Irish campaigners were well represented at the annual conference of Cyclenation UK and CTC held in London at the weekend. The event was hosted by London Cycling Campaign in Lambeth Town Hall. The Irish contingent was made up of Dr. Mike McKillen (Chair of Cyclist.ie), Damien Ó Tuama (National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie/An Taisce), Michael McKenna (Cyclist.ie & Skerries Cycling Initiative), Alita Rivera (Dublin Cycling Campaign) and David O’Brien.
There were over 100 delegates and over 10 speakers on the line-up which included the CEO’s of the three organising bodies as well as engineers, urban-designers, politicians and academics.
While the accents differed a little, the issues faced across the water are exactly the same: bicycle users still rank way down the priority list in England, Scotland and Wales. Many roads are dominated by heavy goods vehicles, buses and cars with cyclists given the bread-crumbs at the table. Far too many motorised vehicles are giving far too little space to cyclists. However, change does appear to be afoot, in London particularly, as the Mayor plans a new generation of cycle superhighways and many of the largest companies are London strongly supporting plans as Chris Keynon from Cycling Works explained. Meanwhile CycleNation UK has published Making Space for Cycling and this sets out to explain to local authorities what existing and future cyclists really need. Furthermore, and similarly to Ireland, we heard that new cycle design guidance has recently been published in Wales and the new London Cycle Design Standards are due out soon. This should mean that the standards for providing for cyclists will improve.
All in all, there are some positive signs that transport planning in the UK is changing so as to recognise the massive public health and economic benefits that accrue when cycling is taken seriously. Like Ireland though, it is still decades behind the more progressive Continental cities in terms of taming the car and making towns and cities liveable for all.
By travelling to these conferences, we forge stronger links with UK cycle campaigning organisations and bring home good ideas that can help us in our work of transforming Irish towns and cities to become really bicycle friendly. Keep in touch with us in Cyclist.ie as we look ahead to the Velo-city Cycling Planning Conference taking place in Nantes in June. We have already started discussions with our colleagues in CycleNation about cycling from Cherbourg to Nantes en masse! Watch this space.