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Q&A: Here's where Ireland's political parties stand on cycling ahead of GE2020

We asked each political party where it stands on cycling policy in Ireland.

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WITH THE GENERAL Election less than a fortnight away, TheJournal.ie has been asking each political party for their positions on a variety of issues affecting people across Ireland. 

Throughout the rest of the campaign we’ll be publishing their responses on the issues that matter, including homelessness and housing, health and transport.   

First up, cycling.

A shift in how Irish people commute over the past decade has put cycling on the political agenda. 

In recent months, grassroots organisations like Dublin Cycling Campaign and IBike have held “die-ins” at the Dáil and protests aimed at encouraging active travel and disrupting cars blocking dedicated cycle lanes. 

So, where do Ireland’s political parties stand ahead of General Election 2020?

We asked each party a series of questions: What measures they’d take to improve cycling infrastructure and safety, reduce theft and, specifically, what funding they’d allocate to cycling if they were in Government. 

For Fine Gael, more Gardaí means fewer bicycle thefts. For Labour, segregated cycling lanes are key to protecting cyclists on Irish roads. And for Renua, “worrying about how the average Metrosexual cycles to work at Google” is not top of their priority list. 

Would you increase annual spending on cycling and, if so, by how much

Fine Gael: A spokesperson told TheJournal.ie the Government’s Climate Action Plan includes a “massive increase for sustainable transport modes and by 2035″ which it said “will achieve a target of an additional 500,000 public transport, walking and cycling journeys every day”.

The party also plans to ring-fence €600 million from Carbon Tax receipts for cycling and walking over the next 10 years.

Fianna Fáil: The party’s Transport spokesperson Marc MacSharry, meanwhile, said his party plans to increase the Cycling Budget by €50 million.

Labour: Transport spokesman Senator Kevin Humphreys said his party will dedicate 20% of the National Transport Budget to the development of cycling and walking infrastructure.

Solidarity-People Before Profit: The party said it would increase funding for cycling and that it will take its “cue from The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network in terms of the works required and resultant cost”. 

The Social Democrats: Transport spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan told TheJournal.ie that his party is “committed” to increasing cycling funding in the short-term to 10% of the Land Transport Budget.

In the medium-term, O’Callaghan favours increasing the Transport Capital Budget by 20% to be spent on cycling and walking.

The Green Party: The party’s Transport spokesperson Cllr Patrick Costello said it has committed to increasing spending on cycling to 10% and walking to 10% of national land transport budget.

“This is in line with recommendations from the UN environment programme to address climate change,” said Costello. 

Aontú: Following queries from TheJournal.ie, the party put forward General Election candidate for Dún Laoghaire Mairead Tóibín as their spokesperson on this issue. She said she is in favour of increasing spending for cycling infrastructure but did not say by how much. 

She said she is reluctant to commit to a spending amount “without knowing extent of need throughout Ireland”.

Sinn Féin: The party did not respond to questions put to it by TheJournal.ie. The party’s manifesto, however, states that “locating and developing Greenway and cycle tracks is of great importance” and that “having sufficient cycle lanes will increase the number of cyclists”.

The party is calling for the National Cycle Policy Framework to be revised to encourage cycling and that has called for a nationwide and cross-border review of possible Greenway and cycle track sites with input from local authorities and community and interest groups”. 

What specific measures will you take to improve existing cycling infrastructure in towns and cities as well as create additional infrastructure

Despite a 43% increase in Irish people cycling to work between 2011 and 2016, campaigners consistently point to a lack of dedicated cycling infrastructure in Ireland. 

We asked each party what measures it will take to address this.

Fine Gael: The party said it will shortly publish a plan to increase the numbers of people cycling on a daily basis to work from 57,000 now to at least 120,000, the spokesperson said. 

They said that by late-2020 the party “will have developed cycle network plans for each of Ireland’s Five Cities and will commence implementation immediately thereafter”.

Fine Gael also plans for The National Transport Authority to produce a Park & Ride Implementation Plan for Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway in order to reduce congestion. This strategy will include provision for secure bicycle lockers. 

Other measures outlined by Fine Gael include:

  • Reversing decline in the number of children walking and cycling to schools by tasking The Department of Transport to work with Schools, Local Authorities, Green Schools Programme to identify barriers. 
  • An examination of local Speed Limits and road conditions. 
  • Offering primary school children cycling training through Cycle Right Programme. 

