CRAC: Cycle route assessment checklist

Bold Ambitions for Better Quality Cycle Routes

It’s 2021. And the cycle routes in Ireland are not yet good enough.

Why? 

  1. Too often the designs overlook key elements, which help to make routes safe and attractive. 
  2. Ordinary people like you, are not participating in the design process.

Cyclist.ie has a bold ambition to help solve both of these problems. 

How? 

By creating one simple tool that can be used by designers to make sure every aspect of good design is included, and can also be used by people on bikes to meaningfully let those designers know what does or doesn’t work. Check out our CRAC page www.cyclist.ie/crac to find out more and to trial the tool.

Irish Cycling Campaign – Media Appearances List 2024

On this page we list Irish Cycling Campaign’s main media appearances / contributions in 2024, while noting that it is by no means exhaustive.  The most recent contributions are shown at the top.

If you are a Campaign member who has done a media interview or made a contribution on behalf of your group at local or national level and would like it to be included on this page, just drop us a line. Thank you. 

NCN Launch in Sallins – Irish Cycling Campaign Report

The Irish Cycling Campaign, formerly known as Cyclist.ie, was delighted to attend yesterday’s launch of the National Cycle Network Plan in Sallins, County Kildare. Our National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, and Conor Winchcombe from local group Naas Cycling Campaign were present for the event, along with national level and local level politicians and officials, local school children and other locals out walking their dogs to try out the new facilities. 

The publication of the NCN Plan was timed to coincide with the formal opening of the section of the Grand Canal Greenway from Sallins to Aylmer Bridge, and a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Grand Canal, a short distance away from the existing road bridge over the canal on the main Sallins to Naas (R407) road. The new canal bridge provides a motor traffic free link that will be enormously helpful for local school children, for those walking and cycling to the nearby Sallins train station, and for the increasing number of recreational cyclists and visitors to the area. Visitor numbers are also sure to increase when the Grand Canal greenway link from Adamstown to Hazel Hatch is completed in the near future.

At the launch, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan (pictured below) stressed the multiple functions of high quality motor traffic free and greenway infrastructure – it’s about catering for local school and intermodal commuter trips as well cycle tourism. 

The Irish Cycling Campaign is very happy to see the NCN Plan published. The publication of the final plan comes approximately 18 months after the circulation of the draft NCN plan, and after Irish Cycling Campaign (then called Cyclist.ie) made a detailed submission on the draft plan (see here) as did many Cyclist.ie local member groups. 

The planned NCN (shown below) will link cities and towns of over 5,000 people with a safe, connected and inviting cycle network. The proposed cycle network of approximately 3,500km will connect more than 200 settlements and 2.8m people. It will link to destinations such as transport hubs, centres of education, centres of employment, leisure, and tourist destinations with the intention of facilitating greater cycling and walking amongst students, leisure users, tourists, and commuters alike.

In a separate article, we will comment further on elements of the plan and details of route choices.

Notes:

The featured image at the top was kindly provided by Félim Kelly from Aecom. In that photograph are (going from left to right): Damien (Irish Cycling Campaign), Felim (Aecom), Richard (Transport Infrastructure Ireland), Michael (TII), Úna (TII) and Elizabeth (Department of Transport).

The National Cycle Network Plan can be read here: 

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/34846-national-cycle-network/

See also the coverage provided here:

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ryan-unveils-national-cycle-network-plan-to-create-3500km-of-linked-cycleways-between-towns-and-cities-by-2040/a795118251.html (in which Irish Cycling Campaign is quoted)

https://www.irishtimes.com/transport/2024/01/10/new-cycle-routes-to-cover-3500km-across-state-by-2040-at-a-cost-of-14bn/

https://irishcycle.com/2024/01/10/larger-active-travel-budget-will-be-needed-says-minister-ryan-as-he-launches-e1-4-e1-9-billion-plan-for-national-cycle-network/ 

Irish Cycling Campaign Welcomes Launch of New National Cycle Network Plan

The Irish Cycling Campaign (formerly known as Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network) welcomes the publication of Ireland’s first National Cycle Network (NCN) plan.

