All posts by damien.otuama

Cycling and Autism

In this piece primary school teacher Dave Tobin and physiotherapist Maeve Howlett outline the immense health, therapeutic and social inclusion benefits of cycling for children with autism. Both have decades of experience and expertise of working with young people with autism in their respective fields.

Children with autism are very often some of the most creative and detail oriented children within the classroom. They are keen observers and are incredibly resilient, accepting and honest. In addition to the huge positives children with autism bring to school and family life, they also have a number of common challenges which may include:

• Difficulty with social interaction
• Delayed or limited communication skills
• Sensory processing difficulties
• Restrictive patterns of behaviour or interests
• Delays and difficulties with motor skills development
• Stereotypical behaviours
• Concentration difficulties

Some of the motor skills problems that children with Autism experience include difficulties with balance, postural stability, joint flexibility and movement speed. The secondary consequence of motor skills difficulties include avoidance of group activities including team sports and therefore decreased opportunity for physical activity and social interaction. We would firmly maintain that our cities and schools must provide support and facilities to allow all children to avail of the right amount of physical activity for optimum health and wellbeing.

Exercise of all kinds increases opportunities for social interaction and improves social motivation and communication for all children but especially for children with autism. It promotes calmness and relaxation while also having clear improvements in physical health. Physical stimulation obtained through body rocking, arm flapping and spinning can decrease with regular daily exercise. As with all school children, physical exertion helps children with autism to complete classroom tasks with increased accuracy. 

Motor Skills and FUNdamental Movement Skills

If we examine motor skills and fundamental movement skills we can very clearly focus on the benefits cycling in particular can bring to children with autism. With many of these children experiencing roadblocks in developing different aspects of their motor skills, the development of physical literacy is a key part of their schooling and life skills development.  hey may need more time and support to learn to cycle but once accomplished their sense of achievement is powerful. The therapeutic and emotional benefits gained are very worthwhile.

The Move Well, Move Often programme (PDST, 2017) has been rolled out in schools in recent years and has a far more skills and assessment focused take on physical literacy than previous physical education programmes. It has been adapted for use by many Special Education Needs (SEN) teachers in Irish primary schools over the past number of years for both individual and group teaching of fundamental movement skills. When looking at these skills it’s important to understand that while they may be given specific instruction during motor skills teaching with children with autism, all of these physical literacy skills are complementary and interconnected. While locomotion and manipulative skills may be easier to teach within a standard school PE hall setting, the stability skills benefit hugely from extra interventions such as horse riding or cycling. 

From Move Well, Move Often – Book 1 (p4)

For many children with autism regulation of sensory inputs can be a particular challenge. They may be overloaded by noisy, busy environments. Proprioceptive (body awareness) and vestibular (balance) sensory senses can often be challenging areas too. This can lead to a more limited ability to explore their environment and, in turn, less opportunity to develop their sensory systems, resilience and relationships with peers. Children with motor difficulties require activities that challenge these systems to help them to improve and develop. They need activities that challenge balance, coordination and motor planning such as cycling to help address these sensory issues. Activities such as these have a hugely calming influence on the sensory systems of children with autism. 

Social Skills Development

Social skills, difficulties with social interactions and making meaningful and lasting connections with peers is a key focus of a lot of school aged interventions. A huge aspect of the teaching of primary school aged children focuses on building and developing these skills. Children with autism have both discrete social skills teaching and social group teaching as part of their school-based interventions. Cycling to school with peers in a group or a cycle bus helps develop a sense of belonging and community with their peers that sits perfectly alongside this. The shared communal routines provide incredible benefits to their levels of social interaction, communication skills and most importantly their self-confidence. 

The importance of cycling to both children’s feelings of belonging and inclusion within a group and their mental health cannot be overstated. This is especially important as children reach adolescence where interests and behaviours develop. A shared hobby such as cycling gives children a sense of belonging and a common interest. It also ensures that the exercise they need to help self-regulate is an enjoyable and communal experience. Having the outlet for their feelings is an especially important part of guiding children with autism through this particular phase of their lives and having a solid peer group such as a cycling group strengthens this resilience.

