All posts by damien.otuama

Irish Cycling Campaign at Velo-City Ghent 2024

Irish Cycling Campaign, formerly Cyclist.ie, has been sending delegates to ECF’s Velo-city International cycling planning conference since the 1990s, and we were delighted to be represented at its latest edition held in June 2024. 

It took place in the wonderful bicycle friendly city of Ghent in Belgium and was the largest Velo-city yet held with over 1650 registered delegates from 60 different countries. In this report, Mairéad Forsythe (ICC Chairperson), Will Andrews (ICC Exec Committee member) and Damien Ó Tuama (National Cycling Coordinator with ICC & An Taisce) share some reflections on the four day event.  

Just some of the delegates’ parked bicycles at Velo-city 2024 

Opening ceremony and plenary

Henk Swarttouw, President of the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), stressed the value of the European Declaration on Cycling that was adopted in April 2024 (as reported on by ECF here). This declaration will impact how global bodies such as the World Health Organisation, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund see cycling infrastructure as an essential part of transport. The declaration sees cycling as “the most sustainable, accessible and inclusive, low-cost and healthy forms of transport and recreation, and its key importance for European society and economy”. Kudos to the ECF for its incredibly valuable lobbying work on this over several years. 

Mairéad, Damien and Henk (from ECF) 

Janette Sadik-Kahn’s (former Transport Commissioner for New York City) gave an inspirational opening speech. She clarified that there’s an ongoing ‘fight’ for space on city streets – but, additionally, that New York City’s Mayor gained great popular support for the bike lane / pedestrian plaza / bike-share measures that were introduced. She shared statistics showing that in New York improved bicycle infrastructure was responsible for a 49% increase in retail sales; the corresponding figures for London and Tokyo were 30% and 20% respectively. She referenced the cities of London and Paris where, in both places, more people now make journeys by bike than by car. This certainly wasn’t the case a decade or two ago. Further (less obvious) leaders are cities such as Bogota, Bratislava, Tirana, Brussels, Arnhem and even Austin in Texas. Cities are seeing cycling as essential infrastructure. 

Janette Sadik-Kahn speaking in the main plenary session venue

Will Butler Adams, Brompton’s CEO for the last 18 years, spoke about the utter inefficiency of individuals in ever larger cars moving about (very slowly) in cities within 2.5 tonnes of enclosed metal boxes. He argued for cycling to be sold as a fun, diverse and interesting way to experience urban travel. 

There was also a lovely suggestion (by one of the plenary speakers) for engineers to use periscopes in a reverse orientation so as to be able to see the street from a child’s perspective – particularly in the context of ever larger Sports Utility Vehicles dominating many city streets.  

Ghent Deputy Mayor

Ghent’s deputy mayor Filip Watteeuw explained how the 50% of through traffic was discouraged in their 2017 circulation plan and that the city is now greener, safer and more liveable (see below). This came after decades of car dominance where only the residual space was given over to cycling. He told us how new improvements in the infrastructure had led to a significant increase in the cycling modal share (see also below). And that there is a new word in the Oxford dictionary “Ghentify” meaning to improve the quality of life through cycling infrastructure. He posed the rhetorical question: how would Ghent look if the 30%+ of trips currently made by bike were to be made by private car?

In regard to Velo-city itself, he argued that it’s about gaining strength and stubbornness for the next battles for street space! 

Ghent Circulation Plan Technical Tour by Tim from City admin

Each year at Velo-City, there are ‘technical tours’ of local places and of new infrastructural interventions of interest. One of the most popular this year focussed on Ghent’s Circulation Plan which reduced through-traffic in the city. The plan was initiated over a weekend in 2017, with 80 streets changing the direction of traffic and 2,500 signs changed within the central area bounded by the F40 peripheral road. The parallels with Dublin’s currently debated City Centre Transport Plan were striking.

The photo (below) shows Tim, the municipality employee and leader of the technical tour, with his diagram of how the city works for private motor traffic before and after the implementation of the Circulation Plan. On the diagram to the left in his hand (under his jacket sleeve), you can see that motor traffic could – beforehand – go from the outer ring towards the centre of the city and onto a central ring, which could be circled fully; Tim’s right-hand diagram – now – shows motor traffic that enters from any point in the outside peripheral road, the F40, is unable to go around the inner ring; you can only go a little way round before being diverted back out again. The city is divided into six ‘sections’ and, as a motorist, you only have access to one of these from the outer ring. But as a public transport user or cyclist or pedestrian, there entire city centre is permeable and quick to traverse.  

As part of the Circulation Plan, the existing pedestrian area of 25 hectares, created in 1997, was doubled in size. Additionally, months before the plan’s introduction, in 2017, a 30km/h limit was introduced in the wider city area. The Circulation Plan itself saw the approximately 50% of motor traffic, that was just passing through the centre, stopped. Cameras log the registration plates of cars and fine those not permitted (loading, taxis etc. are exempted) €58. This is a traffic fine, rather than a congestion fee. The photo here shows one of the cameras complete with a warning sign.

Tim told us that in the years since the plan was introduced, car sharing schemes have been ‘booming’, and car ownership levels consistently dropping. Priority has been retained for bicycles, leading to a 50% increase in cyclists in the central, F40-bound area.

Traffic, tram and bus monitoring was carried out 6 months before and 6 months after implementation, and is repeated every 3 years accompanied by transport surveys and user diaries. Tim told us that users still report some delays and slowness for trams + buses. On some narrow streets, cycling is limited to before 11am and after 6pm. The photo here shows the signs mandating this.

After the implementation of the plan, there was 96% drop in motor traffic levels at one particular junction, and 92% at another. We visited these places, and the quietness and peace was remarkable; it must be lovely for the residents overlooking these pleasant streets.

Furthermore, there has been a 50% increase in cyclists in the central, F40-bound area. Collisions and injuries also both decreased. Finally, since the zone is also a low-emission zone, enforced by camera, air quality – measured at several stations throughout the zone –  has improved by 32%. 

It’s the biggest car-free area in Belgium, and benefits from very proactive parking management. Ghentians are naturally very proud of their circulation plan.

You can read more about the Ghent Circulation Plan on its official website here https://samenvoorzuiverelucht.eu/en/inspiratie/ghent-circulation-plan 

And this is all very relevant for Dublin, of course, where a much more modest traffic circulation plan has been agreed by Dublin City Council but is now under threat from vested interests (mainly in the form of car park owners). For more on the relevance of the Belgian example for Dublin, see this article on the Dublin Cycling Campaign website https://www.dublincycling.com/cycling/ghent-diverted-massive-through-traffic-dublin-can-too

A photo taken on technical tour showing the covered-over / infilled canal that was contrasted with the current situation with the canal exposed / in place again – and with the old office building now being converted into social housing. 

Leading Cycling Campaigning Organisations

For Damien, one of the most inspiring talks was given by Roxanne de Beaux, the CEO of Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Roxanne (pictured below) is one of eight employees in the organisation and they are soon to grow to (at least) 10 staff members. The organisation has around 1700 paid members, but with a very effective fundraising committee that has allowed the organisation to grow its paid professional staff complement over the years. Their mission is to build influence and authority with expert knowledge. She described the organisation as being “relentless” in delivering high quality submissions on all of the relevant consultations in Cambridge, and in developers being extremely keen to talk to them before submitting planning applications so that the active travel elements have been thought through carefully before proposals are finalised and sent to the local authorities. 

Plenary session on communcations and messaging 

There was an interesting concluding discussion about how we communicate and think about promoting cycling. Brian Bell from Strava, Grant Ennis (author of ‘Dark PR – How Corporate Disinformation Harms our Health and the Environment – and you might like to check out this web discussion entitled Dark PR: how the road lobby has framed death as normal), public engagement specialist Jamie Clark and Sarah Mitchell, CEO of Cycling UK, had varying views on what messages to emphasise. 

