Irish Cycling Campaign, formerly Cyclist.ie, is really delighted to be part of the Erasmus+ Generations Cycling for Inclusion and Climate Action project.
It commenced in late 2022, and then in 2023 there were three most enjoyable “Learning, Teaching and Training Trips” run by the partner organisations. Each of these trips left warm and lasting impressions on all of our members who took part in them. The engagements with the other six partners have been rich and educational in the full meaning of the word. Our reports on these can be read here:
And in this 20 second video, produced by Rory Maguire from the Navan Cycling Initiative group of Irish Cycling Campaign, a lovely flavour is given of the Azambuja trip:
For 2024, we are looking forward to two further “Learning, Teaching and Training trips”. These will be to:
Wodzislaw Slaski, a city in the south of Poland not far from the Czech Republic border. Scheduled for mid June, details to be made available to Irish Cycling Campaign members soon.
Dublin in October (Thu 10 to Tue 15 Oct). A working group within Irish Cycling Campaign, including many members of Local Group Dublin Cycling Campaign, has already started to consider the different activities that might be stitched into this trip.
You can read more about Generations Cycling for Inclusion and Climate Action on the dedicated project website:
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan attended Meath County Council earlier today (Fri 23 February 2024) to launch the Council’s Climate Action Plan and to speak with councillors.
Members of Navan Cycling Initiative were delighted that, in the midst of all the PR, he took some time to speak with the campaigners about cycling in Navan – how was it, does it feel safe, is it getting better?
According to Dave Anderson from Navan Cycling Initiative, who is also a member of the Irish Cycling Campaign Executive Committee –
“We’ve spent much of the active travel budget so far on design and paperwork. Now we need construction and concrete. This is starting to happen, with the Trim Road project. This needs to continue, and our councillors need to step up and ensure it happens at pace.”
Elaine Baker from the Cycling Cloughjordan group in County Tipperary is taking a stand about the issue of Irish Ferries not allowing push bikes on the Pembroke to Rosslare ferry, despite allowing motorbikes and motorized vehicles on board. Cycling Cloughjordan is part of the Irish Cycling Campaign organisation.
In her series of video blog posts, filmed on Sat 17 to Sun 18 February 2024, she tracks her experience of trying to bring her folding bicycle on board the service from Pembroke having been visiting friends in South Wales, with a view to sailing into Rosslare and then travelling on back home to County Tipperary.
In this first video, filmed en route by bus to Pembroke, she explains her rationale for wanting to take the direct ferry to Rosslare – and thus avoiding the much more carbon intensive mode of flying.
In the next video, she reports on the refusal of the company to let her on board with her bicycle – despite there being no good reason for the rule itself.
In the third third video here, filmed at 2.30am on a wet morning, she elaborates on the absence of any logic in allowing motorbikes on board the ferry but not allowing bikes without motors on board. Despite spending several hours at the ferry port talking to many different staff members, she was offered no sensible reason for why push bikes were not allowed on the ferry.
And in this forth video, filmed with the early morning birds audible in the background and after she was asked by staff to leave the dark and fairly desolate area, she observes the ferry she was supposed to be on leaving the ferry port with motorbikes on board.
At the time of posting this article here, Elaine was en route to Holyhead in North Wales – which is quite a circuitous route by train from Pembroke.
Two updates further on Elaine’s journey – video #5 here and video #6 here, both from Holyhead port at around 5.30pm and 6pm respectively. In these videos (screen shot below), Elaine highlights that one of the two sailings from Holyhead around 8pm / 8.30pm would be taking foot passengers and cyclists, whereas the other one wouldn’t be.
At the time of updating this article (8.30pm on Sunday night), Elaine should have left Holyhead and be en route to Dublin Port…… after a very long and circuitous journey.
Elaine and Irish Cycling Campaign would like to make it a condition of the licences issued to ferry companies that any ferry which carries passengers who travel with a car or motorcycle should also be mandated to carry people on bikes and foot passengers. They can put limits on the total number of passengers of course and the total weight / size of vehicles, but they should not be allowed to carry larger vehicles but not the smaller ones.
Irish Cycling Campaign is fully behind Elaine’s activism on this issue. If we want to encourage less carbon intensive travel and therefore less flying, it should be safe, easy and permissible to take bikes on ferries and to continue journeys by bike and rail, or bike and bus.
We will add further updates to this story in due course.
As Cyclist.ie has called for throughout its campaigning history, we need bold action to promote walking and cycling as part of the process of decarbonising our transport systems.
As COP28 takes place in Dubai, Cyclist.ie is proud to be joining hundreds of NGOs in signing a joint letter from The Partnership for Active Travel and Health to call on world leaders to promote active travel in facing the climate crisis – but we need more to join our open call!
Active travel delivers more than any other transport mode when it comes to sustainable development and climate action. If more people were enabled to walk and cycle safely, it could reduce transport emissions by as much as 50%!
Yet, the recent PATH report on the climate plans of UNFCCC countries – see here – reveals that only eight countries have properly linked walking and cycling with their climate plans!
As many of our supporters will know, Cyclist.ie is part of a terrific European Commission funded Erasmus+ project with themes of climate action, cycling promotion, social inclusion and intergenerational relationships. The project involves connecting schools and non-profit cycling advocacy organisations from across Europe through carefully curated cultural exchange programmes.
Cyclist.ie’s ambassadors on this trip were Úna Morrison and Phil Murray (Dublin Cycling Campaign), Rory Maguire (Navan Cycling Initiative), Eoghan O’Leary Fitzpatrick (Galway Cycling Campaign) and Cyclist.ie’s National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama. In this article Eoghan, Rory, Phil and Úna each share their reflections on one of the four days of the trip, with Damien adding some further insights at the end.
