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Strategic Rail Review – Cyclist.ie Submission

Cyclist.ie made a submission today in regard to the consultation process associated with the all island Strategic Rail Review. You can read the consultation documents here

And you can read the submission of Cyclist.ie and An Taisce in the following text.

The first public commuter line in Ireland, from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire, was launched in 1834 – and the lines stretched out to Belfast, Cork and Galway over the following decades. The point here is that the rail corridors and infrastructure put in place back then have shaped development and settlement patterns for almost two centuries. When planning the future of rail on the island of Ireland we need to have similar timelines in mind, and be thinking about what type of transportation system and settlement patterns we want to end up with, not just in 2050 but in 2100 and 2200. This is the opportunity to shape that future. 

Our current rail “system” is almost exclusively a set of radial lines (with much of it single track) running to and from Dublin, with minimal direct inter-connectivity between towns and cities outside of the capital. This needs to change completely if we are to arrive at a transport network and system – and future settlement pattern – which is in line with our requirement to decarbonise our entire transport system (and economy and society by 2050) as per the Paris Agreement and our own brand new Climate Action Plan. There needs to be far greater recognition of the shaping effect of our transport infrastructure on where development ends up taking place. Additionally, we note the over-representation in the road traffic collision statistics of heavy goods vehicles in serious and fatal collisions (and particularly those involving vulnerable road users). The future of freight movement in Ireland needs to acknowledge this fact, and to maximise the movement of goods by rail, and not on roads with the associated road carnage that ensues. 

Image from page 7 of the Consultation Document

Therefore, the priority over the coming decades but starting now needs to be around connecting our regional cities with high quality rail infrastructure and services and then prioritising transit oriented development – i.e. development of almost every type close to rail stations (in line with the 15 Minute City / Town concept). There needs to be high quality, high capacity, direct and resilient connections from Dublin to Wexford/Rosslare (thinking ahead to take into account coastal erosion patterns) and on to Waterford and on to Cork and to Limerick and to Galway and to Sligo and on to Derry and then Belfast and back to Dublin. The North West of the island is severely lacking in high quality rail transport and there is no better time than now to rectify this problem – as against investing in road based options which will, inevitably, stimulate dispersed car-based development patterns and car trips (and hence higher energy use, emissions and use of raw materials).

The mainline train lines (Dublin to Cork, Galway and Belfast) should be upgraded to electric. Ireland is anomalous in Europe in mainline services being all diesel. There are local air quality issues at stake here as well as carbon emissions. 

The other point we wish to stress in this submission is the need to think about inter-modal journeys, and low / zero carbon trips. The catchment area of a train station when considering people cycling to it is approximately 9 times the area of the catchment area of the station for those walking to it (given that average cycling speeds are approximately 3 times those of average walking speeds). Therefore, there needs to be a full acknowledgement of the need to provide for bike / rail journeys when planning investment in the future of rail. Of most concern here is the following:

– The design of safe and attractive cycle routes to every train station and stop in the country, and this must include making areas close to stations properly permeable and well connected for those walking and cycling to stations (‘filtered permeability’ as it is called).

– The need for high quality, safe and secure bicycle parking at every train station / stop in the country. In cities, there needs to be a quantum leap in ambition and investment priority so as to provide high capacity / high quality infrastructure such as we see in cities such as Utrecht, Malmö and Munster (in Germany). See for example the facilities in Utrecht in this video: 

– The carriage of bikes on all trains needs to be greatly improved –  at a minimum to match proposed EU levels of 8 bikes per train (as per this ECF article).



Bicycle spaces on trains must be easy to use and suitable for a variety of bike types, including bicycles loaded with pannier bags (so as to nurture a strong cycle tourism culture), or even cargo bikes.  Cyclists who do not have good upper body strength (e.g. most women), find it hard to use some of the spaces on the existing Irish rail fleet. Furthermore, the bicycle compartment should be visibly indicated on the rolling stock itself – many logos on carriage doors showing the bicycle spaces are much too small.  Some of the intercity trains in Ireland now have fine big logos which is welcome, and such logos should be placed on all trains. Such a simple and inexpensive change would make life a lot simpler for people with bicycles trying to board trains. 

Cycle friendly rolling stock (Germany) – Photo kindly provided by Ray Ryan (Skerries Cycling Initiative)

– Additionally, there needs to be signs on the platforms showing where cyclists should wait (see Bath Spa station in the UK for example). Note that high-speed trains often stop only for a few minutes. To properly manage the timely loading of bicycles and avoid possible delays, customers need to know which section of the platform their coach is going to halt. They should be guided by diagrams, either paper (e.g. Deutsche Bahn) or electronic (e.g. SNCF), which clearly indicate where the coaches are going to stop. In addition, platform voice announcements should be given before the arrival of the train. 

As above, the north west quadrant of the country is severely depleted in regard to rail infrastructure. Similarly West Cork has a very large and long gap without any rail infrastructure. 

Furthermore, it is not wise to lift unused lines such as Waterford to Rosslare for conversion to greenways, when the first priority needs to be the reinstatement of high quality rail links. The closures were to a large extent due to very poor service frequency and timing from Irish Rail. This needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Lines also need to be made available to other operators if this improves services.

In addition, the current level of service on the Dublin to Rosslare line is extremely poor and results in an anomalously low modal share for train in this corridor.  The problem is exacerbated by the lack of connectivity between the ferry services to and from Rosslare and the train services.  This means that people who want to travel without a car on these ferry services effectively cannot do so.