All agreed that fighting mis- and dis-information needs our focus and ongoing learning. While it’s impossible to predict which myths and stories will ‘catch fire’, we can be vigilant in counteracting myths with evidence and clear communications.

We need to investigate the stereotypes. To include non-traditional cycle users and those outside our usual culture is critical, while understanding the cultural conversations going on: Culture leads while politics and policies follow (although we note that all four panellists were from the English-speaking world!). Advocating without understanding the audience is futile, so listening is just as important as putting out our messages.

Grant concluded by reminding us we need to keep publicising and communicating our specific demands, seeking real political change, keeping going, and repeating as long as necessary.

Giant Bicycle Parade

An annual feature of Velo-City is a huge parade made up of the delegates and local people.

This year the Parade had 3,000 participants with much enthusiastic participation by local cycling groups and engagement along the route including dancing, a brass band, and even a mock ‘anti-cycling’ protest reminiscent of those against immigration. You can get a sense of the event from the Street Films produced short film here: 


And with some further images here:

Mairéad getting ready to be chauffeured around at the parade!

We are not sure what the correct technical name is for this semi-reversed tandem recumbent that seems uniquely designed to make for easy chats between the riders – but lovely to see such a diversity of cycles and cyclists on the parade! 

It was also lovely to see this piano and pianist bearing quadricycle on the parade

Further sessions

Other sessions covered bike theft (and bike registration), funding for cycling, health benefits of cycling, including a Dutch group who believe and work to achieve “safe cycling until you’re 100”. There were lots of mentions of cities who had introduced 30 km/h speed limits to make their streets safer. There was an interesting talk from Belgium where the Cycling Policy provides for every Minister to promote cycling, with 52 cross-Departmental actions to improve cycling (including getting more bikes on trains). 

Our National Cycling Coordinator Damien contributed to an interesting discussion touching on politics and cycling (pictured). Eline Oftedal, CEO of Norwegian Cyclists’ Association, told us to reach out to those with more right-wing beliefs, emphasising the individuality of cycling, and keeping doors open for discussion and debate. Emil Christensen of Denmark agreed that both left and right wings of politics support cycling as a policy, though it can compete with other priorities. There was agreement that we must live with the current political reality. Meanwhile Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns with Cycling UK, stressed the need to emphasise the wider benefits that cycling friendly places give rise to — such as improved public health for all and lower health care costs for society, reduced congestion that everyone benefits from and more liveable towns and cities – rather than talking so much about cycling per se.

Panellists at the session on ‘Making the benefits of cycling an election issue’, moderated by Froso Christofides, ECF’s Director for Members & Networks (on the left)

We were intrigued to hear hand-cycle user Isabelle Clement of Wheels for Wellbeing whose disability doesn’t keep her from advocating for active transport. She claimed that the world of disabled people has been told that the car is the ‘only way to travel’ and further said this was a form of ‘brainwashing’ and that, in the UK, anti-LTN (Low Traffic Neighbourhood) groups had ‘used and abused’ the disabled community in their efforts to maintain car use. Interesting to hear. Isabelle called on us to listen to the most excluded when planning or advocating on transport measures.

The best aspect of Velo-city was the opportunity to network and meet people from around the world, both cycling advocates and officials from local and national governments. We also met old friends and made new friends among the strong delegations of officials from the National Transport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Fingal, Dublin City and Cork County Councils (amongst other delegates from Ireland). Michelle Murphy of Dublin City Council set out the vision here of 95% of the population living within 400m of high-quality cycle network. Bring it on, we say!

The central reception area had stands representing everything from the Dutch Cycling Embassy, to ECF, commercial commodities and e-bikes, e-bikes, and more e-bikes. The future seems to be in e-bikes, with more e-bikes than acoustic bikes sold in Europe in the last few years. 

That said, one of the main themes of the conference was around the challenges of accommodating different types of cycles and cyclists on our infrastructure. There is is a fast-growing cohort of quick-moving e-bikes and other forms of mobility, but we must not forget the value of slow-moving, non-powered cycles. A related overarching theme of the event was inclusivity – we must strengthen efforts to include those who are less able, whether through different ages, income levels, physical or mental ability, ethnicity or choice of cycle.

Final Comments

Our Irish Cycling Campaign team from Velo-city is still digesting the mountains of knowledge and ideas garnered at this year’s conference. After further reflections, this will feed into additional articles to be posted here over the coming weeks and months, including perhaps some observations from the rail and sail and Eurostar Brompton journeys of Damien and Will to travel to and from Ghent. We might also convey the Velo-city 2024 ideas via a special online webinar where we will invite more of the Irish delegates attending the conference. 

In the meantime, you can find more information on the Velo City website which lists speakers, session themes etc. And you can read the daily reports from the four days of Velo-city here:

Velo-city 2024 Ghent: Tuesday Daily Report 
Velo-city 2024 Ghent: Wednesday Daily Report 
Velo-city 2024 Ghent: Thursday Daily Report
Velo-city 2024 Ghent: Friday Daily Report  

The next edition of Velo-city will take place in Gdansk in Poland in 2025 and we hope to be able to send an Irish Cycling Campaign delegation there. More again about this. 

Irish Cycling Campaign in Wodzislaw Slaski – Erasmus+ Project

Irish Cycling Campaign is part of a fabulous Erasmus+ international project with broad themes of social inclusion, intergenerational relationships, climate action and cycling promotion – as we reported on here earlier in the year. The project is centred around cultural exchange visits between the partner organisations based in Spain, Portugal, Poland and Ireland. Those organisations are a mixture of schools and cycling advocacy bodies. 

The latest exchange visit was to Wodzislaw Slaski in the very south of Poland, and we were delighted to have ambassadors representing ICC from the groups of Galway Cycling Campaign, Great Southern Trail and Dublin Cycling Campaign. In this article, Reg, Denis, Íde and Hugh (pictured above) give a little account of the trip.

Day #1 – Reg (Galway Cycling Campaign)
After a lovely breakfast at the hotel, we met the leaders of the other groups from Spain and Portugal and made our way to the high school where the Polish students are based. Each of the project groups presented their progress so far on the Erasmus+ project. These presentations were educational and entertaining, and Hugh did a great job presenting for the Irish Cycling Campaign!

After collecting our bikes, we headed off to see some of the nice local scenery. The cycling itself was varied on the day. We started off on public roads as we left the school, but it wasn’t long until we were on the safety of segregated cycle tracks/cycleways and most of the rest of the spin was on quiet country roads or forest tracks. It was interesting at one stage on the country lane in that we were confronted by a huge bus – but we were informed by our hosts that public transport simply goes everywhere!

We made our way to the lake and then the students enjoyed a treasure hunt while the adults did some exploring. It’s 20 years since I played volleyball, but I was back at it (and I’d say I’ll make the 2028 Olympics)! At the next location, we were served a beautiful traditional Polish meal by three lovely ladies in Polish costume.

We then split into three groups and enjoyed some relaxing, walking and more cycling. We visited a timber church built in the 13th century with no nails, before returning to the school and handing back our bikes. There were some sore bums and tired muscles after all of the cycling and sight-seeing!!!

We then enjoyed a lovely meal in a beautiful restaurant on the town square – and afterwards we returned to the hotel tired but very happy with the day after rekindling old friendships and creating new ones!!!

Day #2 – Denis (Great Southern Trail)
On our second day of our trip to Poland and after a lovely breakfast in the Amadeus Hotel in Wodzislaw Slaski, we boarded our early morning bus to take us to Krakow, one of the oldest cities in Poland. On our two hour journey, mostly by motorway, what got my attention was that the area was totally used for growing crops of wheat, barley and grain, unlike Ireland where cattle is the norm. Along the motorway, there was a continuous fence in place to protect wildlife from crossing the motorway and special overhead crossings existed to facilitate wildlife to cross safely in various parts of the motorway. As I observed this the movie Jurassic Park sprung to mind with us safely on the tour bus. 