Note that the featured image above shows Úna from Dublin Cycling Campaign / Cyclist.ie and Cristina from Biciclistas de Corella (and with the photo kindly provided by Biciclistas de C).
L-R: Phil, Úna, Rory, Eoghan and Damien in Lisbon
Day #1 – Friday 13th October – Eoghan Our journey began at the Secondary School in Azambuja, a meeting point for all participants in this Erasmus+ project. As we mingled and chatted in the school’s courtyard, we eventually made our way to the school’s hall.
Artwork depicting the countries involved in this Erasmus+ project
We all sat down in a circle in the hall, as one of the school’s English teachers welcomed us and introduced us to “Ubuntu,” a group within the school. Some of the students sported black t-shirts bearing the word Ubuntu alongside Nelson Mandela’s prisoner number. The teacher told us the meaning of the word Ubuntu and why it is important to her and her students. It literally translates to “I am because you are” but its greater meaning is that of connection and unity across humanity, and this was an important theme across our Erasmus+ project as we learned about our shared values across our different cultures and backgrounds.
Principal of the school welcoming us all
Following on from this, we began our icebreakers, starting with each participant sharing their name and a little about themselves. Icebreaker games, such as the “stand forward if” challenge, allowed us to see how much we had in common as relative strangers. We moved onto the “Colour Game” with coloured stickers on our foreheads, and we faced the challenge of forming groups based on colour (red, blue, orange, green, purple) without uttering a word – a slightly chaotic but fun exercise in communication beyond words.
After the school introductions, we cycled through the town, making our way to the heart of Azambuja, the Town Hall. Here, we were greeted by the town’s Mayor, who extended a warm welcome. He shared stories about Azambuja, providing a brief background of its history and its place in Portuguese culture.
Our adventure continued as we cycled to the Palácio das Obras Novas situated beside a channel of the Tagus River. We had our picnic here, followed by a few outdoor games like limbo.
Rory and Phil making their way to the Palácio
The highlight of the day awaited us — a mesmerizing boat tour of the Tagus River. Along the riverbanks, we had a chance encounter with wild horses, showcasing the region’s natural beauty. As the boat cruised through the water, we explored the area’s geological history with Annabelle, a Professor in Geology, which was both truly fascinating and informative. All topped off by a local song performed on the boat by one of the boat workers! All in all, it was a great kick off to what was to be an outstanding trip!
Annabelle detailing the Tagus during the Ice Age
Day #2 – Sat 14th October – Rory’s perspective After landing into the centre of Lisbon, we climb the hills around Alafama and immerse ourselves in rich architecture from as far back as the 12th century. They have managed to squeeze tram tracks into very challenging nooks and crannies all over the city. Somehow brazen car drivers still make their way through hoards of people on the same tracks visibly annoying and slowing everyone as they pass. I’m not sure what would possess someone to drive through the heart of this narrow city, but there is a very tangible difference between the emotion of the tram users and the stressed drivers navigating this very challenging obstacle course. I bask in thoughts of what this beautiful place felt like before cars existed. The silver lining to old cities like these are that numerous hurdles have restricted people to owning much smaller, more humble cars which are more efficient and less dangerous than the SUVs currently dominating the car market.
As we make our way up the steep cobbled hills towards the Castelo de St. Jorge, we pass musicians and artists seeking refuge in the shade between buildings which amplify their talent for the passers by. There is an incredible hum of music which beats its way up the city walls. It is surreal once we reach the castle which truly feels like the heart of Lisboa.
Peacocks outside the Castelo de St. Jorge
The tall ancient cork oak, olive and stone pine trees provide a lush green canopy that protects us from the heavy sun, and everybody centres their conversations, relaxation and movement under the trees. This experience contrasts sharply with the car-filled (more tree-less) suburbs which can get cripplingly hot when the sun is out. Perhaps there will be time when the on street parking will need to be sacrificed to tackle the heat island effect which is increasingly noticeable as the summer droughts ease their way into mid October.
The castle material itself contains incredible detail in each slab of stone. Telling the stories of the life and death of the many creatures fossilised inside. While touching these blocks I inadvertently take some of their story away with me on my fingertips.
Finding bikes for 40+ people is not an easy task by any means. Just one of many incredible feats pulled off by Margarida and others involved in this Erasmus programme. A spin down the bank of the Tagus river provides many amazing sights such as the presidential palace, Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, and the Torre Belém. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult to navigate even some of the simpler routes of the city with 40 kids and a handful of adults; Something which really makes me appreciate the work done by the network of Cycle School Buses in Ireland.
Making our way through the city
Passing under the Ponte 25 de Abril
The route along the Tagus is full of people. It always amazes me the interactions between pedestrians and cyclists. The fluidity and freedom to choose the direction of movement provides for a more relaxed environment with play, relaxation and wonderful food all around. At one of the many parks along the river we stop to enjoy a box of pastéis de nata. They don’t last long as everybody seems to be obsessed with them here. It’s so sweet to see the proud culture here of eating delicacies made by skilled local artisans rather than your standard mars bars and kitkats in corner shops. I learned that the culture of desserts here is based on egg yolks which were a by-product from monasteries using egg whites to starch clothes.
Pasteis de Nata or pasteis de Belém
The day finishes at a beautiful restaurant named Tasca da Ilda in Azambuja. I love how casual the staff in such a fine place are with us. A small thing which I think mirrors the relaxed and inviting culture we experienced throughout the trip. It was also nice to see the level of vegetarian cuisine being served not just in Lisbon but in small towns like Azambuja.
