Pre-Budget 2021 submission

Cyclist.ie delivered our Pre-Budget 2021 Submission to the Department of Finance earlier today. You can read it immediately below. A PDF version can also be found here. A big thanks to our hard-working Executive Committee and wider team for preparing the submission.

Make the Programme for Government a Reality!
Ensure 10% of Transport Capital Funding is Allocated to Creating High Quality Conditions for Cycling Countrywide

1 – Introduction 

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, is the umbrella body of cycling advocacy groups in Ireland (http://cyclist.ie/) and the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation (https://ecf.com/). Our vision is that cycling, as a mode of transport, becomes a normal part of everyday life for all ages and abilities in Ireland. 

As recognised in the new Programme for Government (PfG), cycling as a mode of transport offers numerous well documented benefits to society, including:

  • improved public health (especially important in this Covid period)
  • reduced congestion 
  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions     
  • reduced air and noise pollution 
  • increased mobility (again, especially important in this Covid period when numbers that can safely use public transport are greatly reduced)
  • more liveable and sociable streets and communities
  • high rates of economic return on investment 

Unlocking these benefits requires targeted and sustained investment, and international evidence demonstrates that investing in cycling provides excellent value for money. 

Cyclist.ie needs to see the promises made in the Programme for Government (PfG) become reality, with clear timelines instituted so as to ensure that the various commitments made are followed through. 

We outline our budget recommendations below under the following four headings

  • Taxation and Fiscal Policy directions to create modal-shift
  • Institutional Changes (with a Budgetary Dimension)
  • Interventions to ensure all cycling infrastructure, both urban and rural, meets the highest standards 
  • Legislative Changes and Promotion of Cycling

Cycling delivers multiple benefits to society and it is essential that good habits are developed at the school-going age. Photo by Anna Groniecka at the ‘Back to School on Your Own Fuel’ campaign

2 – Taxation and Fiscal Policy directions to create modal-shift

  • 10% of the transport capital expenditure annual budget on cycling projects / €360M per annum – as per the PfG. This is essential, and once achieved it must be maintained year-on-year. Allocations for cycling development to be accounted for separately from other sustainable transport measures.
  • Increasing duty on diesel over four years to match petrol so as to improve air quality. Duty levels on fuels to be reviewed year on year.
  • Road-pricing policies in major cities to be researched immediately, with a view to implementation by 2022.
  • Parking levies legislation to be introduced with a view to encouraging greater sustainable transport use, and curbing car use. 
  • All Fixed Charge Penalty Offence (FCPO) fines, impacting on Vulnerable Road User Safety, to be markedly increased, to support more efficient use of road space.  
  • Subsidies for e-bikes to be increased, similar to e-cars. SEAI grants for e-bikes especially e-cargo bikes, need to be part of the Grants Package. 
  • VAT reduction on bikes and bike repairs, to encourage greater sales and usage. 
  • Mileage / km allowances for cycling, to encourage greater use of commuting by bike, similar to Belgium 
  • Fleets of bikes for state and semi-state employees to use instead of cars for some work journeys
  • Provision of covered secure bike parking for all major transport hubs / interchanges, shopping and service centres, and in particular in schools and colleges.
  • Transport Stimulus Fund for ‘quick wins’ for each local authority, every year, to drive modal shift. I.e. schemes which can be advanced quickly without the need for planning approval. 
  • Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, NTA, RSA and TII officials to do study tours to NL, DK and UK (for example) and systematically disseminate the knowledge gained widely within the Irish public / civil service. 
  • Provide support for bike mechanic training programmes.
  • Expansion of bike to work scheme (recent changes welcome) to be more inclusive with focus on low earners, students, and unwaged. 
  • Funds to enable the retrofitting of train carriages for increased carriage of bicycles, and the future purchase of appropriate carriages to meet EU bike carrying capacity requirements. 

