Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network is one of eight national organisations taking part in the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) Leadership Programme. This means that – along with the national organisations of Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece and Austria – Cyclist.ie is recognised as one of the most effective and rapidly-growing European advocacy organisations.
Last week, all eight groups took part in a training programme in Sofia, kindly hosted by the Bulgarian Cycling Association. Cyclist.ie was represented by National Cycling Coordinator, Damien Ó Tuama. This training aimed at helping us to plan ahead, improve our lobbying, organise more effective campaigns, increase members and fund-raise – all with the bigger aim of creating strong cycling cultures in our countries.
At the meetings, we came to realise that it is not just in Ireland that car-centric transport planning still dominates or that government departments do not yet fully see the potential that cycling offers to solve congestion, public health and other problems. Equally, national cycling organisations across Western, Central and Eastern Europe face very similar challenges in transitioning from operating just with volunteers to also having a paid professional dimension to campaigning. There is so much work we need to do, yet we are all over-stretched and need more funding and volunteering energy in order to thrive.
The meetings and training sessions in Sofia helped to build stronger alliances between all eight national organisations. They also mean that when we organise future Skype or phone calls amongst ourselves so as to collectively advance various issues, these conversations are more meaningful and productive when we have met each other in person and cycled the streets of Sofia en masse!
A big thanks to Kevin and Elina in ECF, and Evgeny and colleagues in the Bulgarian Cycling Association for a very successful meeting! Photo below taken by Andrzej Felczak from www.radlobby.at
For more on the Cyclist.ie participation in the ECF Leadership Programme, see ECF.