We recommend strongly that a direct curve is provided towards Dublin at Ballybrophy to make the services on the Nenagh line connect to Dublin. The current track layout there does not promote a fast service.

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Dr. Damien Ó Tuama
National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie http://cyclist.ie/ and An Taisce https://www.antaisce.org/
Vice-President, European Cyclists’ Federation (2016 – 2021) https://ecf.com/
The Tailors’ Hall
Back Lane
Dublin D08 X2A3

Bicycle Film Festival Ireland

The virtual 22nd Annual tour of Bicycle Film Festival is coming to Ireland in partnership with Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie.

The Bicycle Film Festival will take place between February 4th – 13th online and will offer 90 minutes of short films on all things cycling. These films are available to view any time during the week of the festival.

How does the virtual Bicycle Film Festival Ireland work? A ticket allows you to view the 90 minute short film format from Friday, February 4 at 6:00 PM GT through Sunday, February 13 at 11:59 PM GT streamed to your computer, tablet, or smart TV by simply clicking on the link provided by email 15 minutes before opening date and time. Ticket prices are “sliding scale” €9/$10, €13.50/$15, €18/$20 (£ 7.5, £ 11, £15) so all ticket prices entitle you to the same content. You may view BFF in one sitting, or as you will, from the comfort and safety of your home.

Get Tickets: https://btt.boldtypetickets.com/events/118366289/bicycle-film-festival-i…

The Films: BFF Select Shorts appeal to a wide audience from film connoisseurs to avid cyclists and everything in between. The curated collection of select short films will take you on a journey around the world, covering such topics as:

  • The first BMX crew in Nigeria
  • UK’s Jools Walker rediscovers her love of cycling and her desire to create space for young black woman like her
  • The story of road cycling legend and overall wonderful soul, Connie Carpenter
  • The struggle of a young woman and her bike in Iran
  • A father (actor, Timothy Spall) copes with the loss of his son through cycling
  • Cycle sport as relief from genocide
  • A bird’s-eye view of a BLM bicycle protest ride from New York to DC
  • A charismatic Ghanaian immigrant in Amsterdam who teaches refugee adult women to ride bikes and many more…

Get Tickets: https://btt.boldtypetickets.com/events/118366289/bicycle-film-festival-i…

About BFF: BICYCLE FILM FESTIVAL has been celebrating bicycles through art, film, and music the last 21 years. Founded in 2001, Brendt Barbur was compelled to start the BFF after being hit by a bus while riding his bike in New York. The physical BFF spanned the world in over 90 cities worldwide to an audience of over one million people. The festival has an incredible history of working with the most important artists, filmmakers, venues, and institutions around the world.The Subcultures of cycling have shared equal billing with the most exciting innovators in music, art, design, and film.

Participants have included: Erykah Badu, Karl Lagerfeld, Francesco Clemente, Shepard Fairey, Albert Maysles, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Alex Katz, Kaws, Mike Mills, Paul Smith, the Neistat Brothers, Tom Sachs, Ridley Scott, Kiki Smith, Swoon, and Ai Weiwei. This festival is a celebration of way a life––not just entertainment.

Article about cycling in Irish Examiner

This article about cycling in Cork, Limerick, and Waterford by Ellen O’Regan from Saturday’s Irish Examiner is well worth a read. Featuring contributions from Cyclist.ie member groups such as Cork Cycling Campaign, Limerick Cycling Campaign, and Waterford BUG (Bicycle Users’ Group), this comprehensive and well-researched piece gives a useful overview of recent developments and ongoing challenges in the provision of active travel infrastructure in these three cities.

Photograph by David O’Leary.

Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy (Updated) – Cyclist.ie Submission

This week Cyclist.ie made a submission to the National Transport Authority (NTA) in regard to the updated Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.

As per the NTA website, this strategy sets out the framework for investment in transport infrastructure and services over the next two decades to 2042. You can read the NTA’s draft transport strategy here.

You can read our own submission in full below.

Cyclist.ie wishes to sincerely thank its volunteers for the work involved in preparing and making this submission. It is this voluntary work and the membership subscriptions to Cyclist.ie that enables us to make these submissions.

1 – Introduction

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network (ICAN), is the Federation of Cycling Advocacy Groups, Greenway Groups and Bike Festivals on the island of Ireland. We are the Irish member of the European Cyclists’ Federation.  Our vision is for an Ireland with a cycle friendly culture, where everyone has a real choice to cycle and is encouraged to experience the joy, convenience, health and environmental benefits of cycling.

Cyclist.ie broadly welcomes this review of the GDA Transport Strategy, its extension to 2042, its broad objectives within the context of Climate Objectives, and its acceptance that many aspects of the original Strategy have not been achieved.  In particular, in relation to achievements on the cycling front, Cyclist.ie is highly critical of the lack of development on the 2013 GDA Cycle Network Plan to date, but welcomes the commitment to complete an updated network by 2030.

It is evident from the substantial number (4,000+) of submissions made to the initial call in late 2020, that there is great interest in the development of an appropriate transport strategy for the GDA, and Cyclist.ie congratulates the NTA on reaching out through various means, to encourage submissions.  We, in turn, have a number of other comments on the overall GDA Strategy document, which we outline below.  We also include a Summary section at the end of these comments for ease of referral.

2 – GDA Strategy 2021 – The Active Travel Perspective

2.1 Changes/Improvements from 2016 Strategy
Cyclist.ie notes the extensive positive changes in the overall approach to this latest Transport Strategy review, which is a major improvement on that produced in 2016, and deals with each area in relevant depth.  It particularly highlights and prioritises the need for an increased emphasis on sustainable travel, including Active Travel.