The launch takes place in Sallins, Co. Kildare on Wednesday 10th January 2024. The NCN identifies a network of 85 cycling corridors around the country linking cities and towns of over 5,000 people.

Overall, we strongly support the development of a NCN, the aim of which is “to link towns, cities and destinations across Ireland with a safe, connected and inviting cycle network; encouraging more people away from their cars and onto their cycles.” 

In response to the public consultation on the draft version of the plan back in June 2022, we made a detailed submission which is available here. Then as now, we make the point that: 

We need to replace the lion’s share of our shorter car journeys (under 5km/10km) with active travel trips, and our longer car trips with either public transport on its own, or active travel plus public transport for those living further away from public transport services. This is where the real carbon savings – and improvements to public health – can take place. We welcome the aim (as shown in the image below from the NCN website) that the NCN will link with public transport services, and also with other key destinations and cycle networks.

National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, added that:

A core objective of the NCN needs to be to connect the towns and villages with safe/attractive cycle-friendly routes to their own rural hinterlands in all directions to a radius of 5-8km. This will allow for the most important local trips (to schools and shops for example) to be made safe for active travel – and hence for the greatest possible impact to be made on increasing the modal shares for cycling.

We look forward to the opening of a section of the Grand Canal Greenway between Sallins and Aylmer Bridge, at which the launch of the plan will take place.

The Irish Cycling Campaign will post its reflections on the launched plan after the event. 

Note – image above taken from this page https://ncn.consultation.ai/ 

Fancy Getting on Board (or on the Executive Committee)?

Our organisation runs on the power of volunteers. Without their time, expertise and commitment, literally nothing would be done. Kudos to all.

Have you ever considered doing some (more) voluntary work for the organisation? There are very many ways for members to get involved. For now, we’ll concentrate on some exciting opportunities just around the corner. At the end of February, we will hold our Annual General Meeting at which we will hold elections to fill vacancies on both the Board and the Executive Committee.

The Board of Directors / Trustees is the body responsible for the governance of the company and charity. It comprises up to 10 people and meets regularly (usually online) to deal with matters such as legal compliance, financial oversight, risk management, internal policy development, human resource matters and so on. Do you have experience in any of these areas? Might you be interested in exploring this further? If so, please email our Chairperson Mairead Forsythe for an informal chat to find out what is involved [[email protected]].

The Executive Committee is the group of 12 people responsible for overseeing the organisation’s national campaigning function, its day-to-day management of finances, and internal workings that are not governance-specific. In other words, it seeks to ensure that the greatest possible impact can be made. Crucially, gender and geographic balance are sought. If you would like to find out more, please email the National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama [[email protected]].

We will be posting more formal details on the above over the coming weeks.

Irish Cycling Campaign New Name and Constitution Adopted

At the Cyclist.ie EGM on Thursday 4th January 2024 our new Constitution and new name were adopted unanimously. See link to new Constitution here

So we’re now a fully-fledged national organisation, the Irish Cycling Campaign. Dublin Cycling Campaign will be one of our local groups and paid up members of Dublin Cycling Campaign will transfer automatically to membership of the Irish Cycling Campaign.

The National Executive Committee will be working on the development of a new logo over the coming months and we look forward to launching a contemporary logo that reflects the new organisation around mid-year. In the interim we’ll use the temporary logo above. We’ll also be working on finalising an Operations Manual and developing a new web address, email addresses and social media handles to reflect the new name. 

These are exciting times in cycle campaigning so do get in touch if you would like to get involved. Keep an eye out for more information and news of developments on the website.

Partnership for Active Travel and Health – COP 28 Letter signed by Cyclist.ie

As Cyclist.ie has called for throughout its campaigning history, we need bold action to promote walking and cycling as part of the process of decarbonising our transport systems.

As COP28 takes place in Dubai, Cyclist.ie is proud to be joining hundreds of NGOs in signing a joint letter from The Partnership for Active Travel and Health to call on world leaders to promote active travel in facing the climate crisis – but we need more to join our open call!

Active travel delivers more than any other transport mode when it comes to sustainable development and climate action. If more people were enabled to walk and cycle safely, it could reduce transport emissions by as much as 50%!

