Dublin receives lion’s share of State’s €300m cycling and walking funding

Vital we do not allow return to traffic gridlock, Minister for Transport says

Nearly €30 million will be used to replace and upgrade “first generation cycle and walking facilities”. Photograph: Getty Images

Nearly €30 million will be used to replace and upgrade “first generation cycle and walking facilities”. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Local authorities will be empowered to undertake “experimental” cycle schemes without seeking planning permission under changes to traffic legislation to be brought before the Dáil within weeks, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

The amendments to the Road Traffic and Roads Bill follow a High Court ruling last year which stopped Dublin City Council from trialling a cycle route on Strand Road in Sandymount. The court ruled the council needed planning permission for the path. The council is appealing the ruling.

Mr Ryan on Monday announced the allocation of almost €300 million in National Transport Authority (NTA) funding for cycling and walking projects, nearly half of which has been designated for the greater Dublin area.

However, the Strand Road scheme, which had previously been earmarked for funding, has been omitted from the NTA programme.

Mr Ryan said he was “absolutely not” giving up on the development of the development of the Strand Road path.

“Strand Road is in the courts and will take slightly longer, but the absence of funding of that should not be a signal that we have given up on the idea of creating this spectacular route around Dublin bay,” he said.

“We ran into difficulty on Strand Road. We need to look at and reform our laws to make sure those difficulties don’t stop us doing what we need to do.”

The amendment to the roads legislation would mean council chief executives could propose cycling schemes to which councillors would give a “yea or nay”, he said. There would be public consultation, but no requirement to apply to An Bord Pleanála.

‘Experimental’ schemes

A scheme “doesn’t have to be all bells and whistles, it can be experimental”, he said, and such initiatives were essential to stop roads becoming “choked with traffic” with the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

“I want us to now accelerate delivery of sustainable transport modes as we come out of the majority of Covid restrictions. It is vital that we do not allow a return to gridlock.”

Local authorities will receive funding for some 1,200 “active travel” projects in 2022, more than double the number funded last year when just under 500 projects were given the green light by the NTA.

Of the €289 million national fund, just under €134 million will go to the Dublin local authorities, with €105 million for new schemes. Just under €30 million will be used to replace and upgrade “first generation cycle and walking facilities” with many older cycle lanes, particularly in Dublin city, requiring significant surface repairs or widening and protection measures.

Major projects due to begin construction this year include the Clontarf-to-city-centre cycle route, a scheme Dublin City Council has been planning for nine years, which will run through Fairview to Connolly Station.

Funding has also been allocated for the long-awaited College Green Plaza project, although the council does not expect to begin construction of the pedestrian and cycle plaza until early 2024.

Funding covers the construction of “new active travel infrastructure, including studies, implementation of traffic management measures, bus priority facilities and multi-modal corridors to facilitate modal shift towards sustainability”, according to the NTA.

Regional

New projects in regional cities will share €92 million, including initiatives at MacCurtain Street in Cork, O’Connell Street in Limerick, the Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway, as well as the connection of the Waterford greenway from Bilberry into the city centre.

Rural local authorities will share €43 million with projects including the Hanover pedestrian and cycle scheme in Carlow and the N63 pedestrian and cycle scheme in Longford.

Schemes which “take road space back from cars” were essential in meeting climate change targets, Mr Ryan said. “We are starting to see the fruits of the investment we have made, but we are only warming up.”