The highlight of the day for me was seeing hundreds of young people wheelying their bikes down the colourful Lisbon coastline. It gave me hope to see the rebellious nature of these kids reclaiming their city from cars in such a playful way. Bikes for them aren’t just a form of transport, but a way of life.
Wheelies in Belém
More wheelies in Belém
Day #3 – Sun 15th October – Phil’s reflections Taking our complimentary bikes our first port of call was the local secondary school, and from here we were taken by coach to a nature reserve, Paul de Manique, a 30 minute drive north-east of Azambuja. This bio-diverse lake and wetland has a total area of 18 hectares with a bird hide for spotting the 183 species of birds and 44 species of dragonfly amongst the abundance of wildlife found there.
We had two guides – Annabelle who gave us great insights into the geology of the area with her many soil and gravel samples as well as a 3m long core sample of the lake bed; and Paulo who is the main guide for the reserve and a fountain of knowledge of the area and its rich biodiversity.
Annabelle, Rory and Paulo in the dried lake bed
Paulo, described by one of our group as Portugal’s David Attenborough, gave us a fantastic insight into the rich wildlife of the wetland, despite the lake being totally dried up and the season’s first proper rain in months only starting to fall. We were reassured that it would take just two days of rain to fill the lake, and that only just below the crusty dry bed, life was still thriving in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Going by the heavy rain that fell about an hour after our tour, the lake was already beginning its annual transformation which made the timing of our visit all the more special.
Following a quick visit to a local church, which was once a Palace, we headed back to the school in Azambuja for lunch in the canteen. A fine meal was had, prepared by the ladies who ran the school’s well-equipped kitchen. At the school many activities were laid on with an opportunity for the students to get to know each other better, share their experiences and present the work they had been doing back home on raising awareness of climate change resilience in their communities.
Dinner at 8pm took place in the private home of the Deputy Mayor of Azambuja, albeit in a private clubhouse as part of the host’s residence. This big room with double height ceiling, three large tables with bench seating and every inch of wall space covered in bull-fighting paraphernalia was the kind of place only locals get to see. It was also a space where the famous Portuguese traditional music of Fado was performed.
Dinner with the staff of Azambuja Secondary School and the other Erasmus+ Partners – Photo credit: Biciclistas de Corella
Performing three songs each, our Fado singers, one male, one female and accompanied by two acoustic stringed instruments played by two men captivated us all with theatrically performed songs, sung with intense passion.
It was easily one of the cultural highlights of the trip and reaffirmed the connection that is universally made when humans come together to eat, drink, share stories and sing those stories passed down through generations.
Day 4 – Mon 16th Oct – Úna’s Reflections Monday was our final day of the trip and the core of the day was to see more of the culture and nature beyond Azambuja. Our first stop was Praia da Bafureira, Bafureira Beach, which is on the outskirts of Lisbon towards Cascais. This area is a Marine Protected Area which prohibits further development and fishing.
We spilt into groups with two pages of marine organisms to identify, including shellfish, seaweed and fish. I joined a group of four Polish students, which was great fun. Some of them had never seen the Atlantic Ocean before and were very unfamiliar with rock pooling. We all really enjoyed the natural treasure hunt and taking time to move slowly in the hunt for our various organisms.
From Bafureira, we moved on to Cabos da Roca, the most westerly point of continental Europe for a quick pit stop. We had an impromptu picnic and enjoyed the windy surroundings.
Úna and Damien on the edge of Continental Europe
Our destination for the afternoon was Sintra, a world famous town in the hills north west of Lisbon. As we travelled there, we noted that the landscape changed, with more lush vegetation, clouds and mist, along with winding roads. We walked towards the Park and Palace of Monserrate, which had a fascinating history. Since 1540 when the estate was founded, there was a succession of different owners, developments and abandonments. The British writers Lord Bryon and William Beckford were amongst the residents there. The palace that currently stands was commissioned by Francis Cook, a British trader and art collector, and it combines Gothic and Indian influences with Moresque accents. Together with the incredible gardens, featuring species from around the world, I found it an inspiring and magical place.
Rory, Eoghan and Úna – Rehydrating en route to the palace!
The valley of ferns was a highlight for me, together with the natural inspired interior architecture – both pictured below.
After walking back from the palace, we spent a very welcome break in Sintra, to explore the shops, sample the ice cream (I had a yoghurt and fig ice cream that was incredible) and enjoy the bustling town.
We returned to Azambuja for our final dinner in the school where we were joined by the principal and had the opportunity to sample some traditional chocolate cake, baked by the mother of one of the students. It was delicious, and an example of how this trip gave us the opportunity to really connect with the people of Azambuja. The students had a quiz and a sing-song and we all received our certificates of participation. And Eoghan from our group played a traditional tune on his feadóg stáin (below). It was an enjoyable end to a hectic but fulfilling trip to Portugal.
For me, the most valuable part of the trip was the chance to talk to and get to know people from other countries. I really enjoyed, for example, talking to Asia, one of the teachers from Poland about their upcoming general election and understanding her point of view. This will give me further depth of understanding when I read or hear about these types of things in the news in the future. I also really enjoyed seeing and exploring parts of the Portuguese landscape that I simply would walk, cycle or drive by if I was a tourist – such as the rewilded wetland and the marine protection area in Bafureira.
Final Reflections – Damien The third “Learning, Teaching and Training” trip of this Erasmus+ project was another rich, sociable and multi-dimensional experience for our participants. It allowed us to forge stronger relationships with the other partners and learn more about each others’ cultures and customs.