At 11am we arrived at Krakow and were split into groups and were greeted by our English speaking tour guide and started our tour by Krak castle and were told of the legendary Krak dragon of which a statue exists. The Dragon didn’t let us down as he blew out some flames before we left him to view other interesting monuments and our tour guide told us very interesting facts about the city’s history.

At 1pm we went to a town square restaurant and were treated to a traditional Polish style lunch of beetroot style soup followed by beef and potatoes and a dessert consisting of a strawberry jelly cake cake known locally as OWOCAMI. We then had time to browse around and explore the city centre at our ease.

Our next adventure was to once again board our bus and travel to a World Heritage Centre known as the Wielizka salt mines. We descended 53 meters underground where on different levels there were salt carved statues of various famous people, and even a church where weddings and functions take place regularly – and as we were leaving a wedding party was arriving. The aroma of salt wafted through the caverns as we walked along, and if you had asthma the salty air would be of benefit and some of our group were brave enough to lick the salty walls on the underground chambers. Even though we spent three hours underground we only got to see a fraction of what exists in the salt mine. On returning to the surface we visited the salt mine shop where salt chocolate and other salt products and souvenirs were for sale.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

It was truly an inclusive and educational day for all and we returned late to our hotel around 11pm for a well-deserved night’s rest in preparation for the next day.

Day #3 – Íde (Galway Cycling Campaign)
We left the hotel early again and traveled by bus to two different visitor attractions.

The first was a natural reserve built by monks. It was a wetland with some of the oldest trees in Poland!! There was a slight bit of rain falling, but we could shelter under the canopy of the forest. One of the local teachers had a treasure hunt set up for us and we all took part in a photography competition. We were divided into groups mixing different languages and ages. We had to download an app to identify native trees and measure their trunks with the pieces of wool provided. Our host put a lot of work into the tasks. It was a very enjoyable few hours in the forest. Dad (Reg) and Denis got a good few bites on their legs while in the forest. We were supplied with a packed lunch and ate it in the forest. Next we visited a museum in Katovice where we learned a lot about the complex history of Poland.


Chefly, Hugh and Reg

In the evening the adults enjoyed a meal in a restaurant in the town. I was invited to attend a party at the house of one of the Polish students, Ana. We had a lovely evening and enjoyed some Polish cuisine and lovely hospitality.

Day #4 – Hugh (Dublin Cycling Campaign) 
Our final day in Poland was to start with a gentle kayak ride down the Oder river.  This was a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of Poland on one side and Chechia on the other.  It was a 7km “ride” which took about two hours to complete, not too exhausting for our final day. We had to keep watching for fallen trees just under the water, there were a few close calls, but we all got to the end safely and mostly dry.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

Once we had all the kayaks loaded onto the trailers, and had a rest, we were off to the next destination. We had a 2km walk to a nearby holiday village. We arrived at lunchtime to find Polish sausages on the grill, prepared for us. We were certainly ready for some grub, all very tasty and appreciated. We had some time to relax, have a swim in the lake, and chat with our new friends. Then we were back to base for some free time before our final event.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

Our final activity for the trip was the farewell gathering at our host’s school. This was our wrap-up of the four days of events. The Polish students had a test of the “most Polish person”.  This involved trying to pronounce a Polish word, make some pierogi, and taste some Polish mustard; all good craic. Reg managed to grab the crown when nobody was watching! 

We finished the evening with some songs and karaoke. This was a terrific few days with lots of shared learning for all, and sharing of ideas.

Photo credit – Biciclistas de Corella

Reg, Denis, Íde and Hugh want to sincerely thank Asia and Eva and their colleagues from the local high school for organising a wonderful Erasmus+ exchange. All the students, hosts and visitors did themselves proud. They are a credit to themselves, their families, and communities. Irish Cycling Campaign is looking forward to hosting the next exchange visit in October, and we are hoping we can meet the high standards already set. 

For more photos from the trip, take a look at the Facebook pages of https://www.facebook.com/BiciclistasdeCorella 

MARY ROBINSON CLIMATE CONFERENCE – E-MOBILITY PANEL – ICC REPORT

Joan Swift from Sligo Cycling Campaign and Irish Cycling Campaign has penned the following report on the recent Mary Robinson Climate Conference panel discussion on e-mobility.

The 2024 edition of the annual Mary Robinson Climate Conference took place in Ballina, County Mayo, from 5th to 7th June. Sligo Cycling Campaign was delighted to be asked to participate in the panel on e-mobility hosted by IS Cycle from the University of Limerick. IS Cycle (Inclusive Sustainable Cycling) is a research project looking at ways in which e-bikes can change behaviour to reduce traffic congestion and transport emissions.

The panellists for the e-mobility session were Brian Caulfield, Professor in Transportation in Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, Sustainability Action Research and Innovation Lead in TU Dublin, Dr. James Green and Dr. Abhilash Singh from the IS Cycle in University of Limerick, along with moderator Dr. Louise Foley and Irish and Sligo Cycling Campaign member Una L’Estrange (ATU Sligo). Una is a regular e-bike commuter and was invited to be on the panel to give the perspective of a member of the public on using an e-bike.

In Ireland, the term ‘e-mobility’ tends to conjure up images of a million electric cars replacing a million internal combustion engine powered cars. However, several panellists pointed out that these like-for-like replacements will occupy the same space as the current fleet, thus doing nothing to alleviate traffic congestion. Neither is the current e-car fleet contributing much to our transport decarbonisation target since, according to Professor Caulfield, e-cars are mainly being used in urban areas which already have alternative transport options as opposed to rural areas where, arguably, they would have more impact. Brian also pointed out e-cars are not currently part of a Just Transition since ownership is mainly confined to people in affluent areas. A further issue regarding electric cars is that they tend to be quite heavy, and the heavier the vehicle the more tyre particulates are emitted and the greater the wear on roads.

Dr. D’Arcy also feels that e-bikes of various kinds are quite simply a more efficient means of moving people through streets which are essentially the spaces between buildings. Both she and Una spoke about their personal experience of e-bikes being game-changers when it comes to tackling hills. In Una’s case her regular route takes her along the Wild Atlantic Way so she was also eloquent on the ability of her e-bike to counter the effect of wind. Both speakers also mentioned the obstacles to safe and comfortable riding such as poorly maintained cycling surfaces and driver behaviour.

Dr. Green made the point that e-bikes allow for longer trips and for people to continue cycling into older age. He spoke about how there are several different types and shapes of e-bikes depending on the user requirements, whether the user cycles solo or needs to carry shopping or children. UL’s Dr. Abhilash Singh spoke about the importance of collecting adequate data on travel patterns and types of trips. He expressed the view that we need to consider the sustainability of e-bikes from the mining of minerals for the battery to the end of the bike’s life.

All of the panellists work in universities, so they were conscious of the long commutes undertaken by many students. The student accommodation crisis means long trips from home by public transport or private car have become commonplace. This militates against active mobility.

The panel also discussed e-scooters. They have the advantage of being cheaper than e-bikes and being easier to store, but the panellists agreed that for comfort and safety the small wheels require much smoother road surfaces than are the norm. E-scooters are popular with commuters in areas without early morning bus services or without public transport at all. Their lower cost versus the cost of e-bikes likely makes them attractive to people on lower incomes. One panellist expressed the view that the rigid body position required when riding a scooter means that injury in the event of a fall is more likely than with a similar fall from a bike where the rider is in a less rigid position. Una mentioned that she had noticed another type of e-mobility being used in her village.  Some older golfers are using their golf cart, not just on the course but also to get to and from the course.

