Whose line is it anyway?

In this article, Jo Sachs-Eldridge from the Leitrim Cycling Festival and Cyclist.ie reflects on the importance of good design and how we might achieve it using the input of diverse voices. 

The announcement of additional funding to create almost 300 jobs in active travel is a very exciting step towards a more sustainably mobile Ireland – as we reported here

As the Minister for Transport notes ‘Developing high quality walking and cycling facilities will encourage more people to switch to active travel and will contribute to tackling climate change. Really good design is what is needed to connect communities and make walking and cycling attractive, safe and accessible to everyone.’

He is absolutely right we need really good design. But we also need to consider the questions of who determines whether this is really good design? Who gets to make those decisions? Who is involved in the whole process of design? Are everyone’s voices being heard – particularly those who may not traditionally engage in the process such as women, young people, people with disabilities and other people who may be even more significantly impacted by the quality of the infrastructure. 

As noted in the recent TII ‘’ report, ‘Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes’, “Transport is often seen as gender neutral, providing benefit to all equally. However a growing body of international research highlights that this is not the case. Women and men can have different needs, constraints and expectations for using transport”.

Really good design is often a highly complex process with no definitive right answer but lots of wrong answers. There is guidance out there, good guidance, but that doesn’t guarantee good design. We know that. So how do we now do things differently? 

My experience in Cardiff, where I previously managed the programme for cycling, is that engaging with the right people at the right time is key to good design. It sounds simple and in some ways it is. But to do it right requires a considerable amount of time and effort. Every aspect needs to be considered – the timing, the information, the audience, the wording, the method. But the time and effort invested will make a considerable difference to the result.  

Because good cycle design is all about lines. To start with are the desire lines of the people who live, shop, work, play, learn in a place. The desire lines matter but they are not the only ‘lines’ that need to be considered. 

We also need to think about the line taken on introducing innovative design; the line we take on deviating from the status quo; on reallocating road space; on removing parking spaces; on reducing the capacity of a junction for motorised private vehicles; on prioritising active travel road users over motorised traffic. 

And then there are all the detailed lines, the lines that can get so easily lost in translation – every millimetre of road space reallocated, every kerbline, every sign installed, every barrier is another decision. Another line.  

Who makes these decisions? 

Who draws these lines? 

There is a myriad of conflicting needs and wants and a myriad of potential decision makers. 

And there are no simple answers. 

The only way we get can this right, the only way we can overcome these conflicts and draw the best possible ‘lines’ is through engagement and collaboration with as many people as possible at every stage of the development. 

From my experience I would argue we need: 

  • strategic cycle network plans developed in collaboration with the people who matter and based on real desire lines; 
  • the integration of these network plans with all other relevant local area and national plans; 
  • routes that are designed based on best practice and through collaborative design workshops that involve all relevant parties – members, internal officers, external stakeholders – all with a clear understanding of the ambitions of the scheme;
  • community street audits or walk-throughs incorporated into the design process – for both internal officers and external stakeholders; 
  • simple audit tools to allow a broader and wider range of people to be involved in the process and to ensure that no aspect of high quality design is overlooked; 
  • effort made to ensure that voices from those harder to reach groups are heard – the right lines to be drawn by the right people at the right time.  

We know that designing for the expedient movement of car drivers no longer fits with our policies, our future plans, our targets, or our long term sustainability. 

Cycling benefits all of us regardless of who is doing the pedalling through the reduction in congestion, pollution, pressure on the health service and improved community cohesion. 

Key to developing a high quality cycle network that will have an impact on travel behaviour is the answer to the question ‘whose line is it anyway?’

In order to create quality networks that make cycling an attractive option we must make the time and effort to engage with everyone that matters.

As ultimately no one has a claim to the line.

It is all of ours. 

Photo credit: Luciana Prado

Cyclist.ie submission on nta strategy for the gda

Cyclist.ie made a submission today (Friday 22 January 2021) to the National Transport Authority in regard to its Review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA).

In our submission (a link to it is below), we stressed the point that, almost uniquely, cycling is a key enabler for the four challenges listed within the strategy overview:

–  Climate Change and the Environment
–  Health and Equality
–  Growth and Change and
–  The Economy 

We pointed out that progress has been slow in the early years of the 2016-2035 GDA Strategy on the development of the cycling network, despite the publication of the GDA Cycle Network Plan Strategy in 2013 .  