Yet, the recent PATH report on the climate plans of UNFCCC countries – see here – reveals that only eight countries have properly linked walking and cycling with their climate plans!

Join us and call for bolder action by signing PATH’s COP28 letter.




IEN Gathering in Cloughjordan

Cyclist.ie is now a member of the Irish Environmental Network, as we report recently on our website here. So we were delighted to attend IEN’s recent Gathering of Members, held in Cloughjordan in County Tipperary from 24-26 November 2023. In this short report, Cyclist.ie Executive Committee Member Mary Sinnott shares her reflections on the weekend, which was also attended by Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, our National Cycling Coordinator.   

The weekend gathering took place in the Cloughjordan Enterprise Centre. It was a carefully considered, well planned, informal exchange that allowed new members like me to meet many other seasoned advocates. 

We had ample opportunity to get to know all attendees, learn from them, and understand common challenges. We had separate sessions on topical NGO challenges including: how to deal with misinformation and online abuse, environmental and ecological economics, preparing press releases, using social media effectively, and succession planning. All of those topics were engaging and provoked much constructive discussion. In developing into more effective and more professional organisations, succession planning is particularly important. The recent sudden passing of Andrew St. Ledger of CELT (see here) – and indeed today’s very sad news of the passing of Michael Ewing, the former Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar and IEN (see here) – reinforces sharply the relevance of this topic.

On Saturday afternoon, we had an outdoor session which commenced with the planting of an Irish oak tree to commemorate Andrew St. Ledger. The tour following this allowed us to explore the Eco-Village, to get to know each other better and to learn about how it was conceived and how it is developing. Thankfully, the crisp and cold November weather allowed us to enjoy it without much hurry.

More than anything, the weekend was fun, light, instructive and reassuring. I was quickly convinced that IEN is a very beneficial network for its members. Learning that the trick to advocacy is repetition and persistence was a reassuring diamond that I took home with me.

As Cyclist.ie has just recently been accepted as a member of IEN, having the chance to join its 2023 Gathering was timely and beneficial. It is very clear to me now that membership will offer us a wide network of NGOs to exchange and collaborate with, to share information and training supports, and avail of the financial benefit of membership. It is a network that this organisation will benefit from as we evolve and seek to meet our strategic aims. 

Cyclist.ie wishes to sincerely thank the IEN organisers for such a rich weekend of activities and for the warm welcome into the network.

And thanks to Davie Philip in Cultivate for the photos used above!

Cyclist.ie and Cycle Friendly Employer Ireland Forge an Alliance

Cyclist.ie is delighted to announce a collaboration with Cycle Friendly Employer Ireland. CFEI is the only official provider of the EU-standard Cycle-Friendly Employer programme in Ireland. Developed by the European Cyclists’ Federation, the programme is aimed at getting more people on bikes and cycling to work. Together, Cyclist.ie and CFEI support the development of more cycle-friendly routes nationwide and more funding opportunities for cycling. 

Cyclist.ie is the national cycling advocacy organisation for Ireland. At present it has 35 member groups countrywide in both urban and rural areas, and engages systematically with national level government departments and agencies, and with local authorities through its local groups. Cyclist.ie was founded in 2008 to advocate nationally for better cycling conditions, and built on the work of its member organisations, some of whom had commenced cycle campaigning over 30 years ago (as reported here). Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation and has engaged closely on European transport policy formation, through the ECF, for many years. Cyclist.ie is also a member of the Irish Environmental Network and The Wheel (Ireland’s national association of charities, community groups and social enterprises).    

Cycle Friendly Employer Ireland is part of the European Cyclists’ Federation’s Cycle-Friendly Employer Consortium. Its goal is to help employers create cycle-friendly workplaces for their team, increase cycling confidence nationwide and encourage behaviour change to support Ireland’s green transition.

CFE is part of Ireland’s Sustainable Mobility Action Plan. Participation in the CFE scheme helps to:

  • Decrease carbon emissions
  • Reduce transport costs
  • Lower employee absence and improve wellbeing
  • Demonstrate one’s commitment to the environment and sustainability
  • Attract and retain talent and customers

The collaboration between Cyclist.ie and CFEI will work to increase awareness amongst companies / organisations in Ireland of the CFE certification framework, and of the campaigning and advocacy work of Cyclist.ie which is helping to reshape transport policy and culture in Ireland. 

