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General news about cycling

Cycling Beyond the Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting our lives, our economies and even our way of seeing the world. There are always lessons to learn from difficult times and this crisis has made it clear that we need to change the way we live, work and move. During these days, cars have almost disappeared from all streets of Europe, noise and air pollution levels have fallen to historic lows and bicycles have risen as the safest means of transport to do essential trips for food and medicine and to get some outdoor exercise. Never before have we been able to see, in such a clear way, the impact of the current mobility model on health, environment, equality and safety. Nor has a generation ever faced such a crucial “what if” moment for transportation. ECF finds, in this COVID19 crisis, one of those life-changing moments that can drive great social changes. With ‘Cycling Beyond the Crisis’ we want to gather facts, initiatives and insights that could lead to reset European mobility and economy once we’ve beaten the COVID19.

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Party Rankings on Cycling Policies

We compared each political party’s manifesto against our 10 key asks. These asks are changes we need from the government so we can deliver the changes we need to make Dublin a vibrant city where people of all ages and abilities can cycle. Check out our comparative ratings of the political party manifestos above. These ratings are based simply on what the various parties have outlined in their manifestos in relation to proposed investment and policies to grow cycling in Ireland

Election 2020

It’s election time and Cyclist.ie is eagerly awaiting the release of the full complement of party manifestos.We are anxious to see which parties “get” cycling. Will any any party show an awareness of the potential of properly resourced cycling infrastructure to transform our cities? Cycling can get people to work, school or college on time. It can combat congestion, lead to reduced noise levels and improved air-quality. It can contribute to reduced GHG emissions and this help to meet our climate targets. Will any party back safe routes to school and school streets? While we await the manifestos we have summarised the current party policies on cycling. The grid does not include FG as it is assumed that since they have been in office for 2 terms their policy is what they have done in that time-frame. Note; while we did not find distinct cycling policies for every party all except FG supported the historic FF Dáil motion (amended by the Greens) exactly one year ago in Jan ’19 which voted to allocate 10% of the land transport budget to cycling.

Amsterdam bicycle mayor thinks cycling could save the world

Amsterdam is known as the bicycle capital of the world because of its cyclist-friendly culture and infrastructure, including more than 500 kilometers of cycle paths and lanes. Nearly half the working population of the city commutes daily by bike. But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1950s and 60s, the city was “in thrall to motorists,” according to The Guardian, and it was only after traffic casualties rose that activists managed to insist on a change in transit policies. The oil crisis of the 70s also made fuel more expensive and led to a push for energy conservation.

Now, bicycle mayors have spread to 91 cities—a global movement powered by the idea that “if Amsterdam can do it, any city in the world can do it.”

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Cycling Campaigners at the Oireachtas Transport Committee

Our presentations to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport (JOCTTS) on 20th of November raised the profile of the issues we are campaigning on. The contributions by Dr. Damien Ó Tuama and Mairead Forsythe (Cyclist.ie), Kevin Baker and Louise Williams (Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC)), and Ciarán Ferrie and Downey (I Bike Dublin) covered the core issues of concern to everyday cyclists. While the details of the main issues were captured in Cyclist.ie’s formal submission to JOCTTS – it was a valuable exercise to be able to covey directly to the members of JOCTTS what the problems are and to answer their questions.

One of the core points we stressed was that the drop in cycling numbers amongst secondary school pupils (and girls in particular) over the last 30 years is simply shocking: back in 1986, over 19,000 secondary school girls cycled to school; by 2016, that number was just 694 (Census data). We also raised the point that only approx. 1% of transport funding is allocated to cycling (2018 figures) – and this really needs to be at least 10% of the transport budget. Such funding needs to be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure, as has happened and is happening all over Europe – and not just in the well known cycling countries of The Netherlands and Denmark. In recent years, both Paris and Brussels have introduced radical policies to remove their most hostile roundabouts and other junctions, and to reallocate space for cycling and walking. We also spoke about the need to have a well-staffed National Cycling Office within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport – in addition to the new National Cycling Design Office in the National Transport Authority. Videos of the presentations by Damien, Kevin and Ciarán can be found via this story.

