Category Archives: International Posts

Outside EU / UK / US

On the Roads TV Series – Cyclist.ie Input

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

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

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

Jo Sachs-Eldridge from Leitrim Cycling Festival

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

Liam Frawley from Oranmore Cycle Bus

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

Lorraine Flanagan from An Taisce and Love 30

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

Kieran Ryan from 15 Minute Westport

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

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

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

Velo-city 2022 – Cyclist.ie Reports – Damien Ó Tuama

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Velo-city 2022 – Cyclist.ie Reports – Jo Sachs-Eldridge

This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Velo-city International Cycling Conference – with this one penned by Jo Sachs-Eldridge from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee and Leitrim Cycling Festival.

In her report, Jo presents her reflections on Velo-city 2022. It comprises a mixture of reporting back with interesting facts and figures garnered from the sessions in Ljubliana, but also includes some initial thoughts on how one might apply some of the ideas to an Irish cultural context.

She raises new questions on how one might best seek to regenerate strong cycling cultures in rural Ireland and this ties back to her extensive work of recent years on rural cycling. 

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

Velo-city 2022 – Cyclist.ie Reports – Katleen Bell Bonjean

In the first of a series of articles on the recent Velo-city International Cycling Conference, Katleen Bell Bonjean from Cyclist.ie’s Executive Committee and Gort Cycle Trails offers her reflections on the gathering.

This was my very first Velo-city conference, my very first time in Ljubljana and also the very first time I met a number of other groups / activists / Executive Committee members within Cyclist.ie. Due to Covid, we never had an opportunity to meet face to face, so it was funny we ended up far away from Ireland to meet!

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

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

My main objective was to absorb it all and undergo it as a first-timer! I had no idea there would be over 1000 people and that I would struggle to take a pick at so many interesting sessions. Though I knew it was an international event, I was excited to meet people from as far as New Zealand and Australia. I also met Jelle, the Bicycle Mayor for Utrecht. I had never heard about Bicycle Mayors before, and I am determined to become the  Bicycle Mayor for Gort if they will have me! I can’t wait! As I am originally Belgian, I could hear much Dutch being spoken by large Belgian and Dutch delegations!

As the days progressed, I came to realise that countries like The Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium have clearly embraced the ideas of sustainable mobility and multi-modal transport by re-designing their streets and traffic flows where pedestrians and cyclists are prioritised. Seeing the images Prof. Jan Gehl showed of Copenhagen city centre full of bikes in the 1950’s – to the 1970s/1980s where all of a sudden the car dominated in all streetscapes, was a stark reminder of how the popularity of the car has lead to car-infested (unliveable) cities and danger is everywhere for those not in cars

I am always interested in innovation and did a virtual tour of Budapest and the Balaton Lake on a bike. It was real fun and I do wonder if there is an opportunity there for virtual tourism, for those that can’t make it to Ireland or for people, due to mobility issues, would like to experience Ireland virtually.

Some take-aways of sessions I attended:

Journalism and Tourism
Alex Crevar, Travel journalist for the NY Times: Journalists / /travel writers are great promoters of a region (they often get paid for it) by telling stories. Local advocates can be your worst critic but also your BEST advocates – Let’s develop more Local Advocates with Local Stories.  

Cycle Infrastructure and Rail Infrastructure
Both go hand in hand and having a rail infrastructure that is incorporated with cycle infrastructure improves mobility – I can see the massive potential to partner with Irish Rail to offer Day Trips from Dublin to say Gort. Have a journey plan ready for the tourist/visitor to experience with bike rental options.

Safe Cycle / Walking Routes to School
It’s all in the data. Solutions like Telraam (Belgium) do bicycle / pedestrian counts that are available via OpenData. This is very relevant to big cities, not so sure if relevant in rural Ireland. Seeing how Hackney in London has implemented several projects, offering the schools templates to communicate their plans, I thought was very helpful. Interesting that fines were issued to those parents that still insisted to bring their children into the school yard by car. I learned on Twitter that just under 1000 schools in Ireland applied for the Safe Routes to School program by Green Schools. I really look forward to seeing how this initiative gets rolled out and how it will enable children to cycle to school (again). Meeting some members of the  Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council team that designed the Coastal Mobility Route was amazing! As Conor Geraghty, an engineer in DLR, said, “in God we Trust, in data we believe” – and, oh boy, there was no lack of data…. 38% increase in footfall, 12% increase in cycle usage. They won a well-deserved prize for the best infrastructure project.

