9 October 2018

Cycling helps avoid climate chaos

Yesterday’s IPCC report is the most urgent call yet from scientists to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report emphasises the huge difference between limiting warming to 1.5 or to 2 degrees Celsius.  Although half a degree may appear minor, global warming of 2 degrees is predicted to result in much more serious economic and social costs, dangerous weather events, and critical environmental damage. Sharp cuts in carbon emissions must be made by 2030 to avoid this scenario, and by 2050 there must be net zero carbon emissions.

Transport accounts for almost 30% of carbon emissions.  The IPCC notes the difficulty of reducing transport emissions and calls for major shifts in transport modes, particularly away from the private car.  Electric vehicles are no panacea: they have high embedded energy costs in their manufacture and indirectly emit significant amounts of carbon when recharging.  They also do not ease congestion.

In today’s unfolding climate crisis, the Cork Cycling Campaign notes that for many short trips it is possible to walk or to cycle — with effectively zero carbon emissions.  Much of the push for increased cycling has focussed on its health benefits, reduced traffic congestion, and better air quality. With the IPCC sounding the alarm, a strong rationale to promote cycling is that cycling is the only feasible transport mode for short and intermediate trips that has zero emissions. For many personal journeys, we need not wait until 2030 or 2050 to achieve zero carbon emissions.

Regrettably, cycling infrastructure remains poor, fragmented, and is widely abused by other road users.  This is a disincentive to start cycling. We therefore call on the Irish Government and Cork’s city and county councils:

  • To allocate at least 10% of the land transport budget to cycling
  • To make cycling an integral part of the transport system and Cork’s City Centre Movement Strategy
  • To design, maintain, and enforce a safe, high quality cycle network in Cork city and county
  • To remove measures favouring the private car over people cycling and walking.  (Such measures include the timing of pedestrian crossings and the design of junctions to prioritise safety of vulnerable road users over speed of motor vehicles.)
  • To ensure land use supports sustainable travel and avoid the mistakes of the past. Legacy spatial development in Ireland, particularly around Cork city, does not favour sustainable travel modes.

Nevertheless, while the cycling infrastructure in Cork and Ireland is lacking, cycling is already a feasible and (often) attractive transport choice.  So we also appeal to individuals to reconsider their transport decisions in light of the urgency of climate change. In particular, we urge people:

  • To walk or cycle whenever possible
  • To favour public transport over the private car
  • To drive cautiously, not speed, and to respect other road users when driving

The Campaign believes that fast reductions in personal transport emissions are immediately possible at the individual level.  Only by working together can we achieve the steep reductions necessary to avoid the worst excesses of climate change.

Cork Cycling Campaign works with local councils and public bodies, community groups, and other institutions to improve cycling infrastructure and encourage people to cycle. The Campaign’s focus is primarily on everyday cycling – that is, cycling as a form of transport. We also support the development of recreational cycling facilities.  The Campaign strives to improve safety for all cyclists and to encourage mutual consideration, understanding, and respect between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. It is a member of Cyclist.ie.