We know that physical activity rates decrease from childhood to adolescence. Older individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) living in community settings have been observed to live very sedentary lifestyles. If children with ASD do not develop participation skills in active leisure time activities, they will most likely become increasingly sedentary with age placing them at risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. We must therefore strive to encourage physical activity for these children in our schools and communities.

What can we actually do then to support children with autism to avail of the benefits of cycling?

For these children the interventions we need, while very similar to those of other children, have specific benefits for all children and are cornerstones of good child-centred design.

  • Further investment in services for children with autism that allow physiotherapists and occupational therapists to prioritise adapted physical activity including cycling as an intervention.
  • Further investment in support for children with autism to avail of in-school bike training
  • The development of secondary and connecting cycle network routes that act as quietways (see here for an article on quietways) that reduce sensory overload for children. The importance of the School Streets initiatives cannot be overstated in this regard and should be a key focus for local authorities going forward. There is a huge role for the metropolitan area transport strategies (such as the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, LSMATS), the National Transport Authority and local authorities in delivering these, and they should be  key recommendations when the draft strategies are being reviewed.
  • The installation of an adequate number of safe, covered bike parking on school grounds including space to accommodate trikes and non-standard bike sizes.
  • An increase in funding for Green Schools transportation projects to enable these changes. 

Support children with autism to learn to cycle and provide the infrastructure to keep them cycling, and they will gain life-long benefits for their physical and emotional wellbeing.  Of equal importance, they will have increased opportunities for meaningful daily social interactions.

Some additional reading:

Connemara Greenway (Stage 2) – Submission

Earlier today (Friday 15th July 2022), made a brief submission in response to the public consultation on the Connemara Greenway. Once again, a big thanks to our volunteers for the help with this. You can read our submission below and check out the public consultations documents / maps here.  

Route Corridor Options – from the Project Brochure (see

As the Infrastructural Coordinator of, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, I am delighted to see these route corridor options for the Connemara Greenway being examined. 

We in broadly welcome the progress of the proposals. However we are disappointed that, considering the considerable overlap across many of the options, an accompanying explanatory narrative in relation to the choice and comparison of the differing route sections and options, has not been included with the posted material. regards this as insufficient information supplied and makes our comments that more difficult.

Having said all of the above, it is critical that:

1  Both Moycullen and Oughterard are directly served and linked clearly into the chosen route.

2  The chosen route, besides meeting the stated criteria must attempt to reach the greatest local population possible.

3  We have no major preference for a route option other than to omit Option G, which completely bypasses Moycullen.

4  While alignment at times with the major N59 road route will be unavoidable, this should be limited to as little as possible of the alignment while still ensuring that nearby populations are served.

5 has been championing the development of local ‘Rothar Roads’ by Local Authorities, to make them safer and more attractive to cyclists and walkers – see here. These roads are also being looked at in the context of the new National Cycle Network. There is no reason why sections of this proposed greenway should not include sections of these wonderful local ‘rothar’ roads?

6  The potential linkage to offshoot cycle and walking routes along the network of nearby country roads will be a major benefit for the area overall, and the potential of these quiet country boreens, or ‘rothar roads’, can open up future opportunities in the area.

Colm Ryder
Infrastructural Coordinator of

Pre-Budget 2023 Submission from delivered its Pre-Budget 2023 Submission to the Department of Finance (Minister Paschal Donohoe) and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Minister Michael McGrath) yesterday, 14th July 2022.

You can read it in full as a PDF here or in the body text below. 

A big thanks to our hard-working Executive Committee and wider team for preparing the submission. This behind-the-scenes technical work is but a small part of our broader advocacy efforts to put cycling and walking to the fore in government policy, practice and investment decisions. 