Following our presentations at JOCTTS, there were non-stop interviews on all of the major radio shows on RTE1, Newstalk, Kildare FM and Radió na Gaeltachta – while a few days later, Louise Williams published an opinion piece in the Irish Times entitled “Harassment adds more danger for women cycling in Dublin”.

So where now after our engagements with JOCTTS? Firstly, we will submit further evidence of examples of best practice cycling provision to the JOCTTS Committee. Secondly, there will be opportunities to pose further PQs (Parliamentary Questions) to find out exactly what is (and is not) happening in regard to providing for cycling – and it was useful to meet the TDs and Senators at that JOCTTS session. And thirdly, I Bike Dublin will be inviting members of the JOCTTS on a cycle around Dublin in the new year so they can get a better grasp of the issues faced by those cycling on Irish roads.

More information on JOCTTS, and you can see a full video of the session here

Cyclist.ie Presenting to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport

On Wednesday 20th November 2019, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Cycling Campaign and I BIKE DUBLIN are presenting to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport (JOCTTS). This follows on from the submission made by Cyclist.ie in early October 2019. Our main messages being delivered to JOCTTS are:

  1. Cycling offers multiple benefits to society, the economy and the environment
  2. Cycling needs serious investment from the Department – to the tune of 10% of the land transport capital budget – to be spent on high quality cycling infrastructure in particular.

The full presentation at the session is here; video presentations as follows:

Opening Statement from Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and accompanied by Mairead Forsythe from Cyclist.ie

Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network is the umbrella body of cycle campaigning and advocacy groups in Ireland. The network comprises a mixture of approx 25 urban, rural and Greenway groups. Cyclist.ie is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation which advocates at a European level for making communities more liveable and cycle friendly.

Our vision is that cycling becomes a normal part of everyday life for all ages and abilities in Ireland – in a way that it is in many other European countries.

We are particularly conscious that in many parts of Ireland – and in rural Ireland especially – that the numbers of children cycling to school have fallen off a cliff. For example, in 2016 there were only 694 secondary school girls cycling to school (and over 2000 driving themselves to school); while in 1986 (while I was in secondary school myself) there were over 19,000 girls cycling to secondary school (as per Census data). Something is seriously wrong.

Cyclist.ie welcomes the new regulation regarding the dangerous overtaking of cyclists announced on 11th November 2019 by Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Cyclist.ie is cautiously optimistic that there will be serious and systematic enforcement of the new regulations by An Garda Síochána. The impact the new laws will have on driver behaviour is critically linked with the enforcement regime to be employed by the Gardaí.

As outlined in our main submission, the proper resourcing and development of cycling nationally, as proposed in many government strategies, can have wide-ranging positive impacts on many aspects of Irish society. Increased everyday cycling levels will:

  • improve national health and well-being
  • provide an improved and more liveable public environment in villages, towns and cities throughout the country
  • support national competitiveness by reducing congestion (which in the Greater Dublin area alone currently costs €350 million per annum)
  • support local economies and increased tourism
  • support Ireland in meeting its climate change targets (where the transport sector currently accounts for approx 20% of CO2 emissions)

The recent funding of €12.6 Million (2018), equivalent to approximately 1% of transport funding allocated to cycling, needs to be increased ten-fold immediately, both to bring Ireland’s cycling infrastructure and investment into line with our EU neighbours, but also to realise the broad societal benefits that a cycling economy can bring. Furthermore, investment in cycling provides generously high rates of return on investment in comparison with other public sector investments.

Cyclist.ie calls on the government to realise these economic and social benefits by, increasing, significantly and immediately, the funding allocated to facilitate and support cycling as both a transport mode and as a leisure activity.

