This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Velo-city International Cycling Conference – with this one penned by Jo Sachs-Eldridge from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee and Leitrim Cycling Festival.
In her report, Jo presents her reflections on Velo-city 2022. It comprises a mixture of reporting back with interesting facts and figures garnered from the sessions in Ljubliana, but also includes some initial thoughts on how one might apply some of the ideas to an Irish cultural context.
She raises new questions on how one might best seek to regenerate strong cycling cultures in rural Ireland and this ties back to her extensive work of recent years on rural cycling.
In the first of a series of articles on the recent Velo-city International Cycling Conference, Katleen Bell Bonjean from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee and Gort Cycle Trails offers her reflections on the gathering.
This was my very first Velo-city conference, my very first time in Ljubljana and also the very first time I met a number of other groups / activists / Executive Committee members within Cyclist.ie. Due to Covid, we never had an opportunity to meet face to face, so it was funny we ended up far away from Ireland to meet!
My main objective was to absorb it all and undergo it as a first-timer! I had no idea there would be over 1000 people and that I would struggle to take a pick at so many interesting sessions. Though I knew it was an international event, I was excited to meet people from as far as New Zealand and Australia. I also met Jelle, the Bicycle Mayor for Utrecht. I had never heard about Bicycle Mayors before, and I am determined to become the Bicycle Mayor for Gort if they will have me! I can’t wait! As I am originally Belgian, I could hear much Dutch being spoken by large Belgian and Dutch delegations!
As the days progressed, I came to realise that countries like The Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium have clearly embraced the ideas of sustainable mobility and multi-modal transport by re-designing their streets and traffic flows where pedestrians and cyclists are prioritised. Seeing the images Prof. Jan Gehl showed of Copenhagen city centre full of bikes in the 1950’s – to the 1970s/1980s where all of a sudden the car dominated in all streetscapes, was a stark reminder of how the popularity of the car has lead to car-infested (unliveable) cities and danger is everywhere for those not in cars.
I am always interested in innovation and did a virtual tour of Budapest and the Balaton Lake on a bike. It was real fun and I do wonder if there is an opportunity there for virtual tourism, for those that can’t make it to Ireland or for people, due to mobility issues, would like to experience Ireland virtually.
Some take-aways of sessions I attended:
Journalism and Tourism Alex Crevar, Travel journalist for the NY Times: Journalists / /travel writers are great promoters of a region (they often get paid for it) by telling stories. Local advocates can be your worst critic but also your BEST advocates – Let’s develop more Local Advocates with Local Stories.
Cycle Infrastructure and Rail Infrastructure Both go hand in hand and having a rail infrastructure that is incorporated with cycle infrastructure improves mobility – I can see the massive potential to partner with Irish Rail to offer Day Trips from Dublin to say Gort. Have a journey plan ready for the tourist/visitor to experience with bike rental options.
Safe Cycle / Walking Routes to School It’s all in the data. Solutions like Telraam (Belgium) do bicycle / pedestrian counts that are available via OpenData. This is very relevant to big cities, not so sure if relevant in rural Ireland. Seeing how Hackney in London has implemented several projects, offering the schools templates to communicate their plans, I thought was very helpful. Interesting that fines were issued to those parents that still insisted to bring their children into the school yard by car. I learned on Twitter that just under 1000 schools in Ireland applied for the Safe Routes to School program by Green Schools. I really look forward to seeing how this initiative gets rolled out and how it will enable children to cycle to school (again). Meeting some members of the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council team that designed the Coastal Mobility Route was amazing! As Conor Geraghty, an engineer in DLR, said, “in God we Trust, in data we believe” – and, oh boy, there was no lack of data…. 38% increase in footfall, 12% increase in cycle usage. They won a well-deserved prize for the best infrastructure project.
Let’s hope that other councils seize the opportunity that ActiveTravel offers. There is no lack of funding – after all, 20% of the Irish land transport budget has been allocated to walking and cycling infrastructure. It is up to the councils to apply for it and to construct high quality infrastructure.
Rothar Roads and Rural Cycling A lot was said about international tourism (and over-tourism). Ireland has so much potential for Rothar Roads (low trafficked roads in rural Ireland), similar to what has been rolled out in Belgium and Holland called knooppunten netwerk. No specific infrastructure is required, the network is marked all the way and connects to other routes. I would love to see a trial of this, as an additional option off the National Cycle Network, which is only generally focussed on towns over 5000 population. Many of the Rothar Roads are in areas much less populated with beautiful views and plenty of local history and heritage. As the Rothar Roads are narrow, it’s often the ONLY way to explore the area. The concept of Rothar Roads was launched in 2021 by the Rural Collective in Cyclist.ie headed up by Jo Sachs-Eldridge from the Leitrim Cycling Festival. Read our vision here.