3 – Institutional Changes (with a Budgetary Dimension)

National Level Departments / Agencies

  • Create and resource appropriately within the Department of Transport, a National Cycling Coordination Office headed at senior level. This would be primarily focused on ensuring coordination on policy, standards, and expenditure across government departments. 
  • Establish a major new National Cycling Authority, possibly within the existing NTA, to manage  Local / Regional cycle design offices, as sub-units of the NTA – so that there is proper oversight on the planning and the quality of all cycling schemes in ALL local authorities 
  • Address the need for the standardisation of planning processes, consultations, and transparency across all local authorities. All planning proposals should be searchable and viewable online, and the processes open and transparent. Parity of esteem and parity of information is required between active travel and road schemes. 

Local Authorities

  • Require every Local Authority to commission and oversee the implementation of a high quality cycling policy and strategy. This would encompass the three main strands of
    (i) ‘policy planning (structure for continuous dialogue with users, target setting, resources, training, adopted policy doc),
    (ii) ‘actions’ (infrastructure, including the development of ambitious strategic cycle network plans, promotion / soft measures, staffing resources)
    (iii) monitoring / evaluation of policy and . 
  • Require the appointment of Cycling Officers at Director of Services level in all Local Authorities, with a remit: 
    • To produce and oversee the implementation of the above high quality cycling policy
    • To set targets and effect modal change at local level
    • To ensure adequate staffing resources for active travel development in line with PfG, and to oversee any required re-allocation of staff internally.
    • To set up a Local Authority Active Travel Forum (this could be sub-committee of the Transport Strategic Policy Committee) where stakeholder views are adequately represented.
  •  Develop a clear policy for Cycling in Rural Ireland. See: https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/. Cycling needs to be a countrywide issue, not just an issue for major urban centres. The opportunities are there and these can also support local economic and social development. 

Ensure updated and realistic comparative assessment of all projects by reviewing the Government’s Common Appraisal Framework(CAF), and Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport(SFILT), etc

  • Update the Common Appraisal Framework (CAF) so that investments in schemes which promote healthier and low carbon travel are properly recognised for their broad societal benefits. The WHO ‘HEAT’ tool needs to be fully embedded into the CAF.  
  • Review the Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport (SFILT)  to reflect the declaration of a health emergency by the WHO, and the declaration of a climate emergency by the Dáil, necessitating the decarbonisation of the transport system. 

4 – Interventions to Improve the Quality of Cycling Infrastructure

The commitment in the PfG to fund cycling is quite explicit. The focus now needs to be on how to deliver high quality routes which will enable people of all ages and abilities (the “8 to 80 cohort”) to make the choice to switch to active travel.

  • Prioritise as a matter of urgency a review of design standards
    • to ensure design and construction of safe high quality routes in line with best international practice
    • to ensure design consistency across agencies, institutions, and local authorities
  • The main standards / guidelines for review are:
    • National Cycle Manual
    • Rural Cycleway Standards
    • Design Manual for Urban Roads & Streets (DMURS)

These should all dovetail with each other

  • Establish Local / Regional Cycle Design Offices – sub-units of the NTA – so that there is proper oversight of the quality of all cycling schemes in all local authorities (as opposed to just some schemes in some LA areas as is the current situation). Consultancy staff will need to be deployed as appropriate. This will ensure available expertise for local authorities for quick delivery of high quality projects
  • Set up accelerated training programs for local authority staff in sustainable mobility design and implementation. 
  • Every Local Authority to develop ambitious strategic cycle network plans for their towns and at a county level. 
  • Covid cycling schemes. Ensure that the NTA systematically monitors the quality and use of all ‘quick-to-construct’ schemes with a view to feeding this knowledge into design standards and further plans by Local Authorities. 
  • Currently cycling schemes are designed by a range of bodies – the NTA, TII, by local authorities or by consultants working for any of the above, hence the need for improved coordination and consistency of design.
    Funding should not be provided for low quality schemes that do not meet the required design standards.

