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Commentary on Shane Ross’ Cycling Policy Parliamentary Questions response on October 11th 2016

This is a placeholder while I write up my comments

Questions 577 to 580 were posed by John Lahart (FF)

Question 577. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the urgent need to address cycle safety here; his plans to bring forward legislation relevant to cyclist safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29371/16]

Response from Shane Ross (broken out by me)

My current priority in road safety legislation is the Road Traffic Bill 2016 which is focussed on measures to improve safety for all road users including cyclists. The Bill provides for roadside testing for drugs and an offence of driving with the presence of specified drugs in the blood, a special speed limit of 20 km/h, and measures to give effect to an agreement between Ireland and the UK on mutual recognition of driving disqualifications.
I have no plans at present to bring forward specific road traffic legislation regarding cycling safety. In my view, safety for cyclists is best addressed by way of educational and publicity campaigns, such as those undertaken by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). The RSA promote awareness of the Rules of the Road and safe practice on our roads for all road users including the awareness of cyclists and other vulnerable road users among motorists and drivers of heavy commercial vehicles, in conjunction with promoting safe cycling practice by promoting awareness among cyclists of the need for visibility on our roads.

“In my view” is problematic because Shane Ross has absolutely no background in road safety, urban planning or transport planning so his his views are without any qualification. Educational and publicity campaigns are no substitute for clear and unambiguous legislation and proper infrastructure. This is clearly set out in the National Cycling Policy Framework document, the National Cycle Manual (to which Ross later refers) section on Sustainable Safety and evidenced in countries like The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark who have achieved levels of sustainable travel by bicycle that are far ahead of Ireland.

The lack of a plan to bring forward legislation specific to cycling safety is highly problematic because it indicates a failure to understand two challenges to cyclists presently:

  1. The legislative confusion on mandatory cycle lane usage which is discussed at http://irishcycle.com/2016/07/12/mandatory-cycle-track-law-not-revoked-in-2012-says-department/ . There is also the issue that the Department of Transport are refusing to release their (alleged) supporting evidence for the position that mandatory cycle lane usage was not removed by S.I. 332/2012
  2. Unsafe passing by motorists. This cannot have escaped his attention as Phil Skelton has put in huge work on his “Stayin’ Alive at 1.5” campaign to have a 1.5m mandatory passing distance legislated for.

Never mind that additional legislation is required!

The current Road Safety Strategy, running from 2013 to 2020, contains measures to promote the use of personal protection equipment and high visibility clothing, which is heavily funded by the RSA, and developing a standardised road safety cycling proficiency training programme for schools.

This is just more of the same victim blaming bolloxology that cyclists and pedestrians have become used to. Let’s bear in mind that the RSA note in theirProvisional Review of Fatalities 31 December 2015 that for pedal cyclists “All fatalities occurred in hours of daylight. Cyclist fatalities were most likely to occur during the day and evening. There were three fatalities between 11am and 12pm, and four fatalities between 1pm and 7pm.”. Visibility can be an issue and there is scope for a discussion on the role of hi-vis but it cannot continue to dominate the strategy for making the roads safer for vulnerable road users as it has done.

My Department is funding the development and roll-out of “Cycle Right”, a new national cycling training standard which I expect will roll out nationally in 2017. Funding of approximately €37m has been allocated by the National Transport Authority for investment in cycling/walking projects, QBCs, safety integration and traffic management projects in 2016 covering the Greater Dublin Area and Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

I’ll have to come back to this to find the breakdown on the figures and the impact of NTA vanity projects on actual roll out.

Question 578. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the national cycling policy framework document 2009 and if he is following the recommendations set in the document; if he recognises the need to engage with the stakeholders as identified in the national cycling policy framework document; if not, the reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29372/16]

Response from Shane Ross:

The National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF) was launched in 2009 and sets out a vision for cycling in Ireland to 2020.

Wide consultation with stakeholders and members of the public was part of the process of developing the NCPF. As it currently stands the scope of the NCPF is broad and ambitious and while significant progress has been made on a numbers of actions, we will need a further concerted effort to try to deliver on the overall vision by 2020.

My Department intends undertaking a review of this policy document in the near future and in doing so will again consult with all the relevant stakeholders.

The NCPF sets out a commitment top engage with stakeholders and names the groups. Ask any of the cycling campaigns named in that document about the engagement from Shane Ross since he came to office and they will all tell you it has been non-existent. His response to #577 shows that he understands nothing of the document. Cyclists continue to be killed and injured on the road as this policy goes unheeded and under Ross it actually goes backwards. “Further concerted effort” rings hollow when Ross won’t even respond to a single question posed by cycling advocates. When his department won’t even release the justification for their position on mandatory cycle lane usage!

Question 579. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that inappropriately designed and constructed cycle lanes can result in fatal outcomes for users; his plans to rectify this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29373/16]

Response from Shane Ross (again, broken out by me to comment on specific portions)

While I have overall responsibility, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, for policy and funding in relation to roads and traffic, the design and construction of cycling infrastructure in Ireland is carried out in accordance with the criteria set out in the National Cycle Manual as published by the National Transport Authority.

As with everything else the Minister pushes the issues off to someone else. The minister has been contacted specifically and repeatedly because the issues are ultimately his responsibility. The NTA have made a decision to sacrifice cyclist safety for the Luas project; responsibility for that cannot be handed off. Across the country we see the NTA fail to ensure that the National Cycle Manual is adhered to. See this article on the scheme affecting Bird Avenue in Dublin for how the manual is being adhered to. If the minister would actually engage with the cyclist stakeholders he would actually be aware of this.

Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within 10 working days.

I’ll follow up and see if there has been a response.

Question 580. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the amount of funding that has been cut by the National Transport Authority for the provision of pedestrian and cycle schemes; his plans to reverse these cuts; his views that more funding is needed for the protection of pedestrians and cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29374/16]

Shane Ross response:

The National Authority (NTA) is responsible for the development and implementation of public transport and sustainable transport infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA).

Under the Sustainable Transport Measures Grants (STMG) Programme, my Department provides funding to the NTA for the seven local authorities in the GDA for the implementation of sustainable transport projects such as cycling/walking infrastructure, Quality Bus Corridors, safety, integration and traffic management projects throughout the region. Funding of €23.2m has been allocated to this Programme in 2016. Of this total, I understand that NTA has allocated €14.7m to Dublin City Council to progress 37 different projects.

This is an incomplete answer as usual. Does the minister not understand that some of the most significant safety projects have been put on hold? I’ll break the numbers down when I can get access to how that funding splits out. Again though, there are significant issues with a number of works that have been carried out in Dublin which the NTA or the city council have not been held to account on.

I am advised by the NTA that with the technical resource requirements available to the Council, not all the desired projects can be progressed simultaneously. The NTA and Dublin City Council have therefore decided to prioritise the traffic works associated with completion of LUAS Cross City, which will also benefit cyclists and pedestrians, plus a slightly reduced number of other sustainable transport schemes and to pause a small number of other projects all of which are at the design stage only. Works will resume at the earliest possible date.

Again – fucking safety projects have been put on hold. The council and the NTA have collectively failed to properly manage their projects. Does that not get addressed at any point?

These projects aside, the minister has done absolutely nothing to progress cyclist safety. He has brought forward no intention to legislate despite the opportunity being put on a plate for him. He has made no commitment to the implementation of the NCPF and he has provided zero oversight for his department.

 

Posted by James Gallagher

39 year old nerdy sort who now lives in Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland.


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