3 out of every 4 citizens in Ireland believe that investment in transport should favour safe walking, cycling and public transport ahead of private cars. It’s 79% in cities and suburbs and, strikingly, is still 72% in rural areas.
The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, Cyclist.ie, welcomes the enforcement by An Garda Síochána of a 24-hour National Slow Down Day on 22nd – 23rd May 2020.
Yet unlike Christmas Day, Slow Down Day should be every day.
An Garda Síochána say that more road deaths have been recorded so far this year compared to last year (56 deaths up 5). This is appalling in a time of historic low traffic volumes due to the Covid-19 ‘Stay At Home’ restrictions.
Mairéad Forsythe of Love30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits said: “It is very simple. If you are out for a walk to the shop and a person driving at 60km/h hits you, there’s a 90% chance your family will be gathering for a socially-distant funeral. If you are walking to the local café and are hit by a car travelling at 30km/h, there’s a 90% chance you will survive and be able to return to your favourite coffee shop one day. Once again, we appeal to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do the right thing and lower speed limits to 30km/h in areas where people walking and cycling are sharing space with cars, buses, trucks and HGVs.”
Colm Ryder, Chair of Cyclist.ie added: “Responsible driving is critical at all times, and is particularly needed in these days of Covid-19. The two metre social distancing requirement frequently forces people nationwide to step off narrow paths out onto carriageways to avoid contact with other people walking. People cycling have to give two metres social distance to people walking too. This means people cycling must move into the primary position in the middle of the lane, which is difficult when motor vehicles are moving at speed. People should not have to choose between risk of death by road traffic collision or risk of contracting a deadly viral infection.”
Gerry Dornan, chair of Maynooth Cycling Campaign and Vice-Chair of Cyclist.ie, continued: “to assess the value of enforcement on Slow Down Day, we need statistics on the number of key indicators – fatalities, serious and minor accidents. We also need to know the number of checkpoints and how long they are in operation, and afterwards we want to know how many people driving were prosecuted. This needs to be more than a day of education.”
Joan Swift of the Sligo Cycling Campaign concluded: “We expect people driving to be educated about The Rules of the Road. And we expect An Garda Síochána to protect people walking and cycling by enforcing our road and public safety laws. We now expect our Government to fund changes to road design. Engineering out speed is vital to enable people driving to comply with speed limits. We need segregated and protected cycle ways and paths away from main roads
Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about science. In any language he would be classed as an ‘expert’! In these days of lockdowns and restrictions we are continually asked to ‘listen to the experts’. So what does Albert say about cycling and life. He says: ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’. Sound advice wouldn’t you say!
Well, it is good to know that the role of cycling in our lives is gaining greater recognition, with the spread of the Covid virus! Cities and governments are realising that a new reality needs to be recognised and ideally put in place. Cities like Paris are forging ahead with ambitious plans to change the way citizens and commuters move about, encouraging people to ‘get on their bikes’!
The World Economic Forum is an international body based in Geneva which has recently highlighted the French government proposals to promote cycling and walking post COVID, as well as proposals from other cities around the world. Check out the short video on this link, and then delve into the associated written posts for some great ideas that could inspire you to get active in changing our environment here in Ireland, and getting your town or city to recognise the need for radical change to how we move about.
Cycling is, and will continue to be, a critical part of moving to a new post Covid reality. As Cyclist.ie has argued in multiple submissions to government, the role that cycling can play in:
- Reducing the level of greenhouse gases
- Improving the general and psychological health of people
- Reducing congestion levels
- Improving the design of public realm
- Providing a real economic return on public investment must be taken on board by the any new government, and in turn by Local Authorities across the country
It’s time for all of us to build support for new green initiatives that help to grow cycling levels.
It’s time for all of us, as cycling advocates, to push for the necessary changes by lobbying our public representatives and local authorities.
It’s Time to Make a Difference! Get On Yer Bike and Get Active!
Cyclist.ie calls on the Irish government to urgently follow the lead of European and United Kingdom governments regarding emergency Covid-related active travel measures. These measures include allocating more space for active travel and controlling vehicle speed by introducing 30 km/hr speed limits in built up areas and other measures.
On Saturday 9 May, the UK transport secretary Grant Shapps announced a national plan to support ‘active transport’ (walking and cycling) during and after the Covid-19 restrictions . He instructed local authorities to create space for walking and cycling and said that 20 m/ph (30km/h) speed limits was one of the measures required. The Transport Secretary’s action follows similar action by European governments and the release on 8 May of WHO guidance for local authorities – Strengthening Preparedness for COVID-19 in Cities and Urban Settings – in which it recommends the “promotion of safe active mobility (e.g. walking and cycling)”.
