Walking and Cycling Strategy: Query raised re consultants’ qualifications

The Galway Cycling Campaign have written to City Council Director of Services, Ciaran Hayes, seeking clarification on the qualifications of the consultants assigned to Galway City and Environs Walking and Cycling Strategy (AECOM). The Campaigners say that they have been unable to establish that the consultants have taken an approved cycling skills course or have formal training that would allow them to assess roads used by cyclists.

The Irish Government’s National Cycle Policy Framework states: “We will also stipulate that that all local authority roads engineers and any engineer wishing to tender for government road contracts should be required to have taken an approved cycling skills course”. The stated policy of the National Cycling Lobby Group, Cyclist.ie also specifies that the completion of an approved cycling skills course is a standard requirement for all consultants undertaking such work.

The Cycling Campaign have requested documentary evidence showing that the consultants (AECOM) have taken such a course.

Shane Foran speaking for the campaign added “In the UK and Ireland , the only accredited cycling skills course dealing with the full range of on-road traffic skills is the UK National Standard for Cycle Training. The Green Schools Travel staff currently working with 400 schools, including schools in Galway, have been trained as UK National Standard instructors” The Cycle Campaign states that current best practice for drafting viable cycling strategies requires consultants who are able to audit the existing roads, and any proposed new designs, with reference to “design cyclists” who come under the different ability levels defined under the National Standard curriculum. The cyclists say that it is totally unacceptable that the City Council should apparently be seeking to develop a cycling strategy in isolation from the advice that child and adult cyclists are being given with regard to using the roads.

The cyclists say the issue of consultants being able to show that they have necessary training is non-negotiable issue, because having untrained and unassessed consultants advising on cycling measures is viewed as equivalent to employing general traffic engineers who don’t possess driving licences or any independent verification of driving competence.

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  1. Well done. The last paragraph sums up the absurdity of this situation. For years the city has had basic infrastructure designed and approved by people who, it seems, rarely if ever leave their cars. Now there’s a clear shift towards recognising the need to accommodate vulnerable roads users, yet the city authorities persist in ignoring these people, and turning a blind eye to best practice. What do they think that will achieve?

    This is public safety we’re talking about — students’, workers’, families’, children’s and so on. Has Ciaran Hayes cycled around Galway lately? Or tried walking past a roundabout?

  2. While a valid point, the impression from a distance seems to be that the GCC is being entirely negative towards both the efforts of the council, the consultants and the study they are undertaking.

    I’d agree the study comes up short, the local council and government are still way behind, but only by supporting their efforts will the efforts to build a livable city be achieved.

    You are in danger of being perceived as complainers, demanding special rights for those who are virtuous enough to ride bikes. I know you aren’t, but you choice of communication style is in danger of presenting that public image. Perhaps this is your public relations strategy ?

    What about some positive output and cycling advocacy from GCC – your own realistic plan on cycling in galway, annual awards for people/orgs/ businesses that promote and enhance cycling in galway, running voluntary ‘cycle to work’ escort schemes to encourage new cyclists etc. Positive advocacy like Transport Alternatives in the US, not the usual Irish negative approach which just alienates everyone to your message.

  3. Hi Blánaid

    Fair point and to be honest its not what we are about. The Galway Cycling Campaign is currently associated with four “Smarter Travel Fund” grant applications (I append the list – actually we were hoping that Irish Cycle Chic might like to get involved with a couple of those!) At the moment we are also working on Cycling Skills leaflets and Cycling maps of the city and county towns – we already have funds in place for that. One of the reasons for the sheer frustration with the council’s behaviour is that dealing with their antics is a distraction from this work.

    On the Walking and Cycling strategy, trust us that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. On the 27th of October a cross community delegation met Ciaran Hayes to discuss concerns about walking and cycling in the city. Issues raised included roundabouts, one-way streets and permeability. He neglected to inform that delegation that there was any walking and cycling strategy consultation. Three days later on the 30th of October his office announced a survey and consultation that neglects these issues. His office has also been trying to suppress the Community Forum Survey on the grounds that it has an “agenda” regarding roundabouts. This is just to give you a flavour!

