Submission on NTA Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area
Navan Cycling Initiative recently made a submission to the National Transport Authority in regard to its Review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.
This submission is provided by Navan Cycling Initiative (NCI), a non-profit organisation representing the residents of Navan Municipal District and Meath, whose objective is to make cycling safe, enjoyable and convenient.
NCI supports the plans for the review of the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, providing for the efficient, effective and sustainable movement of people and goods, and the development of the Greater Dublin Area itself.
We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area in order to adapt to the onset of the Covid pandemic and the demand to meet climate change requirements. The climate emergency demands quick solutions to avoid reaching dangerous tipping points. Of all transport modes, cycling is the one that can be most quickly and cost-effectively built. Recent emergency covid-19 infrastructure projects, such as the Coastal Mobility Route, have shown how quickly cycling infrastructure can be created. Investment in cycling projects provides the best return on investment of all transport projects.
NCI believe that there should be a fairer allocation of road space and reallocation towards active travel. Roads are for everybody, we believe that enabling people to cycle safely from an early age, and for it to be a part of everyday life will meet the challenges of the strategy overview. We need to have equity of access to our roads and to transport. Particularly active travel, it is a right and children in particular, have a right to cycle to school and to other places of interest safely and to grow up where this is the norm. This will be achieved by creating a dense network of safe cycling infrastructure from the local level out.
Cycle Network Plan
The Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan included very detailed cycle networks right across the Greater Dublin Area, including Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and beyond. In recent times we have seen good progress being made in Dublin through the construction of many cycling routes and projects, yet outside of the capital, the Cycle Network Plan remains for the most part, largely incomplete. Detailed plans for all counties under the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan were first released in 2013, yet in counties like Meath progress has been very slow. Navan is the largest town in Meath and the fifth largest in Ireland, yet the Navan Cycle Network remains less than 20% complete, seven years after the plans were published. Two Greenways, one of which (The Boyne Valley to Lakeland County Greenway) has been shovel ready for over a decade have barely started. The much talked about Boyne Greenway, a world-class river side greenway, taking in a UNESCO world heritage site and countless other tourist attractions, only has fractured sections of paths, some no more that mud tracks in places. This is hard to believe, when it is clear that there is huge potential to transform the region by its construction, both economically and from a societal standpoint. While there are plans in place for both these projects, we are calling on the government to fast-track these before another generation loses the opportunity to avail of the benefits.
Over the last number of years funding has largely been the main reason there has been delays in creating cycling infrastructure, yet in more recent times with the onset of the pandemic, the funding has been available, yet still we have seen delays in advancing the plans. In many local councils outside of the Dublin, cycling has been low on the priority list, with plans often being pushed back or delayed, with road schemes or other projects taking precedence. A lack of manpower and qualified engineers who could be assigned to cycling projects is often another reason given for delays. Yesterday saw the government announcement of the creation of almost 250 additional jobs to tackle this problem, and filling these positions should be a priority for LAs in Q1 & Q2 in 2021.
While the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035 focused on a significant increase in the numbers cycling mainly in the areas of Dublin (the ‘bike boom’), in recent years we have also seen a big increase in the numbers cycling in more rural regions. The onset of the pandemic, the demands of climate change, the need to use more sustainable methods of transport, shift towards working from home, and the well documented physical and mental benefits of cycling have all led to a marked increase in people cycling, especially in large towns like Navan. Navan itself has also seen a huge increase in population, and is one of the most densely populated regions by Electoral Division, which continues to growing rapidly, year-on-year. Such rapid growth has led to intense traffic congestion, which have been well documented which could be greatly alleviated through a focus on more sustainable method transport such a cycling. Navan has recently seen a much-welcomed upgrade of the bus service. It would be great to investigate whether provision could be made on buses to accommodate bike, either inside the bus or indeed on the front of the bus on a rack as is common practice in several other European cities. This would allow multi-modal travel, and in this instance, two very sustainable methods of transport.
Cycling has to be given a higher priority from local councils, with a firm commitment to get projects completed in a reasonable timeframe. Sustainable modes of transport often feature in council’s agendas, Local Area Plans or County Development Plans, yet often these never come to fruition, which is very deflating for residents. The National Transport Authority needs to ensure there is a dedicated commitment and priority given to actually delivering sustainable modes of transport such as the Cycle Network Plans for many of the towns and areas within the Greater Dublin Area.
The Navan Rail Line
There is ample evidence to back up the need for the Navan rail line. As mentioned above, Navan is a rapidly growing town, the fifth biggest town in Ireland, and the largest town in Ireland without a functioning passenger rail line. The county of Meath also has the largest population growth in Ireland, outside of Fingal. Given its close proximity to Dublin and the demand to work there, more people leave Meath to work than work in the county itself, and Meath workers commute further and longer distances than any other county. Yet for the large majority of all these journeys, driving is the main mode of transport, leading to hours of commuter time and chaotic traffic congestion.
The climate emergency demands a greater focus on sustainable modes of transport. The bus services throughout the region are some of the busiest in Ireland, with buses regularly full, not on schedule and largely unreliable. The huge increase in development and population in the region needs to be balanced with the requirements of public transport. As well as this, the tourist potential of the Boyne Valley has huge potential to expand and with the delivery of the Navan rail line, it will open up an easily accessible area to visit attractions like the Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, Slane Castle, Loughcrew, Bective Abbey, not to mention the towns of Navan, Trim, Kells and Slane themselves. There is also the construction of two major greenways, in various stages of development, in the Boyne Greenway and the Boyne Valley to Lakelands County Greenway, which will be very big tourist attractions for walkers and cyclists and in close proximity to the rail line. In order to attract more businesses to the Navan area and indeed county Meath, which would alleciate pressure for industrial use in Dublin, a rail line is seen as essential or highly desirable by most companies considering investing in an area. For these reasons and more, the Navan Rail Line is urgently required to link the region to Dublin.
Navan Cycling Initiative