Aggressively Promote Climate Change Requirements

Ensure that at least 20% of Transport Capital Funding is Allocated to Creating High-Quality Conditions for Cycling and Walking countrywide 

1 – Introduction – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, is the umbrella body of cycling advocacy groups in Ireland ( and the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation ( Our vision is that cycling, as a mode of transport, becomes a normal part of everyday life for all ages and abilities in Ireland. 

As recognised in the Programme for Government (PfG), cycling as a mode of transport offers numerous well documented broad benefits to society – see below – as well as being ‘the most important tool in combating Climate Change’ (European Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans, September 2021). Two years on from the publication of the PfG unlocking these benefits has assumed even more urgency.

Firstly, because the war in Ukraine has led to both substantial price increases for petrol and diesel and to anxiety about the supply of fossil fuel in the months and years ahead we need to conserve fuel supplies. Families are feeling the financial pressure, experiencing mobility poverty, transport exclusion and need to be supported to enable them to make short trips by active travel.  As can be seen from the pre Covid 2019 CSO graphic below, private cars are used for 29% of journeys as short as 2km or less.  While 40% walk or cycle these distances, it is still a startling statistic that needs to be tackled.  We need to enable and encourage travel by bike and on foot for shorter journeys, by funding the required infrastructure.

The second reason for prioritising and funding  every possible measure to enable more people to cycle more often, is that enabling cycling is the fastest and most cost effective  means of meeting the targets set for Transport in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.  Cycling infrastructure and fiscal incentives for cycling can be rolled out on a fast timescale and offer a better return on investment than other transport modes, as well as numerous recognised benefits, such as:

● high rates of economic return on investment 

● improved public health 

● reduced congestion 

● reduced greenhouse gas emissions 

● reduced air and noise pollution 

● increased population mobility 

● more liveable and sociable streets and communities

Unlocking these benefits requires continued targeted and sustained investment. Government and Local Authorities must continue to be steadfast in ensuring this value for money and wide social benefits are availed of. 

In summary we are seeking: 

● Continuation of financial support for Active Travel of at least 20% of the Land Transport Capital Expenditure per annum 

● An immediate introduction of supports for the purchase of ebikes including e-cargo bikes on a similar basis to the current SEAI subsidy scheme for electric cars.

● Improvement and complementing the Bike to Work scheme to include students at all levels, unemployed, pensioners, and people with disabilities 

● Resourcing the growth of bike engineering training 

● Other ancillary supports

2 – Taxation and Fiscal Policy Directions to Create Modal-Shift by focusing on the eco-systems surrounding active travel

Continue applying 20% of the transport capital expenditure annual budget on cycling and walking projects – as per the 2020 Programme for Government. This is essential and must be maintained year-on-year. Allocations for cycling development should be accounted for separately from other sustainable transport measures. 

Increase the subsidies for e-bike purchases to ensure greater take-up. Support subsidies for e-bike purchases, especially e-cargo bikes need to be part of the SEAI Grants Package, need to be commensurate with EV grants generally, and need to be widely advertised.

Expansion of the Bike to Work scheme to be more inclusive, possibly with a complementary scheme, with a focus on low earners, students, pensioners, and the unwaged, as well as specific supports for people with disabilities to adapt bikes to their use. The Bike to Work scheme rates should be improved to more realistic limits for E-bikes and  E-cargo bikes, which have the potential to support city/town deliveries, shopping in a greener and more efficient way, and enabling families to transport children.

● Provide support for more bike mechanic training programmes around the country, such as that operated by the Bike Engineering Academy in Pallas Green, Kilcormac, and Kilkenny, and by the Clonakilty Bike Circus. 

Review the VRT levels for all sizes, weights and types of vehicles, to promote  the use of greener and smaller models. Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) should be specifically targeted for increased VRT. This reflects the increase in road danger for people walking and cycling from the driving of larger, heavier vehicles, which now command 50% of the private car market,  

  • Parking levies legislation to be introduced with a view to encouraging greater sustainable transport use, and curbing car use. For example, a workplace parking levy, as successfully introduced in Nottingham, UK.  
  • Provide increased support for cycle training and education initiatives around the country, through the local authorities / local sports partnerships with particular emphasis on those with lower cycling levels or greater access issues e.g. disadvantaged communities, people with disabilities, females, older adults and migrant communities.