Fianna Fáil: Marc McSharry said his party will invest in high-quality segregated cycle lanes and plans to roll out secure bike storage across the Dublin Rail Network and provide funding for the retrofitting of cycle racks on Buses and Trains. 

Labour: Kevin Humphreys said his party will “prioritise delivery of a network of fast, safe and segregated off-road Cycling Highways,” as well as CCTV enforcement on cycling and bus lanes to prevent vehicle intrusion.

Solidarity-People Before Profit: The party said it favours mandating local authorities – particularly in cities – to provide segregated cycle lanes and is in favour of expanding scheme like DublinBikes. 

The Green Party: Patrick Costello said the NTA’s Greater Dublin Area Cycling Network - a roadmap for cycling routes across Dublin – “has been gathering dust” and needs to be implemented in order to provide “a network of safe, segregated cycle lanes”.

He said similar strategies should be developed in urban centres outside of Dublin. 

Improved infrastructure like segregated cycle lanes is also the most effective measure to ensure cyclist safety, Costello said. 

The Social Democrats: Cian O’Callaghan said his party would invest in cycling parking, particularly at transport hubs and would “insist” that associated costs with this service is “minimised or eradicated” for commuters. “Some current costs charged by public transport providers are outrageous,” said O’Callaghan. 

Among improvements to cycling infrastructure, O’Callaghan said his party would:

  • Upgrade maintenance of cycle lanes and improve road design to ensure roundabouts are safer, hostile junctions are redesigned that drains and potential hazards are positioned properly. 
  • Ensure road upgrades and new roads comply with best practice and road safety standards. 
  • Construct a network of cycle lanes – segregated if possible. 
  • Programme traffic lights in order to give cyclists a head-start. 
  • Promote contra-flow cycle lanes to improve safety and increase the number of cyclists. 

Aontú: Mairéad Tóibín, meanwhile, said it’s “prudent” that every new road or surface upgrade in urban area include “defined areas” for cyclists. 

The Aontú candidate is in favour of segregated cycle routes through parks, coastlines and towns “or along green spaces to encourage greater enjoyment of the exercise and less traffic congestion,” she said. 

Are you in favour of extending schemes like DublinBikes to suburbs as well as towns and cities throughout Ireland

Fine Gael: The party said it favours expanding the DublinBikes scheme.

Fianna Fáil: Marc MacSharry said it plans to expand the DublinBikes scheme to more suburbs across Dublin and in Cork and Galway, too. 

Solidarity-People Before Profit: The party also said it is in favour of expanding DublinBikes. Like Fine Gael, the party did not provide details on how it would do so. 

The Labour Party: Kevin Humphreys said his party has called for the expansion of schemes like DublinBikes since 2016.

The party has proposed extending current scheme in Dublin City out to Swords, Tallaght and Dún Laoghaire, Humphreys said, adding that bicycle-sharing scheme should be expanded in Cork and Galway and that new schemes should be introduced in Limerick and Waterford.

The party said it plans to establish a ‘Pilot County Towns‘ model for these schemes, starting in an initial five locations.

The Green Party: DublinBikes and Coca-Cola Zero Bikes in Cork, Galway and Limerick have “been a great success and further expansion should be supported”, said Patrick Costello. 

The rollout of dockless bicycles in Dublin – bikes which don’t require a dock like DublinBikes do – have provided more options for cyclists. He said that Dublin City Council’s Bye-Laws have helped avoid “chaos” experienced by other cities implementing stationless bicycles. 

Costello said that Ireland should look at E-Bike Sharing as part of any extension of stationless bicycles. 

The Social Democrats: Cian O’Callaghan said his party is in favour of expanding schemes like DublinBikes.

O’Callaghan said his party is “not satisfied” with how such schemes are currently managed and that enhanced maintenance and more appropriate locations will lead to more people using them. 

The party is also in favour of reviewing charging structure to examine how usage could be incentivised. 

Aontú: Mairéad Toibín said her party is in favour of extending DublinBikes to more suburbs as well as introducing similar schemes in towns and cities around Ireland. Tóibín said such schemes should be extended one location at a time in order to assess their success. 

