The Great Southern Trail is Reborn as the Limerick Greenway
On Friday 5th November there was an official opening of the ‘Limerick Greenway’, formerly known as The Great Southern Trail (GST). This refurbished old railway line has a long history of community activism and participation under the name of the GST, a Cyclist.ie member group, which ensured that the line of the railway remained in public ownership from Rathkeale to the Kerry border after the closing of the rail services in 1972.
Their activism and persistence over the years, often in the face of official neglect, has now seen the opening of a fully refurbished greenway that is getting great media and tourism coverage. The present refurbishment will soon be complemented by a further section from the Kerry border to Listowel, and will eventually link all the way to Tralee and Fenit. Funding has also been provided to begin the development of a link from Limerick City to Rathkeale. Various other links out of Limerick northwards and Westwards are being planned, and no doubt the pioneering work of this local GST Group will soon see a necklace of greenways passing through Limerick!
I think we need to salute the great work of this model of community activism by the Great Southern Trail group, which has kept alive the memory of the steam railway age, and also a vision of a new active travel future! Check out the 10 minute launch video here.
Cyclist.ie and ECF call on governments at COP26 to boost cycling levels to reduce carbon emissions and reach climate goals quickly and effectively
The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) and a global coalition of 80 pro-cycling organisations, including Irish member Cyclist.ie, have issued anopen letter calling on governments attending COP26 in Glasgow to commit to significantly increasing the number of people who cycle in their countries in order to reach global climate goals quickly and effectively.
The world needs much more cycling if we are to combat climate change. Without quicker and more determined action by governments worldwide to cut transport carbon emissions, we will be dooming present and future generations to a world that is more hostile and much less inhabitable. Frans Timmermans, the Director of the EU Green Deal, says that ‘the bicycle is the most important instrument in meeting climate change targets’.
CO₂ emissions from the transport sector continue to increase. Meanwhile, the transition to zero-emission cars and trucks will take decades to complete and will not solve other problems like traffic congestion and sedentary lifestyles. Despite this, COP26 Transport Day on 10 November is set to focus exclusively on the electrification of road vehicles as a solution to the climate crisis we are facing today. This proposal is too narrow focussed and will only lead to further road congestion, and continued inappropriate travel methods. The bicycle and in particular Electric Bicycles has a major part to play.
ECF and its allies believe cycling represents one of humanity’s greatest hopes for a shift towards a zero-carbon future. Bicycle use produces zero emissions, delivers wide ranging positive societal impacts and – most importantly – is a technology that is already widely available today. The world cannot afford to wait decadesfor fossil-fuel cars to be fully phased out and replaced by electric vehicles. We must urgently leveragethe solutions that cycling offers by radically scaling up its use, including the potential that electric bicycles offer to extend journey lengths, and support lifetime cycling.
The signatories to this open letter call on governments and leaders, including the Irish Government, attending COP26 to declare commitments to significantly boost cycling levels at home and collectively commit to achieving a global target of higher cycling levels. The letter was sent to governments and transport ministers ahead of COP26.
Colm Ryder, Chairperson of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network: ‘Cycling development is a vital key to unlocking the transport potential of our island, and to tackling climate change. Irish citizens must be given a real transport choice through the provision of a countrywide network of safe and segregated infrastructure.
Jill Warren, CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation: “There is no conceivable way for governments to reduce CO₂ emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis without significantly more cycling. The devastating effects of accelerating global warming should be clear to everyone, and boosting cycling levels is the best way to quickly cut carbon emissions from transport on a massive scale.”
Henk Swarttouw, President of European Cyclists’ Federation and of the World Cycling Alliance: “Cycling should be a cornerstone of global, national and local strategies to meet net-zero carbon targets. At COP26, governments must commit to providing the financing and legislation for safe and equitable space for cycling everywhere. Citizens are ready for the
About the European Cyclists’ Federation: With over 60 member organisations across more than 40 countries, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) is the world’s largest and best-known cyclists’ advocacy organisation. Our aim is to improve and increase cycling by influencing policy and harnessing the power of the European cycling movements.
In May 2020, the Cork Cycling Campaign, along with the HSE Cork Healthy Cities Team, Pedestrian Cork, and over twenty other organisations, signed a letter drafted by the Transport and Mobility Forum which called on Cork City and County Councils to deliver safe streets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As other cities adapted to the challenges that the pandemic posed for urban transport, mobility, and physical activity, planners and engineers in Cork City Council were busy drafting plans.