We call on the Government to follow its own recommendation and invest in cycling a minimum 10% of the capital budget for Land Transport from 2020. Cyclist.ie investment priorities are

  1. Provision of high quality cycling Infrastructure
  2. Subsidy of the purchase of e-bikes through a national scheme
  3. Setting up and resourcing a National Cycling Office in the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport
  4. Increasing safety and awareness of cyclists through a variety of initiatives as outlined in our main submission

10% of the Transport Budget for Cycling in Limerick

10% of Limerick’s road transport and safety budget to go to cycling infrastructure. That was the motion recently approved by the Travel and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) of Limerick City & County Council. The motion was proposed by Cllr. Brian Leddin (Green Party).

Cyclist.ie highly commends the initiative of Cllr. Leddin, while noting that the approved motion  now needs to be voted on at a full Limerick City and County Council meeting. 
The Limerick Leader covered the issue on 17 October 2019. Cllr. Leddin’s very well researched and impassioned speech follows:

Notice of Motion: That Limerick Council would allocate 10% of its Transport Budget to Cycling. This motion is not simply about providing infrastructure for cyclists. That would be to misunderstand the issue. This is about enabling the effective movement of people. It is
impossible for a city, or indeed a town, to grow unless it tackles and solves the mobility challenge.

We saw this in Utrecht at the weekend. The Netherlands’ fastest growing city is growing, in large part, because it has enabled cycling. That is to say that it would not be growing at this rate if it had not taken the decision to invest heavily in cycling infrastructure. It is a key point. Cycling and economic development go hand in hand because cycling enables the free and easy movement of people over short to medium distances, much more than cars or even busses do. And it does so at low cost to the individual and also to the State, notwithstanding multiple other benefits. Indeed, a report commissioned by the UK Department for Transport assessed cost benefit evidence for walking and cycling interventions. Almost all of the studies identified demonstrated ‘highly significant’ economic benefits. In general investment in cycling projects provide the highest rate of return of all transport projects. Such economic benefits would accrue to our beautiful towns and villages as much as to our city.
Referring back to Utrecht, it is a city of 300,000 people with a similar climate to ours. In Utrecht 70% of all local journeys are made by bicycle.

In Limerick, a city one third the size in population and similar in area, 70% of all journeys under 3km are made by private car. It is a staggering contrast. And this is not because the people of Limerick will not cycle. It’s quite simply because we have not provided sufficient infrastructure to enable them to do so. Would you let your children cycle to school these days? Few parents will, and who could blame them. There has in fact been a total collapse in Ireland in the number of children cycling to school since the 1980’s. It’s currently about 1 in 200 girls and about 1 in 50 boys. According to the last census more girls are driving themselves to school than cycling. Think about that. Even though only 17 and 18 year old girls are legally permitted to drive by themselves there is still a greater number doing so than the combined total of girls aged 4 to 18 who are cycling. And of course, because able bodied people cannot safely cycle they instead choose to drive. This is the reason we have traffic congestion. And traffic congestion is a major impediment to economic development. Our trucks cannot convey freight because they are competing for road space with people who need not be driving. Others, such as mobility impaired persons, who will never have the possibility of walking or cycling also must compete in their cars with those who need not be in theirs. It is counter-intuitive, but nevertheless true to say, that if we invest in cycling infrastructure we make it easier for those who must drive to do so. Acknowledging the reality of funding mechanisms, this motion is not about berating the Council for lack of action, but rather about imploring it to increase its efforts and getting Limerick quickly to where it needs to be. It is also about seeking the support of my esteemed colleagues across all political persuasions. I would acknowledge the Council’s efforts and it is true that progress has been made. Go on to the Park Canal any morning before 8.30am and the number of cyclists heading to and from Castletroy will amaze you. A brave decision was taken some 7 years ago by the last Council and it has paid off. A simple, well designed path through a beautiful amenity is fundamentally changing the relationship between the city and the university, after decades of relative disconnection. The path is so successful that we should probably be talking about widening it. In 2015 the Council commissioned the Limerick Cycle Network Study. It is a good document and it lays the blueprint for developing an excellent cycling city in a short time-frame. We really do not need to wait for the Transport Strategy to make good decisions and quick progress. We have excellent people in our Council and they can achieve this ambition. This Council must mandate them to do so. 

