I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for joining us today. I ask the Minister to make a statement on the national cycling framework, the appointment of a national cycling officer and, specifically, the commitment in the national cycling framework of having 10% of all journeys in urban and rural areas made on a bicycle and the journey we need to make from the 2% at the moment. I also ask the Minister to address the spending target for cycling infrastructure for the National Transport Authority and whether he will seek to achieve a 10% of spend within the National Transport Authority, which is quite short of what the UN recommends which is 20% of national transport budgets to be spent on cycling.
There are multiple reasons I am asking for this specific focus on cycling. We know it is an efficient, a cheap, a healthy and an environmentally-friendly mode of transport, something which effectively tackles congestion and contributes to health, participation in public life and our climate ambitions, and I would like if the Minister could address that.
We saw in the newspapers today figures which show the public enthusiasm for cycling. Over the last decade, 12,000 cyclists are now crossing the canals, which is an increase of 7,000. That is very much matched by a decrease of motorists making those journeys. This can only be good for our city centre but while there is public enthusiasm, we have not seen the same level of enthusiastic engagement at departmental level and we still have a concern that cycling seems to be treated as a peripheral part of our transport strategy rather than a very central plank. We now see that a majority choose sustainable options in terms of entering Dublin city centre. In other cities around the country, such as in Galway, people have said that if those options were being presented in terms of sustainable transport, many congestion problems could be solved and we could see that same balance of transport.
The Government recently issued a statement of strategy which made one reference to more commutes by way of walking and cycling but it did not really make the links - I would like if the Minister could elaborate on this - on how it would also fulfil the other goal of a low-carbon transport sector by 2050. What are the measures that will be put in place in terms of those more commutes by way of walking and cycling?
We also have a smarter travel commitment since 2009 to reduce journeys taken by car from 65% to 45% and increase to 55% sustainable transport by way of walking, cycling and public transport. I would like to hear how the Minister plans to implement them. Specifically, in the national cycling framework, there was a commitment and a recommendation in terms of a national cycling officer and the achievement of that target of 10% of journeys.
I recognise the Minister has taken one positive initiative in terms of cycle education in schools but research from the CSO shows that only 8% of boys are cycling to school and only 1% of girls. There is a key issue around safety and inclusion in terms of cycling strategy and education alone cannot be the answer. We need to look to meaningful and appropriate infrastructure. In countries where the infrastructure is place, the evidence shows more inclusive participation, a greater gender balance in cycling and older and younger people participating. I would like the Minister to indicate how he plans to address and put in place infrastructural spend to support cycling.
In pushing forward this cycling strategy, how is the Minister engaging with other Departments, for example, the Department of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, which is leading in the area of climate change and is looking to how sustainable transport is going to play a key role? Some 25% of global emission of carbon dioxide comes from motorised vehicles. Clearly, transport has to be at the centre of our climate change and sustainability strategy and our health strategy. Information from the UK, for example, shows that the NHS has indicated that £1.7 billion could be saved by an increase in cycling. I would be very grateful if the Minister could address those issues.