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.
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.
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.
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.
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.