By July, a programme of works was unveiled. The ‘Re-imagined Cork’ project promised:
1.3km of new pedestrianised streets
Over 4km of new cycle lanes
The resurfacing of 6km of cycle lanes and bus corridors
Upgrading 4km of cycle lanes with the installation of light segregation
43 new bike parking bays to cater for 500 bikes.
Cork took a unique approach in Ireland by putting the new cycle lanes out to public consultation but the feedback was clear. For the South Mall Cycle Lane, over 90% of respondents supported the plans.
As Autumn settled into Cork, flexi-bollards were installed along sections of cycle lanes that had become notorious for illegal parking. Old and cracked resin on cycle lanes was chipped off and often replaced with a new surfaces. The first of the cycle lanes, along Centre Park Rd, was started. There was much anticipation in the air for paths and lanes that would make it safer to cycle in the city.
The January lockdown put a hold on construction work but by the summer, Cork had much to be proud about. A new cycle route from the South Mall stretches the whole way to the Marina and onto Blackrock village. Arguably one of the longest continuous cycle routes in an Irish city now.
New bike parking bays have been installed all over the city and are helping to regularise bike parking. Bollards and wands are keeping busy cycle routes, like the one along Washington Street, clear of parked vehicles.
The pace of change over the past 12 months in Cork has been impressive. The changes have both helped keep people already cycling safe and also attract new people to cycling. This is good news for Cork, every person who chooses to move in the city by bike is one less car on the road and one less space needed in the city centre for parking.
While much has been done in recent months, Cork faces challenges to become a true bike friendly city. Additional routes will be needed to ensure that everyone, regardless of where they live, has access to a safe cycle lane. Lower vehicular speed limits will ensure that injury risks are lowered in case of collisions. New cycle infra needs to be built to high standards and avoid sharing space with pedestrians as much as possible.
The last 12 months have shown us that a lot can be done when we need to move quickly as a city. The pandemic is a major societal issue at the moment but climate action, economic competiveness, and a liveable city are all issues we face also. The Cork Cycling Campaign are keen to play our role to ensure that cycle solutions to these issues can be realised.
As a resident of the city, and one who uses a bike from time to time, I’d like to thank the NTA and Cork City Council for making cycling easier in our city and look forward to future plans.
Bike Week is a celebration and promotion of all that’s great about bikes and cycling. Held over an extended week each year, usually the last week of June, bike week is a collection of bike-themed events organised by local authorities, community groups and cycling groups throughout Ireland.
In 2020 Bike Week was moved to September due to COVID, and the same is happening this year. In 2021 Bike Week will be from Sunday 12th to Sunday 19th September.
Additionally, the Department of Transport have transferred the responsibility for running Bike Week to the Smarter Travel team in the National Transport Authority.
You can find out more at the official Bike Week website, which we understand will be updated at the end of this month. You can contact the Bike Week team directly at [email protected]
Cyclist.ie, Kerry Cycling Campaign and Cycling Ireland member Killarney Cycling Club made submissions (on 17 Feb 2021) to Kerry County Council in regard to its new proposals for cycle facilities within Killarney Town. We are hopeful that the Council will recognise the strength of these submissions and improve the proposals accordingly.
Overall Cyclist.ie welcomes the Council’s focus on providing for cyclists in Killarney – one of the major tourism centres in Ireland – but we are very concerned with some of the shortcomings of the proposals.
Firstly, the proposals appear to represent a piecemeal approach to planning for cycling in that they only cover a few disparate routes that are not obviously connected into a coherent cycle network plan for the town (as shown below).
Secondly, the Council does not appear to be drawing fully on the past two decades of experiences of local authorities countrywide in regard to the design of high quality cycle facilities – particularly on (i) junction design and (ii) the use of shared pedestrian/cycle facilities which the National Cycle Manual explicitly advises against.
We stressed in our submission that it is essential the proposed designs are upgraded, with far more ambition shown by the Council so that the routes will be well used by people of all ages and abilities – both locals and visitors alike. Everyone in a town benefits when more people cycle and walk, and facilities need to be provided to enable all ages to enjoy the health and wider benefits that active travel confers.
Cyclist.ie would welcome the opportunity to discuss our observations on the proposals with Kerry County Council. You can read Cyclist.ie’s submission here.
