Sligo 2030 One Voice One Vision
Response by Sligo Cycling Campaign to the Consultation
Sligo Cycling Campaign is pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the consultation re the Draft Sligo 2030 One Voice One Vision. Enabling active mobility will be an essential part of ensuring that the “Green”, “Sustainable” “Smart” and “Climate Leadership” elements of the Vision are enacted. We request that our feedback be taken on board and incorporated into the final version of the plan.
Background to Sligo 2030:
In the view of Sligo Cycling Campaign, The Policies underpinning the Vision do not serve the concept of active mobility sufficiently well:
The authors of Sligo 2030 state that in preparing the Draft Vision they have taken account of existing planning policies adopted by Sligo County Council. These include 1. the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES), 2. The Local Authority Sector Strategy for Delivering on the Climate Action Charter and Climate Action Plan, Delivering Effective Climate Action 2030, 3. The National 2019 Climate Action Plan and 4. the Government’s 2018 Project Ireland 2040, incorporating The National Development Plan (NDP) and The National Planning Framework (NFP).
Unfortunately, while several of these policies reference sustainability and even sustainable transport none of them give it the priority it requires.
For example, Delivering Effective Climate Action 2030 has excellent adaptation strategies but only brief references to mitigation which in the context of reducing the use of fossil fuels is key. This is not the fault of the Local Authorities; they were tasked by the Government with coming up with adaptation rather than mitigation plans and only the Dublin CARO dealt with mitigation. However, it does mean that when it comes to reducing car use the strategy is of limited use.
It is of particular concern to us that the draft Vision references (pages 5 & 6) the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with particular reference to Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. But at no point in the Vision is there any analysis of what being guided by the Sustainable Development goals would mean in terms of actions taken or not taken. It is not clear if the Council Executive, staff or elected members have received training in the Goals.
Some existing policies cited are already being superseded:
A further issue is that even as the Vision was being prepared two of the key National policy documents referenced were in the process of being substantially revised. These are the 2019 Climate Action Plan and the National Development Plan. A new Climate Bill is currently in its final stages of legislative scrutiny and is expected to become Law by the summer recess. It contains much higher targets for emissions reductions and Local Authority planning will need to take account of this.
Project Ireland 2040: The National Development Plan
Following agreement on the new Programme for Government in July 2020 it became necessary to revise The National Development Plan and in November 2020, Michael McGrath, Minister at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) announced a review. https://www.gov.ie/en/consultation/d3f3a-review-to-renew-the-public-consultation-of-the-review-of-the-national-development-plan/
The Minister said that the review was necessary to take account of the provisions in the Programme for Government and also of new Climate Action requirements. Public consultation on Review to Renew closed in February of this year and the results of the review haven’t yet been published. It follows therefore that the objectives of Sligo 2030 will need to be revised to take account of new legislative requirements.
Content of Sligo 2030 One Voice One Vision - The 2030 Vision is encapsulated in 6 high-level goals:
Goal 1 – Sligo will be a key Regional Growth Centre that drives economic activity in the region.
Goal 2 – Sligo will become a leader in the utilisation of smart technology through partnership with educational and commercial third parties.
Goal 3 – Sligo will be a proactive county in the fight for climate action in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal 4 – Sligo will be an inclusive, healthy, and equitable society that supports vibrant communities.
Goal 5 – Sligo will celebrate its rich cultural heritage and realise its tourism potential.
Goal 6 – A collaborative and innovative Sligo.
Sligo Cycling Campaign’s view of the High-Level Goals
Looked at individually all of these Goals appear laudable but in our view the Vision does not explain how Goal 1 Economic Growth and Goal 5 Realise Tourism potential can be reconciled with Goal 3, Climate Action in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. We propose that for the goals to be compatible, Goal 1 needs to be revised to say “Sligo will be a key Regional Growth Centre that drives sustainable economic activity”.
We believe that goal 3 as expressed is just aspirational, it needs to incorporate a determined commitment towards prioritising sustainable travel measures and policies, and other sustainable goals such as climate change Following the Government's approval of the Climate Bill, which is imminent and will put Ireland on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, Sligo County Council will be obligated to prioritise this. There are 13 Key questions relating to the 6 High Level Goals. We propose to focus on Questions 6, 12, 7, 8, 10, 4,
Key Question 6: Generally, Sligo residents enjoy relatively low commuting times, yet the majority of those travelling to work and education use a car. What can be done to reduce car use and encourage more sustainable and green methods of transport?