5 – Legislative Changes and Promotion of Cycling

  • Resource and expedite Legislative Changes to prioritise active travel measures within an agreed time-frame. This is critical to support the growth of active travel.   
  • Introduce legislation so that 30km/h becomes the default speed limit in all built-up areas, and Councils can then introduce exceptions to these limits where it is deemed safe and appropriate. 
  • Cycle promotion, especially among marginalised groups. The same sophistication used in car advertising and marketing needs to be applied to sell active travel. 
    • This video example from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) is an example of what is possible

Screen shot from DLRCC’s video on the new Coastal Mobility Route (link above)

  • Cycle Training, via the Cycle Right program, needs to be expanded further, with adequate funding to ensure that local authorities can offer cycle training for all levels and ages including on-street training. 
  • Provide funding support for Active Travel advocacy so that the wider societal benefits of investing in cycling are understood – and that community support can be nurtured for high quality schemes etc.  
  • Include Cyclist.ie as a stakeholder under Section 82 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. 
  • Support the creation for Ireland of a tool equivalent to the Propensity to Cycle Tool (https://www.pct.bike/) as developed by Rachel Aldred for England & Wales. This would use Census data and would assist local communities in developing higher levels of cycling. 

Colm Ryder,
Chairperson,
Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network
The Tailors’ Hall,
Back Lane,
Dublin, D08 X2A3.

Submission on Grand Canal Greenway Turraun to Shannon Harbour

Grand Canal near NAAS

1.0 Introduction

Cyclist.ie is Ireland’s national cycling advocacy network, and the Irish member of the European Cyclists Federation. We are delighted to make this submission to Offaly County Council in relation to the proposed greenway along the Grand Canal from Turraun to Shannon Harbour, on behalf of the thousands of everyday cyclists throughout the country.

This proposed scheme has the general potential to encourage greater levels of walking and cycling locally in the immediate area. The scheme will also be a vital link in the overall Grand Canal Greenway extending from Dublin to the Shannon, and is a key element of the greater Offaly cycling development plan. It will undoubtedly open up commercial opportunities for increased visitor numbers and links to the various attractions in the area, and throughout the county.

We are happy to see local authorities proposing schemes that provide for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, and encourage sustainable travel. Overall we are supportive of this scheme and the basic design quality. We commend Offaly CC for advancing this proposal, but have a number of comments to make, and seek clarification on, in relation to the posted documentation, which we feel is not comprehensive enough, and is of a cursory nature.

2.0 Specific Comments

While overall we respect the desire to implement this design, we are disappointed that there are limited design details or cross sections available in this Part 8 at critical points that make it difficult to assess the final design viability. We would also comments in general on the Part 8 documentation, as follows:

  • The layout of the drawings in this published Part 8 is initially confusing and counter intuitive. Despite the description of the route in the Part 8 documentation as from Turraun to Shannon Harbour, the drawing sequence and kilometrage runs in the opposite direction. It is initially very confusing, and difficult to navigate.
  • The level of detail on the actual drawings is very poor, and should have been enhanced by insertion of actual images at particular points on the main drawings, as well as specific cross sections, to enable proper assessment of the proposals.
  • Not enough detail is supplied at road crossings in relation to the proposed signage. While we assume that Offaly County Council will comply with the necessary signage, it is incumbent on the Council to provide clear details of the proposed signage and safety measures.
  • No details are supplied of links through Shannon Harbour and beyond. The canal towpath greenway ends abruptly alongside the canal at Shannon Harbour, with no indication or discussion of access through the village or on to Banagher. This is a deficiency in the Planning Report.
  • There is no mention or discussion on any proposed information and route signage or special features, to add to the experience of the Greenway user. This once again is a deficit in the planning report
  • Clear drawing details should have been supplied in particular for the under bridge accesses proposed at L’Estrange Bridge, Judges Bridge, and Gallen (Armstrong) Bridge. To literally just state, that ‘Railings and chicanes (will be installed) on greenway on approaches to ….. Bridge’ is not acceptable. Full details and drawings should have been posted.
  • The proposed greenway surfacing is either quarry dust or surface dressing throughout. This is not the preferred surface type for the average cyclist. Cyclist.ie wants to see a smooth asphalt type surface for all greenway routes, as this type of surface helps to reduce falls and skids, and enables easier access for prams and wheelchairs. A quarry dust or surface dressing surface does not give a smooth ride, can be a cause of skids and slips, and generally requires a higher level of maintenance.