    Regards

    Shane

    “Smarter Travel Fund” grant applications
    ========================================

    1) Parking at City businesses:

    In a joint venture with the Chamber of Commerce, they have agreed to bid for a fund to put 2000 cycle parking spaces into city businesses. The government has set a target of 10% of commuters cycling to work. For this to happen a key infrastructural requirement is the prior existence of enough secure cycle parking for 10% or more of the commuter population (in Galway 2000 spaces). The object of this proposal is to achieve this minimum level of provision and eventually build on in it to match the levels of cycle parking provision found in acknowledged cycling cities such as Munster, Freiburg, Oxford and Cambridge

    2) Soft measures (Cycle champions):

    In a joint venture with the Chamber of Commerce, they have agreed to bid for a fund to create fifty “Cycling Champions” in Galway businesses over 3 years. Each champion will receive training from qualified cycling instructors and will be provided with literature on cycling skills and cycling maps for Galway city and county. The champions will then act as local experts and mentors for colleagues who wish to cycle to work but need advice and encouragement.

    3) Soft measures (“Image of Cycling in Galway” Marketing Campaign):

    Bid for a project to create and produce various attractive and useful cycling accessories, containing messages aiming to change people’s perception of cycling and promoting cycling as a “smarter” way of transport, to be distributed among the population of Galway. Proposed accessories would include printed high-visibility vests / T-shirts / rain coats / high-visibility rucksacks, printed water bottles, printed high-visibility armbands and small promotional accessories, i.e. stickers, button badges, magnets etc.

    4) Soft measures (Cycling in Galway Calendar):

    Bid for funding to produce a high quality calendar modelled on the “Bank of Ireland” and similar calendars. The Cycling in Galway calendar will display positive images of cycling in Galway taken by professional photographers. Under each photo a short statement will emphasise the ease of commuting in Galway by bicycle. Some will name a cyclist and their daily commute, in order to personalise the message and inspire the reader. The objective is to sell cycling in Galway by putting high quality images illustrating these positive aspects of cycling on prominent display in as many homes and businesses as possible.

  4. Shane

    thanks for the comprehensive reply, and a big congrats on all the efforts you outlined – it are these kind of positive activities that GCC should be known for, but I guess the clashes with the council etc. make for better press and internet copy, so tend to get picked up more and are the items that stay in the publics perception of the group.

    I’d have a concern on item 3 that it does not present cycling as an everyday – everyone kind of activity – only when people see others on bikes, dressed the same as they are in their cars, with kids on the back and some bags, doing everyday journeys will they consider the bike as a smarter alternative. Dressing ourselves up in cycle gear and hi-vis creates a ‘bike tribe’. This means we create a huge barrier for the car user to move – he has to join the tribe, not simply get on his bike instead of picking up his car keys.

    I’d ignore the authorities, you’re seen by them as a niche interest group, because as city cyclists we are a niche. Only when cycling has greater adoption can you even expect those guys to listen. Councils or the measures they can put in place don’t encourage people to change their behavior and take to a bike, they make life easier once they do.

    Focus your efforts on the mediums that influence people and form their opinions – making cycling cool, trendy, ‘the’ way to be seen getting round town. That’s not going to happen with anything hi-vis in your wardrobe. Once the cool cats get cycling, the herd will follow. Look at how any other product is marketing to gain wider adoption, or how movements, styles and behaviours gain followers and become mainstream. Biking has soared in NYC, not because the authorities are putting infrastructure in place, but because its the cool thing to be doing – the city is then responding to deliver for the larger need in return.

    So how to do this – get cycling chic (I hate the term, but thats what it called ..)articles in local press, Galway now magazine, student press etc. – where opinions are formed. And put your helmet and day-glow vest back in the wardrobe.. :-)

  5. Interesting discussion.

    Blánaid – I agree with a lot of what you’ve written, but not with your ideas about high-visibility gear. I think it’s important to be as visible as possible, especially now in winter when the evenings get dark so early. It’s more important than being fashionable, or being perceived (rightly or wrongly) as part of a ‘tribe’!

