Category Archives: Irish Posts

Ireland, see also NI

navan cycling initiative – a brand new campaign group!

Navan Cycling Initiative is a brand new cycle campaigning group that came into being just in the last few weeks. Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie, caught up with the group’s founder, Kevin Corrigan, to pick his brain about the cycling issues in Navan and the new group’s aims.

So, Kevin, tell us why you have founded a new campaigning group in Navan – and how did you come to hear about Cyclist.ie?

Good afternoon Damien. Well, having always cycled around my hometown, wherever that was, I was very disappointed when I moved to Navan two years ago. There is scant cycling infrastructure in the town, and what is there, is disjointed and in places dangerous. Up to now, I had sent occasional exasperated emails to the local authority but having seen the appetite that people have in Navan for cycling since the Covid-19 restrictions, I felt a more structured and sustained approach was needed to ensure our town’s love for the bicycle endured.

It was during this period that I discovered Cyclist.ie while listening to a webinar for a documentary called Motherload about the cargo bike movement [broadcast as part of the recent 2020 Clonakilty Bicycle Festival]. Your organisation has been extremely helpful to date, offering amazing guidance and support which is much appreciated.

Have you cycled in other countries or cities which have inspired you?   

I often joke that I cycled in Bangkok for three years and felt safer on the roads there than I do in Navan! On my way to work, I would cross junctions with literally hundreds of motorbikes stopped at the red lights. Turn green and it was mayhem, or so I initially thought. However, it was organised chaos. Cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists moved in harmony and were respectful of each other, unlike my experience to date in Navan. Of course, most drivers respect the shared spaces that are sadly busy roads in Navan, but between a combination of a drastic lack of infrastructure, and an impatience from some very time pressed locals, cycling in the town is by and large not a safe, convenient or fun experience so far.

Aside from jostling with motorbikes and Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, I was a utility cyclist in Dublin, Cardiff, Lausanne, Portland as well as having cycle-toured in Thailand, Tasmania, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. I travelled on everything from world class cycling segregated bike corridors to dirt paths, from traffic-choked multi-lane roads to deserted country lanes. All these experiences have brought me to firmly believe in the bicycle as an extremely fulfilling way to get around, create stories and adventure-filled memories all the while igniting that child-like sense of freedom

Kevin and his little girl Iris out and about by bike in Navan!

What are the main issues people wishing to cycle in and around Navan might encounter or experience?

As mentioned above, there is a serious lack of continuity in Navan’s cycle infrastructure. Areas that have been recently developed or roads that were newly built or upgraded, have for the most part cycle lanes, some segregated. The problem is that when you leave these islands of safety and comfort, you are on your own, often arriving at busy junctions with no cycling provision whatsoever, and the need to join a lane with heavy flowing traffic and very often no hard shoulder. Even when there is a hard shoulder, these are often full of debris and tree cuttings, so punctures are not uncommon.

Cycling on footpaths is commonplace and understandable, given the choice cyclists are faced with. This inevitably leads to unsafe footpaths and negatively impacts cyclists’ reputations. Like a lot of regional towns in Ireland, Navan’s transport infrastructure has been devoted to the private car for decades.  There are glimmers of hope in some of the development plans and a huge sense of optimism for the future given this government’s commitment to the development of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. 

Are there particular ideas or proposals you have to make Navan much more cycle friendly, both for utility trips and recreational / leisure cycling (and with children) and perhaps linking with other towns in County Meath? 

The vast majority of Navan residents (26,000 estimated) live within 10 minute cycle from the town centre. There are over 7,000 school students within the town boundaries. While some travel from outside the town, most do not, and numbers cycling are extremely low.

We are calling for segregated lanes on all major approach roads to the town, as well as safer, cycling-adapted junctions, so as to facilitate the movement of people for both utility and recreational cycling. While waiting for these capital projects, we would like to see interim measures, such as wand-protected bike lanes and the temporary redesign of major junctions to include road markings and signage. Bike parking needs to be extended to all major retail outlets, public buildings, key bus stops and schools.

Meath County Council states in its Navan 2030 plan that “it is essential that a more sustainable model is applied to movement within the town, therefore a focus on the local bus service, walking and cycling networks will be a key grounding objective of this plan” We would encourage them to deliver this sustainable model for the people of Navan.

In terms of linking to nearby towns, there are several greenway projects planned, both proposed and potential, which could eventually see Navan at the centre of a network linking Trim, Kells, Dunshaughlin, Slane, Drogheda and Kingscourt. These would have to be supported by the in-town measures above to enable locals and visitors to move safely to and from these amenities. 