We also welcome the inclusion of many points raised in our January 2021 submission, but highlight below a number of items we feel should have been included, or should receive greater attention.

2.2 Cycling Related Proposals
The graphic in the Strategy outlines the broad proposals of this updated Strategy.  Cyclist.ie queries the relatively low – 12% – Bike Mode Share envisaged by 2042, which is higher than the national 10% target originally projected as part of the 2009 NCPF, but lower than what has been previously projected for the Dublin region.  This is an unacceptable  regression on previous target levels, which were demonstrably higher.  And target mode share needs to consider the timing and alignment with Climate Action Plan targets, as well as the proposed completion of the new Cycle Network by 2020 – see below.

2.2.1 GDA Draft Cycle Network
Cyclist.ie welcomes the new classification of cycle routes on the network. But, we note the reduction in overall network kms between 2013 and the latest 2021 draft proposal.  And, on examination of the individual mapping sections posted we note there are a number of omitted routes from the 2013 draft network in some areas, and the non-inclusion of some actual existing facilities, and some facilities in active planning?

Cyclist.ie would welcome a meeting with NTA officials on this issue, to clarify the accuracy of the proposed network in certain areas?

We are also happy to see the proposed ambitious completion of the cycle network by 2030, but doubt it can be achieved based on past performance.

We note that no clear figure for kilometres of the 2013 network completed to standard, has been posted in Chapter 2.2.  This would show clearly the low level of progress since 2013.

2.2.2 Traffic Management & Inter-Modal Travel Options
Cyclist.ie welcomes the proposals for increased access to public transport for people on bikes, although the proposal to only increase the number of bikes on inter city trains to 4, is disappointing, and falls below the 8 bikes, which the ECF, and the EU Parliament Transport & Tourism Committee are recommending on a European level.  These proposals are critical in helping to increase the volume of sustainable trips across the GDA.  This proposal should be revisited in the light of likely EU initiatives in this area. 

In particular we welcome the commitment to lower urban speed limits to 30kph, as declared internationally in the 2020 Stockholm declaration.  This will make our city and towns’ streets safer for all.  This issue needs to be tackled from within the Department of Transport initially by reviewing the Speed Limit Regulations, to ensure Local Authorities can legitimately introduce these lower limits, and the NTA must play an active part in this process.  

We broadly welcome the proposals to introduce more car free zones, car parking restrictions, and in particular the reduction in public service parking facilities.  In an ideal world this initiative should begin with our legislators in Dáil Éireann?

2.2.3 Personal Mobility Vehicles (PMV)
Cyclist.ie broadly welcomes the introduction of PMVs, particularly if it increases the number of people opting to use them instead of a private car.  But, it is critical that clear legislation and regulations define their usage, and in particular the power and speed levels therein.  The present level of legislation is unclear, and many E-Bikes and E-Scooters are clearly travelling beyond the 25kph cut off speed.  We welcome the NTA’s commitment to ‘respond as required to any legislation adopted’, and would welcome a clear commitment to engage with organisations such as Cyclist.ie as part of any responses.

2.2.4 Covid Learnings
Cyclist.ie welcomes the recognition outlined in Section 11.2 of the Strategy, of the valuable learnings from the trial cycle route constructions during the height of the Covid lockdowns.  As a result of these ‘trials’ many of these protected/segregated cycle tracks will remain in place.  This points to the need to recognise in legislation, as happens in other countries, the right of local authorities to trial installations, without the need for a full long drawn out planning process.  We deal with this point further, among others, in Section 3 below.

2.3 Walking, Accessibility & Public Realm
Many of the issues related to improvements in walking/pedestrian conditions, such as speed limits, junction design, permeability, public realm, and wayfinding also apply to cycling requirements.  Changes in these elements of our infrastructure can have important benefits for both cyclists and pedestrians, and also bring immediate improvements in sustainable travel numbers.

We welcome the commitment to remove slip lanes, and to narrow junctions, and would like to see these commitments moved on rapidly within a specified time frame.  Together with these suggested changes we would like to see a gradual program of improvement in side road junction design to benefit both pedestrians and cyclists, by also including raised ‘at-level’ crossings for pedestrians, clearly indicating priority for pedestrians and for private vehicles to give way.  These raised entry crossings have the added benefit for both cyclists and pedestrians of slowing down vehicles entering and leaving the side roads.  They should be introduced gradually,as a matter of course, throughout the local authorities within the GDA.  We have previously referenced these issues and others in our January 2021 submission.

2.4 Public Transport
Cyclist.ie broadly welcomes the proposals for public transport outlined in the Strategy, and we would hope that the general timelines outlined can be adhered to, particularly in the initial major Bus Connects project, which also has significant impact on proposed cycle routes. We have referred to the issue of bikes on trains above, but in general we support the proposed improvements in the DART system as well as the proposed LUAS lines.  

2.5 Roads
Cyclist.ie welcomes the retrenchment decision on the Eastern Bypass, and the proposed development of the bypass corridor for sustainable transport.  We await definitive plants for these proposals. We also welcome the  ‘Principles of Road Development’ outlined in Chapter 13.2, and the low level of proposed road developments;

We note the broad ‘place making’ proposals in Chapter 13.6, in relation to Urban Roads and Streets, but would like to see this associated with the ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ outlined in 14.6, and in particular the reduction/removal of rat runs.

3 – Missing Elements from GDA Transport Strategy?