It was also valuable to spend quality time with newer members of Cyclist.ie’s own expanding network of volunteers – and I want to pay a special thanks to Úna, Phil, Eoghan and Rory for their great contributions throughout the trip and for representing Cyclist.ie so well on the international stage!
L-R: Eoghan, Rory, Damien, Úna and Phil
I also want to sincerely thank Margarida Pato from Azambuja High School for organising the full programme, and supported by her colleagues Paula, Edmundo, José and the other staff members. In fact, the programme was so full that we didn’t, unfortunately, as originally planned get to meet up in Lisbon with our cycle campaigning colleagues in MUBi (Associação pela Mobilidade Urbana em Bicicleta), a member group themselves of the European Cyclists’ Federation. Next time!
And thanks, as always, to our Project Coordinator Supremo, Toño Peña, from IES Alhama School in Corella for his ongoing support and unquenchable positive energy!
Cyclist.ie is part of an incredibly exciting European Commission funded Erasmus+ project with themes of cycling promotion, social inclusion, intergenerational relationships and climate action – as we announced back in October 2022 after receiving the news of our application’s success.
The next LTT will take place in Azambuja in Portugal from Thu 12 to Tue 17 October 2023 with a wonderfully diverse programme of activities planned by the local partner organisation, Agrupamento de Escolas de Azambuja, and Cyclist.ie is looking for ambassadors to represent us on the trip. Broadly we are looking to form a small team (of around 4 or 5 persons) which will bring some new faces and some consistency to the project, and we invite active members of Cyclist.ie to apply to attend. The full costs of travel, accommodation, meals and activities are covered under the project fund.
We are asking you to send us a one page letter (say, 400 words max) explaining why you would like to apply to represent Cyclist.ie at this international LTT. We particularly welcome applications from (i) members of Cyclist.ie groups that have not yet taken part in the LTTs to date, and (ii) those in the 18-30 cohort (since Erasmus+ projects have a particular focus on younger adults).
Please send your letter to our National Cycling Coordinator at [email protected] by latest Monday 04 Sept 2023 (11.59pm!). Applications will be assessed by a team comprising members of the Cyclist.ie Executive Committee (plus, possibly, members of the Board of DCC CLG / Cyclist.ie). The criteria for assessing applications are set out in Appendix I below – these should guide you as you prepare your letter of application. The plan is for applications to be assessed and for successful candidates to be contacted in early September with a view to booking travel arrangements at the soonest possible date so as to keep costs down.
If you have any questions on any of the above, please email [email protected] by latest Mon 28 August and we will respond to all queries ASAP after this date.
Many thanks. The Cyclist.ie Executive Committee
Appendix I – Criteria for Assessing Applications for Partaking in the LTT trip to Azambuja in Portugal as an Ambassador for Cyclist.ie
Member of a Cyclist.ie Member Group
The current list of groups is here. Please confirm that you are a member of your local cycling advocacy group – and include a copy of a short email from your group Chairperson or Coordinator confirming that (i) you are a member of that group and (ii) your Chair / Coordinator supports your application for being an ambassador for Cyclist.ie on the LTT.
Active in your local group
Please describe in your letter of application what you have been active in within your own cycle campaigning / advocacy group, particularly over the last year. Extra marks for those who have been on the organising / Executive Committee of the local group and/or of Cyclist.ie.
Enthusiasm, experience working with younger groups and broader skills!
The Erasmus+ trips are very much convivial gatherings of diverse people, brought together under common themes. If you are especially sociable / easy to get along with, or perhaps you play an instrument or sing a song or do a dance, or have experience working with younger groups (maybe in outdoor settings), please let us know in your application! These softer ‘people skills’ are valued a lot in this project where it’s all about nurturing exchange between diverse groups.
Erasmus+ focuses particularly on the youth and younger adults (see here), so we are especially keen that within the Cyclist.ie delegation we have at least some members who are under 30 years of age. Let us know if you are under 30 (but also 18 years or over) – while noting that people of all ages are very welcome to apply! We are aiming to have a group of a mixture of ages representing us.
There are partners on the project from Spain, Portugal and Poland so it would be advantageous if you have (even basic) conversational Spanish, Portuguese or Polish. Please let us know in your application.
Organised / Can help out with some basic admin
Besides the trips themselves, there is an amount of admin support work to help to manage the project well – plus a need to post lively / informative web articles and blog posts. Let us know in your letter of application if you are prepared to help out with this and/or if you have experience writing articles of various types. You will receive guidance and training on this as needed / appropriate.
Additional Criterion to be used in assessing all applications collectively, after the initial individual assessment has been completed
For this project, we are keen for the Cyclist.ie delegation to be diverse in every sense of the term. We are especially keen to have a good spread of active members of our network from all around the country, both urban and rural, with a good gender balance and mix of backgrounds. Do please tell us a bit about yourself in your application!
Just a month after the inaugural Erasmus+ gathering in Corella on the Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action project, the second “Learning, Teaching and Training” gathering took place from 22 to 27 June 2023. It was hosted by Newtown School in Waterford city, with Karen Keogh from their teaching staff curating a diverse and brilliantly organised programme of activities.
In this article, four members of the Cyclist.ie team reflect on what was an action-packed trip spanning the themes of Social Inclusion, Climate Action, Intergenerational Relationships and Urban Cycling Promotion (and you can read more about the themes in our article from October 2022). Each of our four reporters – Denis, Allison, Jo and Hugh – cover one of the full days.
Just to note here that we were delighted that members of Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC) came into the city to meet with the Spanish delegation for a convivial evening the night before the group travelled to the south east. And the Spanish visitors also managed to squeeze in an expert walking tour of Dublin, led by Martin Quinn (a member of DCC himself), before hopping on the coach to Waterford.