Given the extra urgency in regard to the need to decarbonise our transport system and provide a healthy mobility system, we now look forward to a serious focus and rapid progress in the revised strategy on all public transport projects and, in particular, on active travel projects. We need a fairer allocation of road space and reallocation towards active travel.  This needs to be prioritised as part of this strategy review.

We underlined the need for high quality cycle infrastructure to be provided throughout the region and linking in to public transport interchanges with state-of-the-art cycle parking provision.

We exhorted the NTA to be far more ambitious in its strategy development so that in the coming years, staff from Local Authorities countrywide – and even from abroad – will travel throughout the GDA to observe and to try out a wealth of super high quality, low carbon, mobility interventions and systems.

You can read our full submission here here.

And we wish to acknowledge the work of our colleagues in Dublin Cycling Campaign in drafting their submission (from which we have borrowed many points).

And you can read the NTA issues paper to which we responded here.  

Cyclist.ie Warmly Welcomes Active Travel Jobs Announcement

Cyclist.ie warmly welcomes the announcement today from the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan T.D. and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton T.D. that up to 248 new jobs in local authorities will be created to expand walking and cycling facilities all over the country.

Speaking about the plan to employ up to 218 additional staff across the local authorities, with an additional 30 proposed for Regional Cycling Design Offices, Minister Eamon Ryan said:

“Developing high quality walking and cycling facilities will encourage more people to switch to active travel and will contribute to tackling climate change. Really good design is what is needed to connect communities and make walking and cycling attractive, safe and accessible to everyone. We’re providing €360 million in funding in the 2021 budget for active travel, and this week I announced that we will fund dedicated teams in all local authorities to deliver on the commitments in the Programme for Government. This project will more than quadruple the number of staff working on active travel projects on local authorities. This is a game-changer in terms of delivering high-quality infrastructure across the country in both rural and urban areas.”

Minister of State Naughton stated: “Today’s announcement, underpinned by our commitment to spend almost €1 million per day on walking and cycling, focuses on resourcing the shift towards more sustainable modes of transport. Local authorities are at the heart of what we want to achieve and we need to ensure they have the right level of resources available to deliver this in every city, town and village across the country. Vitally, we will use these dedicated resources to implement Government commitments such as the new Safe Routes to School programme. This Programme will ensure that children of all ages and backgrounds can travel to school safely, and in a healthy and active way.”

According to the announcement made earlier today (Friday 22 January 2021), the new staff will be dedicated to delivering and promoting active travel in Ireland and will work across design, communications / community liaison and construction oversight functions. The new staff will support the delivery of almost 1,000 kilometres of improved walking and cycling infrastructure by 2025.

Cyclist.ie warmly welcomes the announcement above having campaigned ahead of the General Election 2020 for increased investment in trained staff in sustainable travel – see here

Chairperson of Cyclist.ie, Colm Ryder, responded to the announcement saying that this could be a game-changer in how we plan for high quality sustainable mobility in Ireland over the next decade.
“We need to shift our emphasis towards low carbon and healthy transport, and it is extremely important that Local Authorities are engaging with the latest ideas in mobility planning and behavioural change through new staff trained in design, communications, community liaison as well as enhanced construction oversight functions. Additionally, the new jobs in every Local Authority will bring greater parity to the development of active travel across the country – in other words, this marks a shift from a mainly city focused approach to one where we will start to see real changes in walking and cycling provision in every county in the country”. 

Vice-Chairperson of Cyclist.ie, Neasa Bheilbigh, added:
“If we are to reduce the inequalities in mobility, and make it as normal for children to cycle to school in Ireland as it is in many European countries, then we urgently need this new cohort of staff in Local Authorities who will inject new thinking and ideas into Irish Councils. We must remember that everyone benefits when more people cycle. We look forward to hearing more details of the government plans following on from this announcement.” 

Further details of the announcement can be read in the formal Department of Transport press release.  

A Campaign Group in Every County

Cyclist.ie’s ambition is for every county in Ireland to have its own cycling advocacy group (or groups) and for all of these to be incorporated into our all-island network. This is at a time when government commitment to sustainable transport has never been greater.

Currently around two thirds of the counties in Ireland have their own cycling user / advocacy groups, and these span Cycling Campaigns, Bike Festivals, Greenway Groups and other Special Focus Groups. Additionally, there are new Cycle Buses popping up all around the place which is great to see.

