it on a daily basis but with respect to the cycle lane that is allocated for them, they are competing continuously with pedestrians who are using it. There is not a proper OPW policy to encourage cycling.
While BusConnects offers proper segregation in time, local authorities are not planning for cycle lanes into the planned segregation that will occur. That is another fundamental issue for which there is not an allocation with respect to the capital allocation. Only €8 million was allocated this year versus €19 million in 2015.
I am a member of the Joint Committee on Climate Action. This proposal would deliver a massive climate change goal that we need to fulfil. What we need from the Minister, Deputy Ross, are fewer words about judges, more actions for cyclists and a better transport policy for this city, which we are not seeing happen.
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.
I thank all the contributors to the debate. We are aware of the importance cycling played in many people's lives in years gone by. However, the numbers cycling steadily declined in the 1990s. This trend has slowly reversed in recent years. The smarter travel policy and the national cycling policy framework will certainly help in that regard. The statistics show us that increases in the numbers of cyclists on the roads were happening up to 1986 and then we saw a decline. We are back up to similar numbers of cyclists on the roads as in 1986 but the percentages are far lower. That is an interesting point. How do we explain that? At the time the infrastructure was rather poor, road fatality figures overall were far higher and people were less prosperous. Other countries that are equally prosperous and where there is a higher level of car ownership have higher figures for cycling at the moment. It is difficult to explain this fully but it is encouraging to see that there has been an uptake in recent years and that things are improving.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, has outlined several actions that are under way and plans to promote cycling. I will outline additional initiatives that are under way or funded by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport or its agencies. Between 2012 and 2016, the Department provided more than €20 million for the smarter travel areas programme. The programme promotes sustainable transport in built-up areas of varying sizes. These areas act as demonstration areas for others. Westport, Dungarvan and Limerick city were selected. The lessons learned will inform our policy to improve cycling, walking and public transport use in other towns and cities so that we can encourage a modal shift away from cars. In addition, several small and medium-sized towns were funded through the active travel towns programme. The programme supports sustainable transport infrastructure to make town centres more attractive places to live, work and do business.
Another important aspect of the Minister's brief, one we are highly supportive of, is the cross-Border projects under the INTERREG programme. These include several greenway projects that not only promote cycling but support the peace process as well. These include the north-west, Carlingford Lough and Ulster Canal greenways. The Department also promotes cycling around the country with events such as bike week. This is a popular annual celebration of all that is great about bikes and cycling. Cycling related activities are run throughout the country in collaboration with local authorities and cycling organisations to raise awareness of the many benefits of cycling. The Department also supports European mobility week, which features events throughout the country. The focus this year was on multi-modality, which means mixing transport modes within the same journey or for different trips.
The Minister, Deputy Ross, has secured large-scale increases in funding for cycling over a four-year period up to 2021. This will result in substantial year-on-year increases that will transform the cycling landscape in the country. In addition, the Minister provides extra funding where required. For example, only recently the Minister provided for the installation of safety equipment in key junctions throughout Dublin to improve safety for cyclists. The cycle-to-work scheme continues to provide a major boost to cycling, making it far more affordable while supporting many sustainable jobs in the cycling industry in bike shops throughout the country.
While the final road safety figures are not available yet for this year, I welcome that there is a downward trend. That is the most recent reading. I hope we will see a record low this year. There are two weeks to go in the year but I hope we will see no further fatalities on the roads and I hope this year will be a record-breaking year. Of course, every fatality is one too many and we can never be complacent.
I welcome that the Fianna Fáil motion recognises the growth in the popularity of cycling. The Minister, Deputy Ross, recognises that more can be done. This is why he is allocating more money to cycling. As with any significant infrastructure programme, we may not see dramatic changes overnight but the fruits of the considerable work already completed and under way will be increasingly evident in the coming years. Next year we will see several significant cycling projects commence construction in various parts of the country. The Minister, Deputy Ross, and I will announce funding allocations under the new greenway strategy and funding as well. That is something I am particularly excited about.
I remember writing a blog sitting in a hotel in Achill after cycling out from Westport in 2013. The title of the post was why greenways should be called gold ways. The amount of activity on the line that morning was striking. This was in August 2013. I saw cafés, bike shops, taxis and buses. Everything was there because of the greenway. It was incredible. I had been there three years earlier and cycled the Newport to Mulranny section shortly after it opened. It was rather quiet and not many people were using it. I saw the transformation. It is a great problem to have to be unable to find a space to park one's bike outside a café. It is very encouraging.