Kevin, his wife Miriam and daughter Iris out on further biking adventures in Navan!

And what about linking cycling and public transport in Navan, perhaps aimed at those commuting from the town? Is this currently catered for? And how is the cycle parking around the town? 

Navan has some bike parking, although there is a demand for more. Sadly in a recent upgrade of a busy street and ongoing upgrades, there is no bike parking included so the lack of commitment is failing cyclists in that respect.

In terms of commuting from the town, Navan has a huge population of commuters to Dublin and the greater Dublin area. While there is a frequent bus service, it is currently not fit for purpose as journey times are extremely slow relative to the distance, and most people choose to drive or park-and-ride at the M3 Parkway near Dunboyne. There is very little bike parking at key bus stops and if it is there, it would not be considered secure enough for bikes to be left all day. With improved infrastructure elsewhere which would encourage more people to take to their bikes, secured bike parking could help alleviate traffic around key bus stops. It would be great to see a provision on buses for bicycles, I remember in Switzerland and Germany it was common to put your bike on the front of regional buses.

Ultimately though, the best way to tackle Navan and Meath’s commuting chaos will be with the reinstatement of the rail line that has been in the shadows for years. With no end in sight to the development of housing in Navan, people in the town were disappointed to see this key piece of infrastructure omitted from the recent Programme for Government.

Do you have other thoughts you want to share with us about creating cycle friendly towns and routes? 

I would really like to see this current government’s commitment to their stated annual spend of €360 million on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. In a country that has grappled with and met resistance to the implementation of a fit-for-purpose network, this seems like it could be the huge propulsion forward, if properly managed. Add to the fact that the actual cost to us as a society is greatly offset by the benefits of cycling and walking, this could be a game-changer.

Ultimately, the appetite for change and the will to bring it about comes from the people. This hunger is palpable in Ireland right now; the promise of improved infrastructure was the starter, but I think we’re ready for the main course now. 

Cyclist.ie wishes Kevin the very best in growing the new local cycle campaigning group and making waves in Navan!

For more information, check out Navan Cycling Initiative – Home.

If you are wondering how to start up a new cycle campaign group in your town or area, please Contact the National Cycling Coordinator and we will be happy to exchange ideas.

Electric-bike student survey

Áine Quill, an MSc level digital marketing student, is currently working with an electric bike start-up in Dublin for her dissertation / company project. She has contacted us looking for us to disseminate her survey on e-bikes and we are very happy to do so.  

Her project aims to:
1. Gain a greater understanding of knowledge, conceptions and attitudes towards e-bikes in Ireland, and
2. Gauge the potential for success of e-bike corporate leasing among Irish workforce.

She would appreciate it greatly if you could complete the survey and spread the word to others who might also be interested.

The survey can be found here: https://tcdbusiness.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cVeFWUv88cf4bCR

The deadline for completing it is Wednesday 1st July 2020.

Thank you!



Cycling Festival Fun in Lockdown Times

People across the country have been (re)discovering the joys of cycling over the last few months. And with the promise of increased funding for cycling it feels like the start of a real cycling revolution.

Cyclists have a lot to celebrate right now. What better way to do it then by taking part in this year’s “Leitrim Cycling Festival 2020(or wherever you are). This is not another online event. This is happening in your home, your county, this weekend. It’s a very simple idea – we can’t all be together so why not have our own mini cycling festivals wherever we are, while following the safety guidelines.

The Leitrim Cycling Festival is a celebration of bicycles, communities and Leitrim. But you don’t even need a bicycle to take part. The festival programme always includes lots of family friendly activities like picnicking, art making, dancing, eating cake. This year’s festival is no different. The Leitrim Cycling Festival team have put together a simple programme of events for the weekend of the 20th and 21st June 2020 which includes a picnic in your garden or local park, a slow bicycle race, a ceili in your kitchen, more cake and of course some bike rides. You can join in with their ideas or come up with your own.

Although this year we may not all be able to enjoy the beauty of Leitrim, we can all celebrate the wonders of cycling and communities. Communities have never been so important so even if you have not joined the cycling revolution, why not join in with some of the other events? Why not just eat cake! And although the festival is not online the team are encouraging everyone to post pictures and videos so that we can all join in with each other’s mini festivals, wherever you have them.

For more info find them on Facebook @LeitrimCyclingFestival on Twitter @CyclingLeitrim or go to www.leitrimcyclingfestival.com .

