14th August 2020
Submission re Corporate Plan 2020 – 2024
It was such bliss during the lockdown to be able to cycle everywhere with fewer cars on the road and it would be fabulous to have safe cycle paths to build on the enthusiasm and momentum for cycling that developed in my family during that time. (Parent)
On behalf of Sligo Cycling Campaign, I am forwarding our proposals re the changes that need to be incorporated into the Infrastructure section of the forthcoming Corporate Plan. In our view, the new plan needs to have far more robust objectives in relation to active travel than the current plan.
Context: The operating context in which the 2020 Plan is being prepared is vastly different in several respects from that of 2015.
Climate. In December 2015, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act was signed into law by the President. (The Supreme Court has recently ruled that its targets are not sufficiently specific) In 2015 also, Ireland adopted the UN Global Goals which commit us to achieving a more sustainable lifestyle across 17 different areas by 2030. In November 2016 Ireland formally ratified the Paris Agreement which commits us to a binding reduction of CO2 emissions.
In 2019, the then Government published its Climate Action Plan. 15 of the 182 Actions outlined in the Plan come under the heading of “Empowering Modal Shift and Sharing Economy in Transport”. The Plan did not become law before the General Election, but the new Programme for Government has stronger emissions reduction targets to be reached at an earlier date
Congestion: The impact of traffic congestion has also come to the forefront. At the end of 2019, as part of its public consultation on Sustainable Mobility. the Department of Transport published a range of background papers. The paper on Congestion states: “Traffic congestion is a major issue in Ireland’s cities and other urban areas and creates a range of economic, environmental and social costs. …. Associated costs of congestion include lost time, increased vehicle operating costs, emissions and other environmental impacts such as air quality and pollution.”
Health: Health Bodies working in the areas of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes have become vocal in advocating for walking and cycling to be enabled as part of everyone’s day to day activity rather than to be planned for and timetabled as an “extra” activity. Most recently during the period of restricted movement. The Irish Heart Foundation, The Irish Cancer Society and the Association for Health Promotion Ireland joined walking and cycling representatives to call for Safer Streets. These bodies also wrote to the parties negotiating the Programme for Government to say that measures to support Active Travel must form part of the programme
Business: At the end of May this year, Chambers Ireland wrote an open letter calling on the next government to establish a National Taskforce for town centres. According to the Chamber, “The overarching objective of this Taskforce must be to enhance liveability, increase housing supply and support sustainable, active transport.”
Government: In addition to the above changes since 2015, the commitment in the Programme for Government to an annual spend of €360 million euro on walking and cycling plus greatly increased emissions targets mean that it is imperative that Sligo County Council’s new infrastructure targets for active travel represent a sea-change from its current targets
Active Travel Objectives of the 2015 - 2019 Corporate Plan:
Infrastructure is covered on pages 24 and 25 of the 2015 to 2019 Corporate Plan under the heading, Directorate of Environment Infrastructure and Fire Services.
The first things one notices on reading this section is the contrast between the language used in relation to road projects and that used in relation to walking and cycling. The road schemes use language such as “progress to construction.”, “develop and construct...”, “secure funding” “proceed to construct..” and “progress improvement schemes…”. Walking and cycling objectives on the other hand are expressed as “To continue to encourage, facilitate and develop the use of more sustainable modes of transport….” and Continue to liaise with the DTTAS and NTA to develop and construct Sligo’s Smarter Travel Programme including the construction of improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists”
Unlike the specific road schemes, the 2015 plan had no specific targets for any specific walking or cycling scheme. It can of course be argued that local authorities depend almost entirely on central government for funding and that they build what is funded. It is certainly true that for the period of the current plan, funding for walking and cycling was scarce and only began to increase in 2019.
However it is the view of Sligo Cycling Campaign that a visionary and ambitious plan needs to be in place before funding can be sought and it is crucial that this happens now so that Sligo can avail of the active travel funding which has been promised over the period of the new plan.
Some measures will be expensive. Others are “easy wins” from the cost point of view but may require a willingness to commit to the hierarchy of road users, i.e. prioritising pedestrians, and cyclists. These easy win items include provision of bike parking in a car-parking space, dished kerbs, and maintaining cycle lanes.
Survey: Sligo Cycling Campaign recently carried out an online survey of people’s experience of cycling in Sligo. We are still in the process of collating the results but the main point that came across is that people would cycle more if there were more segregated cycle lanes. 54 people went to the trouble of answering question 7 of the survey which asked for specific examples of which roads needed improvements. Every single road got a mention, some several times. People who cycle are not happy with sections of the N 15, the N 16, the N 17, the N4 mid-block route, the Lough Gill Loop, Strandhill to Sligo, Sligo to Rosses Point, Calry to Sligo Pearse Road, the town centre. They are not happy with potholes, drains, manhole covers and debris in cycle lanes.
Learn from others: Sligo County Council’s 2012 Active Travel Towns funding application envisaged a modal share increase to 16% as a result of the spend. This clearly has not happened and only an overarching ambitious plan will get us there. On Wednesday 12th August, Robert Burns, DOS for Infrastructure for DLR Council tweeted a photo of a section of the new coastal cycleway. He complimented his engineer, Conor Geraghty lead designer and the accompanying photos showed the engineer cycling on the route with his children. This is the level of ambition we need from engineers in Sligo. (We acknowledge of course that a coastal route is easier than one with housing on both sides but the point stands).
Easy Wins: To illustrate how a small intervention can make a difference here is an example from my own area.
It is a short walk from Cairns Road to the GP Practice at The Sligo Clinic, the shop at Canning’s Spar and The Sligo Park Hotel. However, coming from Cairns Road, the junction at Rathanna has no dished kerb, in fact the kerbs are quite high so that short walk is not possible for someone with mobility issues. Neither does the bus-stop on Cairns Road have a dished kerb so a person pushing a buggy or a person with a disability faces an obstacle once they alight from the bus. This is just one example of a situation which is replicated all over Sligo.
Proposals: Sligo Cycling Campaign proposes that the infrastructure section of the new corporate plan should have as an objective that it will work towards achieving the demands made in Sligo Cycling Campaign’s submission of June 9th this year i.e.
Continue allocating space to pedestrians by using filtering, and on-street parking restrictions
Alter light timings to favour pedestrians
Provide connected networked cycle routes
Improve road markings where cycle lanes end to facilitate merging back into traffic
Change the “No Through Road” sign at Kennedy Parade to say “except bicycles”
Look at the feasibility of contra-flow cycle lanes
Provide more bike-parking in Sligo Town Centre
Provide Park and Ride stations at Carraroe and Finisklin
Introduce default 30 km/h speed limits
Provide safe walking and cycling routes to all schools
Look for funding to provide a protected cycle route from Strandhill to Rosses Point
Partnership: We also request that the new Corporate Plan contain a commitment to establish a genuine partnership with community groups such as ourselves and to consult with us not only via the PPN but also via a Cycle Forum and the Road Safety Committee. We will be sending a full report of the results of our survey to Councillors, the PPN, Environment and Infrastructure SPC and the Infrastructure Directorate and we look forward to engagement re the concerns by our members and the wider group of respondents to our Survey.
Signed on behalf of Sligo Cycling Campaign by the following –
Joan Swift: Chairperson
Gemma Woods: Secretary/PRO
Catherine Molony: Treasurer
and Edel Moran, Laura McHugh, Paul Conneally