Cyclist.ie was delighted to be asked to present its Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland at a symposium hosted by one of its newest members, Pedal Vintage Durrow. The event, titled The Future of Cycling in Rural Ireland was held in collaboration with Laois County Council and with funding from The National Transport Authority. The symposium took place in the beautiful Castle Durrow Country House Hotel on Monday 15th May 2023. The official launch was performed by Laois Rose of Tralee, Sinead Dowd who grew up in New York and enjoyed cycling there.
The array of presenters covered every possible angle of cycling. Naturally there was an emphasis on developments in Laois. Diarmuid Donoghue from the Laois Active Travel Office described some of the council’s completed and planned walking and cycling projects. Of note were footpath extensions to various GAA grounds, the planned removal of hatching to create space for segregated cycling lanes, modification of roundabouts to ensure safer cycling and an urban greenway for Portlaoise!
Regina Dunne, Laois Tourism Officer (see https://laoistourism.ie/) gave an animated presentation on the potential of Laois as a cycling destination. The county offers a variety of cycling experiences with a National Mountain Biking Centre in the Sliabh Blooms and a section of the Barrow Blueway at Vicarstown and Stradbally. Regina was particularly strong on the need for marketing and communication of what is available. She quoted interesting Fáilte Ireland research on the value of experience holidays and on how experiences should appeal to our emotions and to our senses.
Matt Doyle, Chairman of Pedal Vintage Durrow (see here) and John Holland, Coordinator of Portarlington Cycle Campaign each gave presentations. Beautiful pedal vintage hire bikes used by Durrow for their activities were on display. The Durrow group are interested in heritage but also in the practicalities of everyday cycling and there was also a presentation on a feasibility study report by Mark Murphy of MM Consult Cork on a planned Durrow Community Family Bike Hub. The study was jointly commissioned by Pedal Vintage and Laois County Council in collaboration with Coillte Management, and with funding provided under the ORIS funding stream. The trails envisage on-road off-road cycle routes from the centre of Durrow to two local woods, “Dunmore” and “Capponellan” with a (looped) return journey to The Square in Durrow. This ambitious plan chimes perfectly with one of the mantras of Cyclist.ie’s Rural Collective, “we want to be able to travel from our front door, not our car door!”
Cyclist.ie members have always been amused by the nominative determinism in the name of our long-standing member and former Chair, Colm Ryder. However, John Holland, coordinator of Portarlington Cycling Campaign gave Colm a run for his money in a manner of speaking when he told us he wants Portarlington to become the Amsterdam of the midlands! John presented an ambitious vision of the cycling Mecca Portarlington could become! Campaign activities range from regular critical mass cycles highlighting the need for cycling infrastructure to celebratory events such as the Tour de Port or the novel Bike Camp and Swim events planned for Bike Week – see here .
Contributors from outside of Laois included Cyclist.ie members, Clara Clark who presented on the hugely successful Cycling Without Age trishaw national initiative, and Joan Swift from the Rural Collective who presented on behalf of Jo Sachs Eldridge on the Cyclist.ie Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland.
The final contributors were from Cycling Ireland with Jason Goodison presenting on Community Bike Rides https://www.communitybikerides.ie/ and Paul Norton on cycling infrastructure and facilities development. The Community Bike Rides initiative is a very flexible initiative as it offers an opportunity to log solo as well as group rides and to sign up for rewards and both types of rides are covered by Cycling Ireland insurance. Paul’s presentation focused on the assistance Cycling Ireland can offer to communities interested in setting up cycling facilities such as pump tracks, BMX tracks, skate parks and learn to cycle tracks. He showed a lovely video of children enjoying the Dungarvan Learn to Cycle Facility.
Joan Swift (above) presented on Cyclist.ie’s Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland – see https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/. The vision was launched in September 2020 and comprises eight asks which if implemented would enable people living in rural Ireland to cycle for whatever trips they choose, be it commuting, leisure or running errands. The presentation was updated to include both Cyclist.ie and national initiatives which have occurred since the original launch.
Clara’s presentation on Cycling Without Age emphasised its national and voluntary nature, that it has grown from one trishaw in 2017 to over 63 operating all around Ireland. Many local authorities (though not yet Laois Council!) are now sponsoring trishaws for community use. Her video on how the Bike Hub partnership in Dun Laoghaire works, www.thebikehub.ie was a great example of social enterprise and Council cooperation.