Cyclist.ie attended the National Sustainable Mobility Forum on 20 April (2023) in Athlone, Co. Westmeath organised by the Department of Transport.
Cyclist.ie was represented by our National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, with Clara Clark from Cycling Without Age also there.
The purpose of the Forum was several fold: firstly to reflect on the key achievements of the first year of the Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP) such as the Pathfinder Programme; secondly, to facilitate the exchange of information between public, private, voluntary and industry representatives on sustainable mobility; and thirdly, to seek the insights of stakeholders on policy objectives such as road space reallocation, demand management, and shared mobility.
The event featured an introduction by Minister Eamon Ryan, a keynote presentation by Dr. Peter Lunn from the ESRI, and a panel discussion between key representatives in this area including the OECD and the National Youth Assembly on Climate. It was particularly refreshing to hear the views of Stephen Murnane from the Youth Assembly (pictured below with the mic) – the insights of this age cohort are not heard often enough in debates on what type of transport future we ought to have.
The Forum presented an important opportunity to re-articulate why investment in active travel makes so much sense, and to argue for reallocating road space away from private individualised motorised transport and over to public transport and cycling and walking.
We stressed the importance of bringing local authority staff and Councillors (and perhaps also other community leaders / influencers) on study visits both here and abroad, so as to experience new street layouts and transport networks etc., to meet their peers and to discuss their concerns. This spend is ‘small change’ in transport expenditure terms, but valuable in helping to change hearts and minds.
Clara made the point that in every town and village and on every street in cities, we need to replace one car parking space with a Sheffield rack with five stands – or replace two car parking spaces and you can have ten bikes and one cargo bike parking. This is a “Quick Win”, needs no legislation and can be done overnight. It ticks all the Active Travel boxes and re-enforces the visibility of cycling as a normal mode of transport for all ages & abilities. The cargo bike space will encourage more families to replace one car with a cargo bike, and shops can avail of the space for ‘last mile’ deliveries.
Clara also reiterated the point that cycle lanes and tracks need to be sufficiently wide to properly accommodate the Cycling Without Age trishaws (dimensions of 1.2m wide x 2m long); there are simply too many cycle facilities being built which are too narrow for non-standard bikes, including trikes, cargo bikes and mobility aids. It is also essential that the surfaces of cycle tracks are smooth – and are not dotted with sunken drain covers which can destabilise a person cycling along.
The Forum also provided a wonderful opportunity for delegates to take a look at the nearly completed Cycle / Pedestrian Bridge over the Shannon – as shown in the image at the top there (and thanks to Westmeath County Council for this photograph).
The bridge forms part of the Dublin to Galway leg of the longer EuroVelo #2 (the Capitals Route) which Cyclist.ie has been advocating for over many years through our membership of the European Cyclists’ Federation and of the EuroVelo Coordination Centre for Ireland. We look forward to seeing the bridge completed and opened in the near future.