Walking and cycling: Ireland pledges €289m of new funding as England launches active travel body

Ireland is targeting 500

The funding announced in Ireland is due to be spent before the end of 2022 and will be provided to local authorities. In total, it will support 1,200 walking and cycling routes, with a focus on routes to and from schools and workplaces in urban areas.

Some 170 schools have already drawn up – and started to deliver – plans to improve walking and cycling infrastructure networks under a new ‘Safe Routes to School’ scheme, which will account for part of the funding pot.

Ireland’s National Transport Authority (NTA) has stated that the funding will support its commitment to improve and create around 1,000km of walking and cycling routes across the country by 2025, and that it will “shortly” publish a roadmap for delivering that pledge in full.

That commitment feeds into the Irish Government’s hopes to increase the number of trips made using public and active transport by 500,000 by 2030, against a 2019 baseline, to reduce emissions from transport in line with its long-term Climate Action Plan. The Plan also includes a commitment to increase Ireland’s electric vehicle (EV) stock by 945,000 this decade.

Ireland’s Department of Transport has called the investment “meaningful” and stated that it will support projects “across the length and breadth of the country”. Locations set to benefit include Cork, Galway, Carlow and Longford.

“It is great to see our investment in active travel starting to bear fruit; I want us to now accelerate delivery of sustainable transport modes as we come out of the majority of Covid-19 restrictions,” said Ireland’s Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.

“It is vital that we do not allow a return to gridlock as we come out of the pandemic. We need to use the switch to remote working as an opportunity to reallocate road space to create a safer and more efficient transport system.”

Active Travel England

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Department for Transport (DfT) has officially launched a new executive agency for cycling and walking – Active Travel England.

The new body has appointed Olympian Chris Boardman as its interim commissioner and will be tasked with researching and publishing recommendations for improving cycling and walking infrastructure within the confines of the national active travel budget.

It will have the authority to award funding for projects and scrutinise highway authorities for their performance on active travel, including emissions and health and safety. The body will also become a statutory consultee on major planning applications and, for smaller projects and city plans, will provide support to local authorities.

A headquarters for Active Travel England is due to open in York this summer.

“The time has come to build on those pockets of best practice and enable the whole nation to travel easily and safely around their neighbourhoods without feeling compelled to rely on cars,” said Boardman.

The launch of Active Travel England comes after the UK Government pledged £2bn to walking and cycling as part of its Covid-19 recovery plans – specifically the Ten-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The Plan also earmarked £3bn for decarbonising and expanding public transport networks.  

Pandemic aside, transport is the UK’s highest emitting sector and has been since 2016. This makes it a key focus area on the transition to net-zero.

Sarah George

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