Check out the full programme on Saturday June 20th & Sunday June 21st.


Jo Sachs-Eldridge, Leitrim Cycling Festival – 085-8161653

Cyclist.ie Welcomes the Initial Figures on Cycling Investment Emerging from the Government Formation Talks

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, has been calling for a revolution in the funding of cycling and walking for many years. We are seeking a 10% allocation for cycling from our government’s transport budgets.

We are delighted to see that the initial figures emerging from the government formation talks appear to have recognised this urgent need to invest in ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling) by allocating €360 million per annum towards cycling and walking schemes [1]. Cyclist.ie welcomes this commitment.

Cyclist.ie has consistently highlighted the multiple benefits of investing in cycling – across economic, societal and environmental headings. On the public health side, regular cycling for everyday journeys builds exercise into our busy lives and it can be easier to maintain compared to recreational physical activity. Economically, each kilometre driven by a car incurs an external cost of €0.11, whereas cycling and walking bring benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometre, respectively (see New study reveals the social benefits of cycling and walking in the EU). On the emissions reduction front and responding to the Paris Climate Agreement, cycling and walking are an essential part of the solution in decarbonising our mobility system and hence are a critical part of the overall transport mix. This has been recognised in many progressive countries in North West Europe since the mid 1970s. 

It is estimated that spending on cycling currently amounts to less than 2% of transport capital spending, as shown in Cyclist.ie’s 2020 Budget submission. Meanwhile the Third Report and Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action [https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/32/joint_committee_on_climate_action/reports/2019/2019-03-28_report-climate-change-a-cross-party-consensus-for-action_en.pdf] and the 2019 Climate Action Plan all endorsed the spending of 10% of the transport budget on cycling.

Our expectations are that this funding will be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure in our towns and cities so that we can grow cycling to levels common in many continental countries. We also urgently need to redress the gender balance in cycling (currently only 27% of all persons commuting are female, as per Census 2016 data). As Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie summed it up, “we need to renormalise cycling to the shops, to school, to work and for other daily activities”. 

Cyclist.ie looks forward to examining the full published Programme for Government and a more detailed media release will follow.

Contacts

Martina Callanan, Spokesperson, Cyclist.ie and Galway Cycling Campaign – 086 3123713

Gerry Dornan, Vice-Chair, Cyclist.ie – 0868252934

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie and An Taisce – 0872840799


[1} https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/new-government-document-sees-changes-in-environmental-transport-policies-1.4278782?localLinksEnabled=false

Photo by Dr. Paul Corcoran, Dublin Cycling Campaign

Wee Greenway Initiative – construction on the horizon for first stretch of greenway

Donegal County Council is set to issue a tender in June for construction of the first phase of the greenway. The 2.7km section through the town of Muff will create a segregated route to allow cyclists and walkers to move through the village, separate from existing vehicular traffic. 

This development comes hot on the heels of Derry City & Strabane District Council submitting a planning application for a new cycling and walking bridge to cross the Penny ‘burn’, located on the shore of River Foyle in Derry city. This forms part of the overall section linking Derry to Muff. The Council in Derry is confident that planning for the 8km section linking the city to the outskirts of Muff will come before its Planning Committee in October.

Donegal County Council has also begun preparatory work on the planning application for the Buncrana-Derry section of the greenway. It is planned that this 29km route will come before An Bord Pleanála some time during Q1, 2021, with the northern section being submitted for planning next month. At present the team tasked with delivering the project is now engaged with landowners regarding accommodation works as part of the construction phase.

Through its Council sources, the Wee Greenway Initiative is also confident that Donegal County Council is seeking financial assistance to begin the planning of the sections linking Buncrana to Carndonagh (32kms) and Muff to Quigley’s Point (8kms). These sections are vital to the overall project and if the Council progresses them, it will be a mark a massive boost for cyclists  and walkers alike in the region. 

For more information, see North West Greenway Network

Latest 2020 Road Traffic Collision Data Shows New Road Safety Strategy and Funding Are Urgently Required

Cyclist.ie ,the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, welcomes the recent Garda Siochána and Road Safety Authority road safety appeal in advance of this June Bank Holiday weekend. However  Cyclist.ie is strongly of the view that the publication of Ireland’s new road safety strategy must be brought forward.

Just as for Slow Down Day one week ago The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána renewed their appeal for road users to take extra care on the roads this weekend. Shocking provisional collision figures for 2020 show that there has been a 17% increase in the number of fatal crashes and a 9% increase in road deaths compared to the same period last year.  Pedestrian deaths have doubled to 18 compared to  9 in 2019. The number of collisions is particularly disappointing at a time when Covid 19 restrictions meant that traffic levels  have been greatly reduced.