As a consequence of the Covid 19 shut-down, recent weeks have seen a complete reversal of numbers driving versus numbers walking and cycling . However, from Monday next, May 18th business will begin to open on a phased basis and traffic will increase. Due to the constraints social distancing requirements will impose on public transport and the air pollution consequence of increased motor traffic, large numbers of people will continue to walk and cycle. Switching to the private car, as an alternative to public transport would result in cities and towns experiencing unprecedented gridlock and a consequent deterioration in air quality. This would pose further threats to public health by increasing the incidence of respiratory conditions.
Dublin City Council is, to date, the only Irish local authority implementing substantial traffic measures to improve safety for people cycling and walking during the pandemic. Cyclist.ie spokesperson, Joan Swift, Sligo Cycling Campaign, has called on the government ” to ensure that the remaining Dublin council areas and our other cities of Waterford, Limerick, Cork Galway – and major towns such as Sligo – will not be left behind”, The Department of Transport Tourism and Sport must emulate its UK counterpart and offer direction to local authorities on dealing with the challenges they face in keeping people safe while walking and cycling. Speaking on behalf of Cyclist.ie and its 20 plus member organisations across Ireland, National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, said that “Initially the required segregated space can be secured quickly and cheaply by reallocating road space using a combination of wands, bollards, orcas and planters. In addition Mr O’ Tuama called for An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to introduce the following :
- Introduce €1,000 electric bike grant to be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) this is necessary to facilitate longer journeys by people who will be unable to use public transport
- Introduce incentives for bike repairs (as implemented in France and UK)
- Ensure that the Cycle to Work scheme continues to be available to workers who could avail of the scheme pre-Covid-19 and enhance the scheme by (i) introducing an equivalent one for those dependant on social welfare, and (ii) increasing the limit from €1,000 to €2,000 for purchases of cargo bikes
In addition the government must work on cross-departmental basis to:
- Accelerate the granting of any necessary funds to local authorities for safety improvements in our towns and cities
- Use emergency powers to enable councils to bypass the current process and take swift action to. mandate 30kph speed limits in city, town and village centres and near promenades parks and schools
- Remind councils that other measures to reduce speed are already available to them, for eg junction build-outs
- Ensure enforcement by An Garda Síochána of anti-social driving and parking offences – e.g. by implementing fines and increasing resources available to tow vehicles obstructing footpaths or cycle ways
- Place a nationwide ban on local authorities de-pedestrianising streets or suspending cycle lanes.
We cautiously welcome the words of Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in the Dáil today (13 May), when he mentioned that the National Transport Authority (NTA) would work with local authorities in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford to develop a COVID mobility framework. We are disappointed that this appears limited in scope and gives local authorities the ability to opt out of any measures. We would like clarification from the Minister why this process was not started two months ago when initial restrictions began, particularly in light of cities around the world already taking such measures at that stage. We note that Dublin City Council led from the front on this matter, and that the Minister’s department, through the NTA, only intervened at a late stage. The Minister must surely recognise that there are more than five councils in the country that face these issues, and we are calling for greater support for the 28 city and county councils not mentioned by the Minister, including the councils surrounding Dublin City Council that are heavily reliant on public transport for mobility.
During the quarantine, cycling has proven to be the safest, most efficient mode of transport we have. It cuts air pollution, which is likely to help spread the virus, and guarantees social distancing between commuters. In order to ensure a fast recovery, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) issued a set of recommendations for European, national and local authorities to promote cycling.
“This is not just a matter of sustainable mobility any more: more and better cycling has become a primary health issue. And if we want to reap the benefits bicycles can provide, we must ensure the measures we are taking will stay in the future. This is our opportunity to redesign cities for good, we can’t waste it with temporary solutions” declared Morten Kabell, co-CEO of ECF.
Cars have almost disappeared from the streets of Europe, bringing noise and air pollution levels down to historic lows. On the other hand, bicycles have emerged as the best option to do essential trips, deliver food and medicines, and get physically active. Never before have we been able to see, in such a clear way, the impact of our current mobility model on health, the environment, equality and safety. And never has such a great share of the population realised that private motorised mobility is far from the ideal commute.
Yet, the prospect of another traffic jam clogging our cities and polluting our air is not difficult to imagine. With public transport operating at reduced capacity, the only truly viable alternative we have to relaunch our economy and society is active mobility. Cycling is the hyper-efficient, quick and cheap option that will enable a boost recovery for Europe, instead of a slow and clumsy one.
“We have put together a set of recommendations for new streets that will unlock the full potential of cycling mobility. These solutions will enable extensive benefits in terms of traffic efficiency, a local economy reboot, public health savings. We call on all municipalities, regions and national governments to adapt these principles to their local context and give Europe a head start in the recovery phase”, said Jill Warren, co-CEO of ECF.
