In this article, Wendy Bond from Bike Friendly Bandon fills us in on how the new group came into being in 2020 and gives us a flavour of some of their aims and activities.
Bike Friendly Bandon started really during the first lockdown, and the idea came from Lucy Finnegan, who cajoled others to get involved along the way. Lucy had seen that her teenage daughters and their friends had felt more confident cycling around during lockdown as there was so little traffic on the roads. Indeed a lot more people on bikes could be seen around the area during the lockdown and many of us cycled more during that time. We saw this change though, once things went back to some kind of “normal” again and felt compelled to try and do something about it. We wanted to try and hold onto the change we saw during lockdown. It reminded us of when we were younger, that it was so much safer to cycle all over the place. We want to ensure our children have great memories doing that safely.
Bandon town centre and the roads around it are dominated by cars and heavy good vehicles (HGVs), like so many other towns around Ireland. Unless you are a confident cyclist (and even if you are confident enough), it can feel very unsafe and intimidating cycling around, and there is absolutely no infrastructure to support cycling in the town. Whilst there is a cycling club in Bandon, this tends to be people who are more competitive serious cyclists, going on longer cycle rides. We really want to encourage the increase of day-to-day cycling, so that every child, woman and man of any age can feel safe to cycle around the town. It may have started due to children and teenagers taking advantage of reduced traffic, but now we see potential to work with other groups with similar aims. There are plenty of funding opportunities and we found that we were pushing an open door. There are courses to reach out to lapsed cyclists who want to feel confident to cycle again; to run bike repair workshops to give us mastery over our own bikes; or simply provide bike racks so that people can cycle to the shops rather than jumping in the car.
We all know that making the town more cycle friendly and reducing the cars/HGVs that currently dominate the roads could have a massive impact on the quality of life in the area. It’s not just about cycling, it will have a positive impact in terms of our physical health, improving the environment around us and reducing pollution. Everyone we speak to loves the idea of making it safer to cycle around the town, so it’s just doing something about it really. In some European countries the attitude to cycling is so positive and it is considered to be so much part of day-to-day life. It is much safer in these countries because the number of active cyclists is so much more significant. Also, when most people own a bike as well as a car and cycle as well drive, it changes the relationship between cyclist and drivers and brings more respect between them.
So what have we done so far……well every Sunday, we have a spin at 11am on one of the quiet roads just on the edge of Bandon. This is aimed at families and people who don’t feel as confident cycling on the road and it has been a great success, although recently it is on hold due to lockdown restrictions.
As part of Cork Bike Week in September, with funding from Cork Sports Partnership, we arranged various activities around the town. This included safe cycling, fun bike activities for younger children, bike repair workshops, electric bike conversions, and we even had a trishaw at the farmers market, which took people on spins around the town. It was such good fun and well attended, the idea being that there was something for all ages to show how accessible cycling can be. We were really taken with how supportive the cycling community is. It really was a platform to raise the profile of Bike Friendly Bandon around the town and increase the interest in cycling. Whilst things have slowed down due to recent lockdown restrictions, we have run an online bike repair course through Cork Community Bikes and hope to start our own repair workshop in the town. We have received support from Cork County Council Community enhancement and Cork Environmental office, they have been a hundred percent behind us.
Looking into the future, our aim is to do more consultation with people in the area and work with Age Friendly Bandon to promote Cycling With Confidence. In light of the new government’s push to increase cycling and walking in the country, we are also working with Cork County Council and Bandon Walking Club to develop a Bothar Rothar between Bandon and Innishannon, and hopefully a route to the beach from Bandon where cyclists are prioritised on the road. We feel like this is just the beginning and there is so much we can do. We are also working with West Cork Development Strategy to create maps of cyclist priority routes between Bandon and Innishannon.
It’s great to know there are so many groups like ours around the country and we are lucky that here in West Cork, we have groups nearby in Skibbereen and in Clonakilty all with similar hopes about promoting cycling and improving safety in the area. We look forward to working with Cyclist.ie and hope that their knowledge and expertise will support us in realising these hopes.