Let’s hope that other councils seize the opportunity that ActiveTravel offers. There is no lack of funding – after all, 20% of the  Irish land transport budget has been allocated to walking and cycling infrastructure. It is up to the councils to apply for it and to construct high quality infrastructure.

Rothar Roads and Rural Cycling
A lot was said about international tourism (and over-tourism). Ireland has so much potential for Rothar Roads (low trafficked roads in rural Ireland), similar to what has been rolled out in Belgium and Holland called knooppunten netwerk. No specific infrastructure is required, the network is marked all the way and connects to other routes. I would love to see a trial of this, as an additional option off the National Cycle Network, which is only generally focussed on towns over 5000 population. Many of the Rothar Roads are in areas much less populated with beautiful views and plenty of local history and heritage. As the Rothar Roads are narrow, it’s often the ONLY way to explore the area. The concept of Rothar Roads was launched in 2021 by the Rural Collective in Cyclist.ie headed up by Jo Sachs-Eldridge from the Leitrim Cycling Festival. Read our vision here.

I am still really no further along on how to deal with the 80km speed limits on Rothar Roads, how to add traffic calming in areas where other road users are tractors and combine harvesters and where roads are being used as rat runs with  zero enforcement of speed limits.

Inclusion of Women Cyclists,  Disabled and Disadvantaged Communities
This session focussed on the challenges faced by disabled cyclists, mothers with buggies, and the elderly, and how (sadly) the disabled group was not represented at the conference.  Videos were shown of people on tricycles and recumbent bikes and how the design of the cycle path was not wide enough for the tricycle and they fell over when one wheel ended up in a soft verge or how gates were ill-designed and they had to turn back as they could not negotiate the gate. The message was clear that it’s crucial to have representation of all groups at the design stage to ensure the design ticks all boxes for all users. 

The Dutch Cycling Embassy shared very interesting statistics about elderly people. Electric assist bikes have revolutionised the ability to cycle longer distances and there has been a significant adoption rate in the 66-75 age range.

Reading Material
Travelling back home by train from Ljubljana followed by a flight from Zagreb to Dublin, I finished reading Dervla Murphy’s Wheels in Wheels. Not only was she an absolute pioneer in cycling, she’s also a marvellous writer. I say was, as Deirdre recently passed away at the age of 90. I highly recommend you read this or any of her other books. I already have a next book lined up by Dervla called “ The Making of a Traveller”. 

On my return journey from Dublin Airport to Galway, I started reading a book that was included in our conference ‘goodie bag’ called  “Movement” written by Thalia Verkade and Marco te Brommelstroet.  Just when I thought I was getting my head around safe cycle infrastructure, I was introduced to why electric cars aren’t the solution to the traffic problems, why employers don’t necessarily have to provide showers, how much of the Dutch Infrastructure was financed by gas profits. I am really enjoying the book! 

Final thoughts
Walking around Ljubljana without car noise or air pollution, people walking and cycling and regular public transport shows that with the right vision and empowerment, a city can be liveable (again) and be a place where people live and not just “work” or “commute” to.

Video of Ljubljana at night
Video of morning commute

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





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

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

The Erasmus+ Project

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

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

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

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

Arrival Day – Tue 16 Nov

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

Damien Ó Tuama and Reda Kneizevičienė

Full Day #1 – Wed 17 Nov

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

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

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

And the full team! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A group picture after dinner in the lovely Pirmas Blynas restaurant 

The location of the Pirmas Blynas restaurant

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

Day #2 – Thursday 18 Nov

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

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

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

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

Day #3 – Friday 19 Nov

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

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

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

Further tree planting with Reda taking the lead.

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

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

Launching the trail!

And some further shots from the local area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Departure Day – Saturday 20 Nov

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

Tono and Cristina from Corella

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

In Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Our group in the (old) Lithuanian Parliament

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

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

Damien Ó Tuama
06.12.2021 

Cycling is my Superpower – Polish Embassy in Ireland Initiative

Cyclist.ie is delighted to spread the word about the fabulous Cycling is my Superpower initiative being promoted by the Polish Embassy in Ireland.

