Ireland’s local authorities will spend almost three times the amount of money on walking and cycling infrastructure than on urban transport this year, according to new figures obtained by The Irish Times.
However, overall infrastructure spending in 2021 will be reduced by tens of millions of euro as a consequence of Covid-19 delays.
Of a total of €294 million in funding allocated to the National Transport Authority (NTA) for 2021, just over €204 million will go on facilities for bikes and walkers, compared to just under €75 million for sustainable urban transport projects.
More than 800 individual schemes have been approved during 2021, although a series of reviews undertaken with local authorities and others in July has revised some spending allocations, bringing the total to €241 million.
The reduction in overall estimates, amounting to approximately €53 million, was largely due to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, some other projects have increased, and the NTA, aware of the rising cost of materials, has built in a €10 million fund to meet unanticipated hikes in construction contracts.
The relatively large expenditure on cycle infrastructure will be welcomed by campaigners and advocates across the country, notwithstanding setbacks to a number of Dublin based tracks in recent months.
Of little surprise given its location, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council will be the largest overall recipient of NTA funding, expecting to spend in the region of €29 million this year. That is well over the average €13.4 million allocated across 13 city authorities and other campus and hospital schemes.
Of another 19 county councils, Galway County Council expects to spend about €5.2 million this year, the highest allocation among the 19.
The 2021 figures come as the NTA publishes its Sustainable Transport Measures Grants (STMG) annual report on Tuesday, detailing total spending last year.
The STMG programme has provided funding to local authorities, public transport bodies and other agencies for various transport projects since 2010.
The report shows that with €107 million spent last year, expenditure is set to more than double in 2021, and record a six-fold increase since 2019.
Among last year's schemes, as the country struggled with the pandemic, were the Dundrum and Blackrock "enhanced access programmes", which introduced a series of one-way traffic systems and contra-flow cycle lanes.
It also included 70km of new or improved cycle lanes, 47km of new or upgraded footpaths and 10km of additional greenways. In total, more than 80 per cent of funding went to active travel initiatives such as walking and cycling programmes.
"In 2020 we engaged with seven new local authorities to provide more rural regions with sustainable transport options and we have continued this trend in 2021," said NTA chief executive Anne Graham.
“In the post-Covid world people are looking for different ways in which to travel and commute and we are listening and responding.”