Travel to work and education is referenced here as this is what the Census asks about, so statistics are available. However, it is clear from the CSO National Travel Surveys that the car is also the preferred mode for other trips. These percentages are national rather than Sligo related but there is no reason to assume they don't apply to Sligo.
The CSO graphic shows that a high percentage of trips are short. So, it would be more useful if question 6 related to car use in general for short trips. While acknowledging that many people need to use a car even for short journeys, it is equally true that many of them could be easily done by walking, bike or ebike. A sea-change in attitude and action is required before people will be able or willing to choose more sustainable and green methods of transport.
We are aware that Sligo 2030 is a Vision document, a statement of principles rather than a detailed set of actions. However, unless the Vision displays an awareness of what is necessary to bring about modal shift it won’t happen.
The above graphic from the EPA shows that after Agriculture, Transport at 20.4% is the next highest source of GhG emissions. Since 95% of transport emissions are accounted for by road transport it is not possible to claim to have goals related to climate leadership and sustainability without a serious commitment to reduce car use. It is true that newer cars are more energy efficient and that electric cars are part of the solution but any gains are negated by the increase in the number of cars. Besides more efficient cars nothing to alleviate congestion.
To date policies and funding have focussed on making driving easier. There is of course an argument for this. Being a Regional Centre, large numbers of commuters travel into Sligo on a daily basis and many of them have no option but to drive. Hence the emphasis on major projects such as the Western Distributor Road and extra lanes approaching the N4/N15/N16 junction.
However, time after time it has been demonstrated that if you plan for cars you will get cars that if you plan for cars, you will get cars. There is no point in espousing modal shift but planning for the status quo.
How to reduce car use?
Sligo County Council needs to provide the infrastructure to enable walking and cycling and we are appending a list of necessary work but before that happens –
The Council and this 2030 Vision document need to recognise the necessity of upending its current cars first policy and adopt this alternative model.
(Credit Dublin Cycling Campaign and @citieswelike)
The council needs to engage in a prolonged campaign to win hearts and minds. This could follow a Healthy Streets model, for example this one by Lucy Saunders. https://healthystreets.com/
Or the council could use a model such as the Dutch Behaviour Change Wheel, www.behaviourchangewheel.com which says
Behaviour change: can comprise
restriction (cost parking)
environmental restructuring (Junior bicycle mayor)
enablement eg cycling buddies
There are other models, but current engagement and consultation models are inadequate. In 2020 Sligo PPN made the following recommendation regarding Communication as part of its submission on the Draft Corporate Plan. It would be good if it became part of Sligo 2030. Communication; To embed effective, accessible internal and external communications to fully inform processes and decisions and to provide clear, user friendly information in a timely manner to allow for full community engagement . Ensuring that consultation methods used enable people to fully participate in the decisions which affect them and that their views are acknowledged and fully considered and that they receive responses in relation to their input’.
The Council should resolve to set up multi-disciplinary teams incorporating planning, infrastructure, communications etc. The 2030 Vision needs to state this. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown is often cited as a role model for other councils but equally the multi-disciplinary teams in Kildare Council could serve as a model. They have an Urban Realm Team comprising architects, engineers and planners and a Sustainable Mobility Team. At a webinar in April, Sharon O’Gara and Mairead Hunt described their work in Naas and Newbridge and their plans for other towns in Kildare.
Implementing modal shift towards active travel and public transport could be supported by the setting up of a Transport and Mobility Forum similar to the Cork forum https://transportandmobilityforum.com/ this group has representation from transport bodies, business, industry, the local authority and the health sector and meets monthly.
5. Any commitment to operate in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals means training is needed for all personnel in what this means. https://www.developmentperspectives.ie/SDGChallenge/InformationPacks/SDG%2011%20Sustainable%20Cities%202021.pdf
Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland, produced by Cyclist.ie and sent to the CEO and DOS in every county provides an excellent template for making towns, villages and rural areas cycle-friendly. The Vision has 8 asks
The rationale for improving public engagement: There is recent evidence from Sligo that changing mindsets and behaviour is difficult. In July 2019, the Council faced a sustained backlash when it implemented the limited Covid Mobility Plan, which removed some on-street parking. Even though the decision was taken on government advice and on public health grounds Sligo PPN and Sligo Cycling Campaign were among the few bodies to offer support along with a small number of councillors.
More recently there was a sustained campaign to reinstate the parking removed at the Prom in Strandhill to allow more space for pedestrian movement and social distancing.
Question 12 asks How can collaboration be fostered between key stakeholders in Sligo to allow for a more coordinated strategic approach?
In the context of active mobility and place-making, before discussing collaboration between stakeholders one needs to define, “Who are the stakeholders?”