Cyclist.ie Chair, Colm Ryder stated that the effectiveness of all elements of the current road safety strategy needs to be examined.  Mr Ryder said, “ It almost beggars belief that at a time when people are working from home, businesses are closed, and traffic levels have been significantly reduced, that fatalities have actually increased” 

Mr Ryder suggested that the  new upcoming Road Safety Strategy must adopt the Swedish Vision Zero/Safe Systems approach. The Swedish Safe Systems Approach states that “human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system”

However, a strategy is of no value without the means to enforce it and Mr Ryder stated that the new government must provide the Garda with sufficient resources for roads policing.   “While we acknowledge the work of the Garda in enforcing road traffic law, collision and fatality statistics are a clear indication that current levels of enforcement are insufficient”. The desired operational strength of the Garda Road Policing Unit is 1200 but at the start of 2020 the number of garda deployed was just over 700. 

While we await a new strategy and enhanced budget we can still act to reduce speeding on our roads. Mairéad Forsythe of Love30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits stated that  government and local authorities need to step-up.  “Once again, we appeal to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do the right thing and introduce a default 30km/h in all urban areas, and in areas where people walking and cycling are sharing space with cars, buses, trucks and HGVs.”

HOW THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRAIL GREENWAY MORPHED INTO A “WORKING FARMYARD” AT COOLYBROWN, ARDAGH, CO LIMERICK

Liam O’Mahony from the Great Southern Trail Greenway has sent us the following update explaining how the GST Greenway has morphed from a greenway to a ‘working farmyard’ at Coolybrown, Ardagh, County Limerick – and how this is at odds with maintaining the integrity of the publicly owned route.

The directors of the Great Southern Trail Ltd. (GST) have discussed the recent announcement by Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) of a €5 million upgrade for the Greenway and wish to draw public attention to the history of the “Coolybrown working farm” element of the otherwise broadly welcome proposals:

This story begins in 2003 with a successful planning application for a 180 square metre slatted unit to be constructed in a Coolybrown farm to the south of the railway. The application was revised in 2006 to double the size of the unit and this was also approved. 

In the interim the adjacent old Limerick to Tralee railway corridor had its right of way protected by the Mid-West Regional Authority for recreational and environmental pursuits in 2004.

Therefore, in 2007, when another incarnation of the yet unbuilt slatted unit manifested itself in planning application (07/1592) Limerick County Council, referencing the Regional Authority guidelines, wrote to the applicant on 20 July that it was “not favourly disposed” to the application and advised that it should be relocated to the northern side of the railway where the bulk of the farmlands and buildings were located. The Council requested further information. Surprisingly, having received no new information or proposals (only a regurgitation of the previous 2003 and 2006 files (received on 30 July), the Council approved the application on the following day, 31 July 2007.

These events all pre-dated the 2010 development of the Rathkeale-Ardagh section of the Greenway; all of which works were  undertaken by the GST. It was only then that it came to light that the plans approved three years earlier for (07/1592) had not been complied with. The slatted unit was now several metres closer to the railway than the planning permission permitted. In fact the cattle were being fed on the CIÉ railway property.

It was most surprising to the GST that Limerick County Council hadn’t apparently checked over the intervening three years to see that the structure had been built in accordance with the planning permission. The unauthorised slatted unit also received grant-aid from public funds; a matter which again merits investigation.

With the opening of the Rathkeale-Ardagh section by the GST the regulation of the situation in Coolybrown was an imperative. The landowner applied for retention under new conditions. It was to be hoped that the decision on this application (12/222) would bring closure to the saga and satisfy all the parties. The permission was granted but conformity with the conditions by the applicant and enforcement of them by the Council has unfortunately been less than satisfactory. 

That’s the story of the southside of the railway and now we proceed to the northside. CIÉ, being the owners of the railway route, have compounded the “working farm” scenario. They chose to split the railway corridor in half over a length of several hundred metres on the northside of the track in the Rathkeale direction. This was to facilitate the same landowner with direct and easy access to some external lands that he was renting. This more than generous decision of CIÉ in the early months of 2011 was as a result of representations made by a third party (whose name is known to the GST) directly to the then Chairman of CIÉ, Dr. John Lynch (recently deceased).

The overall result of the CIÉ and LCCC indulgence is that non local users of the Greenway when encountering a narrowing of the railway route and its less than attractive appearance, to their left and to their right, actually believe that they are in a farmyard.