    I’m not one for lycra or helmets, and like you I’m all for cyclists being seen as ordinary people who can more or less just hop on a bike and go, but I consider a reflective vest/jacket/clip a very useful supplement to lights. Cyclists are already invisible enough to many motorists. The more conspicuous we are on the road, the safer we’ll be.

  6. I have to say I agree with what Blanaid has said. While keeping a close eye on who is given responsibility for planning Galway’s cycling infrastructure is very important and useful, it can easily create a public perception of negativity.

    For example: I’m a first time visitor to the site (having recently moved back to Galway). I came to the site looking for a pdf of the Cycling Skills leaflet I picked up recently in a bike shop. (It’s an excellent document and I want to send it to my friends who cycle and especially to my friends who want to start but are nervous.)

    I haven’t been able to find the skills leaflet, and I couldn’t help noticing that two out of the last four news items are fairly detailed accounts of what reads like a squabble with city officials.

    It’s a shame that an adversarial relationship between cyclists and motorists (and pedestrians) seems to come through a lot in public dialogue about cycling, and from reading these posts it looks like there’s an adversarial relationship between this campaign and the city council. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s the perception that’s being presented publicly here.

    To me, cycling is fun and practical and maybe that might be a more attractive message to promote cycling that outlining the inconsistencies in the City Council Director of Services’ interpretation of the Government’s National Cycle Policy Framework?

    ps – is there a pdf of the cycle skills leaflet available anywhere? it really is very good, well done for getting it out there. i’m hoping to coax a couple of new cyclists out on to the road with it.

  7. Hi John, sorry for the delay picking up your comment. It’s rather hectic at the moment with Bike Week coming up and quite a lot going on with respect to policy. You’ve raised some very worthwhile points, so I’ll try to address all of them here.

    The Cycling Skills leaflet is currently only available as a print ready PDF at the moment. I was going to send this on to you but it’s laid out for printing rather than screen reading. So we’re working on getting this into a nice screen-readable format for distribution that way. If you’d like us to contact you by email when it’s available then please let us know (either a comment or drop me a mail james at galwaycycling.org). If you would like additional copies of the leaflet to give to friends then we can get these to you in the post, come meet you or you can join us at the next social meetup this Friday (21st) at Massimos.

    The easy part out of the way, it’s time to address your observation on the adversarial aspects that have been highlighted by yourself, Blánaid and others!
    The relationship with city officials hasn’t been a good one historically. There has been a large improvement more recently where the Smarter Travel bid has been concerned. It may perhaps help to give some background to this campaign. The Galway Advertiser has put archives online and if you look back to there’s a report on the founding of this campaign. You’ll see that Shane Foran has been involved since that time and highlighting the same issues of cyclist safety. When we speak to other cyclists and those interested in cycling it’s safety which comes up time and time again as the deciding factor against cycling. This hasn’t changed in the 12 years of this group. The safety issues identified when the Galway Cycling Campaign was formed still remain. There are several examples of developments over this period of time which have made public roads less safe to vulnerable road users. If you search this blog for ‘doughiska’ you’ll find a prime example of where this road was made significantly more dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists as well as placing cyclists & pedestrians and cyclists & motorists in conflict as road users. The design simply did not follow any best practices or accept feedback on the design. This is not an isolated example, unfortunately. When the views of a group like this are consistently ignored when raised directly the only forum that remains is the public one. While it may appear negative, this group is always transparent.
    The National Cycling Policy Framework is something that was produced by the Department of Transport that seeks to promote cycling in a number of different ways. One of these is through design policy. The framework was welcomed by many cycling advocacy campaigns for the consistency it delivers and the identification of best practices. When this isn’t followed the result is design that is dangerous to cyclists. That means we don’t increase cycling numbers. There’s no way to present that in anything other than a negative way.

    There’s another consequence of this and that’s the financial one – money being spent in the name of promoting cycling which fails to deliver because of bad design. That’s misspent money. In the 12 years of the campaign there has been boom and bust but misspent money is still misspent. It means that money can’t be spent elsewhere in society where it’s needed, health and education come to mind today as I write this. This is something which is repugnant to the people involved in this campaign and why we passionately voice our opposition.

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