Tag Archives: COVID-19

Anything related to the Covid-19 virus

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!


During the quarantine, cycling has proven to be the safest, most efficient mode of transport we have. It cuts air pollution, which is likely to help spread the virus, and guarantees social distancing between commuters. In order to ensure a fast recovery, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) issued a set of recommendations for European, national and local authorities to promote cycling.

“This is not just a matter of sustainable mobility any more: more and better cycling has become a primary health issue. And if we want to reap the benefits bicycles can provide, we must ensure the measures we are taking will stay in the future. This is our opportunity to redesign cities for good, we can’t waste it with temporary solutions” declared Morten Kabell, co-CEO of ECF.

Cars have almost disappeared from the streets of Europe, bringing noise and air pollution levels down to historic lows. On the other hand, bicycles have emerged as the best option to do essential trips, deliver food and medicines, and get physically active. Never before have we been able to see, in such a clear way, the impact of our current mobility model on health, the environment, equality and safety. And never has such a great share of the population realised that private motorised mobility is far from the ideal commute.

Yet, the prospect of another traffic jam clogging our cities and polluting our air is not difficult to imagine. With public transport operating at reduced capacity, the only truly viable alternative we have to relaunch our economy and society is active mobility. Cycling is the hyper-efficient, quick and cheap option that will enable a boost recovery for Europe, instead of a slow and clumsy one.

“We have put together a set of recommendations for new streets that will unlock the full potential of cycling mobility. These solutions will enable extensive benefits in terms of traffic efficiency, a local economy reboot, public health savings. We call on all municipalities, regions and national governments to adapt these principles to their local context and give Europe a head start in the recovery phase”, said Jill Warren, co-CEO of ECF.

1. Cycling infrastructure networks

A well-designed network of bicycle infrastructure is essential to the promotion of cycling as a safe, efficient and healthy mode of transport. A comprehensive network of so called “COVID lanes” will immediately facilitate cycling access in cities. Following the example of Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Rome, among many others, a total target of 95,000 kilometres of roads should be repurposed for cycling. The deployment of various elements of street furniture can help ensure that the segregation of modes is respected by all users.

To further improve the efficiency of the investment, these elements should then be reconciled and integrated in the permanent urban infrastructure.

2. Reduce traffic speed limits

Road safety experts agree that speed is one of the major threats to safer streets. Reducing traffic speed in cities to 30km/h (if not lower) is the first step to achieve that goal and would not make overall mobility any slower. The City of Brussels took an exemplary measure, reducing speed limits to 20 km/hour in all streets inside the inner ring road.

3. Incentivise positive change, dis-incentivise business as usual

Together with Cycling Industries Europe and several other bicycle organisations in Europe, we are calling on the European institutions to create a €5 billion centralised EU e-bike Access Fund. Establishing a set of subsidies scheme for the purchase of (e-)(cargo)bikes can go a long way in nudging people in the right direction.

On the other hand, we need to reduce the over €100 billion congestion costs in European cities (more than 1% of the EU GDP per year). Looking for a solution, ECF studied the implementation of congestion charges in 4 cities over many years: Milan, London, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The ECF report “Congestion charges and cycling” proves the success of investing revenues from congestion charges into a sustainable mobility plan, and particularly cycling. With different approaches, the 4 cities achieved similar, positive results: introducing a congestion charge scheme created net revenues, reduced congestion, improved air quality and was beneficial for sustainable mobility.

4. Cycle logistics

Right-turning (left in Ireland & the UK) trucks in urban areas are one of the leading causes of deadly and life-changing accidents with cyclists. Also, over 90% of all commercial vans and trucks currently circulating are diesel-fuelled. The promotion of alternatives such as cycle logistics for the last-mile delivery is essential. The Horizon2020 EU-funded project City Changer Cargo Bike has already collected a number of valuable resources to guide cities and businesses in the process of converting their urban logistics into a more efficient, cleaner and infinitely safer system.

