We need a Cycling Revolution

After 25 years of polite argument and positive suggestions it’s time for the cycling campaign to step up a gear.

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS I joined the Dublin Cycling Campaign to try to make our city a safer and better place. Cyclists were losing out at the time as car sales surged, councillors were bribed by developers, and city managers were still intent on knocking the old town down.

We wanted Dublin to be more like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where they’d shown that designing streets around vulnerable road users worked out better for everyone in the end.

Rather than just shouting from the sidelines, we got stuck in by talking to officials, and working with engineers on what could be done. It was a street by street fight and bit by bit we started to make progress. Short sections of cycle lane began to go in and while the quality of the design and the lack of continuity would make you cry, there was at least a sense that change was coming.

I kept repeating the same message: “Dublin is about to change. A safe cycling network is on its way.”

95,000 Dubliners cycle every day

Sure enough we got the Bike to Work scheme introduced and the Dublin Bikes were a runaway success. The Grand Canal and Howth greenways showed what could be done and similar paths were planned for the rest of our canals, rivers and coast. Cycling numbers increased and there are now 95,000 of us Dubliners out on a bike every day. Double those numbers again and suddenly our city will be something wonderful to behold.

I am afraid though that my confidence in that outcome is now somewhat shot. Despite all the positive developments of recent years, the truth is that we are back to square one.

Cycling infrastructure for Dublin is underfunded, lacks political support and is stuck in a never ending design process. We are due to host the big international “Velocity” conference in 2019, where we should be a showcase of how you can turn a city around.  Instead we are going to be a worst case example of what can go wrong.

Pulling of funding for Liffey cycle route

The pulling of funding for the Liffey cycle route last week is just the latest example of what is happening. It is meant to run along the North Quays from the Phoenix Park to Dublin Port, which is currently a nightmare to ride. It’s been on the drawing board for the same length of time it took NASA to design, build and execute the whole Voyager space programme.

They sent a spacecraft around four planets and out into the universe while we seem unable to achieve the rather more simple task of running a cycle lane five miles along a gently flowing river.

It is even worse when it comes to the building of the south side coastal cycle route. That project has been ten years in planning and we are no nearer ready to go. All sorts of excuses are being offered but if we really wanted it we would designate it as a critical infrastructure project and get it built in the next five years. This is not rocket science. It’s a three or four metre wide path that everyone agrees would be a real boon for our city.

It is worse again when you look at what has happened with the building of the Luas Cross City project. The Cycling Campaign pleaded for the engineers to take cyclists into account and use the introduction of the tracks to allow all sorts of new safe cycling movements in the city centre.

They were ignored and we are only starting to see how bad the outcome will be for anyone on two wheels. It is not just that your tyre can get caught in the tracks but also that you are being forced into narrow bus lanes at critical junctions around College Green and Stephen’s Green.

Nothing is happening

I could go on. We aren’t developing safe routes to school, despite all the talk about combating childhood obesity. A simple proposal for a quiet cycling route connecting schools in the south side suburbs was immediately shot down. Nothing is happening with the myriad of the cheap design fixes we have been pointing out for years.

Meanwhile car sales are on rise once again. The M50 is gridlocking and traffic jams are back to their Celtic Tiger best. The biggest threat to the future success of our city is that it will be increasingly hard to get around. Getting people cycling is one of the few immediate solutions we have but no one in office seems to care.

Paschal Donohoe says everything is fine, while Shane Ross doesn’t seem to realise he’s Minister for Transport. Our Taoiseach is into high end triathlon cycling but I’ve never heard a single idea from him about making the city a better place for the everyday cycling commuters.

After 25 years of polite argument and positive suggestions it’s time for the cycling campaign to step up a gear. We are fed up and shouldn’t take it anymore. It’s long past time for a cycling revolution.  

EPA report shows ongoing decline of pristine water in Ireland

The Water Quality report published by the EPA today confirms the ongoing decline of pristine water quality areas, which is one of the great environmental failings of our time.  The number of river locations with pure clean water has fallen from 500 sites in the late 1980s to only 21 locations today.

