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Obesity report a pathetic fudge say cyclists:
By Shane Foran, Galway Cycling Campaign
26 May 2005,

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Did authors dispense with "evidence based medicine"?

Cycling activists have reacted to the recent report of the National Taskforce on Obesity as "a lost opportunity" and "a pathetic fudge". Particular disappointment has been caused by the failure of the report's authors to set any targets for any concrete measures that might help restore cyclist access to Irish towns and cities.

The report sets no targets for reversing Irish transport policies that have lead directly to the endangerment and marginalisation of cyclists. Issues such as tackling cul-de-sac based housing estates, uncontrolled high-capacity roundabouts, the use of slip-roads and merge-lanes on local roads, multi-lane "free-flow" systems in cities, free access to urban roads by HGVs, enforcing speed limits or the introduction of 30kph zones on local roads, are all conspicuous by their absence from the report's recommendations. Neither is there any clear discussion of these matters in the text. Indeed, some issues such as HGV access to urban roads or speed-limit regimes are not discussed at all.

Instead, the report recommends that public funds be dedicated to the construction of cycleways: a policy that is already established to be a failure both in Ireland and elsewhere. In making this recommendation the report's authors have failed to address the question of why the recent construction of 320 km of "strategic cycle network" in Dublin was accompanied by a 15% decline in cycling among workers, a 44% decline in cycling among third level students and a 40% decline in cycling among secondary schoolchildren. During the consultation phase the obesity task force received a detailed submission pointing out the failure of prominent cycleway programs in countries such as the UK, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Netherlands spent the equivalent of IR600 million on cycling infrastructure but this produced no practical increase in the number of people cycling. However, the obesity task force have failed to indicate why a policy that was a demonstrable failure in the Netherlands is now being recommended for Ireland.

"The failure to address these issues is inexplicable and clearly suggests that the authors chose to dispense with the principles of evidence based medicine in drafting their recommendations" said Shane Foran speaking on behalf of the Galway Cycling Campaign. "Clearly there must be a strong suspicion that the members of the task force had an agenda that was other than the promotion of cycling as a healthy form of daily exercise".

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