We are currently at about 1.4% of Capital spending on cycling specific infrastructure and despite being Ireland’s Smarter Travel Demonstration City, we are falling behind other Irish cities, let alone our European counterparts. In 2018 68% of available funding for sustainable transport infrastructure for regional cities was drawn down by Cork. Limerick drew down just 15%. It should be emphasized that the government’s climate action plan, which received cross party support in the Dáil, also mandates a 10% allocation for cycling. Action 97 of the plan states “current transport infrastructure programmes to immediately be revised to achieve at least 10% expenditure on facilitating cycling”.

Make Limerick Ireland’s Cycling City, perhaps even Ireland’s Utrecht, in 10 years. If we do this we solve the mobility challenge and we make ourselves well placed to also be Ireland’s fastest growing city and the best place to live, work and visit. Furthermore, let’s make every town and village in County Limerick a place where parents can let their children cycle to school, confident that they will return unharmed. 
We have a great opportunity, let’s seize it. I beg you to support the motion.

Carlow Cycling Campaign; A new cycling advocacy group!

On the 4th of November 2019, Carlow Cycling Campaign was launched at a well attended public meeting on a very wet Monday night.

It all took place in the lovely BeaNice Café in Carlow town. The meeting was organised by local secondary school teacher, Chris Davey, and attended by a terrific cross section of the community. It included local Councillors (Fintan Phelan, FF, and Adrienne Wallace, PBP), the local postman who does his deliveries by bike, a local bike shop owner, members of Carlow Road Cycling Club and Slaney Valley Cycling Club, many mothers and fathers of school pupils, and some who had lived in much more cycling friendly environments such as Rotterdam.

The feeling amongst those attending was that Carlow was an extremely car dominated town and had become increasingly hostile for those choosing to cycle or considering cycling for transport or leisure trips. Quite a few people highlighted the cycle unfriendliness of the town’s roundabouts, and the stop-start nature of much of the existing cycling infrastructure. General intimidation towards those cycling from drivers was also raised – as was the extreme congestion around the cluster of schools near the town’s train station. There is huge potential for growing cycling in Carlow town, but there does not appear to be any official coherent plan to make this happen.

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie, gave an overview of some of the advocacy work Cyclist.ie and its member groups are advancing and there was a discussion around what types of interventions would make the biggest difference in Carlow. Of particular interest to attendees was the Galway Cycle Bus, the introduction of more 30km/hr zones, the development of a high quality and well maintained cycle network in the town, and massively increased provision of cycle parking. To make all of this happen, there was a huge interest in following the lead of Limerick City and County Council which recently approved a motion to allocate 10% of its transport budget for cycling – and, more broadly, for Carlow County Council to develop a high quality cycling policy and to employ a Cycling Officer at a senior level.

Carlow Cycling Campaign will meet again in January and is planning on inviting a representative from An Garda Síochána to the meeting to discuss illegal car parking on cycle tracks and other issues of concern to school-going children and their parents. To keep abreast of what is happening in Carlow, keep an eye on the Facebook page of Carlow Cycling Campaign. We wish our colleagues in Carlow Cycling Campaign the very best of luck!   