On the announcement of the alliance, Mairéad Forsythe, Chairperson of the Board of Cyclist.ie, said 

“We are at an extremely exciting time in the development of cycling in Ireland. Cycling advocacy plays an integral and important role in influencing how progressive transport policy is developed, and Cyclist.ie is leading the way in recasting transport policy at local and national levels. But companies and other organisations also have a crucial role in influencing how employees commute to work – so Cyclist.ie is delighted to team up with Cycle Friendly Employer Ireland and help to shape how companies think about the development of local transport plans and the provision of cycling friendly infrastructure.”   


Meanwhile, Michael O’Boyle, CEO of Cycle Friendly Employer Ireland, said

“Companies and other organisations are now recognising the multiple benefits of having a healthy workforce with more employees cycling to work. It reduces emissions and is cheaper for employers and employees, and improves health outcomes. CFEI helps employers to measure their current cycle-friendliness and implement effective, actionable strategies to help more employees to cycle to work. 

Our services include bike pool schemes, insurance, maintenance support and facilities consultation, as well as building community within and between cycle-friendly organisations.

Individual action can have a big impact and we are delighted to team up with Cyclist.ie to promote cycling throughout Ireland.”

All in all, the alliance between the two organisations is a positive move for cycling development in Ireland. Both organisations look forward to seeing – and to contributing to – the development of a strong cycling culture countrywide.

More information at:
https://cyclist.ie/
https://www.cyclefriendlyemployer.ie/

Cyclist.ie now a member of Irish Environmental Network

Cyclist.ie is very happy to announce that it is now a member of the Irish Environmental Network. This comes following the recent approval of its application to join.  

As set out on its website, the Irish Environmental Network is a network of individual environmental Non-Government Organisations that work individually and, as appropriate, jointly to protect and enhance the environment, and to place environmental issues centre stage in Ireland and internationally. The IEN works to promote the interlinked principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability. The IEN represents to government the capacity building and funding needs of its member organisations, all of whom are involved in one way or another in the well-being, protection and enhancement of the environment. 

Underpinning Cyclist.ie’s successful application to join IEN is its not-for-profit and registered charity status, its national remit and its proven experience over many years in conducting high quality and high impact advocacy work in the environmental and sustainable transport spaces. 

On hearing the news of its successful application to IEN, the Chair of the Board of Cyclist.ie, Mairéad Forsythe, said:

Cyclist.ie is delighted to be part of the membership of IEN. We bring many years of sustainable transport advocacy experience to the network, and look forward to collaborating with other IEN members over the coming years.  

On becoming a member of IEN, Cyclist.ie joins other member organisations such as An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, Cultivate and Feasta. Cyclist.ie already has positive working relationships with many IEN member organisation from running and participating in joint campaigns and initiatives over the years.  

News of Cyclist.ie joining IEN comes shortly after Cyclist.ie’s major in person gathering of its groups/branches on 30th September and the 30th Birthday of the Dublin Cycling Campaign group – as we reported on here. Joining IEN represents another step in the growth and development of Cyclist.ie, and in making a bigger impact on public policy and on the culture of Ireland.   

Cyclist.ie in Azambuja 2023!

As many of our supporters will know, Cyclist.ie is part of a terrific European Commission funded Erasmus+ project with themes of climate action, cycling promotion, social inclusion and intergenerational relationships. The project involves connecting schools and non-profit cycling advocacy organisations from across Europe through carefully curated cultural exchange programmes. 

Following recent “Learning, Teaching and Training” (LTT) trips to Corella (in the North of Spain) and to Waterford, in this article we share our experiences from our recent trip to the town of Azambuja in Portugal. 

Cyclist.ie’s ambassadors on this trip were Úna Morrison and Phil Murray (Dublin Cycling Campaign), Rory Maguire (Navan Cycling Initiative), Eoghan O’Leary Fitzpatrick (Galway Cycling Campaign) and Cyclist.ie’s National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama. In this article Eoghan, Rory, Phil and Úna each share their reflections on one of the four days of the trip, with Damien adding some further insights at the end. 

