2.2 Irish Cycling Policy
The Irish Government, the NTA and various State Agencies and bodies are committed to ensuring that the cycling mode is supported, enhanced and exploited, in order to achieve strategic objectives and reach national goals.
The two leading documents regarding cycle policy are from the Department of Transport:
- Smarter Travel, A Sustainable Transport Future
- National Cycle Policy Framework
These are supported by, informed by, or paralleled by other key policy documents, inter alia:
- NTA Transport Strategy for The Greater Dublin Area (2010)
- National Spatial Strategy
- Regional Planning Guidelines
- A Strategy for the Development of Irish Cycle Tourism
- RSA Road Safety Strategy
- Policy regarding Bicycles in Quality Bus Corridors
2.2.1 Smarter Travel, A Sustainable Transport Future
This is the transport policy for Ireland for the period 2009-2020.
The policy recognises the vital importance of continued investment in transport to ensure an efficient economy and continued social development, but it also sets out the necessary steps to ensure that people choose more sustainable transport modes such as walking, cycling and public transport.
In Smarter Travel, the Government reaffirms its vision for sustainability in transport and sets out five key goals:
- to reduce overall travel demand,
- to maximise the efficiency of the transport network,
- to reduce reliance on fossil fuels,
- to reduce transport emissions and
- to improve accessibility to transport.
To achieve these goals and to ensure that Ireland has sustainable travel and transport by 2020, the Government sets the following key targets:
- Future population and employment growth will predominantly take place in sustainable compact forms, which reduce the need to travel for employment and services
- 500,000 more people will take alternative means to commute to work to the extent that the total share of car commuting will drop from 65% to 45%
- Alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport will be supported and provided to the extent that these will rise to 55% of total commuter journeys to work
- The total kilometres travelled by the car fleet in 2020 will not increase significantly from current levels
- A reduction will be achieved on the 2005 figure for greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.
2.2.2 National Cycle Policy Framework
Ireland’s first National Cycle Policy Framework was launched in April 2009. It outlines 19 specific objectives, and details the 109 individual but integrated actions, aimed at ensuring that a cycling culture is developed in Ireland to the extent that, by 2020, 10% of all journeys will be by bike.
It proposes a comprehensive package of planning/infrastructure and communication/education measures, and emphasises the need for stakeholder participation and adequate funding of the required initiatives.
The NCPF requires that cycle-friendly planning principles be incorporated in all national, regional, local and sub-local plans.
2.2.3 NTA Transport Strategy for The Greater Dublin Area (2010)
Work is well underway on completing a new transport strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow) for the period up to 2030 (“2030 Vision”). The Strategy will be inextricably linked to sustainable land use planning and will be directed by the economic, social, cultural and environmental needs of the people of the Greater Dublin Area.
The NTA Transport Strategy for the GDA will include a regional policy paper on Cycling, as well as specific measures and objectives for the cycling mode.
2.2.4 National Spatial Strategy
The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is a coherent national planning framework for Ireland for the next 20 years. The NSS aims to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development across Ireland, supported by more effective planning.
It promotes sustainable development by encouraging physical compactness, and minimising urban sprawl. The resulting shorter travel distances should help to make public transport more efficient, while increasing the attractiveness of the cycling and walking modes.
Implementation of the NSS is a fundamental component of the 2007 National Development Plan.
2.2.5 Regional Planning Guidelines
The Regional Planning Guidelines (RPGs) aim to give regional effect to the National Spatial Strategy and to guide the development plans for each county. The RPGs inform the Development Plans in each Council area and have effect for six years.
Transportation is one of the issues to be addressed by the Guidelines in accordance with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development.
2.2.6 A Strategy for the Development of Irish Cycle Tourism
The “Strategy for the Development of Irish Cycle Tourism” was developed to determine:
- how best to renew the popularity of cycling in Ireland,
- how to encourage visitors to come to cycle in Ireland, and
- how to ensure that cycle tourism can generate visitor spend in rural areas.
This strategy forms a subset of the Fáilte Ireland Tourism Product Development Strategy within the NDP. It focuses on a number of areas within the destination with particularly high potential for holiday cycling, and describes various measures to make them attractive to both domestic and overseas visitors.
