The facilitation of the use of sustainable transport modes, including walking and cycling, by students travelling to and from school continues to be a key priority of the Government. My Department, in cooperation with the National Transport Authority (NTA), An Taisce and Cycling Ireland, has carried out significant work in this space this year, and will continue to do so into 2022.
I was delighted to launch the Safe Routes to School Programme earlier this year. This Programme aims to create safer walking and cycling routes within communities, alleviate congestion at the school gates and increase the number of students who walk or cycle to school by providing new or improved walking and cycling facilities. The Programme is funded directly to local authorities as part of the Department of Transport’s 2021 allocation to the NTA and is supported by the Department of Education and coordinated by An Taisce’s Green Schools team.
By the deadline of 16th April 2021, 932 applications had been received from schools in every county in Ireland. 170 schools have been included in the first round of the Programme. The schools selected were assessed against a range of criteria including school type, location and the school’s commitment to sustainable travel. The remaining schools that applied this year will not be required to reapply as they will come into the Programme on a rolling basis.
The Safe Routes to School Programme has eight stages, from Stage 1: Dissemination of Information to Stage 8: Delivery. The six-person Infrastructure Officer team in An Taisce Green Schools has already completed Stages 1 to 3 (Dissemination, Expression of Interest and Selection of Schools) and have engaged with all Local Authorities as part of Stage 4, Communication and Liaison. Stage 4 and 5 (Production of outline delivery plans ) will continue during 2021.
Stage 8 (Delivery ) is dependent on the types of interventions proposed and exact timelines are not yet available. Some simple individual projects, for example pedestrian crossings, may be completed by year end. Bigger interventions such as footpaths or cycle tracks or those that may require planning permission will take longer to deliver.
Separately, cycle parking is already actively being delivered as part of the STRS Programme. 251 schools will receive cycle parking in 2021 and approximately 380+ schools will receive cycle parking in 2022.
Additionally, Cycle Right cycle training continues to be carried out by Cycling Ireland in primary schools across the country, funded by my Department. The number of students who received training in 2021 was lower than other years due to school closures as a result of COVID-19 restrictions; however as we emerge from these restrictions Cycling Ireland aims to build on pre-COVID figures by approximately 5,000 students per annum from 2022 onwards.
In terms of Green Schools Travel, administered by An Taisce, the Department continues to fund this programme through the NTA. Noting the NTA’s role in the oversight of the Green Schools Travel programme, I have referred this PQ to the NTA for direct reply in relation to its 2021 achievements and targets for 2022 and beyond. If the Deputy does not receive a response within 10 working days, please contact my private office.