On the map here http://cyclist.ie/map/ (screen-shot below), we have plotted these groups and have provided direct hyperlinks to all of them so you can get a good idea of what is happening where. Contact details are provided for most of them via this online map. 

Within Cyclist.ie’s umbrella, we now have 25 full member groups. To give you some context, this has grown from just seven groups back in 2008 when the federation was formed. See here for the first Cyclist.ie submission made in October 2008 which was jointly produced by our then member groups from Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Maynooth, Skerries and Waterford.

Note that the ambition for every county in Ireland to have its own cycling advocacy group is now part of Cyclist.ie’s brand new strategy which was adopted at our most recent Council meeting held on Saturday 12 December 2020. We will be producing a public version of this strategy in the coming months which will be posted to our website. 

At Dublin Cycling Campaign’s online public meeting taking place on Monday 18th January 2021 (at 8pm), Cyclist.ie’s National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, will be giving a short presentation on this ambition. This is part of an evening of 10 short talks on an array of topics. For details, check out this link. As part of the talk, Damien will offer some ideas on how to support the setting up of a new group and join the network. All are very welcome.

If you live in a county which does not appear to have an active cycle campaign group within it, but you are keen to have one in order to help shape your Local Authority’s transport and cycling policies – and, ultimately, to change conditions on the ground for the better, then drop Damien a line. We look forward to hearing from you! 

All in all, this is an exciting time to be involved in cycling advocacy. 

An Taisce New Year Two Wheels

Cyclist.ie is delighted that another advocacy group also decided that the beginning of a New Year was an opportune time to invite people to celebrate cycling, sustainability, and active travel.

No sooner had Cyclist.ie’s “Cycle into the New Year” invitation been posted on social media than An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland posted its own #NewYearTwoWheels challenge, which invited people to reconsider their travel choices during the month of January. 

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Furthermore, An Taisce asked viewers of its tweet if they would consider supporting its cycling advocacy work by donating as little as €5 to to its campaign to support the National Cycling Coordinator.    

The An Taisce January campaign complements Cyclist.ie’s “Cycle in the New Year” campaign perfectly. The latter asked people to cycle on New Year’s Day. An Taisce was more ambitious and is asking people to reconsider their mode of transport during the whole of the month of January. We think #NewYearTwoWheels is a brilliant hashtag and are happy to add it to our posts. 

Below, we show you a selection of the photos posted on Twitter during the first week of the #NewYearTwoWheels campaign. They feature journeys by bike in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Clare, Meath and Leitrim. There are just under twenty days left in January, so if your county does not feature – or even if it does – why not leave the car at home for a trip and see if you can get to your destination under your own steam!

Since many people who posted their photos were either still on Christmas holidays or are working from home, most of the featured trips were for leisure purposes but Kevin Jennings, Galway, posted photos showing the popularity of #ShopByBike in Galway, while over on Facebook Leitrim Cycling Festival showed off a very colourful selection of veg from the Farmer’s Market!  

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Also, in Galway, Justine Delaney admired some new bike parking.

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Meanwhile Better Ennis observed that on a bike you have time to notice what is over the wall – and they encountered these dancing ducks!

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Many people photographed stunning landscapes. The glorious weather we had last week must have been the answer to both a cyclist and a photographer’s prayer! Dave Anderson, Navan, for example took this beautiful photo of a peacefully meandering river Boyne from Ardmulchan Church.

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In Galway, Mother on a Rothar captured beautiful images of bicycles at Silverstrand, as did fellow Galwegian, Richard Silke. Both posters remarked on how wonderful it is that the road to this beach is now closed to motor traffic making it a haven for people walking and cycling.

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In Dublin, the Dodder proved to be a popular destination. Ciarán Ferrie, Siobhán McNamara and Sandra Velthuis all headed that way and Mairéad Forsythe was looking forward to the new Dodder bridge in Templeogue.

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In Cork Maulvirane’s photo taken near Carrigaline caught our eye!

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Many posters worked out loops which allowed them to cover a decent distance while remaining 5 km from home. Ross Boyd did his loop around Fingal on New Year’s Day and was pleased to discover that there were as many bikes as cars about!  