DTTAS consultation on Personal Powered Transport (PPT)

Question 1: What category of stakeholder do you represent (e.g. private, company, organization etc)?  Non-governmental organisation: Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network (https://cyclist.ie/)

Question 2: Do you think that the use of PPTs should be permitted in Ireland and why? Yes. The nature of mobility, and urban mobility in particular, is changing throughout Europe (and globally) in response to several structural shifts: the crippling economic effects of congestion arising from allowing too many cars (most of them single occupancy) into cities; the need to make cities and communities more liveable and safer, by reducing the volumes of motorised vehicles in them; the need to decarbonise transportation because of the sector’s very significant contribution to CO2 emissions (approx 20% of emissions in Ireland and higher elsewhere). 

The future of urban mobility, which we need to shape through policy and legislative interventions – as well as being shaped by quite rapid developments in (battery) technologies – must be characterised by:

  • high quality and high capacity public transportation (and electric in nature – i.e. moving away from diesel fueled vehicles)
  • active travel (walking, cycling, e-bikes and including various bike-sharing systems)
  • Powered Personal Transporters (PPTS). These are incredibly space efficient (both when moving and ‘parked’), do not contribute to noise pollution and use minimal energy when compared with the energy use of 2000 kg+ cars. 
  • Clever integration between all of the above. Intermodality is what we need to be thinking about in which using several (low carbon) vehicle types over the full length of a (longer) journey becomes the norm. 

The model of (generally single occupancy) cars and Sports Utility Vehicles driving into (historic) towns and cities is a fantasy notion from the 1950’s where unlimited motorised auto-mobility was assumed to be both desirable and possible. It is neither! The future of mobility needs to be very different from the models of the past – and the models still foisted on us through the all-pervasive car advertising that dominates our everyday media. 

Therefore, the starting point for this discussion needs to be around facilitating small, quiet, efficient vehicles – and radically de-prioritising the space provided for large, uneconomic, inefficient, 2000 kg+ single occupancy vehicles. The answers to the questions below follow on logically from this vision of the future.  

Question 3: Are there any types of PPTs (e.g. Segways, eScooters, electric unicycles etc) that you think should not be permitted to be used and why? No. These new technologies should generally be welcomed as incredibly space-efficient new mobility forms which, when used in combination with public transport in particular, offer smart solutions to decongesting towns and cities, and reducing the (thus far stubbornly high) carbon footprint from the transportation sector.  

Question 4: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that they should have some form of identification (i.e. a registration plate/marking)? No. We need to encourage their use and not create barriers. We need to make it easy to use smart sustainable transport – and hard to use space inefficient forms which cause proven dangers to people walking and cycling. 

Question 5: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that users should (a) be of a minimum age (if yes – what age?) and (b) have some form of licence covering their use (e.g. category AM driving licence – mopeds)? 

(a) Yes/No? Minimum Age ____  No. Non-electric scooters are already common and traditional modes of transport that have been used by people of all ages and e-scooters can be seen as an extension of this micro-mobility concept (albeit without the ‘active travel’ component).
(b) Yes/No? No. Once again, we need to make it easy to use space efficient forms of transportation and denormalise the notion that large individualised motorised mobility is a sensible way to organise our systems of mobility. We need to flip our existing assumptions and systems around. 

Question 6: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that their use should be covered by some form of insurance (i.e. liability cover)? No.  Similar to bicycles, this should not be a requirement.  The use of these PPTs, along with more active travel, will help to decongest our cities. However, it should be possible for users, who so wish, to insure themselves against liability for any damages they may cause.

Question 7: If the use of PPTs is to be permitted do you think that can be used on: (a) footpaths, (b) cycle lanes (c) bus lanes (d) normal traffic lanes? 

(a) Yes/No? No.
(b) Yes/No? Yes – but there is a need to widen and generally radically improve the quality of cycle-lanes and (off-road) cycle tracks.
(c) Yes/No? Yes, if there is no separate good quality cycle-lane / track provided on the route.
(d) Yes/No? Yes (in non-motorway contexts) but in the interest of safety for all, lower speed limits (particularly in urban areas) are needed and other progressive traffic management interventions which favour active travel and lower carbon modes. The definition of ‘normal traffic’ will need to change in transport discourses over the coming years so as to embrace these new mobility forms (including also e-bikes and e-cargo bikes for example). 

