Active Travel Strategy for Fingal Submission 2022

The following is the text of our submission (for the work on which thanks go to our committee member Kristina) to the Draft Active Travel Strategy for Fingal.

Active Travel is a Necessity and Must Be Possible for All

Sustainable Skerries whole heartedly welcomes the draft Active Travel Strategy for Fingal.

Better health and wellbeing, improved local air quality, a more attractive public realm, 

lower travel costs and improved access to education and employment opportunities all bode well for our vision of empowering our community towards a sustainable and resilient future for Skerries.  In order to make Skerries resilient, regenerative and a great place to live for all, now and in the years to come, active travel must be prioritised, but to do so we need to do more than just make sustainable travel more attractive.

To bring about significant changes in our travel behaviour while protecting and promoting the

environment across the county, sustainable travel infrastructure needs to be looked at in a way that truly understands the needs of individual towns and addresses the existing barriers to building active travel into everyday life as part of normal daily routines.

The mounting evidence that a substantial daily shift from car journeys to active travel and public transport can reduce congestion and make sustainable travel choices more attractive is undeniable, but it can lead to a chick and egg situation if the pressure to make better travel choices is placed solely at the door of the individual resident.

That is why putting active travel first in planning, design and delivery of infrastructure and initiatives is something that Sustainable Skerries applauds and is eager to see in practice. 

Existing infrastructure needs to be carefully assessed and connected to new developments to ensure a connected approach is adopted and ensure a more sustainable outcome for Skerries. 

Existing entrances to shops which prioritise those arriving by private car, roads with no pavement for pedestrians, areas where pedestrian access is neither prioritised nor visible, insufficient bike parking, disconnected cycle lanes,  inappropriate placement of ramps where road crossings are not safe, to name but a few, all present opportunities for Fingal County Council to really zoom out and look at our town as a whole, before zooming back in and looking at the way many small changes can be connected to one another to make big changes.

National design guidance being issued to support planners, developers and scheme designers is to be commended, and Sustainable Skerries would encourage Fingal County Council to see the importance and urgency of ensuring such guidance is followed at all times.

Skerries needs a more joined up approach when planners and developers of separate housing estates are told to provide safe routes to schools for its residents.  Unfortunately, there are too many examples where good intentions at the design phase have not materialised into substantial change.

The inclusion of a cycle track in a new housing estate, along with accessible pavements is to be commended, but in many cases in Skerries these stop short of reaching their intended goal.  Some new cycle tracks begin and end on only one stretch of road in the estate and do not connect to any other cycle track outside the estate or on surrounding roads as cycle tracks (and at times pavements) often simply do not exist in these places. Such examples only serve to put an appearance of active travel infrastructure, but do not provide the residents with actual safe ways of getting from their home to the nearest amenities, which in Skerries often means joining a road when leaving the estate that has been designed with the motorist in mind.  Such failures in joined up planning can often serve to actively discourage residents from choosing active travel when leaving their estate, as the contrast between the safety of their newly designed estate and the surrounding roads highlights the dangers pedestrians and cyclists are faced with when undertaking their daily routines.

As housing developments expand throughout Skerries, permeability needs to be addressed if Fingal County Council is to succeed in encouraging more individuals to choose active travel over the private car.  Walled off estates that are kept separate from one another creates problems for pedestrians and cyclists.  Where residents prefer cul de sacs for the obvious benefits of reduced traffic, such boundaries should not be closed to those choosing active travel.  The safety of our children when going about their daily lives is affected by permeability in urban areas.  Where there is an option to choose a boundary that is open to pedestrians, provides connection with neighbouring estates, green spaces and playgrounds without necessitating crossing main roads or walking in secluded areas, these options should always be implemented, both at the design stage and retrospectively. We would like to see the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets prioritising active travel in practice. Fingal County Council has highlighted Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas.  Sustainable Skerries would like to see the implementation of plans for villages that do not require residents to walk or cycle for more than 15 minutes to access local amenities.

Sustainable Skerries welcomes the National Cycle Manual, but would like to see it implemented and real changes to the infrastructure that respect individuals’ need for autonomy when going about their daily business are urgently needed.

From a biodiversity perspective, any changes to existing infrastructure or implementation of new infrastructure should carefully consider the long term effects of changes made to our flora and fauna.  Wherever trees are cut down (and only if absolutely necessary), these should be replaced with equivalent numbers of  mature trees. Wildflower corridors should be maintained and where pavements and cycle tracks need to be placed on grass verges, increased surface area should be included in the no mow areas to allow more wildflower meadows to establish and bee corridors to be created and maintained.  Natural, pollinator-friendly alternatives should be sought when designing the surrounds of playgrounds, schools, estates, car-parks etc. as opposed to brick walls.  If Fingal County Council aims to make active travel more attractive, then working hand in hand with the rewilding of our environment can achieve this in a sustainable and highly effective way.  

Finally, Sustainable Skerries would like the Council to remember that those without access to a car and whose mobility is impaired actually do make up a substantial number of our residents.  Children are not born with automatic access to cars and individuals of any age can suddenly find themselves unable to drive a car.  Active travel is not just a choice.  Active travel is a necessity.

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