3.0 Conclusion/Summary

While Cyclist.ie broadly welcomes these proposals to link the existing Grand Canal Greenway to Shannon Harbour, we are disappointed with:

  • The Part 8 documentation details of the proposed scheme, as outlined above
  • The lack of clarity and detail at specific points along the proposed route, including road signage and under-bridge details
  • The development/description of cycle links into Shannon Harbour village and beyond
  • The fact that there is no mention of potential route enhancement features to attract users and visitors
  • The surfacing proposals as outlined are not of the required cyclists’ standard

We hope our comments will be taken on board, and we are available at any stage to discuss any of the items raised above.

Active Travel Stimulus Funding – Does it Deliver?

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, broadly welcomes the funding provided for Active Travel projects through the Government’s recent Stimulus Plans, but with some reservations

It is exciting to see funding being provided for such an array of projects, some of which have the potential to significantly improve the safe movement of pedestrians and people on bicycles.  Projects which seek to provide segregated cycling infrastructure, bicycle parking and cycling priority at junctions clearly demonstrate that coupling vision and leadership means that significant active travel measures can, and now will, be delivered in these locations.

Speaking on behalf of Cyclist,ie, Colm Ryder, Chairperson, said: “we are delighted to see new footpaths, cycleways and bicycle parking being funded through the Stimulus Plans. We are hopeful that these projects will be designed and constructed to the highest standard.”

In contrast to the above positives, we are concerned to see reference to non-standard active travel measures such as “Greyways”.  Greyway is not a recognised term within the cycling design infrastructure, and it apparently refers to proposals to reconstitute road hard shoulders as cycle routes which are clearly unsafe and unattractive. To achieve real and substantive shift to active modes, it is essential that measures taken are designed to established standards. 

Anluan Dunne of Kerry Cycling Campaign continued: “it is worrying that some of the funding is being provided for infrastructure which has no established national standard – such as greyways. For decades we have campaigned for high quality, well designed infrastructure and it would be negligent to waste this opportunity, and these funds, on low quality projects. We call on the local authorities who have applied for funds to construct greyways, to reconsider, and re-allocate the monies to projects which adhere to published design standards and principles”

As a representative group, we are highly supportive of all measures to enhance and establish active travel measures. We now need to see Minister Eamon Ryan initiate an urgent review of design guidance contained in the National Cycling Manual, the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS), and Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s (TII) guidance on ‘Rural Cycleways’, and ‘Cross sections & Headroom’ documents . This is needed to maximise return on investment for the limited funding available.

Colm Ryder concluded: “it is imperative that the Minister and the Department of Transport ensure that funding provided for projects is targeted at attractive, efficient and safe measures. A cycle network plan should be developed in all local authority areas and municipal districts to inform and guide future project proposals”.

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network:  Our vision is that cycling is recognised as an everyday transport mode, which can be safely used by people of all ages and abilities.

[2] We can provide high quality photos to go with any articles being produced if/as required. 

SPOKESPERSONS / FURTHER INFORMATION

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce – [email protected], Mob: 087-2840799.

Anluan Dunne, Kerry Cycling Campaign, [email protected], Mob: 085-7036888. 

Colm Ryder, Chairperson Cyclist.ie, [email protected]  Mob 087-2376130Neasa Bheilbigh, Galway Cycling Campaign,

[email protected], Mob: 087-9930374. Cuirtear fáilte roimh agallamh trí Ghaeilge.