Deputy Gino Kenny referred to Waterford. I cycled there in April. There is remarkable infrastructure there and it is a very positive development. The accommodation works there are an example to all other greenways in terms of how to do it properly and right. The transformation of places like Kilmacthomas along that line has been remarkable. The old workhouse there is a busy enterprise now. It is symbolic of rebirth and regeneration. There are many other examples. In Moate in Westmeath, we launched the greenway strategy during the summer. It is great to see the usage on that line as well. I am keen to see more lines being rolled out. It was great to see the great southern trail receiving a major boost of funding under the recent rural regeneration fund. Those involved were able to recreate the Barnagh tunnel and resurface that trail. I cycled it during the summer from the Devon Inn Hotel near Templeglantine up to Newcastle West. We hope to see that route extended all the way down to Kerry and out to the coast by Fenit. Kerry also has the south Kerry greenway along the world famous iconic Farranfore to Valentia line.
These are great gifts from the past, especially the old railways. We owe a debt to our ancestors, the people who built these by hand. These are remarkable engineering achievements of the 19th century. We owe it to those people to make the most of these gifts from the past into the future and to get them working for us again. If the ripping up of those railways was symbolic of a dark age in this country and its economic outlook and vision, then I hope the rebuilding of the greenways can be symbolic of a new and positive era. I look forward to assessing the greenway strategy applications throughout the country. The scheme is approximately three times oversubscribed. That is a good sign. It shows there is great momentum in communities and local authorities to develop this infrastructure.
In 2019, there are several significant projects that will commence thanks to funding that is being provided to the National Transport Authority, NTA. In Dublin, construction will start on the Royal Canal, phases 2, 3 and 4. That will deliver a high-quality cycleway from the docklands out to Ashtown in Dublin 15. The greenway from Clontarf to the city centre via Amiens Street will be going ahead as well as the Dodder greenway. All these projects are significant. I hope it will lead to increased take-up along those routes. The NTA will also be funding a significant project in Navan and works will also take place in Cork city centre. I hope in the springtime we will announce further funding for the greenways. As we know, many of the town centres throughout the country that currently do not have any cycling infrastructure or inadequate cycling infrastructure have received funding under the urban regeneration fund. That is to be encouraged. We know that there are further tranches coming. In my constituency, Killarney received significant funding to improve cycling infrastructure. Through a combination of different funds and through a whole-of-government approach, I believe we will get the infrastructure right. However, it would be remiss of us simply to think that the infrastructure is all that is needed. It is not. It is simply a cog in the wheel. Many other things are needed as well to get the culture ingrained in the Irish psyche and to get us back to where we were.
My Department has a remit covering tourism and sport. For physical and mental health we need a positive health policy to get more people on bikes. That is the natural and obvious thing to do. We need to try to encourage that further. I probably had not cycled in ten years until I started training for the Ring of Kerry cycle in 2011. Subsequently, I did the cycle for three years in a row. There was one thing about the training process that I did not look forward to. It was not the hills or the hard work of climbing mountains on the bike. It was the fact that often motorists do not give a cyclist the space he deserves and needs on the road. There is a major safety risk when a cyclist is going out on the road. That is something we all need to work harder to address.
There are opportunities for local authorities. We have excellent assets in this country that are currently seen as liabilities.
Back roads, or local tertiary roads, are rarely used by vehicular traffic but they could provide an outstanding network of dedicated cycling routes, which motorists would not be banned, but would be discouraged, from using. We could start to see what are currently seen as liabilities as assets once again and get more people using bikes.
Like Deputies Gino Kenny and Eamon Ryan, when I leave here this evening, I will get on my bike, put on my helmet and head up Kildare Street. We need to start encouraging more people to cycle. Anyone interested in addressing the problem of climate change, in becoming healthier or, in overcoming city gridlock, should become a cyclist. The same goes for promoting tourism. We must recognise that people will not get involved with cycling unless the State does more for them. That is why it is so important that we have an advocate leading for cycling in the State.
Unfortunately, there is a very negative and strange attitude towards cycling among some people in officialdom. I am aware of and have experienced it. When I tell people that I use a bike or they see me on one, they find it strange that a man wearing a suit is on a bike. I sometimes wonder if they think cycling is only for botanists or politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn. We must change the State's attitude to people and cycling. Unfortunately, what I have heard this evening from the Minister does not inspire me with confidence. We need an advocate for cycling who will sell it to the Irish public and who will recognise the reasons people are hesitant about using their bikes.
Deputy Eamon Ryan referred to cycling along Leeson Street but it is the same in every part of the city. Cycling down Wexford Street or Camden Street, there are token cycling lanes which are really only part of a process to appease the city council or officialdom into believing that there is a cycle lane around the city. There is no protection for cyclists, however, and that is one of the biggest obstacles to people encouraging their children to cycle at a young age.
The Minister referred to investment but that is only part of the solution. We need someone out there selling it and to be its champion in government. Unfortunately, the Minister's contribution does not lead me to believe that he is the person to do it. To be fair to the Minister, when he wants to be a strenuous advocate for something, he can be passionate about it but I do not hear that passion from him regarding cycling. Unfortunately, I hear apathy and low energy. Perhaps it is the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, who is the man to get out there and do it. Someone needs to own this and sell it because the public are there to be sold on it. We can get large numbers involved if it is properly dealt with at Cabinet level.
