As we launch ourselves into another year’s campaigning, we have taken some time to reflect on the breadth and depth of advocacy work that Cyclist.ie carried out last year.
In this article, we look back on 2022 through the frame of our 2021-26 Cyclist.ie Strategy (with our six strategic aims shown below) and consider how much progress we have made. In particular, we highlight where Cyclist.ie and its member groups are making a real impact on the mobility culture of Ireland. Note, however, that this article only scrapes the surface of all of the incredible work conducted by our network of volunteers for which we are very grateful.
We are happy to receive feedback on this article, either in the comments below or else by contacting our National Cycling Coordinator directly.
Aim #1 – Developing a vibrant and resilient all-island cycling advocacy community (p6 here)
The nurturing of a vibrant campaigning community is a central aim for Cyclist.ie. Without new members coming on board, feeling welcome, getting active and collaborating with others in an organized way, it is difficult for our advocacy work to make the impact we are seeking. Thankfully, Cyclist.ie has been led by a super committed Executive Committee of 12 persons (see here) over the last year. It met 11 times in 2022 (almost every month!) and organised two well attended online Council meetings for our group and individual members. While the online meetings worked very well, we are all looking forward to meeting up in person in 2023.
In spite of the pandemic and the difficulty of meeting up in person, Cyclist.ie’s network of member groups grew to 35 groups as we reported at the end of 2022. That was three more than the previous year, and five times the size of our initial seven member network when Cyclist.ie was founded in 2008 (see here for the original detailed submission we made to the Department of Transport in Oct 2008). Our total number of paying members of the network remained at over 1000, with the bulk of these as individual members of Dublin Cycling Campaign.
One of the big organisational developments made during the year was the bedding in of our nine Action Groups, formed to help advance particular strands of work in Cyclist.ie. Our AGs, shown below, are each generally based around particular skill-sets (such as finance, IT, communications, people-skills around engaging with ‘the system’ of politicians or officials, engineering / planning, and research) plus advancing the rural cycling agenda (which itself involves a real mix of skills).
In terms of organisational development on the Communications front, Cyclist.ie was delighted to receive the professional input of the Marketing Agency We the People in drafting a brand new Communications Strategy for us. This arose as part of a successful funding application to Rethink Ireland (see below). This support sets us up well for 2023, when we are looking to adopt a fresh approach to getting our message out and engaging in public debates. In addition to this, we posted over 35 original articles to the website, issued 12 action packed newsletters to our 2000+ subscribers, and made many postings to our social media platforms on our core campaigning topics. We comment further on our broader impacts on the public under Aim #2 below.
A crucial part of the development of the organisation in 2022 was the work advanced by the board of Cyclist.ie / Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG around our governance structures and developing a completely new Constitution and Operations Manual. The board met 9 times in 2022, and we are now nearing the end of our journey to arrive at a more fit-for-purpose and modern governance configuration for the organisation. The finalisation of this work will have many positive knock-on effects including ending up with a stronger organisation which is more attractive for members, staff and funders. Additionally, the regulation of our activities will be streamlined and risks better managed. All in all, we will be able to make a bigger impact on public policy and practice with our new arrangements in place.
Funding for Cyclist.ie and for the position of National Cycling Cycling Coordinator has remained a real challenge in 2022, as we set out in this article in November. The uncertainly over funding has been our Achilles’ heel as we seek to strengthen cycling advocacy and make a bigger impact. That said, we scored a great win in 2023 with a successful funding application to the European Commission as part of a consortium applying for Erasmus+ funding on a project entitled Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action as set out in this article. Meanwhile our strategic partnership with An Taisce, initiated back in 2013, has continued successfully and it will shortly enter its 10th year. Additionally, we are very grateful to Cycling Ireland for their own support for the National Cycling Coordinator position, and we look forward to engaging with them regularly in 2023. We also acknowledge here the support of Lime in joining Dublin Cycling Campaign / Cyclist.ie as a Business Member – as per this article and the ongoing support of the Irish Heart Foundation.
In 2022, we forged stronger connections with other organisations through formal and informal coalitions. We remain active members of The Wheel, of Stop Climate Chaos and of the European Cyclists’ Federation – and we were delighted to have three Cyclist.ie representatives (Mary Sinnott, Colm Ryder and Damien Ó Tuama) attending ECF’s in-person AGM in Berlin in May as reported on here.
All in all, a lot of ‘behind-the-scenes’ work was advanced in 2022 to improve the organisational structure of Cyclist.ie, put it on a firmer footing and enable us to collectivise the massive energies and skills of our network so that we can make a significant impact on the transport culture.