Minister Noonan to launch rural Vision for Cycling

MEDIA RELEASE – Embargoed until 7am Wednesday 23rd September 2020

Junior Minister Malcolm Noonan joins Cyclist.ie to launch the Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland 

Rural communities should be cycle-friendly for all ages and abilities, say Rural Cycling Collective

Today sees the formal launch of the Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland by Cyclist.ie’s Rural Cycling Collective, an array of groups and individuals under the umbrella of the wider national Cyclist.ie advocacy network. The Collective seeks to make rural communities (towns, villages, and rural roads) cycle-friendly for all ages and abilities. It aims to re-balance the debate on active travel so that everyday journeys by bike across rural Ireland are enabled and supported. 

The launch will take place over Zoom, and includes an array of speakers as follows:

– Junior Minister Malcolm Noonan TD to launch
– Jo Sachs-Eldridge (Transport Planner/Leitrim Cycling Festival) to give 5 minute presentation on the document 
– Anluan Dunne (Kerry Cycling Campaign) to speak on recent Government Active Travel Stimulus Package – see Cyclist.ie article here 
– Caitríona Corr (Kilkenny Active Travel)

Launching the vision document, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama for Cyclist.ie said

“Today we launch our vision document which aims to promote and celebrate everyday cycling in towns, villages and their surrounding areas. Cycling is not just for Dublin and other cities. Our vision highlights the needs of areas outside of the major cities and the opportunity now presents itself to transform peoples’ experience of active travel.” 

Allison Roberts from the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, a member group of Cyclist.ie, stressed that “we want a fair distribution of transport funding to regional parts of the country to make cycling for all ages and abilities a reality”. But to ensure the funding is spent in the right way on the right kind of infrastructure, “Cyclist.ie needs to be viewed as a core stakeholder and actively encouraged to participate more fully in local authority infrastructure and design planning.”

As Jo Sachs-Eldridge of Leitrim Cycling Festival, who led the creation of the vision, explains:

“What we want is to see changes in the way things are being done in our local authorities, we need to move from a reactive, ad hoc approach to one that is much more strategic and proactive. And we need to change the environment on our roads – both the physical and the social environment – so that they are safer for everyone.”

“The 8 key recommendations in the vision document [see page 6 of the document here  – and listed below] could transform the countryside into places where cyclists are ‘expected and respected’, by designing useful, connected cycle routes throughout Local Authority areas”, Sachs-Eldridge continued. As a priority, safe cycle routes to schools and car-free zones should be introduced at school gates in all towns and villages, along with lower speed limits to make our roads and streets safer and more accessible for everyone, and to reduce casualties. 

Sachs-Eldridge added that “we are delighted to finally see a funding commitment for cycling in the Programme for Government. But it must be accompanied by an improvement in design standards, and improved project management capacity at all levels of local and national government.”

Allison Roberts of the Clonakilty Bike Fest also stressed the importance of community and stakeholder engagement:

“Local authorities should see us as partners and allies as they start to draw up plans for cycle routes. Our expertise and hands-on experience of cycling in rural communities could be invaluable in advising on designing safe routes for cyclists of all ages and abilities. We want to see the best use made of this funding opportunity. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Webinar details:

5pm – 6pm Wednesday 23rd September (online webinar – register to attend here )

The event will begin with a short video presentation and will end with a Q&A session.

Further information: 

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama,
National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie and An Taisce
Phone: 087-2840799
Email: [email protected] 

NOTES FOR EDITORS 

AIMS

The Rural Cycling Collective plans to foster collaboration amongst cycling groups across Ireland and to jointly lobby local authorities and public representatives for the changes which will entice more people to choose the bicycle for everyday activities. It will also work towards a cycle-friendly Ireland by collaborating with all stakeholders, organising regular events, fun-cycles and campaign actions.