I am still really no further along on how to deal with the 80km speed limits on Rothar Roads, how to add traffic calming in areas where other road users are tractors and combine harvesters and where roads are being used as rat runs with zero enforcement of speed limits.
Inclusion of Women Cyclists, Disabled and Disadvantaged Communities This session focussed on the challenges faced by disabled cyclists, mothers with buggies, and the elderly, and how (sadly) the disabled group was not represented at the conference. Videos were shown of people on tricycles and recumbent bikes and how the design of the cycle path was not wide enough for the tricycle and they fell over when one wheel ended up in a soft verge or how gates were ill-designed and they had to turn back as they could not negotiate the gate. The message was clear that it’s crucial to have representation of all groups at the design stage to ensure the design ticks all boxes for all users.
The Dutch Cycling Embassy shared very interesting statistics about elderly people. Electric assist bikes have revolutionised the ability to cycle longer distances and there has been a significant adoption rate in the 66-75 age range.
Reading Material Travelling back home by train from Ljubljana followed by a flight from Zagreb to Dublin, I finished reading Dervla Murphy’s Wheels in Wheels. Not only was she an absolute pioneer in cycling, she’s also a marvellous writer. I say was, as Deirdre recently passed away at the age of 90. I highly recommend you read this or any of her other books. I already have a next book lined up by Dervla called “ The Making of a Traveller”.
On my return journey from Dublin Airport to Galway, I started reading a book that was included in our conference ‘goodie bag’ called “Movement” written by Thalia Verkade and Marco te Brommelstroet. Just when I thought I was getting my head around safe cycle infrastructure, I was introduced to why electric cars aren’t the solution to the traffic problems, why employers don’t necessarily have to provide showers, how much of the Dutch Infrastructure was financed by gas profits. I am really enjoying the book!
Final thoughts Walking around Ljubljana without car noise or air pollution, people walking and cycling and regular public transport shows that with the right vision and empowerment, a city can be liveable (again) and be a place where people live and not just “work” or “commute” to.
Bike Week 2022 was another action-packed one for Cyclist.ie’s groups countrywide. Local groups organised a wonderful array of events for all ages and abilities.
The incredibly diverse events enabled newbies and existing cyclists to gain more confidence, find new routes and make new friends. A credit to all of the groups for all of their work in running events.
Below is just a sample of just some of the events that Cyclist.ie’s events ran over the course of the week in May.
Cycling Without Age / www.cyclingwithoutage.ie Dublin City Council, with Lord Mayor Alison Gilliand, on 12 May launched a new Bike Hub, in partnership with www.thebikehub.ie, at Eamonn Ceannt Park in Crumlin. This will operate on a booking system similar to that in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. This photo has all the Dublin City Council staff who attended the launch.
At the Dublin City Council PedalPalooza, in Fairview Park on 22 May, Cycling Without Age had 5 volunteer pilots (all from DLR Bike Hub!) taking people out for spins during the day.
We also had CWA trishaws taking part in the Fingal and DLR Bike Week promotions. And trishaws were in action in several events nationwide as well. Apart from time and effort, no costs were incurred by CWA.
The launch took place of the first of three CWA trishaws in Co. Tipperary, to be based in Cahir, Clonmel and Roscrea for community use. Sponsored by Tipperary Council and Tipp Sports Partnership.
Navan Cycling Initiative, County Meath NCI ran three events for Bike Week 2022. They were: – A family-oriented community cycle on the first Sunday around Navan town – A nature-oriented evening cycle mid-week beside the River Boyne – A social cycle event to a nearby tourist/cafe destination
Clonakilty Bicycle Festival and The Bike Circus We held 11 events over Bike Week including our highlight – a ‘cycle the river’ all ages cycle with our local river-wellness group. During the event we collected water samples and identified insects living there. We had a kidical mass cycle through the town, where kids as young as two years did a lap of the town. We also held numerous workshops and information sessions in the Bike Circus community bike workshop. Overall we had about 280 participants in the various events. Our own bicycle festival is in its 11th year and we will be hosting another week of events June 9-12th with a focus on inclusive and fun cycles and events to celebrate the beauty of bikes – www.clonakiltybicyclefestival.org.