There was an interesting discussion on how to plan for more and safer cycling, including on e-bikes. Everyone agreed we need better infrastructure, but Dr. D’Arcy pointed out and Professor Caulfield agreed that while transport modelling determines what decisions are made, modelling only measures the status quo; i.e. what people are currently doing not what they would do in another scenario. This is a major limitation on progress. Also, while the Department of Transport and the transport agencies draw up plans, appraisal criteria are determined by the Department of Finance.

The most unusual “something we never knew until today” nugget of information learned during the discussion was that the Central Statistics Office measures the importation of bicycles into Ireland by volume and not by unit! In other words, we know how many tonnes of bicycles are imported each year, but not how many are sports bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes, adapted bikes etc. This sounds like something Irish Cycling Campaign could raise in its meetings with the Department of Transport.

More details of the Mary Robinson Climate Conference are available at http://www.maryrobinsoncentre.ie/mrcc24.html.

For more information on the IS Cycle (Inclusive Sustainable Cycling) research project, see https://iscycle.ie/

Do Our Planning Submissions Make A Difference?

In this article, Irish Cycling Campaign’s Infrastructure Coordinator, Colm Ryder, considers if ICC’s planning submissions are making a difference – and, if yes, in what way?

The Irish Cycling Campaign (formerly Cyclist.ie) has been making submissions to Planning Authorities and Government Bodies, on public consultations, for at least the past 15 years. This work is part of our broader efforts to improve conditions for active travel by engaging constructively through the planning system. 

We ask here: do these submissions help to make a difference in how designers and planners view active travel provision? Our view is that they can certainly help to make alterations to proposed projects, as we also know from discussions and feedback with different local Councils, and from the issued “Part 8” Final Reports (i.e. Part 8 of the of Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended)). But also we know that certain Local Authorities do sometimes ignore our comments, particularly if they are critical of the relevant Local Authority and its policies.

So, we continue to make submissions on schemes and policies right across the country – when, that is, we actually get to know if consultations are happening!  Unfortunately this has not always been the case, as public consultations are difficult to track, and up to now there has been no standard website or tracker mechanism, which keeps on top of consultations published. There are also the cases where Local Authorities post consultations online, but do not encourage submissions (e.g. by not providing an email address to facilitate this), with the result that some schemes can have very few, or even zero, submissions. This is an unhealthy indication of the democracy of our planning system.

But, recently, the Local Government Management Agency has been trialling a national planning system, where many Local Authorities post their consultations and general planning information. The consultations at present are confined to Part 8 consultations, but we would hope that all public consultation processes, including Section 38 processes, will soon come under the umbrella of this overarching website. This will make it easier for Joe/Mary Citizen to access and find out what is happening both nationwide and in their own area. In the case of the Irish Cycling Campaign, we are of course interested in any proposed active travel schemes countrywide, and not just where our local groups are active!

In the first six months of 2024 alone, we have centrally made over 40 submissions to 18 Local Authorities and to four government agencies/departments. This does not include the many submissions made locally, directly from our network of local groups, on local schemes of interest. The vast majority of the schemes we have submitted on are specific proposed active travel improvement schemes in our towns and cities. But an increasing number of rural Local Authorities are working to develop greenways, to encourage mainly local leisure use, but also to attract tourism. Some of these proposed greenways will in the long term link into the developing National Cycle Network (NCN).

We, in the Irish Cycling Campaign will continue to advocate for cyclists and pedestrians, in order to make our streets safer and more liveable. It is important that we continue to make our voice heard through multiple channels, including through these formal planning consultation processes. Through these channels we can help to ensure that planning bodies and local authorities develop acceptable policies, and implement high quality active travel schemes in line with the the Cycle Design Manual, Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets, and Rural Cycleway Design documents. 

If you have any interest in supporting this work, or in making your own planning consultation submissions, why not contact us at [email protected]?

You can also support our vital work by making a donation, which will help to cover the administrative expenses of making submissions. Visit cyclist.ie/donate to contribute today.

Note – the featured image above was taken in June 2024 at Utrecht’s multi-story cycle parking facility by Irish Cycling Campaign’s reps en route to the Velo-city conference in Ghent.

Irish Cycling Campaign submission on R448 Road Space Pilot Scheme (Kildare)

Earlier this week, Irish Cycling Campaign (ICC) made a submission on the consultation on the R448 Road Space Pilot Scheme being developed by Kildare County Council. You can read details of the consultation here, and our submission below.

In short, ICC is disappointed at the poor quality of the consultation material presented and the dearth of background context.  We urge Kildare County Council and TII to revisit the material and the general proposed designs, and to give interested parties, such as ourselves, a clear idea of why this trial is being proposed and where this design proposal fits into the national context. 

1 Introduction
The Irish Cycling Campaign (formerly Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network), is the national cycling advocacy body with membership from 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 and pedestrian friendly culture, where everyone has a real choice to cycle and move about safely, and is encouraged to experience the joy, convenience, health and environmental benefits of cycling and walking.

The Irish Cycling Campaign is happy to see this project being advanced under a Section 38 process, ideally allowing a rapid turnover to this trial construction.   However, we are nevertheless disappointed at the shoddy presentation of this important pilot scheme for space reallocation on a 3.8 km section of regional road R448.  In the assumed context of the long term development of a National Cycle Network (NCN), any proposed developments along these lines need to be clearly signposted, explained, and contextualised.  While the presented material provides food for thought, there is not enough background explanation of why different systems have been chosen or different junction types proposed.  We elaborate on our criticisms below.  Public consultation should be about clarity and ease of access overall.  This is not the case here.

2 General Comments
2.1 Poor Information on Consultation
The proposals on this nearly 3.8km section of the R448 route, a former N route, to trial various pilot designs, is presented without any proper context, and thus difficult to understand.  There is no background explanation of why the various different forms of carriageway cross section have been chosen, or any outline of why the 4 different proposals were chosen above others?  The consultation documentation requires a clear concise explanation of the context, the choice of site, and the chosen length of the trial section?
We can only assume that this trial is related to the envisaged national NCN proposals, and proposing possible solutions for the application on old N road?  This is not good enough from Kildare CC and TII.
We also deplore the lack of clearly identifying each map/drawing for context rather than Map B, Map C etc.  

2.2 Carriageway Cross Section & Cycle Lane Width
We note the overall ‘typical’ carriageway width of 14 metres presented, and its division into 7 (2×3.5) metres of main carriageway, 2×1 metre hard shoulders, 2×1 metre separation areas, and 2×1.5 metres cycle lane.  It is not made clear if this 14 metres is a rigid dimension for all or most old N routes, or what level of variation exists?

As a cycling advocacy organisation we are particularly interested in the cycle lane details and overall comfort and safety.  The proposed width of 1.5 metres is in the ‘absolute minimum’ category acceptable width for a one way cycle lane, as outlined in Table 2.2 of the National Cycle Design Manual(CDM).  This proposed width does not allow for comfortable overtaking or cycling two abreast.  If this pilot is geared towards a national NCN design it needs to factor in the allowance of side by side cycling of friends, and the use of these routes by groups of cyclists from clubs around the country, as well as individuals, otherwise cycling groups will continue to use the main carriageway.

In the above context we recommend that ideally a cycle lane width of 2 metres be chosen where feasible, which is the ‘desirable minimum width’ of a one way cycle lane as outlined in the CDM.  However, a lower width may be acceptable over short distances.  A reduction in the hard shoulder width may also be a possibility, to ensure a workable cycle lane width?

2.3 Junction Treatment
We note the varying forms of junction treatment outlined at different side road junctions.  In general cycle traffic is downgraded and not given priority along the main route at the larger junctions, having to give way to traffic coming off or exiting on to the R448.  This is not acceptable.  It is incumbent on the designers, in the light of national policy and ambitions, and in the context of climate change, to treat cycle traffic as a main element of vehicle movement.
In this light traffic coming off or into the side road must give way to mainline cycle traffic and the junctions should be designed accordingly.

