Government Cycle Policy Published

Posted by chdot on April 23, 2009


The new “National Cycle Policy Framework” has been published.

Our vision is that all cities, towns, villages and rural areas will be bicycle friendly. Cycling will be a normal way to get about, especially for short trips. Next to walking, cycling will be the most popular means of getting to school, both for primary and secondary school. Our universities and colleges will be bustling with bicycles. Business men and women will see the bicycle as the best way to travel for part or all of their daily commute. Shopping by bike will be as normal as it is in many of the Northern European cycling friendly countries. The bicycle will be the transport mode of choice for all ages. We will have a healthier and happier population with consequent benefits on the health service. We will all gain economically as cycling helps in easing congestion and providing us with a fitter and more alert work force.

A culture of cycling will have developed in Ireland to the extent that by 2020, 10% of all trips will be by bike.

Yes that’s right it’s “Ireland’s First National Cycle Policy Framework” (PDF) and most impressive it is too with lots of joined-up-thinking evident. Whoever wrote it clearly did their homework. The Bibliography contains a long list of publications from countries and cities across northern Europe (including the DfT, Cycling England and the Mayor of London’s office). Surprisingly there are no references to North America where there are significant pockets of ‘good practice’ in places like Portland.

It’s not merely aspirational or a wish list. Of course it remains to be seen how much will be achieved in the current economic climate which is (perhaps) affecting this (former) ‘Celtic Tiger’ even more than the UK. However, crucially, the Executive Summary contains the following statement-

Cost benefit analyses (CBA) attest to the fact that investments in cycling outweigh the costs to a far greater extent than investment in other modes.

The next sentence is “For example, Benefit / Cost ratios of 7.4 have been shown for cycling training programmes in the UK (SQW, May 2007).” (This was a report to Cycling England).

Not surprising the new policy document contains ambitious plans for cycle training “There needs to be a mandatory national cycling proficiency programme for all school children in Irish schools starting at primary level and continuing in a graduated manner through to secondary level. This programme should prioritise practical on-road skills. A similar approved national curriculum for adult cyclists could also be developed, based for example, on the UK “Bikeability” programme.”

Of course Ireland is a long way behind the UK when it comes to cycling policies and provisions – just as the UK is mostly years behind much of Europe.

In Scotland the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) process is underway. (You may have had your say last year). The Consultative Draft Action Plan was due to be published in February 2009 with the Final Cycling Action Plan for Scotland intended to be published in May 2009. The first date has slipped, so presumably has the second.

Clearly it will be an important document, there was a lot of genuine consultation with helpful input from a lot of individuals and organisations. Whether it becomes (or even influences) Scottish Government policies only time will tell.

Cycling issues in the Scottish Government are dealt with under Transport but politicians still generally see cycling as a minor/minority issue often regarded as ‘leisure’ or perhaps ‘tourism’. In spite of the SNP Government’s intentions to see better cross-departmental working it seems that those concerned with (for instance) education and health are happy that cycling is in Transport and Transport is more interested in major infrastructure projects which tend to marginalise cycling (in both policy and financial terms).

The real responsibility for action is largely devolved to local authorities. Cycling Scotland publishes a review every three years. Edinburgh did reasonable well in the 2008 National Assessment report.

2 Responses to “Government Cycle Policy Published”

  1. jacquiephelan said

    Please take heart in the fact that, though you might be a few steps behind Europe in cyclability, you are light years ahead of the United States of Automobiles.
    Sometimes just knowing you’ve beaten SOMEONE gives a body a boost.
    Lame, but true.
    I really wish half of what’s happening over there were happening here.

    • chdot said

      Of course what you say is true about the level of cycling being much lower in the US than many parts of the world. So there is more to do and some cities are clearly trying – often after years of pressure by cyclists – e.g. Transport Alternatives in New York.

      In Edinburgh there wouldn’t be nearly so many cyclists without the 31 years of work by Spokes. This has been a mixture of public activities – particularly the quarterly newsletter and the wonderful Spokes Cycle Maps – plus a lot of ‘ behind the scenes’ activities and lobbying.

      One significant factor is the number of letters (and now e-mails) sent by Spokes members to the Council and local and national politicians.

      Of course there is no universality that mainland Europe is ‘better’. It just seems that in places where cycle use is high (notably Copenhagen) the local authority has led in the provision of infrastructure, and things like cycle training, rather than wait for campaigners to suggest it.

      What’s interesting about the new Irish cycle policy is that they seem to have had a good look at European (including UK) ‘best practice’ and are keen to copy it.

      In the midst of global recession it will be interesting to see which countries and cities realise that investing in walking and cycling is sensible for economic, climate change, health and social reasons…

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