Kerry Cycling Campaign, a member group of Cyclist.ie, warmly welcomed the Killarney Cycle Lanes project from Kerry County Council. Their spokesperson, Anluan Dunne, stated “Kerry Cycling Campaign is happy to see such ambition from the Killarney Municipal District to undertake such a large scheme of works. There is a clear need to re-prioritise road space in favour of walking and cycling and we believe that this project has the potential to make this a reality. We do note that there are areas of improvement needed. Particularly in areas such as priority, junctions and vehicle speed.” Kerry Cycling Campaign’s full submission is available on its website here.
Meanwhile, Killarney Cycling Club made the following statement after making its own submission on the proposals – “Our club greatly supports the County Council’s commitment to improving cycling infrastructure in Killarney, but our submission supports Cyclist.ie’s contention that the plans are piecemeal and not part of an overall coherent plan.” Their submission also suggests that parts of the plans are not cycling-friendly and potentially hazardous, and that much of the proposed cycle lanes are therefore likely to be ignored by cyclists if developed as planned. The club also submitted an Appendix to the Killarney Municipal District illustrating shortcomings in the existing cycling infrastructure. The club has received a very positive response from the Municipal District and remedial work is already under way. The club has expressed its appreciation of the local Municipal District’s response and commitment to improve the cycling network. Killarney Cycling Club’s submission can be found here.
Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee is the driving force of the organisation. It comprises 11 elected members, plus the National Cycling Coordinator.
The new team was elected at our Council meeting in December 2020, and ratified in January 2021.
The Cyclist.ie Executive is bursting with talent and experience. We have members coming from senior levels in the public, private and NGO sectors, and representing urban and rural groups, new and older organisations, and Cycling Campaigns, Bike Festivals and Cycle Buses.
Collectively, we are working to create 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.
Colm Ryder (Chair)
I am the Chairperson of Cyclist.ie and an active member of Dublin Cycling Campaign. I have been active in NGOs for many years and am a life-long cyclist. My career background is civil engineering and public sector work. I am passionate about public space design and its relevance to people’s lives. I have worked hard to improve Cyclist.ie’s reputation with government departments and agencies. Cyclist.ie’s standing has grown over the years and we need to cement this and help to grow everyday cycling countrywide. I am a big music gig goer — when it’s open! — and love sports and outdoor activities.
Neasa Bheilbigh (Vice-Chair)
I am the Vice-Chair of Cyclist.ie, a member of the Galway Cycling Campaign and the Galway Cycle Bus. I have seen the impact active travel can have on children’s physical, social and emotional well-being and am passionate about creating an environment in which children can travel to school safely and independently. I see cycling advocacy as something that should be inclusive and believe strongly that those of all ages and abilities should be enabled to cycle. I have two young children and we love going for spins together on our cargo bike.
I am an avid mountain biker and cargo bike rider. We swapped our second car for a LvH Bullitt and haven’t looked back. I also love getting out onto the trails on my mountain bikes and racing cross-country or enduro on occasion. I work hard to push for real change on our streets to enable people of all ages and abilities to choose their bike for day-to-day activities. I also want to help local companies realise the benefits of supporting people shopping by bike.
My treasured bike bestows the freedom and the opportunity to get outdoors and connect with people, places and nature. I would love to see children and people of all abilities have the same opportunities to experience the independence of cycling that my generation had growing up. I am excited by the shift in our society towards people centred communities and the greater understanding of the importance of mobility choices for all.
I am a primary school teacher and former environmental planner. I cycle for day-to-day reasons like going to work and the shops, but also like to venture further afield at the weekends. I have been volunteering with the Cork Cycling Campaign since 2018. My main focus is ensuring that no matter what age or experience, people feel enabled to cycle in Ireland if they so choose.
Enabling more people to cycle can have multiple benefits to communities and the country with regard to public health, climate action, Covid-19 mitigation, the quality of public realm, and the quality of life for everyone.
I am a founding member and Secretary of Navan Cycling Initiative and have played a key role organising events, creating maps and encouraging the cycling ecosystem. While new to cycling advocacy, I have been a keen cyclist for a number of years, though I draw the line at wearing lycra. In my day, I am a freelance software product consultant, and have a background in IT and software development. I previously helped organise Agile Lean Ireland, Ireland’s largest Agile-Lean conference, and was a member of Fintech Ireland where I organised events, created maps and encouraged the Irish Financial Technology ecosystem.