3.1 Planning Issues
Over the past decade and more it has been obvious that most major sustainable transport and public realm schemes, including cycle related initiatives, have been inordinately delayed, or even halted, due to issues arising as part of the statutory planning processes.  Within the context of Dublin City alone we have seen innumerable project timelines being adjusted at an embarrassing rate through the years, and poor progress being made.  While there have been learnings, as a result of these problems, it is incumbent on the NTA as the overall ‘overseer’ of these projects, to examine and report on these planning issues, and recommend possible solutions.

We do not see this critical planning problem being addressed as part of the GDA Transport Strategy, and we feel it should.

3.2 Trial Projects
As referred to above in section 2.2.4 the Strategy has realised the value of Covid Trial/Temporary projects in being able to demonstrate to the general public what effects a possible long term project can have, but also to enable the designers to tweak on the ground any perceived faults or difficulties.  These trial projects, common in many countries, need to be placed on a legislative footing and must be part of this Strategy.  This would enable Local Authorities in particular to demonstrate the value of their proposals to the public.  In general they have resulted in positive outcomes for both the planning authority and the public.

3.3 Legislative Issues
There are innumerable legislative proposals that have been discussed and debated over the years, which could be initiated in order to increase the ease and safety of travel for cyclists.  Cyclist.ie has highlighted these proposals in meetings with the NTA and the Department of Transport on a number of occasions in the past 7 years.  In particular we have referenced the 2014 Transport for London (TFL) Study as an exemplar of what could be done.  It will be appreciated that this study is already 8 years in publication, and Dublin was one of the referenced cities in the lead-in study.

There needs to be a sense of urgency in translating ideas into legislation to improve conditions for cycling.  This needs to be addressed in the Strategy.

3.4 Data Evaluation & Monitoring
Cyclist.ie, in our submission of January 2021 to the GDA Strategy process, highlighted the issue of poor data/information and ongoing monitoring of active travel data.  While the areas of collection of available data sources, such as through CSO or other agencies, is referenced in Chapter 19.2 of the Draft Strategy we see no reference to improved internal collection of additional data from the NTA itself or via the local authorities, particularly in relation to active travel.  This is a serious omission.  A single ‘Monitoring Report’ in 2025, as proposed in Section 19.2.4 is woefully inadequate to address the need for assessment of progress.

It is incumbent, via this proposed Strategy, to ensure that sufficient and regular data collection is carried out, and published, to enable a true and full assessment of all projects to be progressed.  We have yet to see any such comprehensive data in the context of active travel projects.  In turn we have yet to see the upgrading of the Common Appraisal Framework used for project assessment, to enable the assimilation of the benefits of active travel and climate change.  This urgently needs to be addressed.

We call on the NTA and the Local Authorities to ensure that detailed traffic related data is regularly collected, which enables comprehensive assessment of all transport projects, but particularly active travel projects. This assessment should be combined with an updating of the Common Appraisal Framework, to ensure that all health, environmental, social and economic benefits are included as part of the assessment process.

3.4.1 Road Safety Data
We fail to understand why the national Road Safety Authority (RSA) has not been included as a data source within this monitoring Chapter 19.  As it stands, road safety data, in particular that related to serious (and minor) injuries, is simply not made available regularly or soon enough.  As a result, while we have seen road deaths generally decrease year on year recently, there has been a concomitant and frightening increase in serious injuries, as highlighted in table 5.1 of the Draft Cycle Network Report. 

The last available comprehensive and  reliable data on serious injuries dates back 5 years to 2017.  This is simply not good enough and must be addressed as it is germane to improved transport, and in particular active travel.

4 – Summary / Conclusion

As stated above Cyclist.ie gives a broad welcome to this new Draft GDA Transport Strategy, but with certain reservations and major omissions.  Our main points are as follows:

4.1 The Strategy does not address the ongoing problems with project delays, and how the planning process ‘works’.

4.2 Trial Projects, as demonstrated during the Covid period need to be addressed long term and put on a legislative footing.

4.3 There are a number of legislative proposals that have the potential to actively support an increase in active travel that have been on the table for a long time and need to be enacted.

4.4 Data gathering and assessment needs to be seriously upgraded, and NTA and Local Authorities ensure that ongoing travel related data is available to ensure rigorous monitoring of Strategy targets, and individual projects.

4.5 The RSA need to be data partners with the NTA, and  the collection, assessment, and publication of road safety statistics needs to improve to ensure road safety issues are addressed with speed. 

4.6 The low target level mode share for cycling by 2042 of 12% is a regression on previous targets 

4.7 There are perceived faults and omissions in the published Draft Cycle Network Plan 2021.  Cyclist.ie seeks to meet with the NTA to begin to address these faults.

4.8 The proposals for a minimum 4 bike places on the new trains  is inadequate in light of EU proposals for 8 bike places, and needs to be upgraded.

4.9 The introduction of clear legislation for PMVs needs to be accelerated, to ensure clarity on usage, and the safety of all road users, in particular active travellers.

4.10 We want to see a clear commitment to the quick introduction of the simple  initiatives proposed in Chapter 10 related to junction design and pedestrian crossings, which can have immediate impact.

Colm Ryder
[email protected]

Connecting Ireland Bus Proposals – Cyclist.ie Submission

Last week Cyclist.ie made a submission to the National Transport Authority in regard to the “Connecting Ireland Bus Proposals”. 

As per the NTA website:

Connecting Ireland is a major public transport initiative developed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) with the aim of increasing connectivity, particularly for people living outside our major cities and towns. The plan aims to improve mobility in rural areas, and it will do this by providing better connections between villages and towns by linking these areas with an enhanced regional network connecting cities and regional centres nationwide.

