I thank the committee for inviting me. In leading off, I want to make four points, the first of which relates to the scope for increasing active travel in Ireland. Sometimes people think there is no scope to shift from walking to cycling because trips made are too long but it is worth pointing out that 57% of trips made in Ireland are under 8 km. Even if we exclude Dublin residents, whose trips tend to be shorter, 50% of trips made by people living in Ireland are under 8 km, so there is a lot of scope in that regard. Currently, three quarters of trips are made by car, as are two thirds of trips even in densely populated areas. If we look at the shortest trips, half of all trips under 2 km are driven, as are two thirds of all trips between 2 km and 4 km. The percentage for walking is 15% and 2% for cycling. Members will see that there is a big gap between current levels of active travel and what might be possible. For longer trips, there is the potential to use ebikes, particularly for trips of 8 km or more or for hilly trips. Mr. Küster will talk more about that. For longer journeys, active travel and public transport can be mutually supportive. My first point is that there is good deal of scope to get more people walking and cycling here.
There is a need for change. When we think about emissions reductions, technological change alone will not be enough to meet policy goals over the short timeframes necessary. We need that technological change but we also need substantial behaviour change, that is, cleaner vehicles but also fewer vehicles. We should be thinking about co-benefits also. Strategies to avoid climate crisis should maximise the co-benefits - the additional benefits - and minimise the disbenefits. If we think about increasing active travel and walking and cycling, there are major co-benefits we can get from this that we do not get from a switch to cleaner fuels, for example. In terms of physical activity health benefits, and studies look at a shift to active travel, walking and cycling, there are always major health benefits from getting more people physically active. We also have a physical inactivity crisis. There is also better access to jobs and services for people on lower incomes. People on low incomes often struggle to afford cars or public transport. If walking and cycling are possible for such people, they can have many more opportunities.
Looking at what has happened regarding children's independence in other European countries, it can be seen that in the past few decades children who used to be able to roam freely are now often prisoners in their own homes because they are not able to get out and about because of the risk from motor traffic. We should also be thinking about the independence of older people through their life course. A whole range of benefits can be derived from more walking and cycling.
Can we achieve this change, however? It is often easy to think that while there are many trips of 8 km or less and lots of scope, it is also the case that we do not have a culture of walking or cycling. Can we really bring this shift about? The good thing is that evidence increasingly shows that we can make a difference, even in car-dependent contexts and in contexts where the culture of cycling has been lost. This is really about improving conditions for active travel and making car use less attractive. Mr. Deegan will talk more about that later.
Turning to city level, London, for instance, saw its population increase by 2 million people over the past 20 years. All of the transport models would predict a big increase in car trips in that context of an increased population and more income. That did not happen, however. The number of car trips did not increase. The figure actually declined slightly despite there being 2 million extra people in the city. The mode share for trips driven fell by 52% to 38%. That has been a major shift and it shows that this is possible. There is also academic evidence from studies looking at specific interventions. I will give one example from Cambridge in England called the Cambridge guided busway cycleway. That has been shown to lead to increased active travel, particularly walking and cycling in rural areas and especially in households with children. My own work has shown that restricting the access of motor vehicles through neighbourhoods in outer London has led to a 20% reduction in past-week car use for residents in those areas. We have evidence, therefore, that these initiatives do work.
Moving on, I will comment on how we can achieve change. Evidence shows that motor traffic is the fundamental barrier to getting more people walking and cycling. People do not want to mix with motor traffic and that problem remains with electric vehicles. They may be more pleasant to interact with than vehicles belching diesel fumes but electric vehicles are still a problem for walkers and cyclists. We need a step change for cycling. We need safe, separated cycleways on major roads and there is a consensus of evidence on that point. Minor roads are only really cycle-friendly if there are low speed levels and low volumes of motor traffic. A residential road is not necessarily somewhere people will let their children cycle if many cars are cutting through the area.
One specific point I wanted to make was that car-dominated environments particularly dissuade women from cycling, as well as other under-represented groups and people travelling with children. That is something that may also affect gender balance. It is worth considering that safe cycle infrastructure may fall under the public sector's duty to equality and human rights. That is because if we do not have environments that enable cycling then women, children and older people are disproportionately put off from cycling.
Regarding walking, many European countries already have a basic footway network but much change still needs to happen. Such change has to focus on a reduction in the dominance of motor traffic, as well as its speed. Making those changes can increase levels of walking, improve the walking experience and free up space to put in benches, green spaces etc. This is again an issue of equality. These types of changes will particularly benefit disabled pedestrians. My research has found they are disproportionately at risk of being injured by motor vehicles. Given that we have an urgent need for change and major political challenges in many contexts regarding implementation, it is worth considering the use of trials and temporary interventions. These can be quick and effective and can provide crucial data early on regarding what works and what may need to be adapted in a given context.