What measures will you take to expand Ireland's Greenway Programme and ensure dedicated cycling routes are delivered in more rural areas

Fine Gael: The party said it will identify and invest in new Greenways and cycle routes throughout Ireland. 

Fianna Fáil: Marc McSharry said his party “will continue to provide for the further development of the Greenway system, with a view to better integrating Greenways with cycling facilities in local towns and villages.”

“We note the inclusion of the SLCR Greenway in the new Northern Ireland Agreement and will work with Departments in Northern Ireland to advance this proposal.

We will also ensure that a portion of Greenway funding will be made to local authorities to assist with the development of Greenway proposals.”

The Labour Party: Kevin Humphreys said providing funding for local authorities to expand Ireland’s Greenways and improve road upgrades include space for cyclists is a priority, said Humphreys. 

Solidarity-People Before Profit: The party pointed to their first response to this question. 

The Green Party: Patrick Costello said that the success of Ireland’s Greenways is welcome but that routes have focused on tourism and not commuting

He argues in favour of improving and providing links from towns and villages to nearby Greenways, which “can help improve existing infrastructure and create new infrastructure,” he said. 

The Social Democrats: Cian O’Callaghan, meanwhile, said his party is supportive of the National Greenways Strategy. However, he said, funding is insufficient to meet demand. 

The Social Democrats are, he said, in favour of investing significantly in additional Greenways and cycle routes. 

Aontú: The party said it was in favour of more Greenways throughout Ireland. 

Are you in favour of major cycling projects being leddesigned by the National Transport Authority or should these projects be the remit of Local Authorities

Last weekend, hundreds of cyclists in Dublin took to captial’s roads to protest at the delay to the much-vaunted Liffey Cycle Route

The chronically-delayed route in Dublin was designed by the NTA after being removed from Dublin City Council’s remit after Councillors and engineers failed to agree an approach. 

Fine Gael: The party said that local authorities are best-placed to deliver cycling infrastructure but that certain major projects are complex.

“We believe local authorities should work with the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland,” the spokesperson said, adding who leads on major cycling projects depends on their complexity. 

Fianna Fáil: Marc MacSharry said the party will appoint Cycling Officers to every local authority as well as create a Cycling Division within the National Transport Authority with responsibility for designing and managing major cycling projects, in consultation with local authority Cycling Officers.

The Labour Party: Kevin Humphreys also said local authorities should appoint dedicated Cycling Officers to promote cycling.

He said that Councils should insist that planning and improving new and existing cycling infrastructure take priority over other road infrastructure. 

He added that local authorities should lead on implementing cycling infrastructure but that major projects across administrative boundaries should be in consultation with the NTA. 

The Green Party: Patrick Costello believes that local authorities are best-placed to lead public consultation on major cycling projects, said Costello. 

However, often there is “confusion”, he said, regarding roles and responsibilities of different bodies which contributes to transport issues in urban areas. 

“The important part is that infrastructure is built,” said Costello, adding that responsibility for cycling infrastructure should form part of a regional strategy and that there should be clarity of responsibility and proper public consultation at early stages of design. 

The Social Democrats: The party said it is in favour of strengthening local authorities and that major cycling projects should be the remit of Local Government. 

Said Cian O’Callaghan: “We’d ensure that a Cycling Plan is included as part of each local authority’s Development Plan,” adding that the Social Democrats would ensure that cycling is central to each Local Area Plan, Strategic Development Zone and Master Development Plan for individual sites. 

Aontú: Mairéad Toibín said the NTA should be responsible for providing and upgrading cycle lanes and that local authorities are better-placed to understand commuting distances on cycle tracks and “should coordinate with neighbouring local authorities to optimise conditions along these routes,” she said. 

What additional measures will you take to improve cyclist safety on Irish roads

On cyclist safety, Fine Gael listed a number of policies:

  • Provide help to local authorities to convert lightly-trafficked roads to designated Priority Cycle Routes. This includes introducing safety features, limiting access to vehicular traffic, improved surfaces/sight lines.
  • Update Guidance on Street, Road and Cycleway design in order to take account of international best practice. 

Fianna Fáil: Marc MacSharry said his party will introduce new legislation for Dublin Bus CCTV capable of detecting vehicles that illegally drive in or park in cycle lanes.