You can read about the proposals themselves here. We would encourage all of our readers to check out the public transport proposals in their own area and keep in touch with us in 2022 as the plans develop. 

Note that our own submission concentrated on multi modal travel, which is not currently reflected in the proposals. You can read our own submission in full below.

Cyclist.ie wishes to sincerely thank its volunteers for the work involved in preparing and making this submission. 

1.0 Introduction

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network (ICAN), is the Federation of Cycling Advocacy Groups, Greenway Groups and Bike Festivals on the island of Ireland. We are the Irish member of the European Cyclists’ Federation.  Our vision is for an Ireland with a cycle friendly culture, where everyone has a real choice to cycle and is encouraged to experience the joy, convenience, health and environmental benefits of cycling.

Cyclist.ie supports improved public transport networks and we are happy to see these proposals for increased routes and increased frequencies for public bus routes across the national network.  However, while commending these proposals we would also wish to see a clear emphasis on multi modal transport as part of these network proposals.

2.0 Comment 

We are delighted to see measures such as the integration of bus services with train services being proposed.  Examples, such as the new bus service from Carlow train station to Arklow station which allows passengers to transfer from one rail line to another is innovative and praiseworthy. 
The initiative from Leitrim of integrating regular bus services with private services, for example those operated by the HSE, and Health Charities shows a level of joined-up thinking at work. 

However, we are disappointed that these Connecting Ireland proposals have not included any reference to the perfect opportunity to integrate cycling with public transport, and provide wider multi-modal options for rural dwellers in particular. We would seek that this consideration must be factored into the further development of these connecting Ireland bus proposals.

There are a variety of ways of approaching this question, including the following:

2.1 Provide bike parking at local bus stops:
Rural dwellers may not live along an actual bus route and may need to travel some distance to actually board any offered service.  A bicycle, whether a standard bike, Ebike, or cargo bikes is an ideal and environmentally friendly way to do this.  Facilities such as these are a norm in many northern European countries – see image below from Holland.    

Dutch style rural bike parking at bus stop

2.2 Provide Safe & Secure Bike Parking at the Major  Transport Nodes
As in all other jurisdictions which have reached high levels of bicycle usage, one of the major infrastructural supports for this is safe, secure, and adequate bike parking at bus stations and train stations.  Examples such as those below, relatively common in other countries might be taken on board?


Dutch example of architecturally designed secure bike parking building in Dordrecht


Simple Bike lock-up at Llandudno in Wales

2.3 Provide Bike on Board Services
Many bus companies throughout Europe already provide opportunities to transport bikes on their coaches.  It is only a matter of appropriate design to facilitate this option.  See image below from Koblenz in Germany

A picture containing text, ground, outdoor, sidewalk

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2.4 Provide a carrier or trailer service.
Front carriers for bikes are a relatively common feature in North America.  Options such as below could easily be trialled?

A picture containing text, road, outdoor, sky

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3.0 Summary

In essence Cyclist.ie maintains that as part of the improvement in the national bus network, the full integration of cycling with public transport needs to be addressed.  We realise from webinar presentations made and Q&A sessions that this issue has not been fully taken on board up to now.

With the level of ambition of the present government in relation to increasing active travel countrywide, and the  need to meet our climate change targets under the Climate Action Plan, this Connecting Ireland plan needs to understand the criticality of linking the different active sustainable travel modes into a seamless multi-modal network. This can enable multi modal travel options nationwide.  

Colm Ryder
Cyclist.ie
[email protected]

New Executive Committee

Cyclist.ie has a new Executive Committee following its Annual Members’ Meeting of Wednesday 1st December 2021. It comprises some members who were on last year’s Executive Committee (EC) and some brand new faces. All in all, we have great regional and gender balance on the new EC – and terrific expertise and experience on board. 

We are also delighted to announce that we have a new Chairperson, Neasa Bheilbigh from Galway, and a new Vice-Chairperson, Dave Tobin from Limerick. 

We wish them both the very best, and indeed all of the new EC members. You can read more about each of the EC members here.

An Taisce and Cyclist.ie Erasmus+ learning and Training trip to Lithuania

After a hiatus of almost two years, the Erasmus+ project that Cyclist.ie is part of through our partnership with An Taisce Green Schools, recommenced with a training and learning tour of Lithuania in the middle of November. In this article, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce, reflects on the visit and on reconnecting with a wonderful team of advocates from the four participating countries.

The Erasmus+ Project

For those less familiar with it, Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. The programme places a strong focus on social inclusion, the green and digital transitions, and promoting young people’s participation in democratic life. You can find out more about Erasmus+ here.  

This particular Erasmus+ project, entitled “Sustainable Mobility, Sustainable Community”, combined themes of social inclusion, intergenerational relationships, community building and sustainable mobility. The partners comprised organisations from Ireland, Denmark, Lithuania and Spain (the lead partners). You can read more on the background to the project on a Cyclist.ie web article from April 2019 covering the first of the four exchanges visits (the lovely training and learning visit to Corella in Spain), and you also can check out the overarching blog for the project here.  

The learning and training visit to Lithuania had an action-packed and diverse schedule of outdoor and indoor events, with a lot of thought and preparation going into the programme. Huge credit must go to our principal contact in Lithuania, Reda Kneizeviciene, for curating the multi-day programme. 

I highlight below some of the most memorable aspects of the visit to Lithuania, but note that it is certainly not exhaustive in terms of covering all of the events we took part in. Overall, we had three very full days of activities plus some extra events on our arrival and departure days.

