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The failure of Shane Ross to address cyclist safety

I’ll be updating this post over the next few days. I just wanted to put up copies of emails I’ve sent to the minister and my local TDs on the subject. I’ll note any responses here.

Update 1: First to reply was Fianna Fáil’s John Lahart who responded about 5 minutes after I sent the email. He was followed by Sinn Féin’s Sean Crowe (who I have to call back). A few days later I got a response from Katherine Zappone’s assistant. Neither Colm Brophy or Paul Murphy have replied

Update 2: John Lahart put together some PQs which Shane Ross actually replied to:

(commentary for these is in the post http://jamesgallagher.ie/commentary-on-shane-ross-cycling-policy-parliamentary-questions-response-on-october-11th-2016/)

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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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]

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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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.

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.

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.

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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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]

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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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.

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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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]

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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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.

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.

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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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]

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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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.

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.

To Shane Ross:

Dear Minister,

I need to express my anger at the manner in which you have performed your role to date with respect to the safety of cyclists in Ireland. Unfortunately you’ve also made the decision to ignore all issues being raised to you on Twitter for quite sometime now (not just since the large scale expression of exacerbation with your performance in relation to the “Shell shock here in Rio” tweet). It is extremely frustrating that you believe ignoring the concerns and experiences of cyclists, as you have done, is appropriate as the minister for transport. A number of cyclists and cycling advocates have and will contact you with a number of issues and concerns. It appears many of these are beyond your competency or willingness to engage on so I’m going to raise what I believe to be the immediate priority issues:

  1. Confirm you will adhere to the National Cycle Policy Framework of 2009 and implement it in full.

  2. Clarify the comments from your department on the interpretation of S.I. No. 3322012

  3. Clarify the comments from your department on the proposal to legislate for a minimum passing distance of cyclists

We are now in a position where cyclist safety has regressed under your residence in office as you have made no progress on or demonstrated intent to progress the implementation of the NCPF. Further, the legislative change introduced by the S.I., which was welcomed given the dangerous implementation of a large number of cycle lanes in Ireland, has now lost the support of your department. The legal confusion introduced by department comments and your utter failure and unwillingness to clarify or remediate is dangerous for cyclists. A cyclist choosing to not use a cycle lane where its continued usage presents a danger to them may now face a member of AGS charging them with a road traffic offence. We have previously seen legal loopholes remediated with new legislation at great speed, yet from you, there is nothing. It is incomprehensible and indefensible: Inadequate and improperly constructed infrastructure results in injury and death. Yet your department sees fit to force cyclists to use cycle lanes under their interpretation of the applicable road traffic legislation. You have a responsibility to act on legislation. Finally, on these issues, your department has simply dismissed the value of legislating for safe overtaking of cyclists with wholly inadequate reasons. As ever, other countries seem to manage just fine but somehow Ireland is unique in it’s inability to do so.

Of course there remains a significant number of other issues but until your performance can be brought up to an acceptable level for a person holding office, they will have to wait. Given your comments and views expressed prior to taking office, a much higher standard of work was expected from you. I hope that your failure is temporary and you have a desire to do your job.

As someone who typically cycles 65km or so on a weekly basis, to work, to shop or to get around in general I am upset, angered and disappointed by the recent deaths of children and adults who simply chose to cycle and were killed doing so. So forgive my unwillingness to bend the knee to you or your staff and continue to beg and plead for progress on cyclist safety.

Sincerely,

James Gallagher

To local TDs:

Dear All,

I’m a regular commuting cyclist who lives in Rathfarnham and have increasing concerns about my safety as well as anger at the abysmal performance by the minister for transport in regard to cyclist safety. This is compounded by the silence from the minister on transport issues, specifically legislation relevant to cyclist safety.

As a society we face a number of huge problems, many complex in nature and resolution; from the ongoing financial distress across our nation to repeal of the 8th amendment, from a health service unable to cope with the range of physical and mental health requirements to violent crime and so on. Cyclist safety is but one of these. However, the cost of making progress is relatively low in terms of capital expenditure and largely uncomplicated. The returns are not insignificant for productivity, tourism and physical and mental health.

Under Shane Ross we have seen a regression in cyclist safety:

– He is ignoring the National Cycling Policy Framework document of 2009 (1)

– Officials in the department of transport have made claims that the repeal of mandatory cycle lane usage by SI 3322012 is not the actual outcome. Despite Leo Varadkar’s intent. Shane Ross has failed to address this. Legislation for many other matters has been rushed through, yet nothing from Ross on this. Inappropriately designed and constructed cycle lanes have fatal outcomes for cyclists – we’ve seen this recently.

– The meagre funding for pedestrian and cycling schemes has been cut by the NTA. Again, against a backdrop of road deaths. There is a body of research which I can refer you to that demonstrates net gains against investment in safe infrastructure.

I ask that you impress upon Shane Ross the need for him to address cyclist safety and to engage with the stakeholders identified in the NCPF. At this point he is simply blanking those of us who advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety or are simply concerned for friends, family members and colleagues.

I’ve also written to the minister and will update responses from him and yourselves on http://jamesgallagher.ie/the-failure-of-shane-ross-to-address-cyclist-safety/

Regards,

James

(1) http://www.smartertravel.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/0902%2002%20EnglishNS1274%20Dept.%20of%20Transport_National_Cycle_Policy_v4%5B1%5D.pdf

 

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