It also suggests the development of some longer more challenging routes and sketches out the framework for a National Cycle Network.
2.2.7 Road Safety Strategy, 2007-2012
The primary aim of this Strategy is to reduce collisions, deaths and injuries on Irish roads. In terms of fatalities this is an average of 21 per month (2007). The Road Safety Authority has identified a number of key behaviours to be changed by the actions set out in this Strategy:
- Inappropriate speeding
- Impaired driving through alcohol, drugs (prescription or non-prescription), or fatigue
- Not using seat belts and child safety restraints
- Unsafe behaviour towards / by vulnerable road users (pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, young children and older people).
The document includes a proposal to:
“Research, develop and publish a national cycling safety strategy incorporating best practice engineering, education and enforcement issues.”
2.2.8 Policy regarding Bicycles in Quality Bus Corridors
Principles Underpinning Development of the Quality Bus Network and Cycling
Under the Government’s Smarter Travel policy there is strong commitment to encourage alternatives to the car, particularly for urban commuting, with very ambitious targets set for modal shift.
The bus is seen as a key player in offering an alternative to the car and the Government commits to a new level of service for buses, including infrastructural improvements. In relation to bus corridors the new policy explicitly states:
“We will implement more radical bus priority and traffic management measures….This may involve making some urban streets car-free, creating tram-like priorities in others and making greater use of roads/hard shoulders by buses”
The same policy seeks to create a culture of cycling in Ireland aiming for significant increases in the levels of cycling in urban areas by 2020 to the extent that in cities such as Dublin, 25% of commutes in 2020 could be by bike. Flowing from this the Government has published a National Cycle Policy Framework to give effect to this ambition. It explicitly deals with networks for urban areas:
“….the design philosophy will be based on the “hierarchy of measures”…with the focus being on the reduction of vehicular speeds…We will ensure that designs are created with the principal aim of preserving cyclist momentum. We will also ensure that designs will provide for a safe passing distance of 1.5 metres between motorised vehicles and bicycles”
To give practical effect to the above approach in urban areas a combination of measures need to be taken not just new approaches in relation to design. One such measure is a reduction in general speed limits to 30km/h.
In summary, in seeking to deliver on the objective of ensuring greater use of public transport, cycling and walking, the Government, particularly in the metropolitan environment, is seeking to pursue complementary strategies in relation to bus and cycling, namely the provision of high quality bus priority and cycling infrastructure.
The purpose of this document is to offer some interim guidance to local authorities and executive agencies/offices tasked with implementing bus priority measures in urban areas so that full cognisance is given to the need to meet the Government’s ambition for cycle provision as well as bus priority in urban areas.
The aim is to create opportunities for the better movement of both bikes and buses in urban areas in accordance with the new Government policy framework for Smarter Travel.
Pending the development of regional or local transport plans and supporting policy guidance, the Department of Transport as funding authority for physical infrastructure for bus priority, requires the following principles to be adhered to:
- The Level of Service intended for each part of the Bus Network and the Bicycle Network need to be set down at the planning stage, as this will have significant bearing on the detailed design to follow for each mode.
- If the bus and cycle networks overlap on a particular corridor, the design of the bus and cycling spaces should be done in accordance with best practice
- Where the provision for cyclists along a section of bus priority space is of a low quality of service, an alternative cycle route in the vicinity of the space should be provided;
- Where no alternative cycle route is possible, and a low level of cycling is proposed (or retained) as part of any traffic scheme (Bus priority or any other), clearly stated reasons need to be submitted to the funding authority / agency as part of the application; and
- Where the only option is shared road space, the infrastructure should be designed and delivered as being for both modes (and other permitted vehicles) with primacy being given to the safety of cyclists.
Practical Steps to Support These Principles
The Department of Transport (or the relevant delegated funding agency) will require evidence of adherence to the above principles prior to approval of funding of a bus priority route or other road improvement or traffic scheme. In this respect the relevant Officer in the Local Authority should be consulted on options for freeing up road space and his/her report included in the funding proposal for the measure.
Where shared space is being provided the primacy of the safety of cyclists needs to be supported by speed management for bus services and other vehicles, safety training for drivers, and other measures. A prior commitment to such will be required from the bus operators as part of the funding of the scheme.