Arrival Day – Tue 16 Nov

After visiting friends in Warsaw, I travelled overland from the Polish capital to Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. The bus trip took around 10 hours, and I received a lovely welcome at Vilnius bus station from Reda Kneizevičienė, the lead on the Lithuanian team, along with her son Jonas and nephew. Similarly, the partners from Spain and Denmark were met at the airport with warm welcomes before our reunion in the local hotel.  

Damien Ó Tuama and Reda Kneizevičienė

Full Day #1 – Wed 17 Nov

One of the undoubted highlights of our trip was our visit to the Seimas, the Parliament of Lithuania. We were treated to a full guided tour of the building, including the old and new parliamentary chambers, before the conference commenced. 

The title of the conference was “Examples of sustainable development in volunteering activities: when both the environment and the public benefit” and it was opened by Mr. Simonas Gentvilas, Minister of the Environment in the Lithuanian government. We were also lucky enough to meet the Speaker of the House, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, who is herself former twice world chess champion. 

L-R: Reda Kneizevičienė, Tono Pena De Marcos (Vice-President, Biciclistas de Corella, and Coordinator of the project), Ms Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen (Speaker of the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic) and Mr. Simonas Gentvilas (Minister of the Environment in the Lithuanian government)  

And the full team! 

There were informed presentations given by representatives of each of the project partners, in addition to ones delivered by reps from the Transport Ministry, the City of Vilnius and the Lithuanian Cycling Community (itself a member group of the European Cyclists’ Federation – see here). The full programme for the conference can be read here and the YouTube video capturing all of the recorded presentations can be viewed here (with Damien’s presentation commencing at 2h 10min).  

Damien Ó Tuama from Cyclist.ie and An Taisce addressing the conference

Jens Erik Larsen from Denmark addressing the conference. In the background is an image from 1990 on the day Lithuania gained its independence from the Soviet Union.

The formalities of the conference were followed by a much more informal – and ever so slightly bitterly cold – evening time bike tour of Vilnius. Lovely to see the old and new parts of the city, with an entertaining and knowledgeable tour guide. Very enjoyable indeed. Some pics from the trip are below. They include an image of a plaque on Paupio street within “The Republic of Užupis” in Vilnius – one of 25 plaques in different languages showing the Constitution of the district of Užupis.

The first 10 articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Užupis read as follows (see here for them all):

  1. Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, and the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
  2. Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
  3. Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
  4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
  5. Everyone has the right to be unique.
  6. Everyone has the right to love.
  7. Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
  8. Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
  9. Everyone has the right to idle.
  10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.

Following the bike tour, we had dinner in the lovely Socialinis Restoranas “Pirmas blynas”  restaurant which is located in the basement of a church. It was set up by a Dutch chap (pictured below) with a culinary and social mission to employ people with intellectual disabilities. Fab food and atmosphere there and a terrific enterprise overall. 

A group picture after dinner in the lovely Pirmas Blynas restaurant 

The location of the Pirmas Blynas restaurant

Our day finished with a bus journey to the Suvalkija region, stopping off en route for a night-time visit to the stunning Trakai Island Castle.

Day #2 – Thursday 18 Nov

Our second full day in Lithuania was another action-packed one, with trips to a transport and technology museum, the Marijampolé Technical College, the school attended by the Lithuanian pupils taking part in the Erasmus+ project, a “Bunny Museum” and then, finally, a meeting in the hotel to review the 3 year project as a whole. The pictures below will illustrate some of these visits and meetings.  

The Director of Marijampolé Technical College showing us the robotics laboratory. 

The Bunny Museum which draws upon the rich rabbit history of the region.

Representatives from each of the partner organisations taking part in the final project meeting. The session focused on assessing the project as a whole and considered future possibilities for international collaborations. 

Day #3 – Friday 19 Nov

Our third and final full day was spent in the more rural parts of the Suvalkija region and it commenced with a visit to a local community centre and a tree planting session in the Antavanas Historical Park.

We planted one oak tree for each of the partner countries – Ireland, Denmark, Spain and Lithuania. The planting is symbolically important to mark the Erasmus+ project itself and our learning and training visit to the country, but also as a part off-setting for the carbon cost associated with the groups travelling (by air) to Lithuania. 

Rebecca from Biciclistas de Corella and Damien from Cyclist.ie planting the Irish tree!

Further tree planting with Reda taking the lead.

A final photo before leaving the lovely community centre – with Chifly (in green), Tono (in navy), Jens Erik (in grey) and one of the woman from the centre.

Our Lithuanian partners, LAG Suduva, have recently created a trail in the forest in the region – and next up was a visit there to check it out. It’s a 14-kilometer trail that will connect Kazlu Ruda with three more villages: Kadliskes, Jurés and Agurkiskes. For more information on this see here.  

Launching the trail!

And some further shots from the local area.

One of the many wooden churches and buildings of the region. 

Jens Erik Larsen, one of the founders of the Euro Velo network of trans-continental cycle routes (see here), sharing with the local hosts his knowledge of the history of road traffic warning signage. In this case, Jens Erik reflected on the sign showing (scared) children racing across the road so as to dodge (speeding) motor vehicles.   

Perhaps the most fascinating visit on our trip was to the Kardokai Village Nature School, where the pupils themselves took our Erasmus+ group on a walking tour. The school itself has been developed over the last four or five years or so, and has pupils up to the mid-teens at the moment. The class rooms comprise various interesting wood and straw bale built buildings – as well as clearings in the forest – and with the curriculum very much ecologically focused and with an emphasis on developing practical food growing, building and other skills. This visit was of particular interest to the Danish and Spanish school teachers in the group. 