I am the current Public Relations Officer of Limerick Cycling Campaign. I am a primary school teacher in a suburban Limerick school, and also act as treasurer and board member for the Northside Family Resource Centre in Moyross, Limerick. Additionally, I currently represent the environmental pillar of the Limerick PPN on the Limerick Local Community Development Committee (LCDC). I have a strong focus on social inclusion both in terms of prioritising infrastructure projects in our city communities that have been historically left behind, and also ensuring that voices from all sections of our community are integral to the work of our group.
I am the current Chairperson of Maynooth Cycling Campaign, and also the representative on the Kildare Cycle Forum and the PPN (Public Participation Network) community representative on Kildare County Council’s Transportation SPC (Strategic Policy Committee). I am currently also a member of the Board of Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG. I am interested in funding for cycling, urban cycling, engagement with political parties and maximising the impact of cycle campaigners on local authority SPCs.
I started Leitrim Cycling Festival to celebrate bicycles and communities and to find other people who also think cycling might be the answer to so many questions. I’m so pleased to have discovered this proactive, committed, growing group of cycling advocates – it makes change seem much more possible. Before I returned home to Leitrim I worked as a Transport Planner in the UK where I specialised in active travel and believe asking the right people the right questions (and really listening!) is the key to the development of good quality, useful routes.
School librarian, translator. Nature lover, bookworm, knitter. Person who goes places by bike. Cycling is my primary means of transport because it’s quick and reliable. It’s also cheap, efficient, and non-polluting, and good for physical and mental health. For a long time I was too nervous to cycle, and I still sometimes take significant detours to avoid certain roads or junctions. But getting back on my bike was one of the best things I ever did. I am very happy to join Cyclist.ie in its advocacy so that more people, of all ages and abilities, countrywide get access to top-quality infrastructure which makes cycling a viable and attractive transport option.
Damien Ó Tuama (National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie)
I have held the National Cycling Coordinator post since 2013, a position shared with An Taisce. My current focus is in supporting our 25 member groups collaborating effectively and advancing Cyclist.ie’s new strategy. I worked in the transportation and mobilities space in the private sector for over 20 years, and completed my doctoral research exploring transitions in mobility systems in 2015 (Trinity College Dublin). I am also an Evaluator and Steering Committee member for research projects under the EPA Research programme Annual Call under the pillars of Climate and Sustainability. I am on the European Cyclists’ Federation board since 2016 and was appointed to the Transport Infrastructure Ireland board in 2020. I enjoy gigs, DIY and adventures!
You can contact any of our Executive Committee members by dropping a line to us here.
If you are free at that time, why not grab a coffee, log in and have some chat and craic about all things bike related with the Bike Circus’s two resident and socially distant bike cranks, Jack and Graeme, pictured here.
You can post any questions you have on the FB page above in advance and they will make sure they get answered!
Well done to all the crew in Clon for this lovely lockdown initiative. We all miss the social and convivial aspects of our bicycle communities, so this is a marvellous idea to learn more about looking after your precious steed and to check in with some other bicycley people out there. And a nice way to start the week!
In this article, PhD researcher Kevin Gildea from Trinity College Dublin describes some recent findings from his RSA funded research project related to cyclist safety in Ireland. Cyclist.ie wishes to sincerely thank Kevin for taking the time to pen this article for us.
Kevin’s full paper, entitled “Characteristics of cyclist collisions in Ireland: Analysis of a self-reported survey”, has been published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention and can be found via this link.
The broad aims of our project are 1) to characterise cyclist collision risks in Ireland, and 2) to determine engineering-based prevention strategies. This project forms part of a broader strategy to improve cyclist safety in Ireland, and to attract more people to start using their bicycles.
Under-reporting in Ireland
Since embarking on this project I have heard numerous stories from people involved in collisions while cycling, noting that many of these are unlikely to have come to the attention of the Gardaí. I then investigated other work that Irish researchers have done in this area, specifically, from our colleagues Jack Short and Brian Caulfield in the Civil Engineering Department in Trinity College Dublin, who showed that cyclist collisions are the least likely collision type to be reported to the Gardaí. These unseen cases likely held some important cyclist safety insights, however, there was not any database that contained information for these collisions. All we had was anecdotal information from conversations with cyclists. We had to put some manners on this, so, in 2018 we designed and distributed a survey nationally across the Republic of Ireland.
Firstly, the study highlights a large amount of underreporting for cyclist collisions in Ireland – roughly ¾ of respondents involved in injurious collisions did not report the incident to the Gardaí. Furthermore the findings indicate that many minor injuries do not appear in hospital data. This is important since road safety priorities in Ireland are based on analysis of Garda data or hospital data, though primarily using Garda data. So, a major challenge with understanding the overall burden of cyclist collisions in Ireland relates to a substantial proportion of missing data. This is not a problem specific to Ireland – very few countries have the mechanisms in place to capture information on these under reported collisions.
