Press Release: Better Ennis Welcomes Serious Investment in Walking & Cycling Infrastructure
Tuesday, 16th June 2020
Programme for Government will have a Positive Impact on Public Health and Local Economy
All over Ennis we have seen the increase in numbers of people walking and cycling, and keeping themselves healthy and active during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proposed Programme for Government includes a ring-fenced investment of €360m in walking and cycling infrastructure throughout Ireland. Better Ennis, a local community group, welcomes this serious investment in active travel infrastructure, not simply as modes of transport, but for the positive impact this will have on people's health, on local communities, and on local economies.
The Programme for Government includes the commitment to develop a national network of greenways - not only as tourist amenities, but designed and implemented so that they can be used by students, commuters and people enjoying cycling as their daily physical exercise. There is a particular focus on increasing the numbers of children walking and cycling to school which, within Ennis town, will have a hugely positive impact on reducing traffic congestion within the town.
"It is important that the active travel infrastructure is well designed, implemented, and maintained, and in that regard, the establishment of Regional Cycle Design Offices to support local authorities is very welcome" said Síle Ginnane, a co-founder of Better Ennis. "The value of proper networks of footpaths and cycleways, fully accessible to people with disabilities, is hugely important to our physical and mental health."
Chairperson of Galway Cycling Campaign, Kevin Jennings, emphasised the significance of the increase of funding from 2% to 10% for cycling. "A commitment of 10% for cycling in the land transport budget could help change transport in Ireland. The new government radio ads asking us to cycle and walk where possible are a first that I can recall. Investment in cycling is investment in public health. Better infrastructure will encourage more people to cycle during coronavirus, and enable the years of social distancing we must do until a Covid-19 vaccine is available."
The investment in active travel infrastructure has proven to be a safe bet when it comes to return on investment. According to EU research, each kilometre driven by a car incurs an external cost of €0.11, whereas cycling and walking bring benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometre, respectively. Using these figures, the total cost of automobility in the EU amounts to €500 billion per year; on the other hand, due to their positive health effects, cycling and walking are associated with benefits worth €24 billion and €66 billion per year.
So too is cycling and walking good for local businesses. Customers who cycle and walk to shops are by their very nature, shopping locally and are loyal customers. Research completed by Transport for London reported that the retail spend per square metre of cycle parking, is fivefold that of the retail spend per square metre of car parking. Transport for London also reported that over a period of one month, the people who walk to the high street spend up to 40% more than people who drive to the high street. It is important therefore to provide safe, comfortable cycling infrastructure from the outskirts of Ennis town into the centre, and provide ample, secure bike parking in the town centre itself.
If we are to encourage people to improve and maintain their physical and mental health, we need our streets to encourage physical activity, and to ensure that it is accessible for people for all ages and abilities. It is important that adequate seating is provided not only within the town centre, but on routes to the town, for those who need to take a rest intermittently - especially those with cardiac, respiratory or orthopaedic conditions.
Allowing people to choose to walk or cycle to Ennis town centre, will mean that those who rely on their cars to get about, will have less traffic congestion to endure, and with more people walking and cycling, we will improve the air quality in town, which is vitally important for everyone's health.
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ABOUT BETTER ENNIS
Better Ennis is a local community group working towards a town where our public space encourages everyone, of all ages and abilities, to choose to be active, independent, sociable and connected. For more information, please go to www.activetravel.ie
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