Note that the featured image above shows Úna from Dublin Cycling Campaign / Cyclist.ie and Cristina from Biciclistas de Corella (and with the photo kindly provided by Biciclistas de C). 

L-R: Phil, Úna, Rory, Eoghan and Damien in Lisbon

Day #1 – Friday 13th October – Eoghan
Our journey began at the Secondary School in Azambuja, a meeting point for all participants in this Erasmus+ project. As we mingled and chatted in the school’s courtyard, we eventually made our way to the school’s hall.

Artwork depicting the countries involved in this Erasmus+ project

We all sat down in a circle in the hall, as one of the school’s English teachers welcomed us and introduced us to “Ubuntu,” a group within the school. Some of the students sported black t-shirts bearing the word Ubuntu alongside Nelson Mandela’s prisoner number. The teacher told us the meaning of the word Ubuntu and why it is important to her and her students. It literally translates to “I am because you are” but its greater meaning is that of connection and unity across humanity, and this was an important theme across our Erasmus+ project as we learned about our shared values across our different cultures and backgrounds. 

Principal of the school welcoming us all 

Following on from this, we began our icebreakers, starting with each participant sharing their name and a little about themselves. Icebreaker games, such as the “stand forward if” challenge, allowed us to see how much we had in common as relative strangers. We moved onto the “Colour Game” with coloured stickers on our foreheads, and we faced the challenge of forming groups based on colour (red, blue, orange, green, purple) without uttering a word – a slightly chaotic but fun exercise in communication beyond words. 

After the school introductions, we cycled through the town, making our way to the heart of Azambuja, the Town Hall. Here, we were greeted by the town’s Mayor, who extended a warm welcome. He shared stories about Azambuja, providing a brief background of its history and its place in Portuguese culture. 

Our adventure continued as we cycled to the Palácio das Obras Novas situated beside a channel of the Tagus River. We had our picnic here, followed by a few outdoor games like limbo. 

Rory and Phil making their way to the Palácio 

The highlight of the day awaited us — a mesmerizing boat tour of the Tagus River. Along the riverbanks, we had a chance encounter with wild horses, showcasing the region’s natural beauty. As the boat cruised through the water, we explored the area’s geological history with Annabelle, a Professor in Geology, which was both truly fascinating and informative. All topped off by a local song performed on the boat by one of the boat workers! All in all, it was a great kick off to what was to be an outstanding trip! 

Annabelle detailing the Tagus during the Ice Age 

Day #2 – Sat 14th October – Rory’s perspective
After landing into the centre of Lisbon, we climb the hills around Alafama and immerse ourselves in rich architecture from as far back as the 12th century. They have managed to squeeze tram tracks into very challenging nooks and crannies all over the city. Somehow brazen car drivers still make their way through hoards of people on the same tracks visibly annoying and slowing everyone as they pass. I’m not sure what would possess someone to drive through the heart of this narrow city, but there is a very tangible difference between the emotion of the tram users and the stressed drivers navigating this very challenging obstacle course. I bask in thoughts of what this beautiful place felt like before cars existed. The silver lining to old cities like these are that numerous hurdles have restricted people to owning much smaller, more humble cars which are more efficient and less dangerous than the SUVs currently dominating the car market. 

As we make our way up the steep cobbled hills towards the Castelo de St. Jorge, we pass musicians and artists seeking refuge in the shade between buildings which amplify their talent for the passers by. There is an incredible hum of music which beats its way up the city walls. It is surreal once we reach the castle which truly feels like the heart of Lisboa. 

Peacocks outside the Castelo de St. Jorge

The tall ancient cork oak, olive and stone pine trees provide a lush green canopy that protects us from the heavy sun, and everybody centres their conversations, relaxation and movement under the trees. This experience contrasts sharply with the car-filled (more tree-less) suburbs which can get cripplingly hot when the sun is out. Perhaps there will be time when the on street parking will need to be sacrificed to tackle the heat island effect which is increasingly noticeable as the summer droughts ease their way into mid October. 