    ● Introduce a scrappage / trade-in scheme similar to France where old cars can be scrapped in exchange for a grant provided for an E-bike / cargo bike purchase 

● The designation of adapted cycles (and all bicycles purchased by people with disabilities) as mobility aids for the purpose of VAT and other financial aid should also be implemented. 

● Provide and promote attractive Mileage / km allowances for cycling, to encourage greater use of commuting and working by bike, similar to what Belgium has done  

● Active Travel funds to be made available for local Authorities to purchase bikes, including E-bikes for elected officials, state and semi-state employees to use instead of cars for applicable journeys. 

● Provide the necessary funding to enable multi-modal trips by ensuring the Connecting Ireland programme includes the provision of covered secure bike parking at all transport hubs and at bus stops.   Continued greater provision of covered secure bike parking for all major transport hubs / interchanges, shopping and service centres, and in particular in schools and colleges. 

Zero rate VAT on bicycle repairs and businesses – to promote the circular economy, create jobs in the green economy, and make cycling more affordable for people of all incomes. Cf.

  • Provide funding specifically for inclusive engagement that enables local communities and other key stakeholders to co-design solutions, thereby helping to ensure any proposed infrastructure meets the needs of all potential users including women, young people, those with disabilities and people experiencing mobility poverty. 

We look forward to having the above recommendations considered favourably by the Department, and are happy to discuss any of the above in detail at any stage. 

Yours sincerely, 

Neasa Bheilbigh
Chairperson – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network
[email protected]  

On the Roads TV Series – Input was delighted to be invited to contribute to the recently broadcast “On the Roads with Simon Delaney” series on RTE 1 TV.

In the series, presenter Simon Delaney looked at Ireland’s new Road Safety Strategy which aims to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads over the next 10 years and to achieve Vision Zero (no fatalities) by 2050. He looked into how we might make travel in Ireland safer, greener, and simply more pleasant, not just for the road users but also for the people living in the areas we move through.  

Amongst the contributors were Jo Sachs Eldridge from Leitrim Cycling Festival (and the Executive Committee of who spoke about the need to create ‘Rothar Roads’ in rural Ireland – a simple concept that would see some of our narrower, lightly trafficked roads redesignated as spaces where people on bicycles are ‘expected and respected’. This would involve a reduction in speed limits, and an introduction of gateway signs and behaviour changes such as approaching blind bends more cautiously with the expectation that there may be someone cycling – all of which could help make these public spaces safer for all road users. has been liaising with Transport Infrastructure Ireland on the Rothar Roads concept, and how it might be knitted into the National Cycle Network which is currently being planned. This was shown in episode #4.

Jo Sachs-Eldridge from Leitrim Cycling Festival

Another contribution from a member group of was from Liam Frawley from Oranmore in County Galway (also in episode #4). He described the work his group carried out to get protected cycle-lanes on the routes to schools. This involved liaising with the Council, the principals of the four local schools, the Gardaí, the parish priest, over 70 businesses on Main Street, and investigating other schemes such as the Malahide School streets. Quite the epic to get the lanes introduced! Great campaigning work.

Liam Frawley from Oranmore Cycle Bus

In episode #3, Lorraine Flanagan, Senior Travel Officer with An Taisce and also representing Love 30, a member group of, made the case for default 30 km/h speed limits around schools and in built-up areas. Lorraine made reference to the 2020 Stockholm Declaration, of which Ireland is a signatory, which includes a commitment to 30km/h speed limits where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix. 

Lorraine Flanagan from An Taisce and Love 30

In episode #2, Kieran Ryan from 15 Minute Westport, another member group of, highlighted the disconnect between cycling facilities on the Great Western Greenway and those in Westport itself where so much of the public urban realm is currently used for parked and moving cars. Kieran stressed the need to reallocate space in the town for people on foot and on bikes. This would help to transform the town both for locals and for visitors.  