To compound all of the above the  LCCC current plan to use public funds and to detour away from the railway for a length of 800 metres is the final capitulation. It is also a recipe for similar demands on sections yet to be developed.

During the GST twenty-five years of campaigning, developing and managing the Greenway we never entertained requests to deviate from the railway corridor. We viewed it as land held in trust by CIÉ for the people of Ireland.

Our hope now is that wiser council will prevail with this ill-advised current proposal being further investigated and resolved in the public interest.

The GST Greenway has the capacity to be a world class facility and of major benefit to locals and visitors alike. The integrity of the entire way without any proposed private diversion is a key element of the facility now and for future generations.

Slow Down Every Day, not just One Day

The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, Cyclist.ie, welcomes the enforcement by An Garda Síochána of a 24-hour National Slow Down Day on 22nd – 23rd May 2020.

Yet unlike Christmas Day, Slow Down Day should be every day. 

An Garda Síochána say that more road deaths have been recorded so far this year compared to last year (56 deaths up 5). This is appalling in a time of historic low traffic volumes due to the Covid-19 ‘Stay At Home’ restrictions.

Mairéad Forsythe of Love30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits said: “It is very simple. If you are out for a walk to the shop and a person driving at 60km/h hits you, there’s a 90% chance your family will be gathering for a socially-distant funeral. If you are walking to the local café and are hit by a car travelling at 30km/h, there’s a 90% chance you will survive and be able to return to your favourite coffee shop one day. Once again, we appeal to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do the right thing and lower speed limits to 30km/h in areas where people walking and cycling are sharing space with cars, buses, trucks and HGVs.”

Colm Ryder, Chair of Cyclist.ie added: “Responsible driving is critical at all times, and is particularly needed in these days of Covid-19. The two metre social distancing requirement frequently forces people nationwide to step off narrow paths out onto carriageways to avoid contact with other people walking. People cycling have to give two metres social distance to people walking too. This means people cycling must move into the primary position in the middle of the lane, which is difficult when motor vehicles are moving at speed. People should not have to choose between risk of death by road traffic collision or risk of contracting a deadly viral infection.”

Gerry Dornan, chair of Maynooth Cycling Campaign and Vice-Chair of Cyclist.ie, continued: “to assess the value of enforcement on Slow Down Day, we need statistics on the number of key indicators – fatalities, serious and minor accidents. We also need to know the number of checkpoints and how long they are in operation, and afterwards we want to know how many people driving were prosecuted. This needs to be more than a day of education.”

Joan Swift of the Sligo Cycling Campaign concluded: “We expect people driving to be educated about The Rules of the Road. And we expect An Garda Síochána to protect people walking and cycling by enforcing our road and public safety laws. We now expect our Government to fund changes to road design. Engineering out speed is vital to enable people driving to comply with speed limits. We need segregated and protected cycle ways and paths away from main roads

International Learning from Covid? – There are Positives!

Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about science.  In any language he would be classed as an ‘expert’!  In these days of lockdowns and restrictions we are continually asked to ‘listen to the experts’.  So what does Albert say about cycling and life.  He says: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’Sound advice wouldn’t you say!

Well, it is good to know that the role of cycling in our lives is gaining greater recognition, with the spread of the Covid virus!  Cities and governments are realising that a new reality needs to be recognised and ideally put in place.  Cities like Paris are forging ahead with ambitious plans to change the way citizens and commuters move about, encouraging people to ‘get on their bikes’!

The World Economic Forum is an international body based in Geneva which has recently highlighted the French government proposals to promote cycling and walking post COVID, as well as proposals from other cities around the world.  Check out the short video on this link,  and then delve into the associated written posts  for some great ideas that could inspire you to get active in changing our environment here in Ireland, and getting your town or city to recognise the need for radical change to how we move about.

Cycling is, and will continue to be, a critical part of moving to a new post Covid reality.  As Cyclist.ie has argued in multiple submissions to government, the role that cycling can play in:

  • Reducing the level of greenhouse gases
  • Improving the general and psychological health of people
  • Reducing congestion levels
  • Improving the design of public realm
  • Providing a real economic return on public investment must be taken on board by the any new government, and in turn by Local Authorities across the country

It’s time for all of us to build support for new green initiatives that help to grow cycling levels.

It’s time for all of us, as cycling advocates, to push for the necessary changes by lobbying our public representatives and local authorities.

It’s Time to Make a Difference!   Get On Yer Bike and Get Active!