Cycling groups have raised concerns about harassment of people on bikes - particularly women.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport heard submissions from representatives of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, and I Bike Dublin.

Kevin Baker, chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said that it was extremely concerned at the level of verbal and physical harassment targeting people who cycle, particularly women.

Vice-chair of the campaign, Louise Williams, described how a male pedestrian hit her on the back and told her to learn how to cycle. 

She said there was some great work being done to try to get school girls on bikes, referring to the Green Schools initiative.

Dr Damien Ó Tuama, national cycling coordinator with, said he hoped cycling would become a normal part of everyday life for all ages and abilities in Ireland, similar to other European countries.

Mairead Forsythe from said it was difficult to understand where the funding for cycling came from.

She told the committee the group could not get an answer from the Department of Transport and that funding for cycling was "bundled up with walking and sustainable transport".

Dr Ó Tuama said the National Transport Authority's design manual was not being referred to when road schemes were being planned.

He said giving high quality cycling space to schoolchildren, older people and women in road environments is a political decision. He added the problem was a lack of leadership at a ministerial level in transportation.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said there were good opportunities to include cycling infrastructure in new housing estates so that the 'conflict' often experienced between drivers and cyclists was not there.

Alan Downey described how he cycled with his children to school every morning through older housing estates that have no cycle lanes to a greenway in a new estate.

Kevin Baker said there are still a large number of people who do not believe that cycling can be a large part of the solution to transport across Ireland.

He said there are delays in some cycle lane projects and that the Dublin Cycling Campaign was constantly chasing the National Transport Authority and Dublin City Council about the delays at the Royal Canal cycle path.

Anne Graham, Chief Executive of the NTA, said the BusConnects project in Dublin is the largest cycling infrastructure project designed in the State and will deliver 200km of segregated cycling infrastructure on the key radials into the city.

Committee chair Fergus O'Dowd said the biggest issue that arose from listening to the cycling groups was the idea of a national cycling office that would drive the agenda for change and investment and push for a policy change.

Deirdre Hanlon from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport told the committee there is an increased focus on cycling and the funding had been stepped up.

She said the department is trying to improve both cycling and walking together which comes under "Active Travel" in terms of funding and that €70m will be spent on this next year.

Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry asked whether funding for walking could be 'stripped out' of what was being spent on cycling. Ms Hanlon told him "no".

Ms Graham said that some projects could specifically be cycle paths, joint cycle walking pathways or schemes around junctions where they improve walking as well as cycle facilities. She said it was hard to strip out funding that was just for cycling.