Martin Quinn (in blue) leading the walking tour of Dublin with the Spanish crew! (Photo credit – Chefly, Biciclistas de Corella)
As we have said previously, Cyclist.ie is proud to be part of this Erasmus+ project and to be forging strong relationships with the other six partner organisations from four EU countries.
Friday 23 June – Denis McAuliffe Many enjoyable events took place on the opening day, but what stands out to me was Keith Lemon, the Principal of Newtown School, welcoming us and officiating at the tree planting ceremony in the grounds of the school. Before planting the oak tree sapling, he said – “Wherever you may go and whatever you might do, remember that the mighty oak was once a nut too”, a saying that I have never heard before but worthy of recognition.
Tree planting in Newtown School with MEP Grace O’Sullivan (from Waterford herself) on hand to help out after delivering her welcoming words in the school hall (Photo credit – Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella)
This was followed by a walk from Newtown school to GROW HQ, an award-winning organic garden and working model of a sustainable food system – see here. While even though it rained on our way and on arrival, it was well worth the effort as we got to avail of an “all you can eat” in a three minute fresh organic strawberry picking and eating competition, a tour of the gardens, fresh scones, homemade red currant and strawberry jam, fennel and mint cordial and locally produced apple juice. Our tummies were well looked after and ready for our trip back to the school canteen where we were once again treated to lunch.
After lunch we had many more fun filled and educational events which my wife and daughter participated in and we were getting to know our Erasmus friends from Poland, Spain, Portugal and of course Ireland with the interactive based ethos of the programme.
Exploring GROW HQ (Photo credit – Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella)
For me the highlight of the day was the transition from Picasso to Viking – our final workshop of the evening was with the amazing team from Deise Medieval. This comprised a fantastic blend of activities and information, and a living history workshop. It was particularly nice to see my daughter Danielle so engaged, who by now had become a Viking warrior and during a Viking battle she managed to fight her way through no less than three waves of opposing warriors! One of the trainers in battle later mentioned to me that he wouldn’t want to meet her on a dark night (or should that be knight!?). It was indeed such an interesting way to finish off the first day of a well enjoyed and educational Erasmus experience. My daughter Danielle made many new friends and it was somewhat of an achievement being the oldest person on the trip and my daughter being the youngest – you could say that we covered both sides of the aging spectrum.
Deise Medieval with additional fierce Vikings drawn from the Cyclist.ie warrior group – Front row (R to L): Danielle McAuliffe (Great Southern Trail), Allison Roberts (Clon Bike Fest), Mary Sinnott (Waterford Bicycle User Group); Back row / standing (R to L): Jo Sachs Eldridge (Leitrim Cycling Festival), Denis and Catherine McAuliffe (Great Southern Trail), Siobhán McNamara (Dublin Cycling Campaign), Dave Tobin (Limerick Cycling Campaign), three of the Deise Medieval group, Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella, Damien Ó Tuama (Cyclist.ie), Hugh Raftery (Dublin Cycling Campaign)
The following days were filled from beginning to end with multiple trips and events of which, no doubt, my Cyclist.ie partners do justice in their own recording of their most memorable moments of their time spent in Waterford. Hopefully our paths will cross once again at another Cyclist.ie Erasmus educational event.
Saturday 24 June – Allison Roberts After breakfast everyone made their way into the city centre, and the students were divided into teams by country and given €50 per team to come up with outfits for an upcycling fashion show. Meanwhile the adults headed for the Waterford Medieval museum.
The Cyclist.ie Delegation! L-R: Mary Sinnott, Siobhán McNamara, Denis McAuliffe, Catherine McAuliffe, Dave Tobin, Olivia Tobin, Damien Ó Tuama, Hugh Raftery, Jo Sachs Eldridge and Allison Roberts
First up we were given headsets and got a bit of a history lesson via virtual reality. The VR program was called ‘King of the Vikings’ and I think everyone enjoyed the novelty of VR and graphics, but it may have been a bit hard to follow as it wasn’t available in Spanish or Polish or Portuguese, but I think we all got the gist! Much better was the tour that followed of the ‘Viking Triangle’ which is a very small block in the centre of Waterford.
A few facts that have stayed with me – Waterford is a very Georgian style city with a history of famous architects, the theatre being an example that has tall and wide doors to allow for top hats & hoop dresses. Reginald’s tower on the main waterfront was used as a cell for the drunk & disorderly. The large Viking sword sculpture crafted with a chainsaw was actually made in another county from a tree fallen in one of the big storms, and the sword is complete with tree roots.
After the tour we had a coffee and the first annual Brompton unfolding competition – Dave Tobin was pronounced winner with his double-handed flip being the move that clinched it.
Nervous entrants of the Brompton unfolding competition just seconds before starting
After lunch at the school everyone boarded the bus for Kilmurrin beach for beach clean up except Mary, Jo, Damien and I who wanted to get the bikes out for a spin. Mary led the way with her electric cargo bike (with dog Teddy along for the ride) followed by the three of us on our beloved Bromptons. It took a fair few hills to get out of Waterford and then we followed what would have been some lovely tree-lined narrow, windy country roads if it hadn’t been for the amount and speed of the motor traffic. Unfortunately a van decided to overtake us on a blind bend just as a car was coming from the opposite direction. The van swerved back in front of us as the car slammed on its brakes and swerved towards the ditch only to be rear-ended by another car behind it which was traveling at speed. Thankfully everyone was OK (the cars weren’t).
We set off again but Teddy (the dog) was itching to stretch his legs so we took a long-cut and walked our bikes through a lovely new park just outside of Dunhill. The Anne Valley Walk was developed as part of a plan to deal with wastewater from the town. It’s a beautiful walk through trees flanked by reed-bed ponds that are filtering the town’s wastewater.
