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Walking, cycling removes 680,000 daily car trips

A survey of people in five Irish cities has found most would like to walk, wheel or cycle more and most want the Government to shift investment away from road building schemes and towards active travel infrastructure or public transport.

The Walking and Cycling Index 2023 is based on opinions expressed by people in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Dublin.

This research commissioned by the National Transport Authority found that walking, wheeling and cycling in these cities prevents 680,000 car trips every day bringing climate, public health and economic benefits.

Wheeling is defined as the use of wheeled mobility aids like wheelchairs or mobility scooters.

Sustrans, a sustainable transport charity which aims to make it easier for everyone to walk and cycle, surveyed a representative sample of more than 1,000 residents in each area, not just cyclists and walkers.

Across all five there was majority support for giving more space and investment to walking and cycling.

Most respondents were also in favour of 20 minute city initiatives to create communities with all services within easy reach and low traffic neighbourhoods.

Around half thought cycling safety is good in their city and most said they would be more likely to cycle if there were more segregated cycle routes.

Across the five cities most respondents supported school streets where roads outside schools are closed to cars during pick up and drop off times.

The survey found that more than half of the adults canvassed walk five or more days a week, more than 15% cycle at least once a week and many would like to walk and or cycle more.

‘Substantial climate, public health and economic benefits’

Sustrans estimates the existing levels of active travel already have substantial climate, public health and economic benefits.

Across the five areas they replaced 680,000 car journeys every day, preventing 160,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions last year.

In Dublin, the health benefits from people walking, wheeling and cycling prevented 784 early deaths last year.

In Cork, those sustainable modes created a benefit of €401.6 million for the local economy.

In Galway, the researchers estimate that if all the return journeys made daily by people walking, wheeling or cycling were made by people driving the cars required could create a traffic jam 138 kilometres long.

In the Limerick/Shannon area the health benefits from people choosing active travel saved the HSE more than €4.5m, while in Waterford the displacement of car trips improved air quality by preventing more than 11,000kg of nitrogen oxide and 1345kg of particulate emissions improving air quality and public health.

The researchers asked participants about their transport choices and what influenced them. They found that infrastructure and perceptions of safety were important factors.

Approximately half of the respondents want to walk or wheel more and about a third would like to cycle more.

In Dublin 79% thought better and more accessible footpaths would help them walk or wheel more.

In Cork 78% agreed that nicer places to stop and rest, like benches and trees along streets could make a difference.

More frequent road crossings with shorter wait times was another popular suggestion with 72% of respondents in Waterford saying this would make a positive difference.

There was also majority support in all of the metropolitan areas for better cycling infrastructure.

Large majorities agreed with the proposition to build “more cycle paths physically separated from traffic and pedestrians, even when this would mean less room for other road traffic”.

Support for that point was highest in Galway with 88% agreeing- the lowest level was in Cork where 69% agreed.

Men are more likely to feel safe cycling than women and have higher participation rates

The studies also look at how age, ethnicity, gender, disability and economic status influence transport choices and how there are more barriers for some group. Men are more likely to feel safe walking or cycling than women and have higher participation rates for these modes of transport.

People from an ethnic minority are more likely to think safety for walking, wheeling or cycling is good in their area than white people. People without a disability are less likely to feel safe and less likely to walk, wheel or cycle.

There was considerable variety across the different cities.

In Dublin 17% of people with a disability reported cycling at least once a week (compared to 26% without) while in Cork only 2% of those with a disability were weekly cyclists (compared to 20% without).

The studies also include stories from individuals who took part. In Waterford Ann Maria Langford, a retired firefighter said :”I walk because I can. As I get older, I’ve a greater appreciation of my physical abilities.

“Also, it’s an opportunity for me to escape and have time to myself.”

The changes she would like to see are “better street lighting and fewer potholes would greatly improve my experience as a pedestrian”.

In the Limerick/Shannon area Maurice Egan, an engineer, travels by bike.

“Why do I cycle? Because it’s more convenient,” he said.

“I’m not contributing to congestion and road dangers. The electric cargo bike is such a game changer, it replaced our second car.”

In Galway Christina Hyland is a stay at home mum. She said: “I love walking in Galway, particularly along the promenade in Salthill.

“It’s amazing for all and it really is a great asset for walker and cyclist alike. I do find it difficult walking in town however as the footpaths are not wide enough for a double buggy.”

Joanna Dukkipati is a working mum in Cork. She said: “Growing up in Bombay, I didn’t learn to drive because I didn’t have to drive. Now, learning to drive is expensive and time-consuming.

“I use public transport heavily. The health benefits of walking in Cork are massive but there are challenges.

“The weather is one and the lack of seating areas to rest is another.”

Anita Topa, a personal trainer from Dublin, said: “I don’t have a driving licence; I get around by bike. I’m a personal trainer and cycling is good for your health.

“I find cycling in Dublin fine if there is a cycle lane but not so good when you’re on the road with cars, taxis and buses. You have to be really focused, it is not really safe.”


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