At a national and European level, stricter safety and visibility standards for lorry manufacturers must be imposed. While the revised General Safety Regulation already represents a great leap in cycling safety, the EU must firmly lead the negotiations at the UN to define the exact technical specifications for each of the measures.

Coronavirus: Change Our Streets, make Safer Streets for all

The Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie call on the national government to provide safe, usable space across the country for people to shop, exercise and commute by walking and cycling during the Covid-19 crisis. 

While current lock-down restrictions are in place until May 5, 2020, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has stated that social distancing measures may stay in place to some degree until a coronavirus vaccine has been found. 

A substantial percentage of Irish people shop on foot or by cycling, and physical exercise is vitally important to both physical and mental health. 

The Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie propose that while motor traffic is reduced, space on streets must be reallocated to walking, running, cycling and playing to ensure safe social distancing within communities – a reallocation that is already taking place internationally. 

Speaking for the Irish Pedestrian Network Ailish Drake says, “The New Zealand government has empowered local communities to create more social distancing space by providing 90% funding for new footpaths and widen existing ones, and to create pop-up bike lanes. These measures can be put in place in a matter of hours or a few days using paint, blocks or planters.” 

Damien O Tuama, spokesperson for Cyclist.ie the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, says, “Over sixty towns and cities worldwide, in recognition of this new reality, have quickly installed low-cost temporary measures by using cones to widen footpaths and repurposing full vehicle lanes to cycle lanes. Dublin has now joined Berlin, Washington DC and London in reallocating road space to ensure safer social distancing is possible. We want other councils to do the same.” 

The Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie welcome efforts by many local Councillors and TDs in seeking additional space for social distancing across Irish cities and in particular the progress made in Dublin where Dublin City Council will begin implementing emergency distancing measures from Monday 20th April. 

  1. IPN and Cyclist.ie now call on the government to implement a nationwide programme
  2. Automate pedestrian crossings so people do not have to manually press signal buttons
  3. Introduce a default speed limit of 30km/h on all urban and suburban streets
  4. Reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists, to make walking and cycling safer for people who are exercising within their 2 km from home zone, especially those with prams or wheelchairs
  5. Enable local authorities to prioritise temporary measures such as widening of footpaths, pop-up cycle lanes, quietways in cities and/or closing road lanes and specific streets to motor traffic, by the temporary application of DMURS standards to existing streets
  6. New spaces to be allocated fairly and with consideration of universal needs across city centre, suburbs, towns and villages to avoid people ‘flocking’ to centralised areas
  7. Dedicated teams in each local authority to enable local residents and interested groups to plan and design temporary footpaths and cycle lanes in their locality
  8. Rapid implementation of said routes with a design strategy to clearly indicate new routes to users and motorists

Orla Burke, spokesperson for Pedestrian Cork explains, “Families in Cork, denied the opportunity to drive to their favourite walking spots, are coming face-to-face with the poor provision for walking in their immediate neighbourhoods. Quick wins are available to our councils but this requires thoughtful leadership. This could be a time for simple yet effective improvements to facilitate walking. We call on our local authorities to rise to the challenge of Covid-19 make our streets safe for all.” 

Anne Cronin of Cycle Bus Limerick says, “For children that live in the city or suburbs, jumping on their bike with a parent, is their only way to connect with a space outside of their home. Many children are forced to cycle on the road as opposed to the footpath and therefore are at risk without segregation. The increase in the numbers of children cycling in our city is remarkable at the moment and children should be protected and supported to remain doing so.” 

Ailish Drake adds, “These temporary actions in response to the Covid-19 emergency, would be strategic in creating a positive culture change to make our towns and cities more liveable and contributing to a much needed boost in footfall required to aid the economic recovery when we move beyond the current crisis. This is in line with current government policy for both urban and rural regeneration development funds (URDF & RRDF).”  

