This week Navan Cycling Initiative were invited to present to the “Transportation Strategic Policy Committee” for Meath. Sounds exciting? Read on!
What is the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee?
“Strategic Policy Committees advise the Council on policy matters.
Meath County Council has four Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs):
- Planning, Economic Development, Enterprise and European Affairs
- Climate Action, Environment and Emergency Services
- Housing, Community and Cultural Development
These are chaired by a councillor and include councillors and sectoral/community group representatives.
The sectoral/community representatives are drawn from the membership of the Meath PPN (Public Participation Network). For more information on the PPN visit http://www.meathppn.ie/. “
The transportation SPC advises Meath County Council on policy matters related to all Transport, including active travel. A policy is a statement of intent, rather than a detailed plan or specific action.
We had five minutes to present. Here’s our presentation:
It used to be that Climate Change was something for our grandkids to worry about. Then it was for our kids. Now, it’s happening right now – and it affects all of us.
The above image shows a “future forecast” of the weather in 2050 made in 2020. This year, the prediction came true. We know that weather is not climate, but extreme weather events are a symptom of climate change, so as far as we’re concerned – it’s here.
The time for addressing climate change used to be a long time – 50 years, 20 years and so on.
Ireland now has just six years to cut transport emissions in half. And this isn’t an aspirational eco target. This is a legal requirement.
So this was our opportunity to meet with the great and the good, and bring this dire message to the folks who can make a difference. The one outcome we didn’t want? “Let’s sit tight and assess”. Let’s see how it went!
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Areas such as Copenhagen in Denmark have invested for many years, since the 1970s, to get where they are today. So we know that solutions are possible.
So the answer is – we should simply invest for the next 50 years? Unfortunately we only have six years. Sounds impossible?!
Before COVID, Paris already had a plan to deliver 650km of new cycle lanes. During COVID, the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo was a driving force behind the delivery of 52 km of temporary cycle lanes.
That’s right, in two years Paris delivered 52km of quick-build cycle lanes.
But, as we know, this isn’t an easy task. There are lots of challenges
We know that the planning process is slow. It can take several years for just a few hundred metres of cycle lanes to be built.
We know that the public and political will isn’t always behind these projects, especially where there’s a change to parking or road space.
And, there’s no overall strategy for Meath, so there’s no guidance on how priorities are being set – where are cycle improvements being made?
There are also opportunities. Often, the only voices we hear when a project is proposed are a few vocal objectors. There’s a “silent majority” who never engage, for various reasons.
We decided to meet some local residents, talk through the issues, and discuss the options. Far from being silent, we couldn’t stop the group from coming up with ideas and suggestions. Perhaps people like this could be part of the solution?
Our presentation was very short, and so was our message: there can be no more “Business as Usual”, following the same kind of plans as the past, because we know that they don’t work.
We left the committee with the following quote, which you might remember from early in COVID:
Q & A
Unfortunately the audio quality on the Zoom link made it very hard to hear the questions that the councillors and Director of Service raised. Here’s what we heard:
- The process for delivering cycling improvements is slow, and that’s not going to change. If a project involves a “compulsory purchase order (CPO)” this can take years
- Should we prioritise urban or rural improvements? Our response was that this is exactly the kind of question that should be addressed by a Strategy document (the action for which was published in 2019)
- Political will is there. The recent educational trip to Copenhagen was very positive, and councillors took on board the possibilities
- The Meath County Development Plan was developed before COVID, and uses data from the 2016 census. The process of amending this plan is complicated and slow, but the intention is to update it
So, what was the result of our meeting with the Transportation SPC? Do you think that urgent action will be taken, or will they “Sit back and assess”?