The castle material itself contains incredible detail in each slab of stone. Telling the stories of the life and death of the many creatures fossilised inside. While touching these blocks I inadvertently take some of their story away with me on my fingertips. 

Finding bikes for 40+ people is not an easy task by any means. Just one of many incredible feats pulled off by Margarida and others involved in this Erasmus programme. A spin down the bank of the Tagus river provides many amazing sights such as the presidential palace, Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, and the Torre Belém. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult to navigate even some of the simpler routes of the city with 40 kids and a handful of adults; Something which really makes me appreciate the work done by the network of Cycle School Buses in Ireland. 

Making our way through the city

Passing under the Ponte 25 de Abril

The route along the Tagus is full of people. It always amazes me the interactions between pedestrians and cyclists. The fluidity and freedom to choose the direction of movement provides for a more relaxed environment with play, relaxation and wonderful food all around. At one of the many parks along the river we stop to enjoy a box of pastéis de nata. They don’t last long as everybody seems to be obsessed with them here. It’s so sweet to see the proud culture here of eating delicacies made by skilled local artisans rather than your standard mars bars and kitkats in corner shops. I learned that the culture of desserts here is based on egg yolks which were a by-product from monasteries using egg whites to starch clothes. 

Pasteis de Nata or pasteis de Belém

The day finishes at a beautiful restaurant named Tasca da Ilda in Azambuja. I love how casual the staff in such a fine place are with us. A small thing which I think mirrors the relaxed and inviting culture we experienced throughout the trip. It was also nice to see the level of vegetarian cuisine being served not just in Lisbon but in small towns like Azambuja. 

The highlight of the day for me was seeing hundreds of young people wheelying their bikes down the colourful Lisbon coastline. It gave me hope to see the rebellious nature of these kids reclaiming their city from cars in such a playful way. Bikes for them aren’t just a form of transport, but a way of life.

Wheelies in Belém

More wheelies in Belém

Day #3 – Sun 15th October – Phil’s reflections
Taking our complimentary bikes our first port of call was the local secondary school, and from here we were taken by coach to a nature reserve, Paul de Manique, a 30 minute drive north-east of Azambuja. This bio-diverse lake and wetland has a total area of 18 hectares with a bird hide for spotting the 183 species of birds and 44 species of dragonfly amongst the abundance of wildlife found there.  

We had two guides – Annabelle who gave us great insights into the geology of the area with her many soil and gravel samples as well as a 3m long core sample of the lake bed; and Paulo who is the main guide for the reserve and a fountain of knowledge of the area and its rich biodiversity. 

Annabelle, Rory and Paulo in the dried lake bed

Paulo, described by one of our group as Portugal’s David Attenborough, gave us a fantastic insight into the rich wildlife of the wetland, despite the lake being totally dried up and the season’s first proper rain in months only starting to fall. We were reassured that it would take just two days of rain to fill the lake, and that only just below the crusty dry bed, life was still thriving in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Going by the heavy rain that fell about an hour after our tour, the lake was already beginning its annual transformation which made the timing of our visit all the more special. 

Following a quick visit to a local church, which was once a Palace, we headed back to the school in Azambuja for lunch in the canteen. A fine meal was had, prepared by the ladies who ran the school’s well-equipped kitchen. At the school many activities were laid on with an opportunity for the students to get to know each other better, share their experiences and present the work they had been doing back home on raising awareness of climate change resilience in their communities.

Dinner at 8pm took place in the private home of the Deputy Mayor of Azambuja, albeit in a private clubhouse as part of the host’s residence. This big room with double height ceiling, three large tables with bench seating and every inch of wall space covered in bull-fighting paraphernalia was the kind of place only locals get to see. It was also a space where the famous Portuguese traditional music of Fado was performed.

Dinner with the staff of Azambuja Secondary School and the other Erasmus+ Partners – Photo credit: Biciclistas de Corella 

Performing three songs each, our Fado singers, one male, one female and accompanied by two acoustic stringed instruments played by two men captivated us all with theatrically performed songs, sung with intense passion. 

It was easily one of the cultural highlights of the trip and reaffirmed the connection that is universally made when humans come together to eat, drink, share stories and sing those stories passed down through generations.