MORE INFO

Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network is the umbrella body of cycle campaigning and advocacy groups in Ireland – https://cyclist.ie/. It is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation – https://ecf.com/

Further information on Cyclist.ie’s Rural Cycling Collective is available here: https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/ 

Summary of 8 major points in the Vision – Cyclist.ie calls our local and national government to:

1. Create an environment in our cities, towns, villages and rural roads where CYCLISTS ARE EXPECTED AND RESPECTED

3. Implement BEST PRACTICE DESIGN to ensure routes are safe and comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities 

4. Prioritise SAFE CYCLE ROUTES TO SCHOOLS and car free zones at school gates

5. LOWER SPEED LIMITS to make our roads and streets safer and more accessible for everyone, and to reduce casualties

6. Ensure clear and timely ACCESS TO FUNDING, by improving capacity at all levels of local and national government

7. COLLABORATE WITH ALL STAKEHOLDERS – including cycling and community groups – at all stages of planning and design

8. Provide CYCLE TRAINING for all ages, especially children

SPOKESPERSONS

Anluan Dunne, Kerry Cycling Campaign, a member group of Cyclist.ie
Phone: 085-703-6888
Email:  [email protected]

Joan Swift, Sligo Cycling Campaign, a member of Cyclist.ie
Phone: 087-9622234
Email: [email protected]  

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie and An Taisce
Phone: 087-2840799
Email: [email protected] 

€88M Stimulus Funding for Active Travel – Is it all good news?

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) and the National Transport Authority (NTA) have recently announced separate major Stimulus Funding packages for Active Travel projects in the major cities and other counties around the country. Both of these funding packages, which are broadly welcomed, are due to be spent by the end of this calendar year – which is highly ambitious. Therefore cycling advocates around the country need to try to ensure that the monies are spent – and spent wisely – by the Local Councils, as there is a number of listed projects that are of dubious benefit to cyclists and pedestrians. We urge you to check out the level of ambition of your own Local Council, by accessing the links below in this article. 

The NTA announced a €55 million package for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) and the other four main cities. Dublin City Council, not surprisingly, has received the largest share of this funding at just over €12million, with Kildare County Council in the GDA receiving the lowest figure of only €1.8million, possibly a reflection of its level of ambition in relation to active travel? The four Dublin local authorities account for approximately 50% of the available package. Dublin City and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Councils are by far and away the most ambitious. Within the GDA, South Dublin, Kildare, Meath & Wicklow have minimal allocations for cycling, with most funds being spent on pedestrian improvements such as footpaths and crossings. 

Outside Dublin, Limerick City and County Council’s allocation of nearly €9million includes a number of general road resurfacing projects, which will of course also benefit cyclists and bus passengers. But will it encourage greater levels of cycling? Cork City in its €4million allocation concentrates on the public realm, with some ‘footpaths or cycling’ measures included. It is unclear as to what is actually intended. Galway City proposes to ‘resurface roundabouts… to improve safety for cyclists’. We wonder what this actually means as many of Galway’s roundabouts are ‘no-go’ areas for people on bikes! Galway City also proposes to ‘convert a hard shoulder to a cycleway’ on Bóthar na dTreabh, which is a fast multi-lane roadway. We are dubious of what exactly is proposed in this area, which is not a major cycle route. Meanwhile Waterford City and County Council has a number of general resurfacing jobs and mainly footpaths and crossings.

The Stimulus allocations from DTTAS amount to a €33 million package for Active Travel across 22 County Councils, outside the ambit of the NTA. Cork County Council is the largest recipient of funding, accounting to over €5 million of the total. Carlow County Council at €528,000 is the recipient of the smallest amount. A major worry for cycling advocates are proposals for building ‘greyways’. These appear to be expenditure of scarce funds by designating hard shoulders on roadways as cycle lanes. In 2012-13 after a number of similar schemes, DTTAS stopped the conversion of hard shoulders for cycling use. The term ‘greyways’ does not exist in the cycling infrastructure lexicon, and Cyclist.ie questions its use without clear design criteria and proper safety considerations. These greyways are proposed in a total of seven counties: Galway, Louth, Longford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford, and Roscommon. We seek full reconsideration of these greyway proposals unless clear design guidelines and guaranteed safety for cyclists are provided.