Kieran Ryan from 15 Minute Westport

All in all, the series made a valuable contribution to the conversations around road safety and making our towns and villages more liveable. It also highlighted how simple many of the solutions are, with lowering speeds and reducing the dominance of motor vehicles on our roads being key parts of any rural or urban strategy. The examples from Sweden, Wales, Spain and Belgium served to illustrate that it is not just the better known ‘cycling countries’ such as The Netherlands and Denmark that are leading the way in making cycling safe and inclusive.

A special thanks here to Mairéad Forsythe (Chair of Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG and from Love 30) and Martina Callanan (Galway Cycling Campaign) for the work carried out in advance of the filming which helped to shape the programmes and the choice of international examples examined.  

The series is well worth a watch on the RTE Player. See here.  

Velo-city 2022 – Reports – Damien Ó Tuama

This is the third in a series of articles on the recent Velo-city International Cycling Conference held in Ljubliana in Slovenia – with this one penned by the National Cycling Coordinator of and An Taisce, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama.

Listening to Prof. Jan Gehl in the opening plenary of Velo-city 2022 brought me right back to hearing him speak at one of the first conferences Dublin Cycling Campaign organised on the theme of “Making Dublin a bike-friendly city” (see here). That was in 2004 and his message has remained consistent: we need to move from streets filled with objects (cars) to ones filled with people (on bikes and on foot) – and we need activism to make it happen! His story of how Copehagen was invaded with cars from the 1950s, but then rehumanised from the mid-1970s onwards never fails to inspire. 

It was particularly inspiring this year to see a strong Irish delegation from the advocacy sector, local authorities, state agencies and private companies. Some of these delegates would have participated in Velo-city in Dublin in 2019 (see Dublin Cycling Campaign’s report on that conference here), but there were plenty of new faces too which probably reflects the ambitious investment plans for cycling following the publication of 2020 Programme for Government, the advancement of plans such as the National Cycle Network (on the NCN, see here) and the growing membership of 

In this article, I pick out just some of my highlights from Velo-city Ljubliana – and there are many to choose from.

1 – Session on Cycling Advocacy in Central and Eastern Europe
While attending conferences it is always interesting to learn about the local cycling advocacy culture in the Velo-city host country, the political contexts advocates work within and the successes groups have contributed to. Slovenia itself shares borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia (see below), and there was strong representation at the conference from each of these countries and from other Balkan states. 

Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital city with a population of just under 300,000, is undoubtedly very impressive with its 17 hectares of refurbished open public space designated to pedestrians and cyclists (see here), and with Slovenska Cesta, one of Ljubljana’s busiest streets, turned into a road exclusively for public transport, pedestrians, and bicycles. There are also 830 public bicycles available from 83 stations around the city. The Slovenian Cyclists’ Network continues to campaign throughout the country for improved infrastructure, more bike parking at train stations and for an expansion of their Bike to Work scheme.

To the north east of Slovenia, we heard about some successes in Slovakia (the biggest car producer in the world on a per capita basis) and in Hungary where the national cycling association has approximately 2000 members across 18 local groups. Meanwhile in Croatia, the cycling advocates of Zagreb are role models for the rest of Croatia, where the main emphasis is on the need for safe cycling infrastructure. It was lovely to be able to share the 2-3 hour train ride from Zagreb to Ljubliana with lead members of Sindkat Biciklista from Croatia and to get a sense of how their organisation is faring. It is somewhat similar to is that it has one full-time employee supporting a large body of active volunteers, but is actively seeking to grow in size and make a bigger impact. 