Post-Covid 19 – The Politics of Space: Walking and Cycling

Covid-19 has resulted in illness, bereavement, anxiety, unemployment and economic hardship. Naturally, everyone is focused on getting through and flattening the curve, but there is talk too about how our society will have changed when it is all over.

Authorities worldwide have responded to the marked reduction in motor traffic and the relative increase in the numbers walking and cycling by re-purposing space for active travel.  We outline in this article some of the measures taken worldwide and ask can they be made permanent?

In Europe, the Americas and Australia authorities in charge of transport have taken various initiatives to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive. Philip Oltermann, Berlin bureau chief for The Guardian, reports that authorities in the German capital have widened a bike lane by incorporating some of the carriageway space for general motorised traffic

In New York, Mayor de Blasio has installed emergency bike lanes to ensure the safety of the increased numbers of people who are cycling in order to maintain physical distancing. This measure is especially beneficial for the many health workers who are cycling

In an article for City Lab titled, “In a Global Health Emergency the Bicycle Shines”, journalist and cycling advocate, Laura Laker, describes the various initiatives underway to prioritise and safeguard people cycling.  Bogota in Columbia, for example, is installing tens of kilometres of emergency cycleways.

In London, the public Santander bike-share scheme operated by Transport for London (TfL) is being made available free of charge to NHS staff and other bike companies including Buzzbike, Brompton Bicycle Ltd and Beryl Bikes have also come on board.

In Sydney’s Central Business District of Sydney, in Calgary in Canada, and in Auckland in New Zealand, pedestrian signal buttons have been automated thus avoiding the necessity of touching possibly (or even likely) contaminated surfaces. Brussels has adapted more than 100 traffic lights to favour cyclists and reduced pedestrian waiting times by between 20 and 40 seconds (@dimitristrobbe). In Monchengladbach, Germany, the local ADFC cycling campaign (the German equivalent of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network) has persuaded the authorities to convert two lanes of Bismarkstrasse to cycling.

So, what about positive initiatives here at home? Yes, there have been some, but first a negative. While empty streets have meant that people have been obeying guidelines and staying at home, active travel groups have been deeply concerned by countrywide reports of people using the freed-up space to drive faster and ignore speed limits.

What about the positives?! Bleeper Bikes have taken a similar initiative to London and made bicycles available to heath care workers in the Mater, St James’ and St Vincent’s hospitals. Meanwhile Moby, who were due to launch their e-bike sharing scheme in Dublin in April, are instead lending their bikes to hospital staff. In Galway, Brite Mobility is also providing e-bikes to health-care workers. Some Local Authority Road Safety Committees, notably Mayo, Donegal, Wexford, Monaghan and Cork County Councils, have made social media posting urging motorists to slow down. In Wicklow, the Greystones Municipal District of the Council has automated its pedestrian crossing buttons, thus avoiding the need for touching them. We really hope that other councils follow suit.   

There may be less traffic about but the two kilometre restriction on outings for exercise means that people, including children using buggies, bikes, and scooters, are walking and cycling close to their homes. And of course, many people are walking or cycling to work or to the shops. In order to observe physical distancing, all these people need space. We urge Irish authorities to do as has been done in other countries and reallocate space not needed by motorised vehicles to pedestrians and cyclists. They can do this on a temporary basis using bollards, wands and signage. Cyclist.ie is calling on local authorities to use their powers under Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act to do so and on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to introduce default emergency 30 kph speed limits in residential areas.

Note that on Wednesday morning April 8th , Vice-Chair of Dublin Cycling Campaign, Louise Williams spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about how, when things return to “normal”, we need to ensure that people continue to be able to walk and cycle – and therefore we must only phase cars back into the traffic equation, rather than returning immediately to the pre-status quo. You can listen back here.

Finally, note that the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), of which Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland, issued a special newsletter in the last few days gathering ideas themed around ‘Cycling Beyond the Crisis’. It is well worth checking out. You can read it here.