In conclusion, Cyclist.ie welcomes this double injection of funding for Active Travel around the country, but urges caution in relation to some of the projects which are clearly of dubious benefit to pedestrians and people on bikes. In particular we would like to see the proposed ‘greyway’ funding re-allocated to other active travel projects with a clearer benefit for cyclists and pedestrians.

Photo above: From Donna Cooney and the Green Lanes National School Cycle Bus

CYCLIST.IE GET TO SCHOOL ON YOUR OWN FUEL IN THE MEDIA

We know the simple idea of kids cycling shouldn’t be news, but it is news.
We need to keep it in news until it becomes so normal that it is no longer news.

(Limerick Cycling – Twitter 2nd September 2020).

Videos of enthusiastic children and parents cycling to school are a rare sight on RTE Six One TV News. However, on Tuesday evening September 1st, Aoife and Bobby along with their classmates from Limerick Cycle Bus; together with Saoirse, and Dad, Oisín, (spokesperson for the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown group of Dublin Cycling Campaign); Iseult, and Dad, Anluan, (spokesperson for Kerry Cycling Campaign) and Theo, Phoebe and Oscar representing the nascent Strandhill Cycle Bus all made the cut – see RTÉ News on Twitter

Cyclist.ie’s Back to School on your Own Fuel featured on RTE’s Six One News on 1st Sept 2020

Cathy Halloran, RTE’s Mid-west correspondent, also interviewed Conor Buckley and Anne Cronin, Chair and Vice-Chair of Limerick Cycling Campaign respectively, about the School Cycle Bus Limerick.  

A few days earlier, on Sunday, August 30th, The Irish Times published an online article by reporter Sylvia Thompson headlined Communities working against the odds to get children cycling to school.   

Photo by Anna Groniecka (in Clonakility) and reproduced in the Irish Times

Thompson interviewed Allison Roberts from Clonakilty Bicycle Festival and Catríona Corr, Kilkenny Walking and Cycling Campaign Kilkenny Cycling & Walking Campaign about the Cyclist.ie initiative Get to School on Your Own Fuel and Alan Curran from the pioneering Galway School Cycle Bus who have been doing just that for some time. The emphasis was on the excitement of cycling, the support that freeing up space outside the school gate can offer and the hope that cycle buses are merely a temporary fix until our cycling infrastructure is of a standard to permit independent cycling by school children.

On August 27th Martina Callanan from Galway Cycling Campaign spoke to Shane Coleman on Newstalk Breakfast about the opportunity for secondary school students and in particular teenage girls to cycle to school and about how #MoreSpace and #LessSpeed are needed for this to become a reality – check out With Schools Back Open Is Now The Time For Students To Get Back In The Saddle?  

This national coverage of children cycling to school certainly makes a change from the usual hardy annual tales about the shortage of school places, the cost of uniforms, the weight of schoolbooks and congestion at the school gates.

The opportunity to change the narrative regarding school gate congestion is one positive outcome from the Covid-19 pandemic. Widespread anxiety about the return to the classroom was heightened by government advice to avoid both public transport and car-sharing and to maintain social distancing at the school gate. Cyclist.ie, Green Schools Ireland, existing Cycle Buses and a few forward-thinking councils and councillors all availed of the opportunity to offer support for alternatives to the school run by car. In Dublin, the Irish Times covered the trial runs of the cycle bus to Greenlanes School Clontarf – Parents encouraged to ditch the car for ‘cycle bus. 