Many of the existing school classrooms / buildings, and those under construction, are geodesic domes – quite elegant structures.

The final formal event of our trip was a traditional Lithuanian Folk evening – a session of dance, music, cooking and dining! Some photos below will give a flavour.

Traditional Lithuanian dance with local musicians supported by Spanish, Danish and Irish band members!

‘Eggie’, the Lithuanian student, giving his highly entertaining live translations of the descriptions of traditional Lithuanian weaving at the folk evening. 

Participants receiving their Certificates of Participation in the 4th Learning & Training stage of the “Sustainable Mobility, Sustainable Community” Erasmus + project after dinner. Congratulations Juan!

Departure Day – Saturday 20 Nov

Saturday was departure day for us all, but we managed to squeeze in a visit to and walking tour of Kaunas, the second city of Lithuania, en route to Vilnius. 

Tono and Cristina from Corella

More geodesic domes – and note the trick of using inflated car tubes under the ladder to prevent damage to the structures while they are under construction. 

In Conclusion

This Erasmus+ learning and training tour, like the previous ones of the project, was a truly wonderful experience – action-packed with diverse activities each day, educational, sociable and very inclusive in every sense of the term.

I want to thank Reda Kneizeviciene once again for curating the whole programme under difficult Covid influenced circumstances – and also thank all of the other most hospitable Lithuanian hosts.

From a transport perspective, I was struck by the depth of car culture in Lithuania (and especially Vilnius) – similar to many other European countries including Ireland. There is still much to do to create the conditions to nurture a stronger everyday cycling culture in both urban and rural areas. It would be lovely though to revisit the country in the summertime to compare and contrast cycling numbers!  

It was disappointing, of course, that pupils from Spain, Ireland and Denmark were not permitted to travel for this trip – they were certainly missed, especially by their Lithuanian counterparts – but very much understandable given the public health context. 

From my own perspective, it was lovely to make friends and forge connections with brilliant activists and volunteers from all of the partner organisations – and I look forward to meeting them again in the not-so-distant future. 

Our group in the (old) Lithuanian Parliament

Cyclist.ie would certainly love to be involved in other sustainable mobility related Erasmus+ projects in the future, so please get in touch with [email protected] if you are interested in possible collaborations.

Finally, thanks again to those whose photographs I borrowed for this article – especially Reda Kneizeviciene and our chief official photographer Juan Luis (‘Chifly’) from Corella! Much appreciated indeed. 

Damien Ó Tuama
06.12.2021 

Cyclist.ie Presents at Oireachtas Committee on Electric Vehicles

Earlier today, Tuesday 30 November 2021, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce presented at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action on the topic of electric vehicles. 

Also presenting were Dr. Colm Byrne from Irish Doctors for the Environment, Brian Cooke, Director General of SIMI (Society of the Irish Motor Industry), and Marguerite Sayers and John Byrne from ESB’s ECars Division.

The main point Damien made at the session was that the discourse around e-mobility and electric vehicles has largely if not almost exclusively been dominated by e-cars. What we hear much less about is the role of e-bikes, e-trikes and e-cycling in decarbonising transport.

The Irish Times’ coverage of the session can be read here while The Journal.ie’s coverage can be read here

The full video recording of the (3 hour) session can be found here.

The video of Damien’s opening statement can be found directly below (with the text of it further down this page). 

Opening Statement:

Good afternoon Chairperson and members of the Committee. My name is Dr. Damien Ó Tuama. I am the National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network and An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland. Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation. My own background is in mobilities research. 

E-mobility is not just about E-cars

The discourse around e-mobility and electric vehicles in Ireland has largely if not almost exclusively been dominated by e-cars. What we hear much less about is the role of e-bikes, e-trikes and e-cycling in decarbonising transport. 

And this mirrors what we hear internationally. At the COP Climate talks in Glasgow, there was a near-exclusive focus on electric cars and total absence of active mobility discussions during the official Transport Day. However in the end, the following text was included in the declaration:

We recognise that alongside the shift to zero emission vehicles, a sustainable future for road transport will require wider system transformation, including support for active travel, public and shared transport, as well as addressing the full value chain impacts from vehicle production, use and disposal. [1]

In thinking about increasing the use of e-bikes, it is worth noting here that the highest proportion of trips nationally are between 1-3km, as per the most recent NTA National Household Travel Survey. [2] 

Electric Assist Bikes and E-bikes – Broadening the use of Active Travel

E-bikes or Electric Assist bikes work by assisting the person on bike with a compact electric motor. Their pluses are many:

  • They enable users with quite basic levels of fitness to cover longer distances than on everyday bicycles, and this is particularly important in rural Ireland where distances between home and work/shops/GAA grounds other destinations are often longer than in cities. 
  • They make life much easier in hillier towns and cities – I’m thinking in particular here of Cork City, Kinsale, Drogheda, County Wicklow or plenty of other places. And this has a relevance for low carbon tourism as well. 
  • For parents wishing to ferry children around by bike, cargo bikes and e-cargo bikes make life much easier. We know that in Copenhagen there is approx 40,000 cargo bikes – used by many families there. [3] 
  • For cycle logistics in town and city centres, e-cargo bikes and trikes allow for smaller goods to be transported easily thus taking many heavy goods vehicles out of town centres – and we are all aware on this Committee of how difficult it is to electrify large HGVs. Research commissioned by the European Union concludes that 25% of all goods and 50% of all light deliveries in urban settings could be serviced by cargo bikes. 
  • For the mobility impaired, electric assist cycles open up and even transform their independent mobility opportunities. And older people. 