1. Cycling infrastructure networks
A well-designed network of bicycle infrastructure is essential to the promotion of cycling as a safe, efficient and healthy mode of transport. A comprehensive network of so called “COVID lanes” will immediately facilitate cycling access in cities. Following the example of Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Rome, among many others, a total target of 95,000 kilometres of roads should be repurposed for cycling. The deployment of various elements of street furniture can help ensure that the segregation of modes is respected by all users.
To further improve the efficiency of the investment, these elements should then be reconciled and integrated in the permanent urban infrastructure.
2. Reduce traffic speed limits
Road safety experts agree that speed is one of the major threats to safer streets. Reducing traffic speed in cities to 30km/h (if not lower) is the first step to achieve that goal and would not make overall mobility any slower. The City of Brussels took an exemplary measure, reducing speed limits to 20 km/hour in all streets inside the inner ring road.
3. Incentivise positive change, dis-incentivise business as usual
Together with Cycling Industries Europe and several other bicycle organisations in Europe, we are calling on the European institutions to create a €5 billion centralised EU e-bike Access Fund. Establishing a set of subsidies scheme for the purchase of (e-)(cargo)bikes can go a long way in nudging people in the right direction.
On the other hand, we need to reduce the over €100 billion congestion costs in European cities (more than 1% of the EU GDP per year). Looking for a solution, ECF studied the implementation of congestion charges in 4 cities over many years: Milan, London, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The ECF report “Congestion charges and cycling” proves the success of investing revenues from congestion charges into a sustainable mobility plan, and particularly cycling. With different approaches, the 4 cities achieved similar, positive results: introducing a congestion charge scheme created net revenues, reduced congestion, improved air quality and was beneficial for sustainable mobility.
4. Cycle logistics
Right-turning (left in Ireland & the UK) trucks in urban areas are one of the leading causes of deadly and life-changing accidents with cyclists. Also, over 90% of all commercial vans and trucks currently circulating are diesel-fuelled. The promotion of alternatives such as cycle logistics for the last-mile delivery is essential. The Horizon2020 EU-funded project City Changer Cargo Bike has already collected a number of valuable resources to guide cities and businesses in the process of converting their urban logistics into a more efficient, cleaner and infinitely safer system.
At a national and European level, stricter safety and visibility standards for lorry manufacturers must be imposed. While the revised General Safety Regulation already represents a great leap in cycling safety, the EU must firmly lead the negotiations at the UN to define the exact technical specifications for each of the measures.
Cyclist.ie has had a strategic partnership with Cycling Ireland since 2016 – the aim is to jointly promote and advocate for the development of cycling on the island of Ireland. We meet Cycling Ireland staff and volunteers on a regular basis, we and keep up-to-date on what is happening in the sports and leisure side of two wheeling – and equally, we share what is happening in the campaigning and advocacy spheres with them. Mary Corry, Development Officer for Cycling Ireland’s AXA Community Bike Rides, sent us the following update on what is happening with the bike ride programme they organise during the COVID crisis.
With the current restrictions in place, unfortunately AXA Community Bike Rides are unable to take place in their current format. For now, we are conscious that many of our members may like to take part in other cycling related activities within their home environment, such as taking part in strength exercises for cycling or learning about interval training. Others may like to find out – Is my saddle the right height for me? How do I fix a puncture? Is my helmet fitting properly? How do I clean my bike chain?
As a result, the AXA Community Bike Rides team have worked on developing short video clips on the above such topics so that for those who want to improve their cycling technique, they can look to engage with strength training clips or interval training, or for those who may like to improve their bike fitting and maintenance skills, they have access to short tutorial clips on how to go about doing this, see below
- Indoor Training for Beginners
- Strength Training for Cycling (Part 1)
- Bike and brake check
- How to maintain your bike chain
See also AXA Community Bike Rides
Another 6 clips being shared over the coming weeks …
This year the Clon Bike Fest will widen its spokes, reaching wide and inviting bicycle lovers all over the world to participate in a series of events, online and on your bike – wherever you are!
While the organizers are still finalizing details of the weekend, they are offering this snap shot:
The main on-yer-bike event of the weekend will be a 4 day ‘Photo Scavenger Hunt’ – open to small groups of bike lovers around the world. Register a team of 2-6 people (respecting your local COVID-19 guidelines) and prepare yourselves for 4 days of cycle hunting and photo posing – each item on the list will be assigned point values – and the team with the most points will win a wheely wonderful prize pack! Scavenger hunt list will be published on the evening of Wednesday June 3rd and entries will close mid-night on the 8th.
The Bicycle Festival will also host a live streaming ‘Bicycle Lovers’ Forum’ to discuss topics from ‘Cycling beyond the Pandemic’ to community bike shops to bike-buses, and everything in between. You can also expect live streaming Bike Repair with community bike mechanics from our very own Bike Circus as well as a virtual Cycle-in-Cinema and ideas and invitations to set up small cycle obstacle courses for your street!
T-shirts are being designed, digital posters and programmes will be available from May 15th – Please spread the word!