Day 4 – Mon 16th Oct – Úna’s Reflections
Monday was our final day of the trip and the core of the day was to see more of the culture and nature beyond Azambuja. Our first stop was Praia da Bafureira, Bafureira Beach, which is on the outskirts of Lisbon towards Cascais. This area is a Marine Protected Area which prohibits further development and fishing. 

We spilt into groups with two pages of marine organisms to identify, including shellfish, seaweed and fish. I joined a group of four Polish students, which was great fun. Some of them had never seen the Atlantic Ocean before and were very unfamiliar with rock pooling. We all really enjoyed the natural treasure hunt and taking time to move slowly in the hunt for our various organisms. 

From Bafureira, we moved on to Cabos da Roca, the most westerly point of continental Europe for a quick pit stop. We had an impromptu picnic and enjoyed the windy surroundings.  


Úna and Damien on the edge of Continental Europe

Our destination for the afternoon was Sintra, a world famous town in the hills north west of Lisbon. As we travelled there, we noted that the landscape changed, with more lush vegetation, clouds and mist, along with winding roads. We walked towards the Park and Palace of Monserrate, which had a fascinating history. Since 1540 when the estate was founded, there was a succession of different owners, developments and abandonments. The British writers Lord Bryon and William Beckford were amongst the residents there. The palace that currently stands was commissioned by Francis Cook, a British trader and art collector, and it combines Gothic and Indian influences with Moresque accents. Together with the incredible gardens, featuring species from around the world, I found it an inspiring and magical place.

Rory, Eoghan and Úna – Rehydrating en route to the palace! 

The valley of ferns was a highlight for me, together with the natural inspired interior architecture – both pictured below.

After walking back from the palace, we spent a very welcome break in Sintra, to explore the shops, sample the ice cream (I had a yoghurt and fig ice cream that was incredible) and enjoy the bustling town.

We returned to Azambuja for our final dinner in the school where we were joined by the principal and had the opportunity to sample some traditional chocolate cake, baked by the mother of one of the students. It was delicious, and an example of how this trip gave us the opportunity to really connect with the people of Azambuja. The students had a quiz and a sing-song and we all received our certificates of participation. And Eoghan from our group played a traditional tune on his feadóg stáin (below). It was an enjoyable end to a hectic but fulfilling trip to Portugal.



For me, the most valuable part of the trip was the chance to talk to and get to know people from other countries. I really enjoyed, for example, talking to Asia, one of the teachers from Poland about their upcoming general election and understanding her point of view. This will give me further depth of understanding when I read or hear about these types of things in the news in the future. I also really enjoyed seeing and exploring parts of the Portuguese landscape that I simply would walk, cycle or drive by if I was a tourist – such as the rewilded wetland and the marine protection area in Bafureira. 

Final Reflections – Damien
The third “Learning, Teaching and Training” trip of this Erasmus+ project was another rich, sociable and multi-dimensional experience for our participants. It allowed us to forge stronger relationships with the other partners and learn more about each others’ cultures and customs.  

It was also valuable to spend quality time with newer members of Cyclist.ie’s own expanding network of volunteers – and I want to pay a special thanks to Úna, Phil, Eoghan and Rory for their great contributions throughout the trip and for representing Cyclist.ie so well on the international stage!  

L-R: Eoghan, Rory, Damien, Úna and Phil

I also want to sincerely thank Margarida Pato from Azambuja High School for organising the full programme, and supported by her colleagues Paula, Edmundo, José and the other staff members. In fact, the programme was so full that we didn’t, unfortunately, as originally planned get to meet up in Lisbon with our cycle campaigning colleagues in MUBi (Associação pela Mobilidade Urbana em Bicicleta), a member group themselves of the European Cyclists’ Federation. Next time! 

And thanks, as always, to our Project Coordinator Supremo, Toño Peña, from IES Alhama School in Corella for his ongoing support and unquenchable positive energy! 

Finally, you can read more about the project on its official website here – https://www.erasmuscyclingschools.com/ – and you can see more photos from the trip on the Facebook pages of Biciclistas de Corella.  

Formerly Cyclist.ie