How can data collection be improved?
This is a tricky issue. Some countries systematically link their Police and hospital data (e.g. Sweden). Our study indicates that combined monitoring of Garda and hospital data may be effective for monitoring Serious injury collisions, however, they would not effectively capture Minor injury collisions. Our results indicate that roughly 80% of Minor injuries would not be tracked. For these we must make it easier for road users to self-report their collisions, possibly via an online platform. For example, in the Metropolitan Police in London have an online platform for reporting collisions (https://www.met.police.uk/). Another option would be to include a module on road traffic collisions in the Irish National Travel Survey.
We also investigated the factors that have effect on whether or not cyclist collisions are reported to the Gardaí. Our main findings here is that injury severity, and collision type have an effect. Collisions involving motorised vehicles were more likely to be reported to the Gardaí – this is evident from analyses of Garda reported data in which the majority (over 90%) involve vehicles. The results highlighted the relative importance of single cyclist collisions in particular, which comprised roughly 30% of the cases, but were much less likely to be reported to the Gardaí. Specifically, the odds of Garda reporting was 20 times greater for greater for collisions with motorised vehicles. Furthermore, Minor injuries were much less likely to be reported to the police than Serious injuries. Specifically, the odds of Garda reporting was 7 times greater for Serious injuries.
What are the implications?
The implications are that road safety priorities are biased towards collisions with vehicles, and more severe collisions. International studies have shown that priorities do begin to change with the inclusion of lower severity collisions. Basically, if we had had access to these unreported collisions our road safety priorities would look different.
What can we do to address these?
We are working on this. We are currently performing a further analysis of the details of cyclist to motorised vehicle collisions and single cyclist collisions, with the inclusion of unreported collision types. Pre-crash scenarios and impact configurations for cyclist collisions with bonnet-type vehicles, and collision factors and fall types for single cyclist collisions are being coded. This analysis will provide an evidence base for road safety stakeholders, and (hopefully) lead to improvements in cycling safety in Ireland.
In this article, Wendy Bond from Bike Friendly Bandon fills us in on how the new group came into being in 2020 and gives us a flavour of some of their aims and activities.
Bike Friendly Bandon started really during the first lockdown, and the idea came from Lucy Finnegan, who cajoled others to get involved along the way. Lucy had seen that her teenage daughters and their friends had felt more confident cycling around during lockdown as there was so little traffic on the roads. Indeed a lot more people on bikes could be seen around the area during the lockdown and many of us cycled more during that time. We saw this change though, once things went back to some kind of “normal” again and felt compelled to try and do something about it. We wanted to try and hold onto the change we saw during lockdown. It reminded us of when we were younger, that it was so much safer to cycle all over the place. We want to ensure our children have great memories doing that safely.
Bandon town centre and the roads around it are dominated by cars and heavy good vehicles (HGVs), like so many other towns around Ireland. Unless you are a confident cyclist (and even if you are confident enough), it can feel very unsafe and intimidating cycling around, and there is absolutely no infrastructure to support cycling in the town. Whilst there is a cycling club in Bandon, this tends to be people who are more competitive serious cyclists, going on longer cycle rides. We really want to encourage the increase of day-to-day cycling, so that every child, woman and man of any age can feel safe to cycle around the town. It may have started due to children and teenagers taking advantage of reduced traffic, but now we see potential to work with other groups with similar aims. There are plenty of funding opportunities and we found that we were pushing an open door. There are courses to reach out to lapsed cyclists who want to feel confident to cycle again; to run bike repair workshops to give us mastery over our own bikes; or simply provide bike racks so that people can cycle to the shops rather than jumping in the car.
We all know that making the town more cycle friendly and reducing the cars/HGVs that currently dominate the roads could have a massive impact on the quality of life in the area. It’s not just about cycling, it will have a positive impact in terms of our physical health, improving the environment around us and reducing pollution. Everyone we speak to loves the idea of making it safer to cycle around the town, so it’s just doing something about it really. In some European countries the attitude to cycling is so positive and it is considered to be so much part of day-to-day life. It is much safer in these countries because the number of active cyclists is so much more significant. Also, when most people own a bike as well as a car and cycle as well drive, it changes the relationship between cyclist and drivers and brings more respect between them.