Aim #2 – Influence the national conversation on mobility and quality of life (p7 here)
Our work to change the conversations and discourses around mobility and quality of life take place on a daily basis.
This happens through our social media postings, newsletters and web articles, but crucially we articulate our low carbon vision of the future of mobility through regular contributions to TV and radio programmes and podcasts, and print and online media. Some of the major media appearances included:
- Galway School Cycle Bus on What planet are you on?;
- RTE’s Morning Ireland regarding the Athlone to Galway Greenway;
- Cyclist.ie’s contributions to the On the Road with Simon Delaney TV series;
- Eco-laoch on TG4;
- Eco-eye on RTE1 TV.
And already in 2023, Dublin Cycling Campaign has featured in several high profile TV and radio programmes – see here.
In 2022 we also organised a successful Photo shoot and Press Release for the Hospitals Active Travel Award in September – an event also including the Sustainability Committee of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland and Irish Doctors for the Environment. As shown below.
Public online meetings are another way in which we disseminate our messages, and Cyclist.ie / Dublin Cycling Campaign planned and ran many successful public meetings during 2022. Some of the more popular meetings with a national and international focus included:
- Public Meeting on the Velo-city 2022 conference. See the recording here.
- Public meeting on EuroVelo Route #1 held on 15 Nov. See recording here.
Finally, over the last year, we have been creating new partnerships and aligning ourselves publicly with events, projects, groups and individuals with overlapping values and other overarching ‘liveable communities’ priorities – such as with the Hospital Active Travel Awards above.
Aim #3 – Seek to ensure public policy embraces cycling (p8 here)
Amongst the most important policy documents shaping what actually happens during a term of government are the Programme for Government and the National Development Plan – and then the annual budgets. Both the PfG and the NDP already include significant commitments for investing in cycling, and the annual allocations for the NTA and TII (and hence to Local Authorities) for cycling are unprecedentedly high. From a policy perspective, cycling is in a far better place than it has been for, perhaps, any other period in the history of the state – and Cyclist.ie has played an important role in this positive change. However, one of the major difficulties we are experiencing in 2022 has been the under-spending of those government allocations by local authorities. We revisit this point under Aim #5 below.
Cyclist was pleased to engage directly with Transport Infrastruture Ireland (TII) on the advancement of plans for the National Cycle Network, and the updating of the Rural Cycleway Guidance design document. We also welcomed the publication of the CycleConnects proposals by the National Transport Authority, and we made detailed submissions on both of these – on the NCN (in June) and on CycleConnects (in November).
Overall, Cyclist.ie made close to 100 written submissions to Local and National Authorities in regard to transport strategies and schemes, with further submissions made by local campaign groups. Our Consultations Action Group is now developing a new more user friendly consultation tracking system. Some further examples of major submissions made include:
- Metrolink (by Dublin Cycling Campaign) to An Bord Pleanála – see here
- BusConnects to An Bord Pleanála. Submissions were made by Dublin Cycling Campaign on five of the route corridors:
– Ballymun + Finglas BusConnects Corridor
– Liffey Valley to City Centre
– Blanchardstown to City Centre
– Blackrock / Belfield to City Centre
– Clongriffin / Malahide Road
Finally, at the end of 2022, the government published its Climate Action Plan 2023 on which Cyclist.ie provided its initial assessment in this web article. It is worth noting that the transport section of CAP23 was influenced strongly by the publication of the OECD’s Redesigning Ireland’s Transport for Net Zero report, as commissioned by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC). Back in April 2022, Cyclist.ie was invited by the CCAC to a two-day workshop which was held as part of the planning work underpinning the development of the report. Joan Swift (from Sligo Cycling Campaign) represented Cyclist.ie at it. Joan was subsequently invited onto the panel for the launch event of the OECD report. Cyclist.ie warmly welcomed the publication of this report as it argues strongly for transformative change in the mobilities space – not simply incremental changes or an excessive reliance on the electrification of the private motor vehicle fleet for the decarbonisation of the transport sector.
Note that in 2022, Cyclist.ie met the Department of Transport (twice) on a variety of policy and practical issues, the National Transport Authority (three times – mainly in regard to the National Cycle Manual) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (twice – in regard to the National Cycle Network and the new Rural Cycleway Design Guidance).
And in regard to engaging with politicians, some of our main activities in 2022 included:
- Ongoing meetings with the Oireachtas All Party Cycling Group.