The most challenging context for cycle advocacy in the region appears to be Romania, and Radu Mititean, President of the Romanian Cyclists’ Federation, gave a strikingly candid presentation on the difficulties facing cyclists and cycling advocates in the country. He distilled the challenges faced down to three (large!) domains: attitudes, infrastructure and legislation (see below). Shockingly we learnt that there is a complete ban on cycling for those under 14 years on all public roads in Romania. However hard cycle advocacy  is in Ireland, the challenges faced in Romania appear to trump ours – but we wish our colleagues in Romania the very best with their work.

2 – Increasing Diversity at the Helm of Advocacy Organisations
One of the best plenary sessions at Velo-city was on the topic of “Citizens, Stakeholders and Community” and the CEOs of some of the largest advocacy organisations in the world shared their views on the topic. The session was moderated by Saskia Kluit, former Director of the Fietsersbond / Dutch Cyclists’ Union and current Member of the Senate of The Netherlands.

Ann-Kathrin Schneider is the new CEO of the ADFC (the German National Cycling Advocacy Association) which has 215,000 members, and she herself has recently moved into the sustainable transport advocacy space having come from the climate movement. She had traveled directly to Ljubliana from the 30,000 strong cycle protest in Berlin which was calling for more space on Berlin’s roads for people on bikes. She stressed the need for there to be greater collaboration between climate and sustainable transport campaigners.

Sarah Mitchell is the new CEO of Cycling UK, which itself has 70,000 members from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Sarah has recently led the move for Cycling UK to rejoin the European Cyclists’ Federation. She is putting a special effort into helping to diversify the membership of Cycling UK, and is seeking to resist the attempts of the UK media organisations to drag the cycling advocates into the culture wars and the false dichotomy between “cyclists” and “drivers”. 

Jill Warren, CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation, recounted the story of the global campaign led by ECF that included an open letter to governments at COP26 signed by 350 organisations worldwide, and that helped achieve a last-minute recognition of active travel in the official declaration published at COP26 Transport Day in November 2021. Clearly, at both EU and national levels, there is a need in the policy debates about decarbonising transport to continue to shift the emphasis from only thinking about e-cars, to broader considerations of how much we travel and by what means. 

Jenn Dice, CEO of People for Bikes in the US, spoke of the need to build coalitions in their advocacy work, and to lead with the argument of ‘developing mobility choices’ rather than ‘providing for cyclists’. This was a message echoed by Ana Carboni, CEO, Union of Cyclists of Brazil which was founded around 15 years ago. 

A further excellent session, featuring lead women in cycling advocacy and cycling planning, included Giulia Grigoli (below) from Dublin Cycling Campaign. 

One of the slides of Berta Molnár (pictured above on the right) from the Centre for Budapest Transport

3 – Let’s Talk About Funding
One of the essential demands of cycling campaigners over the years has been for adequate funding for cycling interventions, and I spoke about’s successful advocacy work in this domain. This work embraced research to interrogate how transport capital funding was being spent over several years, drafting pre-budget submissions, organising protests and putting the funding demand to the fore ahead of General Election 2020. My full presentation can be read here

The advice from Dan Kollár from Cyklokoalícia in Slovakia, in his own presentation in the same session (abstract here), was that cycling advocates need to focus on seeking to reach higher modal share of cycling – and reducing the mode share of driving – by having the right selection criteria set for infrastructure projects. This point was endorsed by other attendees who stressed the need for municipalities to have coherent plans ready while also securing significant funds for cycling.  

Damien speaking in the session on funding for cycling. Photo taken by Hans Stoops from Cykelfrämjandet (the Swedish Cyclists’ Union)

4 – Keeping the Planet’s Health to the Fore
With all the talk of continually expanding the production of new bikes and e-bikes, it was refreshing to hear the grassroots perspectives of Priscillia Petitjean (pictured below) from Les Ateliers des l’Audace in France. She stressed the need for us to take a close look at the resources involved in bike construction and disposal, to promote the refurbishment of second-hand bicycles and to increase access to bikes.