So what have we done so far……well every Sunday, we have a spin at 11am on one of the quiet roads just on the edge of Bandon. This is aimed at families and people who don’t feel as confident cycling on the road and it has been a great success, although recently it is on hold due to lockdown restrictions.
As part of Cork Bike Week in September, with funding from Cork Sports Partnership, we arranged various activities around the town. This included safe cycling, fun bike activities for younger children, bike repair workshops, electric bike conversions, and we even had a trishaw at the farmers market, which took people on spins around the town. It was such good fun and well attended, the idea being that there was something for all ages to show how accessible cycling can be. We were really taken with how supportive the cycling community is. It really was a platform to raise the profile of Bike Friendly Bandon around the town and increase the interest in cycling. Whilst things have slowed down due to recent lockdown restrictions, we have run an online bike repair course through Cork Community Bikes and hope to start our own repair workshop in the town. We have received support from Cork County Council Community enhancement and Cork Environmental office, they have been a hundred percent behind us.
Looking into the future, our aim is to do more consultation with people in the area and work with Age Friendly Bandon to promote Cycling With Confidence. In light of the new government’s push to increase cycling and walking in the country, we are also working with Cork County Council and Bandon Walking Club to develop a Bothar Rothar between Bandon and Innishannon, and hopefully a route to the beach from Bandon where cyclists are prioritised on the road. We feel like this is just the beginning and there is so much we can do. We are also working with West Cork Development Strategy to create maps of cyclist priority routes between Bandon and Innishannon.
It’s great to know there are so many groups like ours around the country and we are lucky that here in West Cork, we have groups nearby in Skibbereen and in Clonakilty all with similar hopes about promoting cycling and improving safety in the area. We look forward to working with Cyclist.ie and hope that their knowledge and expertise will support us in realising these hopes.
In this article, Clara Clark from Cycling Without Age offers some suggestions on how we can kiss the (kissing) gates goodbye.
During the many Covid-19 lockdowns, I took to cycling through my local neighbourhoods, parks and housing estates. I noticed the many kissing gates and other metal barriers at access points.Some are navigable with a standard bicycle, but are impassable for non-standard bicycles, cargo bikes, bikes with child seats or trailers, wheelchairs, double buggies and Cycling Without Age (CWA) trishaws. I took photos of the barriers, and sent a file of 30 photos to my local Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (DLR) County Council.
As a Dublin Cycling Campaign representative on the DLR Council Cycle Forum, I asked for ‘kissing gates’ to be put on the agenda. At that meeting, I offered to cycle with anyone on the committee who wished, to show them the barriers. This offer was taken up by Ruairi O Dulaing, head of Parks, and Councillor Carrie Smith, chair of the Forum. To emphasise my point, I took my CWA trishaw, and two volunteers came, one with a trailer bike and one with a child seat. Two hours and three parks (Clonkeen, Kilbogget and Loughlinstown) later, our point was made! This cycle also gave us time to chat and to build up rapport and relationships.
The next step was up to the Council who, in fairness, responded in a very practical way and now many of these barriers and gates are being removed – see the before / after photos below. DLR Council is currently implementing a Safe Walking and Cycling Routes plan, and these include routes through parks and quiet estates away from main roads. So, that’s another reason for removing the barriers.
My policy has been to demonstrate with examples and to ask, politely but clearly, for their removal. Praise and thanks are much easier to receive than abuse or aggression, and Councillors and Council staff have a lot to do. Winning their respect and support is essential to gaining a listening ear. I know that not every local authority has a cycling or a sustainable transport officer, but start with your local councillors, get the name of your Head of Parks and introduce yourselves. Take photos, identify the locations and explain what you need (e.g. kissing gates replaced by one bollard, with a minimum of 1.2m gap either side, dished footpath at point of entry etc.). Offer to take anyone willing out to show them what you mean. And then, praise and acknowledge any progress as it comes!
One question to ask is: what is the purpose of kissing gates? If it is to prevent anti-social behaviour, then how can this behaviour be managed better? The barriers themselves are anti-social. Parks are for people of all ages and abilities. To block the disabled, less-abled, and parents with children is to discriminate and disempower. Parks should be places to visit, walk/cycle through, sit and eat, play and enjoy. Give people ‘ownership’ of their parks by making them welcoming, provide litter bins, bicycle parking, seating, dog paddocks, and easy access.
Covid-19 has filled our parks daily with people of all ages who want/need to exercise and actively travel. Councils can come on board to meet these needs by #kissingthegatesgoodbye!