We have always maintained in Cyclist.ie that cycling gives us extra powers, so it is great to have that endorsed by the Polish Embassy.

Check out the information below, including details of how to win a bicycle of your dreams!  

ATTENTION ALL CHILDREN age 6-10 living in Ireland!!

Celebrate Children’s Day (June 1st) and World Bicycle Day (June 3rd) with us and take part in an art competition CYCLING IS MY SUPERPOWER!

The main prize is a bicycle of your dreams!
Watch this video to find out more:

We are calling on all children aged from 6 to 10 to take part in an art competition: Cycling is My Superpower! The main prize is a bicycle!

If you live in Ireland and attend Senior Infants, 1st, 2nd or 3rd class and you like both cycling and art, then this competition is for you!

Create your own artwork related to the theme Cycling is My Superpower!

It could be any type of drawing/painting in A4 size – done in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, crayon, markers, pastel, watercolour, gouache, acrylics, oils, poster colour or collage.

What’s important is that you do the work yourself and that this is your original idea.

Don’t forget to sign your name at the back of your artwork. Also, ask your parents / guardians to fill out an entry form for you.

Send both the artwork and the entry form by post before Monday, 21 June to the following address:

Polish Embassy in Dublin
5 Ailesbury Rd,
Ballsbridge,
D04 W221

At the Embassy, we will select the 30 best works and upload them online for a popular vote on Embassy’s Facebook page. The winner will be announced on June 30th!

More info on the competition, Entry Form and Competition Rules are available at:

Website: www.gov.pl/ireland/cyclingismysuperpower
Facebook: https://fb.watch/5RKvoSlvyG/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PLinIreland/status/1399648785056387072?s=20

Have a great CHILDREN’S DAY!!!

SIXTH UN Global Road Safety Week – Love 30, Streets for Life – 17 to 23 May 2021

Why Ireland Needs 30km/h Urban Speed Limits

What difference does 30km/h make?

At 60km/h one in ten pedestrians survive collisions between car and pedestrians, while at 30km/h nine in ten pedestrians survive – see graphic below.  For the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week , The UN is calling on policymakers to act for low speed streets worldwide, limiting speeds to 30 km/h where people walk, live and play.  This call echoes the 2020 Stockholm Declaration where Ireland was one of the co signatories pledging 30km/h urban speed limits.

We need to make this happen!

A 30km/h speed limit introduces calmer, safer roads and shorter braking distance. It gives the driver a better view of their surroundings and makes it easier for them to see any pedestrians crossing the road, cyclists and other vehicles and allows more time for drivers to react to the unexpected.

For 2021, the theme of the week is ‘Streets for life’ and this has never been more important as people spend more time in their own localities. 30km/h makes our cities, towns and villages safer places to live.  It allows children and those with limited mobility to move more freely and it creates vibrant people-friendly spaces.

Road traffic injuries rank among the top four causes of death for all children after infancy.  Crashes on the roads account for one third of all injury deaths across all age groups – pre-schoolers, older children or teenagers.

There was 6% increase in the number of people who died on Irish roads in 2020 as against 2019, despite a reduction in overall traffic volumes.  A total of 149 people died on Irish roads in 2020 – compared to 140 in 2019. This included 10 people on bikes.  

However, overall the measures taken to reduce road trauma are working: between 2013 and 2019, Ireland saw a 26% reduction in road traffic fatalities, compared to just a 6% reduction across the whole of the EU-27.  We had the two safest years on record for road fatalities in 2018 and 2019, and slowing down will ensure that this overall long-term downward trend in collisions and fatalities will continue. 

Many cities and urban areas worldwide have introduced widespread 30 km/h limits. Several countries are introducing default 30 km/h speed limits in all urban areas including The Netherlands, Spain, and Wales (20 m/h). Some locations have speed limits as low as 10 km/h. Love 30 and Cyclist.ie believe that Ireland, as a signatory of the Stockholm Declaration, must follow this best international practice and legislate for a default 30 km/h limit in all built-up areas.

