The benefits of walking and cycling are undeniable. These forms of active transport improve our physical and mental health, are cost-effective, reduce carbon emissions, noise levels, air pollution, and congestion and, at the moment, are often the fastest way of getting around. The only draw-back with active transport is that it is often dangerous and uncomfortable.
Thankfully, danger and discomfort can be addressed with political will and policy ingenuity. We in the Green Party have spent the past 40 years thinking about how best to tackle these issues. We have learned best practice from our European counterparts and have a vision for Dutch-style towns and cities when it comes to active transport.
We will allocate 10% of the capital transport budget to accessible walking infrastructure, and another 10% to cycling infrastructure.
Walking and mobility
The recent increase in public transport usage relative to car usage is encouraging, but the reduction in pedestrian numbers is a cause for concern. We clearly need more investment in pedestrian infrastructure to make our cities, towns and rural areas safe and comfortable to get around on foot and fully accessible to wheelchair users and those with mobility challenges.
We will empower local authorities to appoint Street Officers to actively patrol communities to ensure that the public realm is accessible to all. To speed up walking, we will introduce new regulations to reduce pedestrian signal waiting times to a maximum of 30 seconds and ensure that all pedestrians have enough time to cross the road. We will also roll-out a ‘safe routes to school’ programme to make it safer for children to make their own way to school and implement school clean air zones that will restrict car access.
Unlike in many other countries, zebra crossings cannot be laid down without installing flashing Belisha beacons making them considerably more expensive. We will legislate to remove this requirement to promote the proliferation of zebra crossings in towns and cities around the country. This will happen in tandem with a major programme of urban renewal and the development of greenways to make both urban and rural areas more pleasant to walk in.
Safe, fast and accessible cycle routes are critical for the transformation of our urban and rural transport systems. To promote cycling we will progress the National Cycle Policy Framework, which was adopted by a previous Government in 2009 but was never implemented. We will ensure that every Local Authority has a high-quality cycling policy and implements best practice when investing in cycling infrastructure.
We will improve cycle safety by introducing a programme of bicycle maintenance and safe cycling education in schools; making cycle safety a core part of the driving test; retrofitting dangerous junctions; and ensuring that all new Heavy Goods Vehicles are designed to standards which improve cycle safety. Under our policy, all trucks will have to be fitted with sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and side-safety bars to improve safety for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
To enhance cyclists’ speed and mobility we will adopt common practices from other European countries. One such policy is to allow cyclists to turn left on a red light while giving way to passing traffic and to pedestrians crossing on a green man. Another common policy is to allow contra-flow cycling on certain sign-posted, low-traffic one-way streets. We will programme traffic lights to give cyclists a head start, where appropriate, and deliver ‘green waves’ for cyclists on heavily cycled routes.
We will also improve the overall connectivity of our transport system by developing bike-and-ride facilities and ensuring that trains have space to store bikes. Another important part of the puzzle is to keep cycle costs low. The Green Party was responsible for introducing the successful Bike-to-Work scheme, and we will increase the €1,000 spend limit to facilitate the purchase of e-bikes.
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