Our view is that the stakeholders are the entire community, children, adults, the elderly, people with disabilities. The members of Sligo PPN are very representative of stakeholders and could be a valuable resource.
Sligo Cycling Campaign advocates for cycling for people of all ages and abilities, but when it comes to consultation, we are not seen as stakeholders.
Example 1: When it came to the Covid Mobility Plan the key stakeholders were seen as Business Interests and the Disability Community. The reason given for not engaging more widely was the urgency of implementing the Plan. It was explained that the Mobility Plan was a “Living Document” but in the 12 months that followed we have not been asked for any input nor have any of our suggestions been implemented.
Example 2: Sligo Cycling Campaign attended the webinar regarding the Stephen St/Garavogue Urban Renewal Plan and made a submission to the non-statutory consultation. However, even though there were only 11 submissions we were not notified re the statutory consultation which happened in December during lockdown and the Christmas period. Due to a lack of a simple email notification, we missed the opportunity to submit. Again, business interests, disability advocates and utility companies were consulted. Who represented the public?
At a recent webinar titled Dublin of the Future – What’s Possible https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6SkrwfcnpE&t=2584s , a speaker from Inchicore called Lauren Tuite https://d8development.org/covid made the point that consultations often involve asking communities to respond to maps. She said - “No one experiences their neighbourhood from the air, to imagine a really vibrant city in my mind it is more important to kneel, to get down on the ground and feel how degraded, how dangerous, how polluted our urban environment is for children”. Her presentation included the child’s eye view below.
Key Question 7: What can be done to help businesses across Sligo “Go Green”?
Much is already being done in the fields of energy use and waste management but there is scope for last mile delivery by cargo bike. DLR council is making cargo- bikes available to businesses on a trial basis which they can personalise with their own branding.
If businesses could be convinced that footfall and revenue is not inextricably linked to car-parking it would be great! The speaker at the Kildare webinar explained that the biggest opponent of the pedestrianisation scheme benefitted the most from it!
Key Question 8: Given Sligo’s significant elderly population, coupled with an above average rate of individuals living alone, how can the Council ensure an inclusive society that prevents isolation?
See above re Healthy Streets and the attached list of mobility measures that would make it easier for elderly people to get out and about. Benches to rest on are crucial.
Key Question 10: Given Sligo’s unique landscape and rich cultural heritage, what can be done to not only attract more visitors, but to utilise these positive features to attract more people to live and invest?
Attracting more car-based visitors will help with revenue and employment but not with emissions or biodiversity. It is important to promote active tourism and sustainable travel. Local Link and Bus Éireann have a role here and the aforementioned Transport and Mobility forum could explore the issues. Bike hire should be easily available.
Key Question 4: What smart technology and initiatives could be of most benefit to Sligo’s residents? Where could it help improve people’s lives, for example addressing air pollution, providing better online public services etc.
One initiative using smart-technology would be shared services mobility and micro-mobility using an app. This could apply to cars or vans but also to bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes and scooters. It is envisaged that the population of Sligo will increase substantially but the space on our streets is not going to expand and we need to move to cars being available when needed without the expense, space requirements and emissions involved in owning one.
Another helpful use of smart technology would be bicycle traffic lights that sense when a person on a bike is approaching. In Sligo it is the bicycle rider who has to be “smart” and pedal slowly if they notice the light ahead is red in the hope it will have turned green before they have to dismount on a hill. In Utrecht the light would change in the cyclist’s favour as they approached. In Sligo the N4 is going to have smart traffic lights for cars but not for bicycles.
Summary of Recommendations
The high-level goals are not mutually compatible unless it is made clear that the economic growth mentioned in Goal 1 will be sustainable growth. The climate goal needs flesh on it or it won’t mean anything.
It is essential to reduce car use as transport emissions are such a big part of GHG emissions and cars in town centres are noisy, polluting and take up space that is needed for place-making and active mobility. To achieve this Sligo 2030 and Sligo County Council will need to accept and plan for the hierarchy of the street which prioritises walking, cycling , public transport, freight and lastly private motorised transport, while of course taking the needs of people with disabilities into account.
Modal shift will be resisted as none of us like a change to the status quo. The council needs to adopt a wider and deeper strategy for consultation, communication and public engagement. Doing the minimum required by statute will not be sufficient.
The Council needs to work in multidisciplinary teams to achieve place-making and modal shift. The 2030 Vision should reference this commitment.
The Vision should state that Sligo County Council will establish a Transport and Mobility Forum similar to TMF Cork.
