Rural cycling which connects towns and villages and enables locals and visitors to enjoy our beautiful countryside needs to be central to future planning and investment. While many people would like to cycle, we know that our roads are dangerous (The Irish Times April 2016). We segregated walking and cycling paths and other supports.
- Ireland needs to significantly invest in sustainable transport models.
- Sustainable Transport is ‘any form of transport that does not use or rely on fossil fuels. Instead it relies on renewable or regenerated energy having a low or a negative effect on the environment.’ (StopClimateChaos)
- Currently, we have severe urban sprawl with poorly planned car-dependent communities. Our rail network is sparse. Cycling is not safe. Pedestrians are only rarely considered. Air pollution is unacceptably high. We incentivise the most environmentally damaging forms of transport and leave people with very few options to reduce their carbon footprint. We need a better approach.
- Cycling for all model: ‘cycling for “all ages and abilities” where walking and cycling are attractive, enjoyable and safe for everybody from young children to retirees and everybody in-between.’ (See CyclingForAll)
- Segregated lanes: Following advice from cyclist and pedestrian groups, and good design principles, we need segregated paths to enable walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users, families with buggies, and others to feel safe and enjoy being outdoors (see Transport Infrastructure Ireland; CyclingForAll; Wheels for Wellbeing; Irish Cycle).
- Inclusive social towns and villages: already some towns in West Cork are trialling opening up streets to business, pedestrians, and cyclists as we recover from the pandemic, there are many opportunities now to creatively think about how we can use main streets to encourage local businesses and attract new visitors. Local authorities need to be provided with more funding to help implement these ideas (Holly Cairns Parliamentary Questions).
- Capacities: we need flexible approaches that cater for people’s needs, such as allowing children or people with disabilities cycling on footpaths if they need to for safety (Wheels for Wellbeing).
- Connecting towns and villages: There are incredible social, environmental, and tourism benefits from creating a network of segregated cycling and pedestrian paths that would connect rural areas (Central MeetBike). We have already seen the success of greenways in Waterford and Mayo, we need to replicate this nationwide (The Irish Times March 2018). Using the former Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway route, we could connect Baltimore and Skibbereen, or Inishannon and Bandon to start with.
- Holistic approach: we need to clear strategy to enable an interconnectivity across West Cork and rural Ireland. Piecemeal and limited projects are not good enough anymore, we can start off with obvious projects, such as connecting Riverstick and Belgooly or Dunmanway and Drimoleague, but they need to be part of a larger vision.
- Linking with other systems: we are a truly interconnected system where you can bring our bike on a bus or train. With good cycling infrastructure and dependable public transport, thousands of West Cork commuters could save time and money by moving from their cars.
- Integrated planning: transport systems and regional plans need to work together to facilitate sustainable transport, with government and local authorities prioritising walking and cycling (Cyclemanual;CyclingForAll).
- People need to be supported in buying and maintaining bikes and e-bikes (CyclingForAll). The cycle-to-work scheme has been successful, and it should be extended to all people regardless of their profession or capabilities. I have sought the extension of cycling schemes to carers, homemakers, and those on social welfare, disability allowance, or similar payments (Holly Cairns Parliamentary Questions 3 June 2020; 16 June 2020; 16 June 2020).
- A scheme similar to the electric car grants could be run that would enable more people to cycle which would improve health and reduce traffic, which would save money and increase quality of life (Holly Cairns Parliamentary Questions).
- Government supports need to be more flexible to allow the purchase of bikes adjusted to different capacities, and allow people to buy children’s seats and other accessories. The current systems are too restrictive (WheelsforWellbeing).
Young people and education
- Every child should have a safe route to school. We need to promote walking and cycling as the optimum modes of transport for children travelling to school. We must build on the good work of the Green Schools Travel Programme in relation to active travel.
- We need to provide safe walking and cycling paths around every school in the country, so that those children who choose to walk, scoot or cycle to school, can do so safely.
- We should support communities in developing cycle buses to help children and young people get to school on bikes (Irish Examiner Dec 2019). I was delighted to see the beginnings of such an initiative in Skibbereen before the Covid restrictions (Southern Star Feb 2020).
- There is a clear need for greater investment in education and training around cycling, and in educating drivers how to safely interact with cyclists.
- We also need to ensure that the current and future laws that protect all road users are enforced and adhered to.
- Our laws need to reflect the vulnerabilities or pedestrians and cyclists compared to cars and other vehicles
- There needs to be clear enforcement of the laws protecting cyclists and pedestrians (Holly Cairns Parliamentary Questions).