I thank my colleague, Deputy Troy, for his excellent work in this area. It is difficult for Deputies outside Dublin to cycle because they have to drive here or use public transport. However, I know Deputy Troy is a committed cyclist. We need to set an example to everyone in this country to show that cycling is the way forward and that, in the context of their health, climate change and gridlock, people should get on their bikes.
I also thank Deputy Troy for bringing forward this motion. I was delighted to hear the Minister of State's response because I was wilting during the response from the Minister. He just went on and on, whereas the Minister of State had passion. He clearly gets the issue, and understands what we in rural Ireland are seeking to do in the context of greenways. As a rural Deputy from Galway, I can only wonder. We have the Dublin to Galway greenway, which comes to an end in Athlone. There is nothing coming along the Shannon, although we are trying. There is nothing along the Quiet Man Greenway. I am sure that the Minster of State is aware of this because myself and the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, are its champions. It is very unfortunate that some weeks ago it came to our attention that the Quiet Man Greenway has been removed from the initial greenway strategy plan. I do not know why but I wonder if it is the price of getting an Independent Minister in Government. I do not think that is what the Minister of State, or indeed, his colleagues, believes in. It is frustrating for me to talk about a greenway strategy because I feel that we will never see it. I am talking about going from Tuam to Athenry to Milltown, 42 km of gold, as the Minister of State described it earlier. During the week, some of the Minister of State's colleagues said that the Minister is anti-rural Ireland but he should show that he is not and look at our greenway strategy which would rejuvenate places such as Tuam, Milltown, Ballyglunin and Abbyknockmoy. As Deputy Jack Chambers noted, we completed the M3, which runs adjacent to this greenway, and put in a cycleway along it. It was only unfortunate that we did not also put in lights because that would have enabled good access for cycling and walking.
The only freight currently coming to east Galway is people. We want to bring them in on their bikes. That is our goal.
I thank the many speakers who contributed. Every man and woman who contributed did so in a very positive manner and are very favourably disposed to the motion and to the public policy of cycling. It is unfortunate that the Government chose to oppose the motion. It is only doing so for political reasons. I approached the Minister last night and told him that if he were to give us a compromise motion this morning, the House could united on this issue which, as Deputy Munster noted, is very important and which the Government is not currently dealing with properly. If it was, the Gallery would not be full this evening, a week before Christmas. That is because people are genuinely concerned about how this policy is being pursued in recent months. I ask that the Government reflect over Christmas and to make the choice not to divide the House on a motion on cycling, particularly as there has been a common theme in the opinions expressed by Members.
I will not apologise for Fianna Fáil as a party bringing forward this motion. We have a good track record on cycling policy. A previous Minister with responsibility for transport, Noel Dempsey, brought forward the first and only national policy framework on cycling. That policy has not been updated in the interim. I have raised this matter many times by means of parliamentary questions and at the joint committee. I was part of a delegation which visited the Netherlands during the year. Fianna Fáil is the only party in the House that has published an up-to-date policy on cycling. We understand that this is a major issue. We will continue to push in respect of it and we expect that Government will respond.
Unfortunately, people do not believe the Minister. He can come into the Chamber and make promises about what will happen in future but people judge him on what he has done thus far. During his time as Minister, he has cut the national cycling budget and he has over-promised and under-delivered. In the context of the minimum passing distance, for an entire year he resisted efforts by his Cabinet colleagues to bring forward legislation. He then went out and held a press conference in an effort to stop us debating an amendment on Committee Stage and promised that it would be done within weeks. Almost 12 months later, it remains undone. Forgive us if we do not accept his bona fides when he talks about segregated lanes being put in place as part of the BusConnects programme. As someone who has engaged with that programme over the past two years since publication, I know that by the time planning, compulsory purchase orders, tendering etc. are completed, no new segregated cycle lane will be put in place for a minimum of three years. I also wish to record that the members of the cycling community have reservations regarding the design of segregated cycle tracks. They must be listened to and engaged with. I hope this will happen.
The Minister of State referred to multi-modality in the context of transport.
I do not know when the Minister of State last travelled on public transport. If one tries to bring a bus on a train----
Apologies. If one tries to bring a bike onto a train or a bus, one finds there is no facility to do so. There are certainly no facilities for parking them at either end of the journey. We have so much work to do. We need to unite in this House and get to that work. Accelerated investment in cycling is needed. If that is provided, greater participation in cycling will be encouraged, roads will be safer roads and congestion will be reduced. The health of cyclists and the environment will improve and overall everybody will be a winner.
In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 17 January 2019.
As a final piece of business, I thank the Deputies, the Minister of State and the Minister. I also thank my colleagues and all the staff of the Houses for all their work and efforts in this term. I thank the people in the Gallery for visiting. I wish all Members a happy Christmas and a very safe new year.