Cyclist.ie is delighted to announce that we are one of the successful applicants in the first phase of Rethink Ireland’s Innovate Together Fund. This follows the formal announcement by Rethink Ireland last week – particularly exciting news to receive during National Bike Week, probably our busiest week of the year!
A total of 51 projects are being funded in the first phase of Rethink Ireland’s Innovate Together Fund, following applications for grants by 481 projects. The fund is all about supporting innovative responses to the pandemic, and Cyclist.ie sees cycling and active travel as very much part of an appropriate societal response to the situation in which we find ourselves. The Innovate Together Fund is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund.
The focus on cycling through the Change Our Streets campaign aligns with a Europe-wide trend of reallocating road space to pedestrians and cyclists, reducing speed limits, and introducing other interventions such as ‘filtered permeability’ schemes – all with the aim of changing the conditions to enable more people to choose to cycle. This trend has been reported widely in the international press – see for example the Guardian’s articles (from May 2020) on How coronavirus will transform transport in Britain’s cities and Covid-19 prompts world’s cities to free public space of cars – and in the domestic media such as the Irish Times’ editorial of 27 July 2020 which argued that the “pandemic has strengthened the case for getting more commuters cycling and walking” – see the Irish Times view on cycling infrastructure: a tipping point. As recently as today, the 2nd of October 2020, the BBC reported on ‘Coronavirus: How pandemic sparked European cycling revolution’. All of these developments are now being systematically tracked by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), of which Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland, with its Covid Measures Tracker.
The project builds on some fine campaigning work in which Galway Cycling Campaign, the Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie focused on speeding and the need for safe, usable space across the country, for people to shop, exercise and commute by active travel means during the crisis. This initiative was supported by The Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society and the Association for Health Promotion Ireland – see the Irish Heart Foundation joins call for safer streets. The project also builds on the work of Better Ennis with, for example, their open letter to the local Council requesting healthier streets during the pandemic. Huge credit is due to campaigners across the country advancing this advocacy work as it has raised the profile of the issues and of the need for Local Authorities (LAs) to engage more fully on public health matters.
The essence of this Rethink Ireland funded project is around strengthening the capacity of Cyclist.ie as an effective non-governmental organisation (NGO) to create further change. This means:
– Building up our knowledge base at local, national and international levels on what is happening to enable cycling during the pandemic (e.g. by drawing on the ECF Covid Tracker tool referred to above)
– Engaging constructively with LAs countrywide (e.g. through the Transportation or Infrastructure Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) on which some local Cyclist.ie member groups are represented – and through further direct contacts with officials)
– Building wider support and alliances for Cyclist.ie’s advocacy work – with businesses, health bodies and other NGOs. On this, Cyclist.ie draws great inspiration from Dropbox’s support for cycling advocacy through its endorsement of the work of Dublin Cycling Campaign (a member group of Cyclist.ie) – see Campaigning Moves up a Gear with the Support of Dropbox
– Engaging with the new Minister for Transport on cycling.
In short, the project is all about building on what Cyclist.ie has been working on since its foundation in 2008, but with the heightened urgency that Covid has prompted. As set out in our funding application in May, the success with Rethink Ireland’s Innovate Together Fund enables Cyclist.ie’s National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, to transition from a part-time role towards a full-time position in cycling advocacy. This, in turn, will help to nurture the further growth of effective cycle campaigning countrywide – see the map showing the growing array of cycling advocacy bodies all around Ireland (currently being updated to include new members). Ultimately, this project will support the emergence of strong cycling cultures at local community levels nationwide during and beyond the pandemic.
Once again, Cyclist.ie wishes to sincerely thank Rethink Ireland and the funders of the Innovate Together Fund. We also wish to acknowledge the Cyclist.ie Executive Committee for their input on the funding proposal back in May 2020. We see this funding success as a further stepping stone in strengthening cycling advocacy in Ireland.
Finally, we wish to note here that Cyclist.ie continues to appreciate its strategic partnerships with An Taisce and with Cycling Ireland. These partnerships help to cement cycling advocacy within broader movements around creating a more sustainable system and a healthier population in Ireland.