2.4 Junction Radii
We note the proposed variation in junction radii at different junctions, which we feel needs re-examination.  For junctions such as the 50kph speed limit routes (Moone Road & Timolin Terrace) and the various small cul de sacs, a 13 metre radius is excessive and unlikely to encourage vehicles to negotiate the junctions more slowly.  The design context for these smaller local junctions needs to be factored in, including the prioritisation of mainline cycle traffic over turning vehicles.  Reducing the junction radii will also simplify the junction design for cyclists and pedestrians.

2.5 Main Road Crossings
We endorse the proposals to include a 2 stage crossing of the main (R448) route close to sizeable side road junctions.  We fail to understand why this should not also apply to the R747 junction?  This type of decision requires background and clarity.

2.6 Carriageway Layout, Material Variations
We note the 4 different proposals for carriageway layout, and assume that the ‘modular island’ design shown in Inset B includes either a continuous fence or series of bollards on the elevated modular island?  If this is the case, it would be our preferred design choice, providing overall greater protection for cyclists.  We are happy to see a clear kerb/upstand provided in each proposal, which provides extra protection for the cyclist.

2.7 Speed Limits
We wonder if the issue of varying speed limits along the R448 or other main routes might be considered on approaches to major junctions?  This would encourage slower speeds of vehicles in general, but also enable safer turning and exiting manoeuvres for vehicles using the side roads.

3 Summary / Conclusion
In summary, the Irish Cycling Campaign is generally disappointed at the poor quality of the consultation material presented and the dearth of background context.  We urge Kildare County Council and TII to revisit the consultation material and the general proposed designs, to give the general public and interested parties, such as ourselves, a clear idea of why this trial is being proposed and where this design proposal fits into the national context.  The other comments above in Section 2 remain germane.

Colm Ryder
Infrastructure Coordinator
Irish Cycling Campaign
www.irishcyclingcampaign.ie 

Bikes & Biodiversity Events 2024 – Report

For the first time in our history, Irish Cycling Campaign formally took part in National Biodiversity Week. The week itself is organised by the Irish Environmental Network (IEN), with their funding for it coming from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

We received a lovely positive response from our Local Groups when we contacted everyone back in February about the idea of running biodiversity themed cycles. The bicycle is a gentle way by which we can explore nature – and the near silence of cycling means we can hear the birdsong and sounds of the sea while on the move, which is quite unlike the experience of motoring. 

In this article, we have reports from nine of our Local Groups who ran a total of eleven events (with further details on one of the events to be added). A sincere thanks to all of our volunteers who helped to organise everything and who sent the reports below afterwards. Much appreciated! 

And a sincere thanks also to the Irish Environmental Network for their support in running these biodiversity themed cycling events. It’s great to be a part of the IEN network. 

Clonakilty Bicycle Festival

Clonakilty Bicycle Festival ran three events as part of National Biodiversity week. We had a lovely turnout with lots of new faces and lots of sunshine. Photos below taken by Allison Roberts.  

On Saturday 17th June a sunset cycle of the estuary was co hosted by Birdwatch Ireland – we saw a baby heron in its nest, heard chif-chaffs, curlews, whimbrels, a cormorant, teal ducks, baby ducks and more. 

  • 25 people attended
  • Attendance met our expectations, and was especially great to have a user for our ‘Cycle without age’ trishaw attend
  • Always a very popular event and great way to show off the beautiful biodiversity of our estuary 

On Sunday 18th we had a morning lap of the town on bikes and arrived at Bennett’s Field Biodiversity Garden where Justin Grounds hosted a special biodiversity themed session of his weekly ‘Stop Look Listen’ event. He spoke about the links between human, animal and natural sounds and the evolution of music and we listened to three pieces of music: ‘Oiseaux Tristes’ by Maurice Ravel, ‘The Night the War Ends’ by David Rothenburg and ‘The Voice of the Whale’ by George Crumb.  

  • 15 people attended
  • Attendance was lower than we anticipated, but we had a great mix of new people
  • It was a lovely event, one we would like to repeat.

Later the same day we had a family river cycle out into the forest to stop and study the river Feagle. Co-hosted by local river group ‘Clochan Uisce’ (see this report about them in the West Cork People), we did kick sampling to identity critters living in the river as well as doing water testing to send in to the EU ‘drinkable rivers’ database. We also stopped at a natural reed filtration field and spoke of the important roles plants have in keeping our rivers clean.

We submitted a short article about this in the West Cork People which was published here: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/1036286870/24/.

  • Approx 20 people attended
  • Attendance was as expected 
  • We had a local man come that was a bit of an expert on reed beds for water filtration, so we were also able to work that in to the event and that was a great extra talk about biodiversity


Cloughjordan Cycling
Saturday 18 May 2024
Cloughjordan Bike Week / Biodiversity Week cycle to Scohaboy Bog.


Cloughjordan Cycling hosted a `Nature Cycle` – a guided looped cycle to natural heritage locations in the wider Cloughjordan area. The cycle included a visit to a small family run organic farm to learn more about their diverse agri-ecosystem. We saw a woodpecker’s home in a tree along the way!

Further details to be added here.



Cork Cycling Campaign
BikeODiversity Meets Biodiversity at Tramore Valley Park, Cork City – 26th May 2024, 11am – 1pm

The Tramore Valley Park Biodiversity cycle was a truly fascinating event. We learned how the former city landfill site (known in Cork as De Dump!) is being transformed by Cork City Council and local volunteers into a biodiversity-rich park. Huge thanks to Biodiversity Officer Rosemarie McDonald and to the volunteers at the KinShip EcoLab  for their generous insights. Thanks also to City View Wheels for providing Rosemarie with an e-bike and for acting as our canteen in the rain! 14 people attended and feedback was very positive.



Dublin Cycling Campaign
Community Garden Cycle focused on Biodiversity, Dublin, 18th of May 2024Report by Miren-Maialen 

The Community Garden Cycle focused on Biodiversity, co-organised by Dublin Community Growers (DCG) and the Dublin Cycling Campaign, was a great success.

On the southside route there were 15 participants and around 20 participants in the North Side route. We arrived at Mud Island Community Garden at around 1pm. Aaron Foley, Biodiversity Officer with DCG, gave a talk about urban biodiversity and the role of urban gardens in protecting biodiversity and how we can help by leaving compost heaps, building small ponds and planting native wildflowers.

The talk was well received and we had some sandwiches by Cloud Cafe and refreshments. Thanks to Miren-Maialen and John O’Donogue from DCG, Will, Donna, Hugh, Siobhan, Christina and all the stewards and hosts in the Community Gardens, as well as Maeve and Nathalie from Mud Island Community garden. A great event – and thanks to IEN for the support!

Link to photographs: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SHHgcLpb52fCP7x76 


Gorey Pedestrian and Cycling Association Biodiversity Ride

Gorey Pedestrian and Cycling Association (GPCA) has held its first ever “Biodiversity Bike Ride”

on Sunday 19th May from 11am-1pm which brought together 15 community members to explore and appreciate the biodiversity in Gorey town.

The bike tour was guided by Natasha Ariff, a biodiversity and landscape consultant based in North Wexford. Natasha led participants through the town, making informative stops at several key sites. Attendees learned valuable insights into how they can help protect and appreciate the local environment.

A significant highlight of the ride was a stop at the River Banogue. Natasha emphasised the critical importance of safeguarding this river, which is often mistakenly treated like a drain. Recently, fish were spotted in one area of the river, a positive sign that highlights the need for continued conservation efforts.

Overall it was a great event, was well attended, and we had positive feedback. On the back of it, two members of our cycling group will complete Community Bike Ride Leader Training (see here) in order to facilitate further similar events. 