When we finally made it to Kilmurrin Beach the sand circle art session was already underway, the plan being to recreate the Erasmus+ logo on the beach. The man running it was great and got everyone involved, making lines, tracing each other on the sand, doing slow-mo actions to be captured on the time-lapsed video. We also took a chance to have a dip and eat our packed dinners.
Around 7pm we all boarded the bus to head back to town where Pride celebrations were in full swing. Most of us adults stopped in at a patio for some drinks and food and the students had some free time in town before we all made our way slowly back to school for the night. All in all, a great day, weather and activity-wise, with the few of us who had witnessed (and been a bit too close to) the crash being reminded of why so many people don’t feel safe cycling on the roads in Ireland. Thankfully the next day we got to enjoy some much better infrastructure on the greenway.
Sunday 25 June – Jo Sachs Eldridge I loved the eclectic collection of activities that were put on for us. My main motivation for taking part was the opportunity to spend some time with the cycling crew – to have conversations in-person rather than online – but I wasn’t expecting to have so many new and wonderful experiences along the way.
The card workshop in the morning had some brilliant elements – it used plastic and other matter found on the beach and on completion the students all sat in rows facing each other where they ‘speed dated’ while describing their beautiful work of art. As the facilitator explained – often when we create something we don’t get a chance to really look at it or talk about it. Simple but brilliant.
The Charity Shop Fashion Show was also more impressive and entertaining than I expected. The students put huge effort into their themes and outfits. And the calibre of the judge – a sustainable fashion designer – added another level of appreciation to it all.
I had heard great reports of the Waterford Greenway over the years so I was really looking forward to this activity. And it didn’t disappoint. Kilometres of beautiful scenery – long, majestic coastal sections, acres of farmland and rich hedgerows – all with a smooth surface, plenty of width to chat and overtake and chicanes that would allow any (?) bike to navigate.
Hugh Raftery from the Cyclist.ie delegation enjoying the greenway!
The route also includes a number of viaducts and a magical fairy tunnel. Although my favourite bit was through the section of what felt like a tropical forest – shown here.
Even the thunder and lightning storms and heavy showers didn’t take away from the fabulous ride. Karen, the amazing coordinator, had also cleverly arranged for the last torrential downpour to happen while we stopped for lunch. Brilliant!
I did get a puncture along the way but luckily I had just passed the support van when it happened and later Damien patched it up for me – turns out he knows a thing or two about bikes! Thanks Damien!
We finished the day again with some good food and conversation.
All in all, it was a great opportunity to spend time with the gang, meet the other partners, explore Waterford and enjoy lots of Brompton nerdery.
Monday 26 June – Hugh Raftery After the workout on the Greenway cycle, we were delighted to have a relatively easy day on Monday. It started with a coach journey to Shanagarry, County Cork where we could rest and enjoy the scenery passing the window. Our destination was Ballymaloe.
First stop was Ballymaloe House. The hotel and farm have been operating using sustainable methods since the 1960s. The head groundskeeper, Tobias (pictured below), gave us a tour of the gardens and he explained how even small changes at home can make a big difference. We should all make some space in our gardens for nature, just leave it alone.
Next stop was Ballymaloe Cookery School. Our host was Lydia Allen. In the kitchens, we were shown how nothing goes to waste – all the ingredients are used to their fullest, an important lesson for home too.
Lydia brought us around the gardens to see where they have corridors for pollinators, and to see the veg growing in the greenhouses.
After Ballymaloe, we were back on the bus as there was a ceilí mór planned for the evening. We were not disappointed. To start us off, we had some interactive fun with the drama teacher. We were swapping chairs and testing our numeracy; a challenge and good fun at the same time. A surprise on the night was a quick lesson in sign language. We learnt to sign Somewhere Only We Know, with some help from Danielle for the lyrics. Danielle (age 10) was the youngest participant in the project, accompanied by her dad Denis, the most senior of the Cyclist.ie crew.
Denis and Danielle Mc Auliffe
We were then treated to some Irish dancing, performed by four local stars. The talent on display was a super finale. The dancers then lead us all on a few reels, showing us the steps, which we tried to follow. I was certainly out of my comfort zone but gave it a go anyway.
These four days have been a wonderful experience. I learned some tips for social media, shared some of my knowledge, and made some great friends. The activities were great fun, and informative too. I will be using some of the ideas learnt in the future.
A final reflection for me was that the availability of e-bikes for those less fit or experienced participants for the (40km+) greenway cycle was a real boon – it enabled delegates with different fitness levels to cycle alongside each other and chat and enjoy the amenity together.
Some Final Remarks – Damien Ó Tuama The Waterford leg of the Erasmus+ Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action project was a wonderful success. The Cyclist.ie delegates got to spend some quality time with our Continental counterparts, but also with ourselves – a nice contrast from all of the Zoom meetings over the last few years. You can’t beat meeting up in person for plotting and scheming!
We wish to pay a special thanks again to Karen Keogh and all of the staff from Newtown School for the warm welcome and the fine programme of activities laid on for us.
We hope that Cristina (from Biciclistas de Corella) and Libia (from IES Estella) are back on track after their respective leg and ankle sprains incurred on the first day of the trip. We look forward to spending time with them and all of our new colleagues at the next Erasmus+ gathering which will take place in Azambuja in Portugal in October 2023.