Question 8: If the use of PPTs is to be permitted do you think that they should be restricted to (i) a maximum speed (if yes – please suggest such a maximum speed) and (ii) only used on roads with a maximum speed limit of (a) 30kph, (b) 40kph or (c) 50kph? 

(i) Yes/No? Maximum Speed _____ Yes. 20-25km/hr.   

(ii) (a) 30kph? (b) 40kph? (c) 50kph? The broad approach here should be to reduce the speed limits on urban roads to 30km/hr so that walking, cycling and the use of PPTs is as safe as possible. 

Question 9: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that users should be required to wear (a) protective head-gear, (b) high-visibility clothing (i.e. be mandatory)? 

(a) Yes/No?  No. It should be similar to the existing requirements for cyclists in which helmets are non-mandatory.

(b) Yes/No?No. Referring back to the desired vision of the future as described earlier, the broad approach needs to be to reshape the urban environment so that those modes which we want to encourage are made to feel welcome and can operate in as safe an environment as possible – as opposed to a general approach of throwing ‘high hiz’ and helmets at the issue (and naively assuming this solves the problems) while leaving the hostile nature of the road environment largely unchanged. We would emphasise that these should not be necessary under daylight conditions, but that users need to take reasonable responsibility for their visibility to others (like cyclists). We do however think it should be a legal requirement to have lights on the vehicles/pilot at night-time. 

Question 10: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that users should (a) have some form of training

Mandatory training is not desirable here. However, training on the use of scooters and bicycles should be a standard component of the driving test so that the drivers of motorised cars, vans and trucks have a proper experiential understanding of moving in ways other than by being ‘behind the wheel’. However, it would be desirable for initial training in using the new vehicles to be made available for those who seek it because these vehicles will become part of the normal repertoire of transport options very soon. Additionally, we feel that the Rules of the Road should be introduced into the school curriculum so that school children leave school with a basic proven knowledge of the subject.    

(b) if so, by who? Ideally by the suppliers of the vehicles.  

Question 11: If the use of PPTs on our roads is to be permitted do you think that it should be left to local authorities to decide whether or not to regulate their use in their respective functional areas? Most broadly, we would support a national directive that LAs should support and cater for PPTs, but the LAs would have the authority to restrict use on some named roads on specific grounds. Local authorities are generally responsible for matters within their functional areas subject to nationally issued legislation, guidelines etc., so we would support a similar approach in planning for this new mobility form. 

Please provide any other comments relating to the use of PPTs that have not be address above.

How PPTs are legislated for and provided for in policy terms should follow on logically from the use of bicycles on our roads. I.e. they should be welcomed for all of the positive arguments about the efficient use of limited (urban) space, their broad alignment with the idea of making towns and communities more liveable and less noisy and, crucially, their low carbon footprint. 

We welcome the commissioning of the TRL research report (by the RSA). However we would urge DTTAS to explore the subject of PPTs more in terms of how they can form part of a low carbon new mobility system – as against one in which individualised motorised mobility in vehicles with a mass of (sometimes far greater than) 2000kg has, sadly, become the norm. Additionally we would urge DTTAS and the RSA to work with An Garda Síochána to develop more refined collision reporting forms/procedures so that the exact types of vehicles (SUVs, bike-share bike, e-bike, e-scooter etc.) are recorded at the time of collisions. 

Ultimately, the emergence of the new low carbon mobility forms we have already seen on our streets – and those which will emerge – must prompt a reshaping of our legislative, traffic management, infrastructural and street maintenance regimes, which in turn will bring about a paradigm shift in how people move above – i.e. mobility practices will evolve in response to the new regime. This positive, low carbon and more diverse vision of the future of mobility needs to be kept to the fore as we seek to recast our laws and regulations around transportation.