- Parliamentary questions (PQs) submitted on several topics of concern to cycle campaigners.
- Meetings with Labour, Sinn Féin and People Before Profit on the development of their new cycling / transport policies.
- Engagements with all parties on retaining / making the best use of the 20% of transport budget allocated to active modes in all party cycling policies.
Aim #4 – Advocate for more effective institutions and new legislation (p9 here)
Within this strategic aim, we have two related objectives:
- 4.1 We will encourage and seek to ensure that key figures in transportation and related fields are inspired and motivated by experiencing cycle friendly cultures first hand.
- 4.3 We will advocate for the key personnel in government departments and agencies to receive up-to-date training in cycling policy and provision.
We put a lot of work behind the scenes into disseminating widely information about the Velo-city conference, the largest cycling advocacy conference in the world, that took place in Ljubliana in Slovenia in 2022. We were delighted to see representation at VC by senior staff members of the Department of Transport, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and many of the Irish Local Authorities – as well as several members of our own groups. You can read detailed reports by our own team members here:
- Giulia Grigoli (Dublin Cycling Campaign)
- Damien Ó Tuama (National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie)
- Jo Sachs Eldridge (Leitrim Cycling Festival and Cyclist.ie Executive Committee)
- Katleen Bell Bonjean (Gort Cycle Trails and Cyclist.ie Executive Committee)
Another related strategic objective for us under this main aim is as follows:
- 4.2 We will advocate for institutional reform so that active travel is given priority and so that there is good coordination (‘horizontally’ and ‘vertically’) between government departments, agencies and local authorities.
Our advocacy work on this objective continued throughout 2022 – mainly through our meetings with officials and politicians and, for example, through inviting staff from state agencies to participate in our public meetings. See for example our meeting on EuroVelo#1 in which Doug Corrie from Sport Ireland spoke, as well as Florence Lessard, a cycling tourist from Quebec in Canada.
Finally, we pressed on in 2022 with work on following objective under this same aim:
- 4.4 We will advocate for road traffic legislative changes to improve cycling. We will advocate for more effective enforcement of appropriate legal sanctions against drivers of motorised vehicles who endanger the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. We will not support cyclists engaging in dangerous, reckless and inconsiderate behaviour.
Some of the main activities related to this was the work around advocating for 30km/h to become the default speed limit in built-up urban areas – including members from our Love 30 group speaking at the Road Safety Authority annual research conference. See here (and the picture below). Additionally, Cyclist.ie has been in regular contact with the RSA with a view to convening a meeting in early 2023. We continue to liaise with the Road Safety section of the Department of Transport on the updating and improvement of legislation in favour of active travel.
Aim #5 – Seek to ensure there is ample funding spent on cycling (p10 here)
As alluded to above, Cyclist.ie is very concerned about the under-spend of active travel allocations by local authorities. As reported in the Irish Times in August 2022, “more than half of the funding provided to rural local authorities last year [i.e. 2021] for active cycling and walking infrastructure was unspent”. Much of this underspend can be attributed to the lack of capacity at local authority level, while at the same time local authorities have been seeking to build up their staffing levels to meet the demands of funding allocations both in quantity and quality. We in Cyclist.ie will continue to monitor spending levels, but are hopeful that local authorities will improve their performance in this critical area. Note that the NTA’s 2022 Active Travel Investment Grant Allocations can be read here.
In 2022, Cyclist.ie put a lot of effort into advancing the following objective in our strategy:
- 5.3 We will advocate for further fiscal / taxation measures to be introduced to incentivise cycling (including the use of cargo bikes and e-bikes, and for cycle training instruction).
Following the delivery of our detailed Pre-Budget 2023 Submission plus further engagements with politicians and media oriented work, we were very pleased to see the Finance Bill containing provision to facilitate families looking for an alternative to a second car with the new €3,000 tax incentive for the purchase of cargo bikes (as reported in the Irish Times here).
The mass adoption of the use of cargo bikes – as road conditions improve – will go a long way to help decongest our towns and cities, and to deepen the cycling culture countrywide. Note that we expect that many Cyclist.ie members will be plugging into the special event organised by the European Cyclists’ Federation on 28 Feb 2023 on Cargo bike friendly cities: Tracking cargo bike developments across Europe – details and registration link here.
Aim #6 – Seek to secure high quality routes and infrastructure (p11-12 here)
This is, arguably, Cyclist.ie’s most important aim and the one we are putting significant resources into achieving. As noted above, we engaged with the planning process very closely in 2022 and delivered over 100 high quality submissions to Local Authorities and An Bord Pleanála on schemes.