Issues around the affordability of bikes were also raised by Angela Van der Kloof who pointed to research showing that 10% of households in Amsterdam in The Netherlands – one of the richest countries in the world – cannot afford bikes for their children. Meanwhile Oscar Funk from the City of Copenhagen (pictured below) focused on the transport poverty arguments and the need for more inclusive policies to support a wider take-up of cycling.  

5 – “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed”
The plenary session on Urban Mobility Innovation was particularly stimulating – with the quote of William Gibson on the future (above) referenced early on. Phillipe Crist (from the OECD) reminded us that 2050 is to today as 1994 is to 2022, so the landmark year of 2050 – in terms of the need to have fully net decarbonised systems – is really not that far away (just 28 years). Karen Vankluysen, Secretary General of Polis (the network of European cities and regions working together to develop innovative technologies and policies for local transport), spoke of the future of mobility needing to be “people-powered”, involve “peak seamlessness and intermodality” and of autonomous cars “only being used for very specific contexts”. Meanwhile Mette Granbergy from Helsinki Region Transport spoke of the need for “transport emissions to be sorted” and for infrastructure not just to be enabling of cycling, but to be properly inviting

With the global population expected to be around 10 billion people by 2050 and with 70% living in the urban environment, it really is essential that our systems of mobility are zero carbon, equitable and without the mass of casualties that is currently an inherent part of our transport systems. 

In Conclusion
It was informative and fun to be back at Velo-city, and encouraging to see the strong participation of Irish delegates. The informal conversations over lunch, between formal sessions and on the cycles are as important as the pure content of the sessions. Do take a look at the short video produced by ECF to get a better flavour of the event. 

However, the representation from Irish officialdom was not evenly distributed countrywide, so I really think it’s essential that Councillors, Directors of Services and senior officials from local authorities not represented in Ljbubliana or at recent Velo-city conferences seek to attend and present at Velo-city 2023 in Leipzig and Velo-city 2024 in Ghent. The call for abstracts for Leipzig will happen (most likely) in September 2022.  

Ireland has shown it can take the lead on “building ambitious and innovative cycling infrastructure” with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council winning the ECF’s Cycling Infrastructure Award at Velo-City 2022. We need to see a lot more of that as the pressure is on both at home and abroad to decarbonise our transport systems very quickly.

For further accounts of the conference, see the ECF’s Daily Reports:

Velo-city 2022 – Reports – Jo Sachs-Eldridge

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’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. 

Jo’s report on Velo-city 2022 can be read here.

Velo-city 2022 – Reports – Katleen Bell Bonjean

In the first of a series of articles on the recent Velo-city International Cycling Conference, Katleen Bell Bonjean from’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 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!

L to R : Rebecca Breslin (Galway Urban Greenway Alliance), Slovenian mascot, Katleen (Gort Cycle Trails), Jo Sachs-Eldridge (Leitrim Cycle Festival), Dr. Damien Ó Tuama (’s National Cycling Co-ordinator), Giulia Grigoli (Dublin Cycling Campaign)

Cllr. Saša Novak (Limerick), Jo Sachs-Eldridge (Leitrim Cycling Festival), Rebecca Breslin (Galway Urban Greenway Alliance),  Katleen Bell-Bonjean (Gort Cycle Trails), Dr. Damien Ó Tuama (’s National Cycling Coordinator)

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 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.

Video of Ljubljana at night
Video of morning commute

Thank you to for giving me the opportunity to connect with so many people in the cycling advocacy space!

Bike Week 2022 – Highlights

Bike Week 2022 was another action-packed one for’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’s events ran over the course of the week in May. 

Cycling Without Age /
Dublin City Council, with Lord Mayor Alison Gilliand, on 12 May launched a new Bike Hub, in partnership with, 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

More details at

Cycle Sense, Skibbereen 
Highlights included the Skibbereen Cycle Bus Trip to Tragumna Beach and eating pizza. 

And the return of the Fairfield Family evening of obstacles, bike doctor and cycle round town.

And the idyllic day of River Lake and Sea – Watercolour on Wheels. We became artists under the guidance of Caoimhe Pendred. 

More at 

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 –

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.