Cillian O Boyle, Business Development Manager with Cycling Solutions Ireland, recently returned from Leipzig in Germany after attending the Velo-city conference. In his report below, he shares his experiences with Cyclist.ie of the latest edition of ECF’s Velo-city conference. As always, we encourage supporters of Cyclist.ie’s work to join up or make a donation so as to enable us to ramp up our cycling advocacy programme.
Velo-city Conference Velo-city is the world cycling summit, where advocates, cities, decision and policy makers, researchers and industry leaders meet to shape the future of cycling. As the annual flagship event of the European Cyclists’ Federation, Velo-city plays a valuable part in promoting cycling as a sustainable and healthy means of transport for all.
Like no other event, the conference offers a knowledge-exchange and policy-transfer platform to the more than 1400 Velo-citizens from over 60 countries attending, involved in the policy, promotion and provision for cycling, active mobility and sustainable urban development. Taking place under the theme #LeadingTheTransition, Velo-city 2023 Leipzig asked the inevitable question: What future do we want to live in?
Cycle Friendly Employer Scheme Cycling Solutions Ireland (CSI), Ireland’s European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) certified cycle-friendly employer accreditors, were one of a number of Irish organisations represented at Velo-city in Leipzig. CSI were joined by the Department of Transport (DoT) in a programme discussion about the importance of cycle-friendly employer certification in the public sector. Carol Lodola of DoT gave a presentation on behalf of the Department.
L to R: Froso Christofides (European Cyclists’ Federation), Michael O’Boyle (CEO Cycling Solutions Ireland), Carol Lodola (Department of Transport)
Leipzig, Host City Known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and state-of-the-art transport infrastructure, Leipzig was an ideal host city for Velo-city 2023. Attendees were provided with the use of Nextbikes from the TIER bike sharing scheme in Leipzig during the conference
Coming from a country that is still very car-centric, a few days spent in Leipzig opens up the mind to the possibilities available to cities that commit to shared mobility; or as Leipzig refers to it, the Environmental Alliance: walking, cycling and local public transport. The goal is to reach a 70% modal share of the environmental alliance (23% public transport, 23% cycling and 24% walking). In order to achieve this milestone, the city will invest more than 1.5 billion Euro in cycling, walking and public transport by 2030.
The city administration intends to create new cycling facilities on its main roads, expand bicycle parking facilities, build a bicycle parking garage at the main railway station and improve road maintenance on important cycle routes during the winter. A new last-mile logistic concept will also be implemented. This will see all deliveries destined for the city bundled outside the city centre and delivered with low-emission vehicles, such as cargo bikes.
New opportunities to capitalise on Leipzig’s week in the cycling spotlight were not wasted. Decision makers in Leipzig’s local government teamed up with STADTRADELN,a climate alliance organisation, who gathered data on the most used cycling routes by attendees throughout the conference. The resulting data will be used by urban planners to propose new cycle lanes in the city. At the time of writing, over 1,700 kilometres of cycling data had been gathered by STATDRADELN.
Screenshot of STATDRADELN data gathering of cycling journeys
The Netherlands: Lessons from a cycling Mecca The Netherlands wasn’t always a fietsparadijs (“bicycle paradise”). As with their counterparts, post-war planners were carving out space for the car in their cities; demolishing buildings and filling in canals. Converging (road safety and oil supply) crises in the 1970s set them off in a different direction, but it required a great deal of experimentation, as well as a few high-profile failures. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that best practices were codified in national street design and road safety policies. The resulting principles have been a “game changer”, resulting in 20,000 kilometres of separated cycle paths—over half the existing network—in the past 25 years.
With fifty years of experience resulting in the highest levels of cycling on the planet, the Dutch are far from resting on their laurels. In fact, this success creates new pressures around space and speed in the city, with recent developments offering opportunities to build on it.
The five key learnings from Dutch experts at Velo-city 2023 were:
1) Start with a link, plan for a network: To provide for a maximum diversity of users, Dutch planners have learned to look beyond individual lanes, and think more holistically at the network level.
2) Don’t give up at the intersection: Knowing a network is only as good as its weakest link, and most collisions occur at these points, the Dutch-style “protected intersection” is a staple throughout the country.
3) The most important part of a bike plan is the car plan: As Dutch planners have discovered, measures that offer an attractive alternative to driving (“the carrot”) must be complemented with efforts to make driving indirect and inconvenient (“the stick”).
4) Design for the speed you want: When it comes to calming traffic, the reality is that engineering—not education or enforcement—is the biggest influence on the success of that scheme.
5) Use cycle tracks to feed mass transit (and vice versa): Rather than view cycling and mass transit as competitors, Dutch planners have learned to embrace them as allies, capturing their synergy in a virtuous circle of sustainable travel.
Velo-city Handover Velo-city Leipzig wound down with a flag hand-over to next year’s hosts – the Belgian city of Ghent. The final sign off for an excellent week was a post-event party at Leipzig’s Moritzbastei, one of the city’s oldest fortifications, which now doubles as a performance and cultural centre.
You would be forgiven for thinking Leipzig is an established city on the global conference scene, but this German city never had it easy – after German reunification, the Eastern city tumbled into decline, its population dropping to 437,000 in the mid-1990s. Since then, Leipzig has been reinventing itself at a rapid pace. The turn of the century, a pivotal period for the German city, saw Leipzig’s economy gather momentum, and the implementation of ambitious urban development policies saw people flooding back into the city. Today, its creative buzz and vibrant street life shape the image of a healthy, happy city.
A large Irish cohort could be found around the Moritzbastei on closing night – an encouraging sign that our own country is becoming increasingly alert to the benefits that cycling can bring, when urban development policies allow for it. If Leipzig can do it, anyone can.
Velo City 2024 For anyone interested in discovering the future of sustainable mobility in Europe, make sure to check out the plans for Velo-city Ghent 2024!