Gorey Pedestrian and Cycling Association
Email: [email protected]
facebook.com/GoreyPedestrianCyclingAssociation 

Wexford Environmental Network
Email: [email protected]

Kerry Cycling Campaign
Nature cycle along the Tralee to Fenit Greenway
Date: Saturday, May 18th

Attendees: 15 – less than expected

Kerry Cycling Campaign ran a nature cycle along the Tralee to Fenit greenway, the group met opposite the train station and cycled approximately 4 km along the greenway to Fenit and back to Tralee. 

The event was led by local nature educators Cathy Eastman of Biodiversity Partners and Niamh Ní Dhúill of Natural Wild Gardens/Transition Kerry who highlighted the differenrt plant and animal habitats along the way. 

The event was engaging and enjoyable but attendance was less than expected.


Leitrim Cycling Festival & Leitrim Hawthorn Project

Event title: Hawthorn Cycles
Date: 18th May 2024
Time: 2pm
Attendees: Approximately 30 – exceeded expectations

As part of the 2024 Leitrim Cycling Festival in Keshcarrigan (see https://leitrimcyclingfestival.com/), the event celebrated the natural and cultural heritage of the Hawthorn tree through music, storytelling and sharing the folklore and medicinal properties of the tree and discovering its key role in supporting biodiversity. It was facilitated by Tara Boath Mooney, an artist, singer and facilitator who has helped to lead the community heritage project and its research into the Hawthorn traditions throughout Leitrim.

The hawthorn was bursting into blossom just in time for our celebration in sound and word of its magnificence. We gathered under a hawthorn tree to drink its precious infusion of heart helping tea. We listened to Tara Baoth Mooney and Gerry Bohan speak of its magic, lore and healing properties accompanied by guitars and gongs.

We then sang the hawthorn together through the hagstones and co-created and spoke our own short haikus in communion as a celebration and acknowledgement of its majesty.

It was a beautiful event. We all hope to do more next year. 


Sligo Cycling Campaign – Coastal Biodiversity Cycle to Strandhill
May 23rd, 5.30pm to 9pm

Sligo Cycling Campaign held its Coastal Biodiversity Cycle on the evening of May 23rd with a total of 10 cycling  participants. Five of these had not cycled with us before so we were very pleased to attract new attendees. Two further participants who were unable to make the cycle joined us in Strandhill. 

The cycle and subsequent exploration of the sand dunes made for a hugely enjoyable and informative event. The sunny evening coupled with a strong North West wind meant both sunglasses and woolly hats were required! We stopped en route to look across Sligo Bay towards Ben Bulben and learn about this unique marine and coastal environment, protected by EU Environmental law. Our guide, ecologist Will Woodrow, indicated the high cliff areas which are popular nesting sites for birds of prey. 

Once in Strandhill we made our way into the dunes via the Shelly Valley. Will was a fount of knowledge and a great communicator!  He explained about fixed dunes and gray dunes. He identified: speedwell, milkwort, ladies bedstraw, yellow rattle, mouse ear and spotted, bee and pyramidal orchids for us. Alas, the orchids were not yet in bloom! We walked up onto a high dune so that we had a view of Ballysodare Bay, another protected area and home to large numbers of harbour seals. From time to time Will reminded us to be silent so that we could hear the skylark and meadow pipit. 

The return cycle was as exhilarating as the outward one with thankfully a few more downhills! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Irish Environmental Network we were able to reward ourselves with coffees and welcome pizza slices from Bianconis on our return!

Future visits to the dunes will see us so much better informed and more aware of the fragility of our coastal eco-system. 

If we were to do a Biodiversity Cycle again next year we would consider doing it on one of the weekend days during Biodiversity Week. Due to the length of the cycle (17km for the round trip, plus the distance from home to the start point) and the lack of a protected cycle route, the group was self-selecting not just in terms of interest in biodiversity but in terms of being able to cycle confidently in traffic. In retrospect, a shorter event on a weekend day might have attracted more participants. However, for those who did participate it was a hugely enriching experience and we are most grateful to the IEN for the sponsorship and the idea. There was something special about being part of a larger web of biodiversity cycling events being held around the country in the same week.

Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/p/C7WGZp5o9_s/?hl=en&img_index=1

Joan Swift


WexBug (Wexford Bicycle User Group)
Biodiversity Cycle to Wexford Wildfowl Reserve

Date: Sunday, May 19th

WexBUG hosted a cycling tour from Ferrybank to Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. We had coffee and cake on Wexford quay afterwards. We had 10 attendees and the weather was great. 

We headed off from the quay and traveled down a beautiful country lane, reaching the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. The group had the opportunity to meet either a National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger or a member of the Wexford Naturalist Field Club. The guided tour of the North Slob facility gave insights into the diverse and captivating life within this Special Protection Area. 

We were prepared for more attendees (18), but did not have full take up in the end.

Cormac Mac Gearailt Chair of WexBUG & Georgina Gaul (WexBUG Committee member)
www.Wexbug.org 


For more on National Biodiversity Week, see https://biodiversityweek.ie/ 

And to take a look at some of the lovely posters that our groups prepared ahead of the cycles, see https://cyclist.ie/2024/04/biodiversity-week-cycles/.  

National Sustainable Mobility Forum – Portlaoise, 23 May 2024 – Report

The Irish Cycling Campaign was delighted to be invited to the excellent National Sustainable Mobility Forum that was held in Portlaoise on 23 May 2024. Even better, our Chairperson Neasa Bheilbigh was invited to address the audience of 200+ delegates as part of the panel on “Community Action on Sustainable Mobility”. 

The National Sustainable Mobility Forum is an annual event which aims to engage with stakeholders on progress related to the Sustainable Mobility Policy in support of walking, cycling, public transport, and shared mobility in Ireland. Originally established in 2023 under the national Sustainable Mobility Policy and related Action Plan (SMP), the first Forum was held in Athlone around a year ago (and we reported on it here) .

The event in Portlaoise was also well attended with senior figures there from government departments, agencies and local authorities, plus representatives from community and user groups. Having such a large room full of academics, officials, advocates and community reps – all brimming with expertise gathered over many years and all strongly supporting the message that active travel is hugely valuable to our society – was a great achievement for the Department. 

Neasa, speaking on behalf of the Irish Cycling Campaign but also the Galway Cycle Bus – Bus Rothaíochta na Gaillimhe, spoke about the enormous physical, educational and wider social benefits of enabling children to cycle to school with their pals. It’s very much an inclusive and sociable activity, and the positive differences to the alertness and the enthusiasm of pupils in the classrooms after they have cycled in is very obvious to the teaching staff. She urged all of the decision-makers in the room and the wider stakeholders to put a special emphasis on creating the conditions for all school children to be able to walk and cycle to their local schools. The greater the extent and quality of the cycle-networks provided, the bigger the positive impact it will have on the health of students and, more broadly, on educational outcomes. 

,  


For Will Andrews from Irish Cycling Campaign’s Executive Committee, his highlights included the following: 

  • Minister Eamon Ryan pointing out the necessity for future governments to keep the 10% allocation of the national transport budget to cycling (meaning then 20% for walking and cycling), and the 2:1 ratio of public transport to roads spend;
  • Dr. Robbie Egan, behaviour change and attitudes researcher in Trinity College Dublin, when outlining his overview of the SMP, describing how negotiations within families affect transport mode choice – a good reminder that choice of mode of transport isn’t just about individuals’ journeys;
  • Niamh Murphy of I-PARC, the Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration, talking about running a large-scale study of the transport habits of 4th and 5th class students, and then 4th and 5th year students, pre- and post-active travel funding. She mentioned that there was a positive change in transport habits towards active travel after the funding, but I’d be very interested to see further results;
  • Finally, there was a great phrase from Eugene Conlon of the sustainable energy community (organised by SEAI). He spoke about bringing stakeholders along the journey to supporting active travel – some are reluctant, it has to be acknowledged – saying what’s needed is to ‘inform and inspire’, which to me is a very powerful summary of Irish Cycling Campaign’s advocacy task.

