Dublin cycling officer loses job after funding cut

 

IRELAND’S ONLY local authority cycling officer is to lose his job before Christmas, after Dublin City Council was instructed by the Department of the Environment not to fund the position any further.

“I am due to leave next Thursday,” said the council’s cycling officer, Ciarán Fallon. A Facebook campaign has been started by outraged cycling campaigners in an effort to reverse the decision.

A spokesman for the department said it had “advised Dublin City Council that it would be more appropriate if the post was filled internally via redeployment or through the reorganisation/reallocation of work to meet requirements.”

Mr Fallon was appointed in January 2009, on a three-year contract, with funding provided – against official advice – by former environment minister John Gormley in response to representations from Councillor Andrew Montague (Labour) who is now Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Mr Montague said he had been in contact with Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and sympathetic Fine Gael TDs, including Eoghan Murphy (Dublin South East), and he was “hopeful that we might get this resolved”.

He said there were “more trips made every day in Dublin by bicycle than Luas” and it was “really important that we have a cycling officer” who could challenge the mindset of roads engineers. “When we’ve got someone of that ability, we can’t afford to lose him.”

Mr Fallon, who has been active in promoting the cause of cyclists, said: “The city needs a dedicated cycling officer. I don’t believe it necessarily needs to be me, but it does need someone forceful and effective who actually wants to make things better.”

He pointed out that the council is developing a plan to improve the city’s network of cycleways, funded by the National Transport Authority, and noted that the successful Dublinbikes scheme generates “in excess of €400,000” a year for the council.

Mr Fallon was involved in writing the 2011 Irish Cycling Design Manual, which set new standards, and is a member of the steering committee for the Irish Manual for Streets, a joint initiative by the Departments of Transport and the Environment.

Axing his post was “an appalling decision, at a time when we need to ‘up our game’ in light of the National Cycle Policy Framework of having 10 per cent of commuting journeys nationally done by bike by 2020”, said Dr Mike McKillen, chairman of the Cyclist.ie lobby group. “We should be overseeing the creating of cycling officers in each local authority to meet this target. All successful bike-friendly cities of Europe spend many millions more than Dublin in bike promotion and facilitation. Staff complement is a necessary part of this spend.”

Under the policy framework, the Department of Transport was to “require each local authority to assign an officer at an appropriate senior level as a ‘cycling officer’ [to] establish a cycle forum and be responsible for overseeing the formulation and delivery of . . . policy.”