Donna Cooney with the new Cycle Bus to Greenlanes School in Clontarf in Dublin.

Cyclist.ie’s initiative, titled, Get to school on your own fuel followed fast on the heels of the Launch of the Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland . Priority number four of the vision is“Prioritise safe routes to schools and car-free zones at school gates.”  Campaign groups offered support for practice cycle runs, route-planning and bike checks and picnics and an online scavenger hunt added a fun element to the proceedings. You can check the winners of our hunt here

Regional and Local Press
Both the launch of the Rural Cycling Collective’s Vision for Cycling and the various Get to School on your Own Fuel initiatives also received welcome and extensive coverage from the regional press. The Leitrim Observer spoke to Jo Sachs Eldridge of Leitrim Cycling Festival regarding the planned new Friday cycle bus to Cootehall – as below. 

The Southern Star’s article entitled Local group campaigns to make rural areas more cycle-friendly featured Allison Roberts from Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, Katie Mann from Cycle Sense in Skibereen, and Lucia Finnegan of  the Bandon Bike Friendly Group about their fun cycles, bike-doctor sessions and practice cycles to school.  

Photo: Martin Walsh – as appeared in the Southern Star

The West Cork People also covered these stories – see National rural cycling vision launched by west cork groups – while across the boarder in the Kingdom, Kerry’s Eye talked to Anluan Dunne, spokesperson for Kerry Cycle campaign about the rural vision for an article headlined “Cyclists offer vision for future”.   

Two editions of Kilkenny People had amazing coverage and photos of Kilkenny’s Walking and Cycling Campaign’s bike workshop on The Parade and of the arrival of Cartoon Saloon’s Dorg Van Dongo to launch Kilkenny’s Safe School Zone – see Dorg Van Dango launches Kilkenny’s Safe School Zone campaign

Sligo Weekender carried a press release from Sligo Cycling Campaign which they titled “Go to school on your own steam” and photos of the family fun cycle titled “Cyclists head to County Hall in campaign for more facilities”.  All of this coverage gave campaigners an opportunity to engage with their communities about the enjoyable and transformative possibilities of cycling to school.

The Get to School initiative came about as a result of collaboration between several local Cyclist.ie campaigns. The Cyclist.ie family is appreciative of the work of Clara, Oisín, Allison, Jo, Caitríona, Sadhbh, Anluan, Joan, Colm, Gerry and Damien in coming up with the idea and driving it forward – and to the Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny and photographer Anna Gronieka in Clonakilty for their support with graphics and photography. We’re also grateful to the reporters, photographers and editors from national and local media who enabled us to publicise #GetToSchool. Kudos also to the Cycling Buses who paved the way!

In recent days social media has come alive with photos of children cycling to school either with their families or on cycle buses. Some have even been happily pedalling through the puddles! We are happy to have played a part in this revolution along with Green Schools Ireland, parents, schools, and some far-seeing councillors and local authorities.

If you would like to see cycling to school become a normal part of everyday life in Ireland, please contact us in Cyclist.ie – or you might also like to check out the work of An Taisce’s Green Schools who are working in this space through their Travel themed work.  

cyclist.ie’s scavenger hunt winners

Cyclist.ie’s Back to School on your own Fuel campaign team is delighted to announce that the winners of our 2020 National Scavenger Hunt are……. drum-roll…….. the amazing Naas Bikepacking Team!

The competition was stiff so we send our sincere congratulations to Brandon and Mark who attend St. Corban’s Boys’ Primary School in Naas, County Kildare!

We love the name and the photo sent to us during the campaign.

Take a bow Naas Bikepacking Team! A credit to the town of Naas.

Brandon and Mark, fully kitted out and ready for action and adventures – the winners of the 2020 Get to School on your own Fuel Scavenger Hunt.

Post-script….

Below is a photo of Brandon and Mark opening their winners’ presents sent by Cyclist.ie. Great happy faces on them!

And another one below – well done lads!