For Damien Ó Tuama, our National Cycling Coordinator, the prominence given to the youth and community representatives – those most likely to be impacted by the changes envisaged – was very welcome. The presentations given by the younger attendees, framed as ‘Dystopian’ and ‘Utopian Newsflashes of the Future’, were particularly striking. Without the rapid decarbonisation of transport – and other sectors – over the next few years, that generation will have polycrises to deal with, not just one or two.  

Elaine Baker from the Cloughjordan Cycling Group (and wearing other hats as well) spoke from the floor to highlight the lack of independence ‘enjoyed’ by adolescents in rural Ireland, where they are so dependent on seeking lifts from adults for so many of their everyday journeys. But where does that leave families who do not own a car or want to own one? In the absence of regular public transport services in some / many parts of rural Ireland – while acknowledging that it is now improving in some areas – shared cars provide part of the solution. However, we really need extensive and safe cycle networks linking homes to villages and towns and the various places that adolescents want to travel to independently. 

It’s very hard to summarise such a rich day’s discussions covering so many aspects of  the mobility jigsaw, but overall one is beginning to sense the urgency that is needed in transitioning over to public transport and active travel solutions – and in reducing the dominance of private cars in our public spaces and private lives. 

The conversations will continue and Irish Cycling Campaign will be at the table.   

Irish Cycling Campaign Submission on Primary Wellbeing Curriculum

Earlier today (Fri 07 June 2024), Irish Cycling Campaign made a submission in response to the public consultation on the new Primary Wellbeing Curriculum. We have posted a copy of it below. 

We note here that the consultation is open until 5pm on June 18th. This new curriculum will encompass both Physical Education and Social, Personal and Health Education and is the first revision of the curriculum since 1999. This curriculum will most likely be in effect for the next few decades in our primary school system, so it’s essential that we have a stronger focus on cycling within it.

Do please take 10 mins over the coming days to send in your own request that utility cycling and cycling as transport be given a prominent role within the final draft.

Written submissions can be sent to [email protected] from now until 5pm on June 18th. More on the background to the consultation can be read via this link.

And we wish to sincerely thank our Irish Cycling Campaign volunteers for their excellent work on the submission that you can read just below.


Dear Sir / Madam,

Irish Cycling Campaign
(formerly Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network), is the national organisation 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.

We are very thankful for the opportunity to submit our observations of the new draft Wellbeing Curriculum Specification and fully support its vision to holistically empower children with skills across subjects such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Physical Education (PE) to live healthier, more connected and happier lives. 

Our submission has been drafted by a number of primary teachers supported by experts in paediatric health with direct experience of delivering support to children of all mobilities.

Introduction:

The Irish Cycling Campaign believes that cycling should be an integral component of the physical education curriculum, aimed at fostering holistic development and promoting well-being among primary school students. The inclusion of cycling aligns with the overarching aims of the curriculum, as outlined below:

1. Physical Well-being: Cycling encourages regular physical activity, contributing to the development of cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and overall physical health. Through cycling, students enhance their motor skills, coordination, and balance, laying the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle.

2. Social Well-being: Cycling offers opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, promoting teamwork, communication, and peer support. Group cycling activities foster a sense of community and belonging, while also cultivating empathy and respect for others.

3. Emotional Well-being: Engaging in cycling activities can have positive effects on mental health and emotional well-being. Riding a bike provides a sense of freedom, independence, and achievement, boosting self-esteem and confidence. Moreover, outdoor cycling experiences promote connection with nature and community, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

4. Cognitive Well-being: Cycling stimulates cognitive development through problem-solving, decision-making, and spatial awareness. Navigating different terrains and traffic conditions requires critical thinking and concentration, enhancing students’ cognitive skills and resilience.

5. Climate Responsibilities: Children cycling not only benefit from the activity themselves but also contribute positively to mitigating climate change. By adopting cycling as a mode of transport, students reduce their carbon footprint, thereby fostering a sense of environmental stewardship from a young age. Emphasising the climate responsibilities associated with cycling empowers students to recognize their role in addressing global environmental challenges and encourages them to make sustainable choices in their daily lives.

Incorporating cycling into the primary school curriculum reflects a commitment to holistic education, encompassing physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and environmental dimensions of well-being. By providing students with opportunities to cycle safely and confidently, the curriculum aims to empower them to lead healthy, active, and sustainable lives while fostering a sense of responsibility towards the planet.

A further point to note here is that Irish transport policy, investment plans and the mobility culture are all having to change quickly now in response to the need to rapidly decarbonise the transport sector. Therefore it important to equip school children with the skills to be able to use the transport infrastructure networks of the future – i.e. those ‘active travel’ routes which are being developed extensively countrywide as part of the National Cycle Network Plan, CycleConnects plans, BusConnects bus and cycle network plans and the metropolitan cycle network plans such as the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan. Training in being a competent bicycle user at a young age will help pupils to confidently navigate the multi-modal transport systems which will become increasingly common in Ireland (and indeed abroad) over the coming years. Becoming a competent cyclist is a skill for life in a rapidly changing world.    

Requested Amendment:

The Irish Cycling Campaign is recommending the following changes to the Table 9: Description of Physical Education activity areas contained within Section 6D: PE Activity Areas on pages 43 and 44 of the Draft Primary Wellbeing Specification to strengthen the place of cycling as both an enjoyable activity and a key travel mode for children in our primary school system.

  1. From the section labelled “Adventure” we recommend the removal of “Wheel based activities are also an important element of adventure activities incorporating a focus on the lifelong activity of cycling, alongside other wheel-based activities such as scooter and scooter board.”
  2. With this deletion we would recommend the inclusion of a new separate section titled “Cycling, Wheeling and Walking” to replace this reference to cycling.

Within this “Cycling, Wheeling and Walking” section we would suggest the following as the body of text to better support cycling within the curriculum:

Cycling empowers independence and connection in children allowing them the freedom and safety to travel to and from school in a method that both enables activity and climate responsibility. Direct teaching of cycling skills will enable them to travel in a safe and enjoyable fashion while learning to be considerate road users. 

Social cycling to school instils within children a habit of regular, daily activity within their lives. It creates a connection to their peers and their wider community further fostering active citizenship and acts as a base for a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Cycling, walking and wheeling also provide opportunities for children to be active outside directly taught PE classes and organised sports. Taken together these movement types instil a lifelong love of movement that includes children of all abilities.


Additional Observations:

  1. Teacher Training and Upskilling

Existing cycle training programs in schools tend to be outsourced to external cycle training providers. This poses challenges for many schools as they may not be in a position to provide funding for these training providers or book training providers due to timetabling issues or geographical location. 

We recommend that the Wellbeing curriculum encourages and expects class teachers to directly engage with teaching and learning related to cycling. We appreciate that there will be training needs in this area but feel that this may be achieved through the provision of Continuous Professional Development and EPV training courses and events. 

These training courses should intend to enable class teachers to ensure that the children in their class are able to:

  1. Develop the foundational skills in order to cycle safely between two points. 
  2. Carry out basic checks and tasks on a bike (move saddle height, check brakes, pump tyres).
  3. Understand the rules of the road.
  4. Develop an interest and curiosity in cycling. 

(b) Health benefits

HSE guidelines on physical activity in children say that children over 5 should have at least 1 hour of energetic play a day – ‘where they sweat and breath faster than normal’. Staying fit is imperative for a child’s growth and development to have a healthy body, develop self confidence and improve learning and attention (HSE, 2022). We argue this activity could be done on route to and from school where possible.  