Additionally, we have continued to seek temporary quick-to-construct cycle facilities as an appropriate interim response to emergency situations, such as with the Covid-19 restrictions, with a view to having the facilities carefully assessed and then made permanent as improved designs. (see Objective 6.4 of our strategy).
Some of this work (and plenty of additional advocacy work) takes place through our member groups’ being represented on some of the (Transport) Strategic Policy Committees of the 31 Local Authorities in the country. In a separate article, we will provide an update on Cyclist.ie’s participation in and contributions to the work of these Transport / Infrastructure SPCs and, where appropriate, their Walking and Cycling Sub-committees.
Objective 6.7 of our strategy reads as follows:
“We will work to ensure that the main standards / guidelines documents (National Cycle Manual, Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets, and the Rural Cycle Design Guidance) are fully updated and improved in line with international best practice.”
Overall, we were pleased to see the publication of a revised version of TII’s Rural Cycleway Design Standards (Aug 2022), with specific changes made as a result of our meetings with TII, and of our detailed submission.
We also spent much of 2022 prodding the National Transport Authority in regard to progressing the revision of the National Cycle Manual (current version available here). The document is over 18 months behind schedule but is due to be released very soon (as per our understanding at the end of January 2023). Overall, Cyclist.ie has been frustrated by the slow pace of the work on this document, which we maintain is a crucial part of the jigsaw for the development of high quality cycle networks. This domain will be a priority one for us in 2023.
In regard to the rural environment and creating networks of cycle friendly rural roads, Cyclist.ie – through its Rural Collective – made seriously impressive leaps during 2022. Huge credit is due here to the very active Rural Collective team which was convened back in 2020. The Rural Collective’s main achievements in 2022 are listed here:
- The running of a national “Rural Ireland can cycle” campaign to encourage local Councillors to endorse the ‘Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland’ which included the design and circulation of a bespoke leaflet.
- A meeting with the Cavan County Council Active Travel Team (in person and online) with a special focus on Rothar Roads
- Engagement with Monaghan Council’s Walking & Cycling Forum
- Publication of a Rothar Roads discussion paper
- Bike Week events with lots happening across rural Ireland – see here.
- Attendance at Velo-city 2022 (plus the publication of the web article report on it and presentation at a subsequent webinar on Velo-city) and the ongoing search for answers about Rothar Roads and the potential for cycle tourisms
- Further development of the CRAC (Cycle Route Assessment Checklist) tool.
- Rothar Roads featured as part of ‘On the Roads with Simon Delaney’ (See Aim #2 above)
- Clonakility Bike Circus and CRAC featured on RTE1 TV’s “Nationwide” programme
- Rural routes included amongst the government’s Pathfinder projects
- Publication of a paper on Removing and Replacing 80km/h signs on certain rural roads.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that Cyclist.ie’s Action Group on Research made great strides in 2022. Good research underpins all of our submissions and the development of our papers and positions on a wide range of sustainable transport and safety topics. This AG is now also beginning to reconfigure the “Resources” section of the website so as to make key documents more easily locatable – as shown below.
Finally, at the end of 2022, several active members of Cyclist.ie submitted (successful!) abstracts for the “Socio-cycle” symposium taking place in University College Cork on 03-04 February 2023 – see here for conference and registration details. We look forward to catching up with our colleagues in Cork Cycling Campaign (who are co-organising this event) at this event!
Organisationally, we have advanced on many fronts and are in a much stronger position than this time last year. However, core funding remains our main weaknesses, and we look forward to resolving this with the help of our own members and supporters in 2023. We highlight this point in this article when we point out that “Cyclist.ie will mark its 15th birthday, Dublin Cycling Campaign its 30th birthday, while the European Cyclists’ Federation will have 40 candles on its campaigning cake” in 2023.
As one can see from the summary above, 2022 was yet another incredibly busy year for Cyclist.ie and its (now) 35 member groups. Huge credit is due to our fabulous network of members and volunteers.
That said, we continue to punch well above our weight in terms of our impact on mobility discourses, public policy, the development of new legislation, funding for cycling infrastructure and standards.
We imagine a day, not far into the future, when we will have a core staff complement of, perhaps, half a dozen members, who themselves are supporting a far larger membership and mass of supporters. This will enable us to further shape policies and conditions on the ground so that active travel, and active travel combined with high quality public transport, becomes the normal way for many if not most people to get about on a daily basis.
We look forward to your support in 2023 to make that happen.