More at

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.

More at and 

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.

Participants in the Sligo pedal parade make their way over the blue bridge to begin their circuit.

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. 

Sligo participants arrive by bike for the film screening

Ciara and family arrive for the Strandhill film screening.

Later in the summer or in the early autumn, 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.  

National Cycle Network – Submission

Earlier today (Tue 7th June 2022), 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.’s submission can be read in full here. We pick out some of the main points from our submission in the paragraphs below. 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[1]. 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.). broadly supports the long established “5 needs of cyclists” approach [2] which emphasises that routes / facilities need to be:

  • Safe
  • Coherent
  • Direct
  • Attractive
  • Comfortable

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. 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 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. 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 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.’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! 

ECF AGM 2022 – WE MEET IN PERSON AGAIN! was once again delighted to be able to attend the recent AGM of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) in person! is the member for Ireland of the ECF. It was held in Berlin and hosted by ECF Member German Cyclists’ Association (ADFC). This followed two years of online AGMs where we craved some real interaction, workshops, socialising and guided bike trips with our European colleagues. was represented by Mary Sinnott from the Executive Committee, Damien Ó Tuama (’s National Cycling Coordinator) and Colm Ryder (former Chair of 

Overall ECF is in good shape after another year of high impact campaigning at an EU level. At the AGM, ECF members welcomed four newly elected and re-elected board members – Jan Vermeulen (from Belgium) as Treasurer, and Camille Thomé (France), Francesco Baroncini (Italy) and Prof. Angela Francke (Germany). 

ECF also welcomed six new member organisations. They were Cycling UK, (from Montenegro), Marakli t’Biciklave (from Kosovo), and Tüm Bisiklet Dernekleri Federasyonu (TUBIDEF – the Federation of all Cycling Associations of Turkey) as Full members, as well as Polish Union of Active Mobility (PUMA) and Cycling & Health Tech Industry R&D Center (CHC from Taiwan) as Associate members. is especially happy to see Cycling UK  (formerly known as the CTC / Cyclists’ Touring Club) back to being part of ECF and we look forward to liaising with them over the coming years. Sarah Mitchell, CEO of Cycling UK, informed us that it was the pressure from her members that pushed them to rejoin ECF, and break that Brexit hoodoo. As a membership organisation of approximately 70,000 members, it also represents a significant boost to the ECF to have them back on board.

The most impactful and emotional presentation from the AGM was, undoubtedly, that made by the two members of U Cycle in Kyiv, Ukraine, who managed to attend against all the odds. Even their journey to the AGM was highly eventful as they were delayed at various points along the way due to the attacks on their transportation system. But what the volunteers from U Cycle have achieved since the war started has been inspirational – and, as the women stated in their presentation, bikes have become central to the movement of people and goods in their war-torn cities. Do check out their presentation here.

Workshops were also held around Data and Cycle Campaigning, which gave much food for thought including impressive statistics on the growth of cycling in most EU countries during Covid. We recommend you take a look at these presentations too. In particular, there is a huge amount happening on the data front that we need to keep abreast of and use in our own plans in Additionally, there were several presentations from smaller ECF organisations showing some of their recent successes. The ones from Croatia, Portugal & Slovakia were particularly impressive.

One of the most enjoyable parts of any ECF AGM is the half-day bike tour with other delegates, where one experiences a good sample of cycling infrastructure and cycle-friendly areas. We observed that Berlin is a city with a lot of space given over to cars, both parked and moving, but some better quality cycle routes have been built during Covid. That said, the quality of the cycle infrastructure in the city is decidedly mixed. What is perhaps most impressive though is the myriad of parks dotted around the city, complete with table-tennis tables, playgrounds, mature trees and some fine street art. There does appear to be quite a strong cycling culture in Berlin with far more cargo bikes about, and a greater age diversity of people on bikes than one finds in Irish cities. 

All in all, it was a great trip to Berlin and we look forward to the 2023 event.

You can read more about the ECF AGM here.