Ireland should consider appointing a cycling commissioner, an Oireachtas Committee has been told.

The Cork Cycling Campaign group told the Housing, Local Government and Heritage Committee that there is already precedent for such a role in the UK in cities like Manchester and London.

Conn Donovan, from the group, told politicians that those advocating cycling and active travel are doing so on a voluntary basis.

TDs and Senators were discussing ways to accelerate urban regeneration and encourage active travel.

The Committee was also told that teenage girls are less likely to cycle to school due to challenges that go "above and beyond poor infrastructure".

Mr O'Donovan referred to figures from the last CSO census data in 2016 which shows that in 120 towns, with populations of over 1,500 people, not one teenage girl cycled to school.

"In 1986, over 19,000 girls cycled to secondary school, but by 2016 this had fallen to 700," he said.

He added that the findings show that girls face "challenges above and beyond poor infrastructure" and that this cohort could help policymakers with understanding what changes are required to address this.

Senator Victor Boyhan that there was an urgent need to address this.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould shared details of a sustainable transport survey conducted in his constituency of Cork North Central, which showed that 74% of people felt it wasn't safe to cycle in the area and 64% noticed cycle lanes often ended abruptly.

Committee Chair Steven Matthews asked if there was enough collaboration between the Department of Transport and the Department of Housing, to ensure that there were sufficient transport options around new developments.

Dr Cathal Fitzgerald of the National Economic & Social Council told members that more intense collaboration would be welcome, in order to support transport orientated development.

Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan said that it was too often the case that housing developments were delivered where there was insufficient public transport or active transport options.

Virginia Teehan of the Heritage Council asked that Government consider adopting a national "health check" of towns and villages.

The Heritage council is currently operating the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) programme on a pilot basis, with 15 towns participating and 45 more on a waiting list.

Based on its "health check" of Dundalk in 2018, the Heritage Council made a submission to Louth's Council Development Plan 2021-2017.

The submission recommended a "Town Centres First Policy" after finding that Dundalk had a ground floor commercial vacancy rate of 24%.

Ms Teehan told the committee that operating the CTCHC programme on a national basis is not within the council's remit, but it hopes that the Department of Housing will take the lead in establishing a unit to run such a programme.

Dr Lorraine D'Arcy of TU Dublin said that there was a need to have a conversation about where people live at the costs associated with it. She said that suburban living is often favoured by people, but research shows that they are often time poor and spent more on travel, compared to those in urban areas.

David O'Connor of TU Dublin emphasised the need for flexibility in terms of the recruitment of people with the required skillset, into the public sector, to work on town centre first initiatives.