E-bikes are not just about decarbonising transport 

E-bikes provide the opportunity to:

  • Decongest towns and cities because of the much smaller space required for moving and parked vehicles, hence improve the economic vitality of smaller towns
  • Improve the liveability of towns with more space opened up for public space and businesses
  • Improve public health through being active travel vehicles
  • E-bikes use minimal resources compared to electric cars which are certainly not zero-carbon –  in terms of the mining the raw materials and rare earth elements in particular and energy used in manufacturing and disposal.

Policy Interventions

Amongst the policy interventions which will assist in the transition we are seeking are the following:

  • As for everyday bikes, the most important intervention is the creation of safe cycle routes in all of our towns and cities and rural areas – and that means dedicated infrastructure and lower / safer speed limits – especially in rural Ireland (see Cyclist.ie Rural Vision doc [5]). 
  • We need to think much more seriously about inter-modality – combining public transport with bikes or e-bikes for the same journey. This is particularly important in rural Ireland where the distances to public transport are much greater. We need high quality cycle parking and e-charging points at all PT stops/stations, public buildings and apartments etc.
  • Increase the subsidies for e-bikes on a par with e-cars. SEAI grants [6] are needed for e-bikes / e-cargo bikes.
  • Introduce a scrappage / trade-in scheme similar to France where old cars can be scrapped with a grant provided for an E-bike / cargo bike purchase [7].

In Conclusion

Worldwide, the transport sector is responsible for 24% [8] of direct CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion with the vast majority coming from cars, and these numbers are not decreasing [9]. We simply cannot afford to wait decades for fossil-fuel cars and trucks to be fully replaced by electric vehicles – a solution that will not in any case help solve other problems such as traffic congestion and sedentary lifestyles.

I’ll finish with a quote from Frans Timmermanns, the Executive Vice President of the European Commission with special responsibility for leading the Commission’s work on the European Green Deal. At the Velo-city 2021 conference in Lisbon in September 2021, he stated that

The Bicycle is the most important instrument in meeting climate change targets.”

Our policies need to reflect that truth.

Footnotes

[1] https://ukcop26.org/cop26-declaration-on-accelerating-the-transition-to-100-zero-emission-cars-and-vans/  

[2] https://www.nationaltransport.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/National_Household_Travel_Survey_2017_Report_-_December_2018.pdf  

[3] https://cyclingindustry.news/cargo-bike-market-by-2030/ 

[4]  https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/cargo-bike-crazy-potential-delivering-goods-bike-0 

[5] https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/  

[6] https://www.seai.ie/grants/electric-vehicle-grants/  

[7] https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/electric-bikes-replace-polluting-cars-france-introduces-innovative-scrappage  

[8] https://www.iea.org/reports/tracking-transport-2020 

[9] https://ec.europa.eu/clima/eu-action/transport-emissions_en 

Additional References

https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/cop26-pro-cycling-campaign-backed-coalition-350-organisations-helps-achieve

https://www.interregeurope.eu/policylearning/good-practices/item/2867/last-mile-delivery-by-electric-cars-and-cargo-bikes-in-urban-areas/

Note

Image above from the ECF website – https://ecf.com/users/niccol%C3%B2-panozzo/trusted-content/webinar-cargo-bikes-cities. Used with thanks to ECF.  

Contact

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama
National Cycling Coordinator, 
Cyclist.ie http://cyclist.ie/ and An Taisce https://www.antaisce.org/
Vice-President, European Cyclists’ Federation (2016 – 2021) https://ecf.com/
E:  [email protected]

Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG AGM

Tuesday, 14 December 2021 – 8pm online

The Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 at 8pm. The Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG is the legal entity under which Cyclist.ie and Dublin Cycling Campaign operate.

The AGM is open to fully paid-up members of the Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie. You can register for the event here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_XNoO4A3CTLmO9lLVBzjcqQ

Agenda:

  • Approve Minutes of 2020 AGM
  • Review Financial Accounts
  • Provide an update on Governance Issues
  • Vote on any motions
  • Elections – there are no open positions on the board therefore there will be no elections
  • Submitting and voting on Motions

Member motions can be submitted by paid-up members and must be submitted to the Secretary ([email protected]) by 10th December 2021. Motions will be proposed and seconded by members. We will not accept any amendments to motions on the day so please make sure they are written as clear, actionable items for the board.

Key dates:

  • Final date of registration – 12th December 2021. Only fully paid-up members of Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie as at 5pm on 10th December 2021 can attend and vote at the AGM.
  • Send member motions to [email protected] by 10th December 2021
  • Final agenda including motions will be sent – 12th December 2021
  • Annual General Meeting – 14th December 2021 at 8pm

Streets 4 All NI – Webinar #2 – 25 Nov 2021

Streets 4 All NI’s second webinar will take place on Thursday 25th November 2021 from 8pm to 9pm.

In this webinar you’ll hear perspectives from Germany on the cycling industry, cycling advocacy, and progress in liveability, and from Northern Ireland on issues around transport and infrastructure development that affect the mobility of disabled people and older people.

Burkhard Stork is the Managing Director / CEO of Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (the German Bicycle Industry Association), and former Director of Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC, the German National Cyclists’ Association).

Michael Lorimer is the Executive Secretary of IMTAC (the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee) which advises the Government and others in Northern Ireland.

You are very welcome to join this one hour webinar hosted by Cyclist.ie. Attendance is free, and registration is required – see here.