Waterford Walk and Cycle Campaign has welcomed the publication of the government’s public consultation document “2020 Vision – Sustainable Travel and Transport, with its emphasis on the major contribution that commuting by bike for short distances (up to 10 km) can make to a sustainable travel policy.

The group accepts it will not be an easy task to persuade thousands of car-bound commuters to give up the comfort of their cars “which are marketed and sold as life-style extensions”, despite the well-known adverse effects of the motor vehicle on congestion, climate change and health. Census 2006 revealed that only 1.9% of adult commuters used a bike for their journey.

“So the key question is: how are commuters going to be induced to leave the car and commute by bicycle to work or use it for other tasks normally done by car? The journey has to begin by commuters learning to distinguish between car ownership and car usage patterns”, says John Fitzgerald of WWCC.

“A critical first step in bringing about change in public policy will require the government, local authorities, National Roads Authority and Garda to place the very real safety needs of bike commuters at the top of their planning, specification, decision-making and enforcement hierarchies. Giving priority to the car in land use planning will have to change. The needs of the more vulnerable in traffic will have to take precedence so that the roads will be safer and more convenient to use for both cyclists and pedestrians.

“Safe routes to school will have to be developed as a priority and children cycling to school will have to become the norm. Census 2006 revealed that only 4,087 primary school pupils cycled to school. And we wonder why we have a childhood obesity crisis”!