Galway Cycling Campaign We ran a Galway United Bike Valet service for a soccer match. We set up a gazebo and volunteers minded patrons’ bikes. The club pitched in generously with complimentary admission, while the Bike Week funding provided burgers and drinks.
Galway Cycling Campaign also organised a family leisure cycle bike trail along quiet “Rothar Roads” to join with the wind farm trails. This is a stunning route and would complement a future Connemara Greenway. In fact this is more scenic than the proposed route, but it is not so populated so we coordinated with our friends in the Connemara Greenway Alliance to ensure we advocate for both.
Leitrim Cycling Festival This year our roving festival was in the lovely little town of Drumshanbo on the shores of Lough Allen. Our weekend festival had a busy and eclectic programme. It started on Friday evening with a Pretty your Bike workshop and a Launch Lap of Drumshanbo led by some weird and wonderful bikes.
The Saturday and Sunday included film screenings of ‘Love Song to a Bicycle’, commissioned cycling poetry from Gerry Boland, puppetry, personalised bike songs, an art workshop, Wim Hof method breathing and ice bath, spin classes, balance bikes, a céili, live music and DJs. We also enjoyed lots of food including the Launch Feast, sourdough pizzas, a family picnic, free ice-cream and lots of tea & cake!
There was plenty of cycling too including the family cycle to the ‘snake across the lake’, self-led rides following our RouteYou maps, the 99 Reasons to Cycle ride with the Leitrim Branch of DSI and our annual Slow Bicycle Race. At least two of our youngest participants learnt to cycle during the festival and lots rediscovered the joy of cycling again.
Wexford Bicycle User Group (WexBUG) This year, WexBUG put on an all encompassing event called ‘Get Back on your Bike’. This was a 3 in 1 event involving an hour long hands-on bicycle repair session, essential bike skills delivered by two Cycle Right trained cycling instructors.
We then put it all together with a gentle 16 km ride around Wexford Town where we practiced not riding in the door zone, road positioning, the considerations made in using/not using available cycling infrastructure – and of course, a coffee stop!
We had around 20 people between all three events and maybe 10 for all three.
Dublin Cycling Campaign What a wonderful collaboration it was between Dublin Cycling Campaign and Dublin Community Growers as we visited a selection of community gardens throughout Dublin by bike on Sat 21st May.
This included the north and south city, and it culminated in a joint celebratory session in the fabulous Mucky Lane Community Garden in Donnycarney! A magical collaboration and a magical experience!
Dublin Cycling Campaign was also delighted to present a webinar during Bike Week on the Cycle Friendly Employer (CFE) scheme, a European Cyclists’ Federation initiative to establish a European standard for cycle friendly companies.
We heard from Froso Christofides, Members and Networks Manager (Cyprus) from the ECF, on the overarching European context and then from several other informed contributors on their experiences. There were presentations from Workday Enterprise Software (Killian Ormond, Green Team), DBFL Consulting Engineers (Robert Kelly & Mark Kelly) and the Department of Transport (Rebekah Maher). Michael O’Boyle from Cycling Solutions Ireland gave further details of the CFE scheme for Ireland.
The event was recorded and can be watched here.
Limerick Cycling Campaign – St Pauls NS Cycle to School week bumped cycling numbers to a record high of approximately 80-90 per day with a peak of 107 children cycling on the day of our bike mechanic visit.
Sligo Cycling Campaign On June 15th Sligo Cycling Campaign held its first Pedal Parade through Sligo town. The Parade linked in perfectly with the Family Fun Day organised by Sligo County Council. It was supported by local schools who are participants in the Safe Routes to School Programme and by members of the public.
Sligo Cycling Campaign also hosted two showings of the short film “Love Song to a Bicycle” – one showing in the Building Block, Sligo was for adults and the second in Strandhill National School was for pupils and their parents. In both cases participants travelled to the film by bicycle and we were fortunate that filmmakers Johnny Gogan and Laura McMorrow were present for both screenings.
Later in the summer or in the early autumn, Cyclist.ie will begin to think about Bike Week 2023, so if you have particular ideas you would like to share with us about possible events don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
Earlier today (Tue 7th June 2022), Cyclist.ie made a submission to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in regard to the development of the National Cycle Network.
The National Cycle Network (NCN) aims to link towns, cities and destinations across Ireland with a safe, connected and inviting cycle network; encouraging more people away from their cars and onto their cycles.