Additionally, being overly car-dependent poses both direct and indirect risks to children. An Irish child’s outdoor environment is made physically more dangerous with increasing number and size of vehicles and their associated pollution. The indirect effects to health in taking sedentary transport to school is the opportunity cost of not walking, cycling or scooting to school. In effect, this is about more than teaching a child to cycle a bike; rather, it is about using it it as a transport tool and supporting this positive transition can improve baseline paediatric health and create lifelong healthy habits. According to the Department of Children in 2018, approximately 50% of children aged 10–17 reported being physically active for at least 60 minutes per day on more than four days per week, early intervention at primary school level can help develop these healthy habits.

Walking or cycling to where you are going will be good for a child and allow them to engineer physical activity into their daily lives by transport. An easy win. According to the Road Safety Authority figures show that 2 of 3 child casualties on our roads were child pedestrians or cyclists. Between 2014 and 2022 there were 56 fatalities aged 0-15 years and 852 seriously injured road users, representing 4% of total fatalities and 8% of total serious injuries. Although we believe the responsibility of reducing road danger lies with the adult driving the car, road safety awareness starts by being a pedestrian or cyclist.  Cycling is a core life skill, a building block to road safety to improve awareness, it should be part of the syllabus at primary level.

Cycling is inclusive, children with different physical and mental needs are capable of cycling a bike. This may not be the same for children during other activities. 

(c) SEN Children: Focus on Cycling and Autism

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. They 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 cycling. 

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 (a group of children cycling together in convoy to and from school under parental supervision) 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 way of moving together 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.

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


Conclusion:

We wish to thank the NCCA and its staff for what is an excellent draft specification for the new Primary Wellbeing Curriculum. We hope that you find our observations helpful and that you will consider them for inclusion in the final draft of the curriculum. If we can be of any further help please do not hesitate to contact us at any stage.

Regards,

Neasa Ní Bheilbigh – Chairperson of the Irish Cycling Campaign, (Primary Teacher – Galway)

Dave Tobin – Vice-Chair of the Irish Cycling Campaign (Primary SET – Limerick)

Conn O’Donovan – Irish Cycling Campaign (Primary Teacher – Cork)

Vinnie Wall – Executive Member of the Irish Cycling Campaign (Paediatric Anesthesiologist – Cork)

Colm Ryder – Submissions Officer of the Irish Cycling Campaign 

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Note that a PDF version of this submission can be downloaded / read HERE.  

Measuring Active Travel with Telraam – Irish Cycling Campaign webinar

Irish Cycling Campaign recently hosted a special online session about measuring active travel, engaging your communities and influencing policymakers.

Our special guest speaker was Community Manager Robert McIntosh from Telraam, who provided an overview of what their devices do and how you can get started.

Irish Cycling Campaign’s Dave Anderson spoke about the experiences of his local group, Navan Cycling Initiative, in using Telraam, the supports offered and potential funding options.

The online webinar was recorded and is now available here to watch:


Irish Cycling Campaign wishes to thank Telraam’s Robert McIntosh for sharing his expertise and advice at this ICC webinar. 

For more info about Telraam, head to https://talks.telraam.net

Irish Cycling Campaign – Reflecting on our Campaigning in 2023

In this article, we look back on 2023 through the frame of our 2021-26 Strategy (with our six strategic aims shown below) and consider how much progress we have made. In particular, we highlight where Irish Cycling Campaign / our Local Groups are making a real impact on the mobility culture of Ireland.

Note, however, that this article only scrapes the surface of all of the incredible work conducted by our network of volunteers for which we are very grateful.


ICC’s overarching aims as per our current strategy, are:

  1. Develop a vibrant and resilient all-island cycling advocacy community
  2. Influence the national conversation on mobility and quality of life
  3. Seek to ensure public policy embraces cycling
  4. Advocate for more effective institutions and new legislation
  5. Seek to ensure there is ample funding spent on cycling
  6. Seek to secure high quality routes and infrastructure

We frame our 2023 highlighted achievements around these: 

  1. Community
    Underpinning effective advocacy work is having a resilient organisation, and we put significant work into this in 2023.

    We note here:
    – the adoption of our new Constitution (https://cyclist.ie/2024/01/irish-cycling-campaign-new-name-and-constitution-adopted/)
    – the development of our Operations Manual
    – the advancement of a “Theory of Change” (not yet published)
    – the hosting of a major “Gathering” of our members, aimed at ‘upping the morale’ of volunteers. This event also marked the 30th Birthday of local group Dublin Cycling Campaign, a significant milestone – https://cyclist.ie/2023/10/cyclist-ie-gathering-and-dcc-30th-birthday-weekend/.  

  2. National Conversation
    Throughout 2023, Irish Cycling Campaign was the ‘go-to’ NGO for the media for insights on cycling policy. We also helped to shape the conversation on wider (public) transport topics, and on links between public health outcomes and transport investment types. A summary of our 2023 media contributions can be read here while our contributions in the media in 2024 to date can be read here. Without these contributions, media discourses would be dominated by less informed and more car-centric perspectives. Our contributions soften the ground for a greater public acceptance for active travel investments.

    We also note the contributions ICC members made at the international “Cycling and Society” Research Conference – see https://cyclist.ie/2023/09/2023-cycling-society-conference-cyclist-ie-report/. These help to inform under- and post-grad thinking from an activist perspective.  

  3. Public Policy
    Throughout 2023, we advocated to the Departments of: Transport; Environment, Climate & Communications; Health; and Finance for cycling as a climate-friendly, healthy, congestion-free transport mode. 

Following submissions made in 2023, we were very happy to see the National Cycle Network Plan published in Jan 2024 –  https://cyclist.ie/2024/01/ncn-launch-in-sallins-irish-cycling-campaign-report/. In more concrete terms, we warmly welcomed the Shannon Cycle Bridge opening which we have long advocated for https://cyclist.ie/2023/08/cyclist-ie-celebrates-vital-athlone-link-bridge-opening/.

  1. Institutions and Legislation
    One of the most difficult domains ICC operates in is where we seek to change the culture of driving, and this brings us into close contact with the National Transport Authority (NTA), the Gardaí and the Road Safety Authority in particular.

    A major milestone for cycling campaigners in 2023 was getting the new National Cycle Manual published (https://www.nationaltransport.ie/publications/cycle-design-manual/). ICC provided detailed technical feedback on earlier iterations, and this helped to shape the final version of the manual. Additionally, many ICC members took part in the Engineers Ireland training webinars on it – https://www.nationaltransport.ie/publications/introduction-to-the-cycle-design-manual-webinar-series/ – which helps to inform our community and shape the minds of others working in this domain.

    Amongst the topics raised with An Garda Síochána were collision reporting, the portal for video evidence, and wider enforcement issues through our meetings with the A/Commissioner for Community & Roads Policing, Paula Hilman, and her team. We are now building on these conversations so as to put a greater emphasis on reducing road danger from driver behaviour, vehicle speeds, and ever increasing vehicle sizes. 

  2. Funding
    As noted above, we continue our work to normalise the idea that at least 20% of the transport capital budget is spent on active travel. Our Pre-Budget Submission (delivered in August 2023) re-emphasised this argument – https://cyclist.ie/2023/08/cyclist-ie-pre-budget-2024-submission/. Additionally, our active engagement with the European Cyclists’ Federation supported its work in securing the adoption of the first EU level inter-institutional cycling policy – https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/historic-milestone-cycling-european-institutions-officially-adopt-joint

  3. Quality Infrastructure
    Of the submissions made in 2023, we note the quality of those made to An Bord Pleanála in regard to the 12 BusConnects ‘Core Bus Corridor’ planning applications. See https://www.dublincycling.com/cycling/bus-connects-kimmage-city-centre-scheme. Four of the 12 schemes have now been approved by ABP (https://busconnects.ie/cities/dublin/core-bus-corridors/).

    We also highlight the quality of the submissions on Metrolink in early 2023 (https://www.dublincycling.com/cycling/dublin-cycling-campaign-asks-two-changes-metrolink-project), which were followed by presentations at the Oral Hearing in early 2024 – all focused on intermodal journeys as reported by the Irish Times