There is no point in the Sligo 2030 Vision including a graphic of the Sustainable Development Goals and saying that the Council will operate in line with the Goals if it contains no analysis of what a commitment to the SDGs involves or what Training will be offered to personnel in charge of implementing policy.
We request that Sligo County Council’s Vision 2030 adopts a pedestrian first hierarchy of mobility and adopt the recommendations in our submission.
Following that, the steps outlined here would help to achieve modal shift from cars to active travel as per Question 6.
1.Dishing of footpaths at junctions on both sides of the junction. At the moment for example Chapel St is dished at the Garda Station side but not opposite, ditto Teeling St is dished at the side opposite the Courthouse but not at the Courthouse.
2. All junction kerbs to be built out and made perpendicular. Flared kerbs make it easier for cars but dangerous for pedestrians as they make the crossing longer. The new footpaths in various parts of town are very welcome but the junctions are still flared even if the minor road only leads to a handful of houses. At a recent Engineers Ireland webinar on Active Travel NTA Head of Cycling, Michael Aherne said that perpendicular junctions were preferable to flared ones.
3. All junctions should be marked out with advanced bike boxes and on the very busy junctions e.g. N4 crossing bike traffic lights need to be installed.
4. Filtered permeability to be introduced in housing estates to make continuous safe quiet walking or cycling routes away from main roads. There are some good examples in Sligo and some very poor examples. A consistent policy is needed.
5. Shared walking and cycling spaces are acceptable in lightly trafficked areas but not on a narrow path at a major amenity such as along the Riverside. A continuous walking AND cycling path is needed here.
Isolated cycle lanes must be replaced by planned segregated cycle networks.
6. Where there is no space for separate cycle lanes, (e.g. narrow streets in the town centre) measures such as traffic calming and contra-flow cycling on one-way streets should be implemented.
7. Recommended cycle routes to and through town should be mapped and signed as driving routes are (The blue Lúb na Cathrach signage and the many blue Parking symbols) The EuroVelo1 cycle route is signed for tourists but in Sligo town one has to figure out the optimal route oneself. This is true for all routes but especially for those which involve crossing the N4
8. Parking in cycle lanes must become unacceptable. When the Coastal Mobility Route was being implemented in Dun Laoghaire some residents explained that they parked on the road as they found it difficult to reverse into their driveways. The Council sent people out to demonstrate how to reverse in safely.
9. A regular maintenance programme for cycle lanes must be implemented. At present there appears to be no set rota but action is taken following on representations made by a councillor who in turn has been lobbied by members of the public. This applies to sweeping but also to resurfacing. The Pearse Road cycle lanes are in very poor condition and have been for some time.
10. Both rural and urban speed limits must take account of the needs of all road users This means that sligo county council should adopt a default 30 km/h limit in built-up areas as per the UN Stockholm convention signed by Ireland in 2020. . At a recent Engineers Ireland event, Michael Aherne said that minimising driver delay was no longer the be all and end-all of managing traffic flow. When speaking about traffic signals he showed a slide saying -
11. Sligo County Council must fully engage with the Safe Routes to School initiative as the school run is one of the main sources of short trips which cause noise pollution and congestion and make active travel unsafe.
12. Any new roundabouts need to be built in the Dutch style as presently planned by Wexford County Council. Existing roundabouts should be narrowed to single lane entry/exit as this is safer for cycling.
13. The Sligo town bus service is frequent and should be popular but the service is too unreliable for passengers who can drive to choose it as an alternative to a car trip. The delays seem to be due to traffic (i.e. cars), as during lockdown the buses scooted up and down with no delays. Consideration needs to be given to prioritising buses on key routes.
14. Bus stops should have dished kerbs to facilitate passengers using walking aids or wheelchairs or pushing buggies. Bus stops should have shelters, only some of Sligo’s stops do.
15. As well as greatly improving Sligo town cycle routes Sligo County Council should plan for a flagship coastal mobility route from Rosses Point to Strandhill. It would tick the commuting, climate leadership and sustainable tourism boxes.
16. Sligo County Council should also be mapping rural quiet ways suitable for Cycling for Al. EuroVelo1 Atlantic should not be the only signed route. We do have a signed route around Lough Gill but due to the speed limit and bends it is only suitable for confident adult cyclists.
17. Sligo town and other towns/villages need pedestrianisation.
18. Traffic signals need to be adjusted so that pedestrians crossing do not face such long waits.
19. Sligo County Council should give full support to a city bike scheme similar to DublinBikes.
20. Adequate bike parking and bike bunkers for apartments, student accommodation and terraced dwellings should be part of all planning conditions. Sligo County Council should provide the same in its own properties.