In this article, Clara Clark from Cycling Without Age offers some suggestions on how we can kiss the (kissing) gates goodbye.
During the many Covid-19 lockdowns, I took to cycling through my local neighbourhoods, parks and housing estates. I noticed the many kissing gates and other metal barriers at access points.Some are navigable with a standard bicycle, but are impassable for non-standard bicycles, cargo bikes, bikes with child seats or trailers, wheelchairs, double buggies and Cycling Without Age (CWA) trishaws. I took photos of the barriers, and sent a file of 30 photos to my local Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (DLR) County Council.
As a Dublin Cycling Campaign representative on the DLR Council Cycle Forum, I asked for ‘kissing gates’ to be put on the agenda. At that meeting, I offered to cycle with anyone on the committee who wished, to show them the barriers. This offer was taken up by Ruairi O Dulaing, head of Parks, and Councillor Carrie Smith, chair of the Forum. To emphasise my point, I took my CWA trishaw, and two volunteers came, one with a trailer bike and one with a child seat. Two hours and three parks (Clonkeen, Kilbogget and Loughlinstown) later, our point was made! This cycle also gave us time to chat and to build up rapport and relationships.
The next step was up to the Council who, in fairness, responded in a very practical way and now many of these barriers and gates are being removed – see the before / after photos below. DLR Council is currently implementing a Safe Walking and Cycling Routes plan, and these include routes through parks and quiet estates away from main roads. So, that’s another reason for removing the barriers.
My policy has been to demonstrate with examples and to ask, politely but clearly, for their removal. Praise and thanks are much easier to receive than abuse or aggression, and Councillors and Council staff have a lot to do. Winning their respect and support is essential to gaining a listening ear. I know that not every local authority has a cycling or a sustainable transport officer, but start with your local councillors, get the name of your Head of Parks and introduce yourselves. Take photos, identify the locations and explain what you need (e.g. kissing gates replaced by one bollard, with a minimum of 1.2m gap either side, dished footpath at point of entry etc.). Offer to take anyone willing out to show them what you mean. And then, praise and acknowledge any progress as it comes!
One question to ask is: what is the purpose of kissing gates? If it is to prevent anti-social behaviour, then how can this behaviour be managed better? The barriers themselves are anti-social. Parks are for people of all ages and abilities. To block the disabled, less-abled, and parents with children is to discriminate and disempower. Parks should be places to visit, walk/cycle through, sit and eat, play and enjoy. Give people ‘ownership’ of their parks by making them welcoming, provide litter bins, bicycle parking, seating, dog paddocks, and easy access.
Covid-19 has filled our parks daily with people of all ages who want/need to exercise and actively travel. Councils can come on board to meet these needs by #kissingthegatesgoodbye!
Cycling Without Age
A member group of Cyclist.ie
The photos above show (going from top to the bottom):
Tolka Valley Park
Brewery Road, Stillorgan – Before and After
Kilbogget Park – Before and After
Stillorgan Park – Before and After
Photographs kindly provided by Clara Clark (the six Before and After photos) and Colm Ryder (the one at Tolka Valley)