Cyclist.ie sends its thanks to Cillian for his report above. We also refer our readers to the excellent report from Katleen Bell Bonjean from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee on her experiences at Velo-city.
In the following article, Katleen Bell-Bonjean from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee (and Gort Cycle Trails) shares her reflections on the 2023 Velo-city International Cycle Planning conference that was held in Leipzig in Germany. The event was co-organised by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), of which Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland, and the City of Leipzig. As always, we encourage supporters of Cyclist.ie’s work to join up or make a donation so as to enable us to ramp up our cycling advocacy programme.
Mary Sinnott from Waterford and I were the two Cyclist.ie Executive Committee members that represented Cyclist.ie at this year’s Velo-city conference in Leipzig. With 1500 participants attending from around the world, it was the biggest Velo-city event yet.
It was also a special event for me, as I was taking part in an international panel discussion about Pushing for Action – Leadership in Cycling. Keep on reading to find out more!
Mary and myself getting drenched at the Bike Parade
Check out this video compilation of the bicycle parade. I am glad to say that by the time we finished, the sun was shining 🙂
My main areas of interest are around cycle tourism, rural cycling routes / cycle safety, bike-sharing, cycling data about gender, and questions around how do you best design the public realm?
Giving the thumbs up at Velo-city!
Trends in Cycle tourism globally and various EuroVelo Routes I found this session particularly interesting, with speakers from Canada, The Netherlands and the ECF giving a detailed overview of usage stats on the various EuroVelo routes around Europe. As I live a short distance from Adrahan/Kinvara, one of the access points of EuroVelo #1 in the west of Ireland, I was keen to learn about the usage stats. Cycling tourism is becoming more popular in Ireland, and data shared showed that, even in winter, there are 52 cyclists using EuroVelo1, trebling in the summertime to 159.
One interesting statistic presented was about when people start during the day and when they take a break. In warmer countries like Spain or Portugal, cyclists tend to start earlier and have a break shortly after lunch for a siesta.
In Ireland, thanks to our maritime climate – read, it’s not that hot – cyclists tend to start later in the morning, and don’t have a siesta :). Find out more in the ECF Data hub.
Note that EuroVelo #1 in Ireland was recently officially opened and members of Cyclist.ie were there too! Check out this article.
Pushing for Cycling: Leadership in cycling Panel Discussion I was very excited in January when my abstract for this year’s conference was successful to talk about the social media campaign I headed up, and how we as a group of volunteers campaigned in the depth of Covid to advocate for the Athlone to Galway Greenway to come via Gort by collaborating with local communities along the route.
There were two further panelists from France and one from Australia, and in our warm-up call prior to the conference, I learned how a traumatic event was a catalyst for change in cycle safety in Australia. Stuart Outhred explained how Amy Gillett died after a car crashed into her near Leipzig. The Amy Gillett Foundation is Australia’s leading cycling safety charity. Their vision is for zero bike rider deaths on Australian roads.
Find out more about what #redroute5 has to offer here and the website of the Galway to Athlone Cycleway here. Below is my presentation:
There were a few questions posed during the panel discussion and the one that stood out for me was as follows – Your campaigns are great, but shouldn’t that be done by the local policy makers? I think it’s a good point, but I believe that sometimes grassroots community activists lead the way on topics to show the opportunity, and how working together can lead to real change.
The little city that could – Bike-sharing policy in Tartu With a population of less than 100,000 persons, Tartu in Estonia may not be on anyone’s radar, as most bike share schemes focus on much larger populations. However, bike-sharing is very successful in Tartu because it is integrated with public transport. Once the user has a public transport pass, use of the bikes is free (or a very small charge). The result is that high school students were the biggest users! I talked to the presenter afterwards to find out if there was a breakdown in gender. As it turns out, there was no significant difference between boys and girls. Typically there are more boys cycling than girls, however this study shows that both genders equally used bikes.
NextBike Bike-sharing Scheme On that note, we were all given free access to a Nextbike, Leipzig’s main public bike-sharing company. I picked up my bike near the accommodation we were staying at. I still have to get used to seeing bikes parked at random places and the amount of graffiti in Leipzig! There is QR code at the back of the bike, and scanning the QR codes enables you to unlock the bikes – simples!
It was those bike locks that proved the weakest link in their bike-sharing scheme. Social media can be tricky… a TikTok video became viral where someone showed how you could smash the lock with a hammer and, in the space of a few days, their stock of functioning bikes went from 3000 to just 600. Eventually, they developed an in-house lock that was indestructible. A video was then made to show that no matter how hard you knocked on the lock with a hammer, the lock would not break. I never knew that vandalism is a real issue when operating a bike-sharing scheme!
Public Realm: Practical Workshop about a Leipzig junction I found this one of the most interesting sessions as it was hands-on with real-life situations where we are asked to add public realm to what I would call a spaghetti junction somewhere in Leipzig where you have pedestrians, cyclists, trams , buses and, oh yes, cars:) There were a few questions to ask yourself: how would this new public realm make you feel, what use will this public realm have? As I am not an engineer, I found the maps hard to read, and as we started to understand what we were dealing with, our initial reaction was to just think about the cyclists. As this exercise was about public realm, it made me realize that when designing public realm projects you really have to design for all users and the status quo of traffic flow/speeds needs to be questioned.
Finally Thank you to Cyclist.ie for giving me the opportunity to attend. As always it was an invigorating conference with much knowledge sharing and proof that we are leading the transition!
Note: All images above were taken by Katleen Bell Bonjean except for the featured image which is an ECF photo – used with thanks to ECF.