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In recent months, the newly formed Cyclist.ie Rural Collective has introduced the concept of “Rothar Roads” to discussions of cycling infrastructure. Our final photo shows Jo Sachs Eldridge, of Leitrim Cycling Festival, one of the prime movers behind the collective, on just such a road on New Year’s Day. 

So, there you have it, urban or rural, regional or rothar, greenway, blueway, shops or sea, your bike can take you there! Why not see if you can rise to An Taisce’s call by substituting a car trip for a bike trip during January? And don’t forget to add your #NewYearTwoWheels photo to the collection!

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You might also like to check out some of the lovely images posted to Cyclist.ie’s own ‘Cycle in the New Year’ article.

Cycle in the New Year

Cycling advocates from around the country took to the roads on New Year’s Day 2021 to stretch their legs, enjoy their surroundings, and show support for the government’s plans to allocate increased funding for cycle infrastructure.  

This invitation to ‘Cycle in the New Year’ was an action led by The Rural Cycling Collective, a subgroup of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, recently formed to draw attention to the dire need for a cohesive strategy to create safe cycling for all, beyond the borders of the main cities.

“Because our rural groups have fewer members, we often struggle with lack of resources and ability to connect with Local Authorities and so we have created a network across the country to highlight our common issues. Rural Ireland has many miles of smaller boreen roads that, if signposted and designated for slower traffic, could transform the way we can all move around the Irish countryside” said Allison Roberts of the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival pictured here with her son Ari.

“Rural Ireland is rich with natural beauty and cycling tourism is on the rise. This year we’ve all had to stay close to home and, for many of us, our bikes have given us the freedom we so badly needed – and physical and mental space.”  She continued “we also have smaller town centres with schools and local amenities within a stone’s-throw of residential areas, but nearly all children are driven to school because the roads are viewed as not being safe enough for cycling. Often, speed limits in towns are too high with little to no infrastructure for safe cycling. However, we are happy that some of our groups are now in talks with councils around the country to help solve these issues and strategise on the best way to spend the government funds allocated for active travel.”

Photo by Kevin Jennings (Galway Cycling Campaign)
Bearna Woods in Galway – Photo by Kevin Jennings

We are all aware that this school-going generation needs to become more active generally, and what better way than by simply building in safe and secure methods of active travel to the everyday school journey?

The Rural Cycling Collective launched their Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland during National Bike Week in September 2020 and printed copies of the Vision were sent to Local Authority Chief Executive Officers and Directors of Service for Transport and Infrastructure nationwide.

Before Christmas, Local Authorities were invited by Eamon Ryan, Minister of Transport, to submit suggested plans for active travel projects to his Department for consideration – see €50M Walking and Cycling fund announced for towns and villages. This is a wonderful opportunity for rural Local Authorities to get things active in their areas. 

“Our goal is to work closely with our government and local bodies to build plans for each locality that will shape the future and make the best use of government resources. We are very excited to be in the process of opening dialogues with some Local Authorities already, and we look forward to all that is happening to improve everyday cycling in 2021 and beyond” said Joan Swift of Sligo Cycling Campaign.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has also signalled to Local Authorities that his government will fund any greenway project they have as part of its response to climate change as reported in the Meath Chronicle on 30 December 2020. Allison Roberts from the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival warmly welcomed this statement.   

Cyclist.ie hopes that by the end of 2021, we will have a whole swathe of new high quality cycling facilities both in rural and urban areas. Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce, added that “we are happy to work with Local Authorities countrywide – both in urban and rural areas – so that we can build on the change in the culture of mobility that has happened in 2020. These are exciting times for the growth of everyday cycling.”

For more information or for interviews, please contact:

  • Allison Roberts, Spokesperson, Clonakilty Bicycle Festival: 0857574338, [email protected]
  • Joan Swift, Spokesperson, Sligo Cycling Campaign: 0879622234 and [email protected]
  • Jo Sachs-Eldridge, Spokesperson, Leitrim Cycling Festival: 0858161653 and [email protected]
  • Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce: 0872840799 and [email protected]

Cyclist.ie wishes to thank Ruth Bullock from Cycle Sense for the lovely photo at the top of this page taken in Skibbereen, County Cork.

We also thank Allison Roberts, Joan Swift, Chris Davey (well, Chris Davey’s friend!), Kevin Jennings and Gemma Woods for the other pics.

PS. Do also check out this article on An Taisce’s New Year Two Wheels initiative which includes some lovely images.