Ends

For further information, contact:

Mairéad Forsythe: 086-8337577
Caitríona Corr: 083-0238790

https://www.love30.ie/

VELO-CITY COMES TO DUBLIN

Dublin City Council is hosting the Velo-City 2019 international cycling conference in Dublin from the 25th – 28th June 2019 in the Convention Centre Dublin. The Velo-City conference is the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) annual global cycling summit, and Dublin is proud to be hosing the conference this year. It is the world’s largest conference dedicated to cycling, cycling infrastructure, bicycle innovations, bicycle safety, and the social and cultural changes driven by cycling on a global scale. Delegates attending the conference will be involved in the areas of delivering safe cycling facilities, technology, health, behavioural change, urban and infrastructure policies and mobility. 

Approximately 1500 delegates are scheduled to attend the event over the three-day period, providing a significant boost to the local economy.  The conference title is ‘Cycling for the Ages’ and will explore visions for the cycling city of the future and how we get there from the cycling city of today; how can we support and design to ensure measures taken are inclusive for all ages, gender, abilities and nationalities. 

“I’m very happy to lend my support to this important international conference. It’s an exciting event and it’s great to that Dublin City Council are hosting it. Encouraging and supporting people to walk and cycle is crucial to help meet our climate action challenge, tackling congestion and making our cities more liveable places. That’s why this Government is increasing the funding available to support the development of safe cycling infrastructure across the country both in urban areas, like Dublin city, and rural areas, through our new Greenways Strategy”, said Shane Ross TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

“This increased investment is supporting the delivery of a number of major projects in Dublin this year and over the coming years as the National Transport Authority continues to implement the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan, including the delivery of 200km of cycling infrastructure as part of the BusConnects programme,” he said.

One of the key social activities that Dublin City Council has organised for the delegates is a Bike Parade, which will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday the 26th of June. Delegates will travel along the Sutton to Sandycove (S2S) cycle route – one of Dublin City Council’s and the National Transport Authority’s flagship cycling projects, towards St. Anne’s Park. Joining them in the cycle parade will be a host of community groups, school children and cycling enthusiasts along the UNESCO designated Biosphere, a location that is one of the most highly designated and ecologically sensitive sites in the world.  ​ Upon arriving at the Park, there will be free family entertainment for all as well as a farmers’ market with foods such as artisan cheeses and preserves, organic meat, fresh baked bread, cakes and treats.

“We are delighted to host Velo-city 2019 and look forward to interesting and informative discussions from leaders in the cycling world”, said Owen Keegan, Chief Executive, Dublin City Council. “As part of our ongoing commitment to sustainable transport and delivering on our commitments to combating climate change, construction contracts will be awarded on three major cycleway projects in the city centre this year; the Clontarf to City Centre Cycleway, the Fitzwilliam Street Cycleway and the Royal Canal Way project; while design work is ongoing on the Dodder Greenway, Clonskeagh to City Centre, and the remaining sections of the Sutton to Sandycove Route (S2S). With the Liffey cycle route now out for public consultation all of these projects represent an important and exciting future for the city.”

“As a Smart City, we also constantly explore how technology can help increase cycling levels and we have worked in partnership with several companies and organisations trialling unique and smart solutions to promote and encourage cycling,” he said.

To coincide with Velo-city, Dublin City Council in partnership with Cycle Industries Europe and the European Cycling Federation, has announced the ‘Smart Pedal Pitch’, a search for the most innovative cycle tech solutions. Winning entries will get the chance to pitch to a global cycle audience as well as a panel of international judges from the tech and cycling world.

Over the course of the Velo-city Conference, sessions will focus on a broad range of engaging topics including; “Cycling & Climate Change – the opportunity”, “Cycling Road Space Design – to Share or Segregate”, Explaining and convincing for a better cycling city”. Keynote speakers at the Conference include; Owen Keegan, Chief Executive Dublin City Council, Anne Graham, CEO National Transport Authority, Philippe Crist, Advisor for Innovation and Foresight for the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), former professional cyclist, Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s first ever Cycling and Walking Commissioner,  Lucy Saunders, public health specialist, urbanist and transport planner, creator of healthy Streets approach, Klaus Bondam, CEO of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation since 2014 and Amanda Ngabirano is an urban and regional planner, lecturing at Makerere University in Kampala and Vice President of the World Cycling Alliance in Africa. Conference Details