To turn these figures around we need a new national land use plan.  We have to move away from the current intensive farming model and adopt 'High Nature Value' agriculture instead. This has to benefit the farmer as well as the environment.  In the West and Southwest of the country we will have to pay for protecting biodiversity, storing carbon and managing floodwaters.  In the rich grasslands to the south and east we need more precision grass, nutrient and water management, to reduce the use of fertilizers and cut out the pollution at source.

We must also stop the inappropriate spread of manures from farming and the runoff of sewage from leaking septic tanks and faulty sewage systems. We need to match such an approach with an end to the destruction of our bogs and the clear felling of forestry, both of which are silting of our rivers and lakes.

It is not impossible to turn this around but we will have to look to ourselves for best case example. The Danes, Dutch and Germans have ruined their waters by developing an unsustainable agricultural model. For once we have the chance of showing them what to do. We can start by setting the restoration of pristine clean rivers and lakes as a national goal. The Green movement needs every farmer, forester and land owner on board. We have 70,000 km of rivers to look after, we want them to run clean and free of the pollution as was commonplace only a few decades ago.

Discussing Ibrahim Halawa on George Hook

Today I spoke with George Hook about the further delays in the trial of Ibrahim Halawa and explained why I have called upon the Taoiseach to emphasise again to President el-Sisi the deep concern and frustration shared by all Irish political parties for the wellbeing and rights of Ibrahim Halawa.

The verdict postponement is deeply frustrating and is characteristic of what has happened throughout this trial, where lack of due process has been one of the most damaging things to the health of this young man. Ibrahim has already spent over four years in prison waiting for this day, only to be let down once again. Given the nature of mass trials and the fact that Ibrahim will be tried alongside 493 other detainees, who may face grave penalties, we must hope that the Egyptian courts do their best to ensure that this individual's rights are also remembered. 

Ibrahim has already lost four of the most important years of his young life languishing in prison. It's essential that now, at 21 years old, he be given the chance to rebuild his life with the support of his family and friends in Ireland.

I was a member of an Oireachtas delegation who visited Ibrahim Halawa in prison earlier this year. The delegation also met with President el-Sisi who gave a firm commitment that he would exercise his powers to grant clemency once the Egyptian judicial process has run its course.

In July 2016, all parties both Houses of the Oireachtas agreed to unanimously pass identical Green Party motions calling for Ibrahim’s immediate release. 

Waste Reduction Bill passes second stage

 

 

 

'In a rare showing of political consensus in the Oireachtas, representatives from four parties as well as Independents have come together to support a new waste reduction Bill.'

The Green Party and Labour are co-sponsoring a Bill that among other things it proposes that non-biodegradable coffee cups be banned from 2020, and has also proposed a deposit and refund scheme for closed beverage containers. 

The Irish Times reports here

Waste Reduction Bill

Today in the Dáil I confronted the Taoiseach with the large amount of non-recyclable packaging and plastics consumers are faced with every day.

The sheer volume of this waste must be tackled ahead of the legislation on waste charges so the cost of waste disposal for Irish citizens can be reduced as much as possible. We are drowning in plastic.

I have written to all parties and groupings in the Dáil seeking co-sponsors of our Waste Reduction Bill 2017, in an attempt to have the Bill enacted before proposed changes to household waste charging systems take place later this year.

Dublin Greenway Campaign - Please Support!

Dublin Greenway Campaign

The Department of Transport's consultation on the future development of Greenways in Ireland closes on the 14th of July next.

There are six safe cycling and walking routes for Dublin in the map below which we think should be given real priority in any new strategy. They would be used every day for Dubliners getting to work, school and for a myriad of local trips as well as being an amazing recreational resource for locals and visitors alike.

All together they would cost some €150 million to be built and would transform our city for the better. They are all at an advanced design stage but do not have any budget to make them happen.

  • We want that money to be committed to in next years budget and in the Government's new Capital spending plan. Please show your support for the idea by making your own submission to greenways@dttas.ie. You can find more information on how to make your voice heard here