The development of the network is currently at “Stage 4” of a five-stage process outlined below.
Cyclist.ie’s submission can be read in full here. We pick out some of the main points from our submission in the paragraphs below.
Cyclist.ie is pleased to respond to the public consultation process as described here. This followed on from having been invited to provide stakeholder feedback to TII and Aecom prior to and early on in the public consultation process. We also appreciated attending the “Transport Planning Society” organised webinar on the NCN on Thursday 2nd of June at which we also learned more about the related NTA County Cycle Network Development plans and also the five metropolitan cycle network plans (of the GDA, Cork, Limerick/Shannon, Galway and Waterford).
Overall, we warmly welcome the development of a NCN, the aim of which is “to link towns, cities and destinations across Ireland with a safe, connected and inviting cycle network; encouraging more people away from their cars and onto their cycles.” On this point, we wish to highlight here the statement issued by the EPA on 31 May 2022 in which they reiterate the urgent need to rapidly decarbonise our transport and other systems and to urgently implement our climate plans and policies.
Cyclist.ie is strongly of the view that we need to replace the lion’s share of our shorter car journeys (under 5km/10km) with active travel trips, and our longer car trips with either public transport on its own, or active travel plus public transport for those living further away from public transport services. This is where the real carbon savings – and improvements to public health – can take place. We welcome the aim (as shown in the image below from the NCN website) that the NCN will link with public transport services, and also with further important destinations and cycle networks.
Additionally we stressed further points under four main headings:
(1) City/County and National Networks There is a need to advance both city/town networks and county networks on the one hand, and a National Cycle Network on the other hand. We maintain that the two projects cannot be completely divorced from one another because some trips will include using parts of both networks. The first objective should be to connect the towns and villages with safe/attractive cycle-friendly routes to their own rural hinterlands in all directions to a radius of 5-8km. This will allow for the most important local trips (to schools and shops for example) to be made safe for active travel – and hence for the greatest possible impact to be made on increasing the modal shares for cycling.
(2) Diversity of Cyclists, Cycle Types and Routes / Interventions We acknowledge that a high quality NCN will include a diversity of road / cycle-facility types and interventions, and that the overarching aim needs to be that it caters for a multiplicity of types of cyclists (commuters, recreational riders, tourists), with different levels of experience, and different cycle types (such as cargo bikes, bikes with trailers, bikes for people with disabilities etc.). Cyclist.ie broadly supports the long established “5 needs of cyclists” approach  which emphasises that routes / facilities need to be:
We welcome the intention to use smaller / local roads in the development of the NCN and to make these routes safer by reducing motor traffic speeds and volumes on them. We note the potential for some declassified N roads to become important links in the NCN – and particularly where they link directly/closely to schools. However, we would be concerned if there was a dominant emphasis on using declassified N-roads in the NCN – for several reasons: firstly, these roads tend to be much straighter than non-national roads with the speeds (and hence noise levels) of adjacent motor traffic being higher than on other roads (even with the speed limit having been reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h); and secondly, these roads tend to be less visually attractive than non-national roads (given their straighter alignments, wider cross-sections, and fewer trees alongside them). We would warmly welcome the use of Cycle Super Highways, as used in Northern Europe (image below from Nijmegen / Arnhem in The Netherlands) as part of the NCN. Cyclist.ie is very much against the (non-legally defined concept of) “greyways” – which, essentially, appear to be non-segregated cycle lanes sitting within the hard shoulders of roads, mainly de-designated national roads, with high speeds.
(3) Prioritisation of Interventions Cyclist.ie recognises that the development of the NCN and the regeneration of a strong cycling culture in Ireland are multi-year projects. Therefore, critical decisions will need to be made around which interventions need to happen first, and which later. There are some counties in Ireland which have lagged behind in the adoption of more progressive sustainable transport policies and in the development of high quality cycle networks. Cyclist.ie would like to see a special emphasis on prioritising the development of the NCN (and the town/city and county networks) in those counties that need to catch up. We support the prioritisation of interventions with a focus on addressing, for example, those places without hard shoulders.
(4) Protecting the Corridors Cyclist.ie maintains that provision must be made to protect the NCN emerging preferred corridors much as national road corridors would be protected, to ensure that new developments near future routes do not impair or constrain their coherence or quality.
Cyclist.ie’s submission can be read in full here. We wish to thank our team of amazing volunteers for examining the documentation, gathering their thoughts and drafting the submission – all done at high speed!