This, MacSharry said, will help with enforcement, adding that Fianna Fáil will initiate a full review of Speed Limits across Ireland.

Over at Labour HQ: Kevin Humphreys said that physical segregation of cycle lanes is key to improving cyclist safety.  

“We’ll call for continuous and segregated cycle lanes through urban centres, safe counter-flow cycle lanes, secure cycle stands in towns and at schools and safe routes for schoolchildren cycling to school,” he said. 

Solidarity-People Before Profit: The party said it favours increased provision of segregated lanes in accident black-spots. 

The Green Party: Patrick Costello has “long-campaigned” for safe routes to schools, he said. Recently, Costello has worked on School Streets projects and Quietways in Dublin. 

He said these are “two quick and simple ways to improve safety for people who want to walk and cycle.”

Regarding cyclist safety, Costello said enforcement is a key issue, including failure to tackle motorists parking in cycle lanes. 

The Social Democrats: Cian O’Callaghan said his party would improve cyclist safety by:

  • Strongly advocating for new laws promoting safe passing distances. These, O’Callaghan said, are crucial for rural areas.
  • Expand 30 km/h speed zones
  • Introduce penalties for utility-construction firms and local authorities who fail to properly and promptly reinstate cycle tracks and road surface. 
  • Extend RSA function by establishing a referral service to tackle local authorities who fail to comply. 

Aontú: Mairéad Tóibín said a major safety issues for cyclists is not having cycle lanes raised or distinct from the road and that surface condition is a serious consideration regarding cyclist safety.

Tóibín is in favour of RSA campaigns highlighting cyclist safety and said, equally, cyclists should be aware of their own vulnerability at higher speeds.

What measures will you take to tackle and reduce bicycle theft in Ireland

A 2014 survey of 1,500 cyclists by Dublin Cycling Campaign found 17% of bicycle-theft victims didn’t replace their bicycles. A further 26% reduced their cycling after their bicycles were stolen. 

Fine Gael: On bicycle thefts and enforcement, the party pointed to additional Gardaí appointed since 2014, saying that it will allocate funding for up to 700 new Gardaí per year over the next 5 years.

Increased Gardaí numbers, the party spokesperson said, allows redeployment of Gardaí from administrative duties to policing duties. 

“This increase in Garda and Civilian Staff numbers means a significant increase in operational policing hours nationwide,” the spokesperson said. 

Fianna Fáil: The party said it will create a National Register for bicycles. Under this scheme, bike owners could register their bicycle with An Garda Síochána and fit it with a unique barcode. 

“This has been shown to reduce harm in other jurisdictions,” said MacSharry.  

Solidarity-People Before Profit: A spokesperson said that a lack of secure bicycle parking areas/lock-up facilities in Dublin which it said means cyclists are forced to park in areas vulnerable to theft.

The Green Party: Patrick Costello said secure bicycle parking facilities is the “first step” to preventing bicycle theft, Costello said, adding Drury St. Carpark in Dublin is a good model to follow. 

He said that new apartments should be required to provide proper bicycle parking and argues in favour of amending Planning Laws and providing funding to build secure facilities. 

Costello also said providing information on theft-prevention to cyclists can help reduce risk and said Garda Stations should work with cycling groups to spread this information as part of a campaign. 

“Surveys show that many bicycles are stolen from homes and gardens where people didn’t have them locked,” said Costello, adding that Gardaí have said reuniting owners with their stolen bicycle is difficult.

He said cyclists should record serial numbers/details of their bicycle, lock it and use a high-quality bicycle lock. 

The Social Democrats: The party said it will ring-fence funding for Gardaí enforcement for cycling-related issues. 

Aontú: The party said tracking devices are good theft-prevention measure for cyclists. 

Meanwhile, TheJournal.ie also asked The Irish Freedom Party, The National Party and Renua its policy on cycling in Ireland. 

Neither The Irish Freedom Party nor The National Party responded.

Renua Party Chairman Séamus Ó’Riain, however, told TheJournal.ie that cycling in Ireland is “not top of our priorities” in light of recent violence in Co Louth and Co Cork. 

“A young man was chopped up and put into plastic bags in Drogheda,” Ó’Riain said. “Another stabbed to death in Cork.”

“You’ll have to forgive us but worrying about how the average metro sexual cycles to work at Google is not top of our list of priorities.”

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