Open letter to Editor of City Tribune, Galway

17th June 2015
Dear Editor,
We are writing to respond to opinions recently expressed by City Tribune journalist Declan Tierney. On May 22 (page 2) he suggested that cycling campaigners should hold a “seminar” to inform the general public “as to how they should behave when on their bikes.”
On June 5 (page 2) he wrote: “We are encouraging the Galway Cycling Campaign to embark on something of a tutorial. It would be great if they would encourage the cycling public in general to stop behaving like idiots when they are on their bicycles.” He also declared, “Some cyclists have absolutely no respect for the pedestrianised areas of Galway.”
We are writing to echo the views of Simon Comer from Cosáin whose excellent letter was published on this page last week. He made the point that cycling campaign groups have been tirelessly lobbying for many years for safer conditions for cyclists.
Galway Cycling Campaign, a group made up entirely of volunteers, is one of these groups and has been lobbying on behalf of cyclists for 17 years. We have also contributed hugely over the years to educating Galway’s cyclists.
Our ‘Share the Road’ and ‘Cycling Skills’ leaflets have proved continuously popular and have been adopted for use in other cities. Some of our members are accredited cycle instructors, and deliver training sessions to adults.
We have also produced a series of road signs with messages such as ‘Always use lights at night and ‘Please respect pedestrian crossings.’
We do not have a statutory role in enforcing traffic laws or in implementing government cycling policy. We are all too aware, especially this week – National Bike Week – that cyclists are vulnerable road users, and will come out the worst in collisions with vehicles.
Mr Tierney declares that the GCC should “embark on a learning curve.” We however believe that it is Mr Tierney himself who is in need of the learning curve. He is quick to condemn cyclists, and fails to understand why cyclists are using pedestrianised streets at all.
Cycling is now enshrined in national government policy, as outlined in Smarter Travel and the National Cycle Policy Framework. Galway City Council has a role in promoting cycling and providing adequate facilities.
Cycling infrastructure in the city is simply not good enough. The existence of a one-way system in the city centre results in cyclists being forced into pedestrian areas. Allowing cyclists to move both ways on a one-way street is a simple solution to this problem. Our educational materials advise cyclists to dismount in pedestrian areas.
Mr Tierney, the next time you see a cyclist on a pedestrian street, ask yourself why they are there at all. And then, instead of suggesting that a resource-poor voluntary organisation provide seminars for the public, think carefully about what specific local and national bodies have statutory obligations to educate the cycling public.
Yours,
Mairéad Ní Chaoimh,
Galway Cycling Campaign

Bicycle Film Night Call for Submission 2015

CFE bike week 2015 banner

Galway Cycling Campaign is calling on all established or budding film directors to submit a short film for its upcoming Bicycle Film Night.

The Bicycle Film Night is a much loved and well established Bike Week event and for the first time ever it is making a call for submissions.

The submission should be a short film (we are looking for films under 20 minutes but we might consider a longer one if we really like it!), and for obvious reasons should include some kind of reference to the wonderful world of bicycles.

If selected, the films will be screened during the Galway Bike Festival 2015 (13th-21st June) and will be submitted to an audience vote.

The deadline is 5 June 2015 so don’t hang around, get filming!

Is your film ready to rock?

Submit your film in two steps:
1. Fill in the submission form:

2. Submit your film via FilmFreeway =>

For more information, contact Charlotte (melle.haffner@gmail.com) or Robert (rob@galwaycycling.org)

Cycling Campaign welcomes changes to Connemara greenway proposals at oral hearing.

The Galway Cycling Campaign has welcomed changes proposed by Galway County Council to the Oughterard to Clifden Greenway at the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing held in Clifden last week. The cyclists had serious concerns about an initial design that would put a recreational cycle-path directly beside high-speed traffic on the N59 for over 11km. At the hearing, held over two days in the Station House Hotel Clifden, the County Council offered an amended design. The new design would use sections of the old railway line and the old Clifden road to provide an additional 6.35Km away from the N59.

Some of the alternatives brought to the Oral Hearing by Galway Cycling Campaign that where adopted. Routes No 1 and No 4 shown below
OpneStreetMapExtract_with_alternatives

The hearing heard some opposition from local landowners, particularly from the Bunscanniff and Glengowla townlands. Keith Geoghegan of Glengowla mines expressed serious concerns about possible ill effects on his business but offered an alternative route through his property away from the old railway track. Some observers expressed the view that visiting tourists should be charged a fee to cross individual land holdings. Mr. Liam Gavin, Senior County Engineer, expressed a preference for following the old Clifden-Galway Railway embankment to the greatest practical extent. Local hoteliers and business owners spoke in favour of the scheme. Mr. Paul Dunne, a Lecturer in Tourism at GMIT spoke in favour of placing the route away from the N59 and cited research on feedback from users of the Great Western Greenway in Mayo. Some contributors took an opposing position arguing for the incorporation of the route into the N59 or of dropping the scheme altogether in favour of investing in local roads.

Evidence was presented at the hearing pointing out that the incorporation of recreational cycle-routes into roads with high-speed traffic is directly contrary to both the 2007 Failte Ireland Tourism Strategy and guidance from the National Trails Office.

According to the cyclists, the overall proposal to develop a 50km Greenway from Oughterard to Clifden, and costed at EU7million, is welcome. If sensitively carried out, the scheme could create a huge asset for the community of West Connemara. They point out that the Western Greenway in Mayo has generated EU7million per year for the local community – indicating significant unmet demand for a particular cycling experience.

An Bord Pleanala recently rejected a Kerry County Council application to put a tourist cycle route directly beside the N86 on the Dingle Peninsula. The Cycle Campaign is hopeful that the eventual Board decision on the Galway greenway may identify further sections of the route that can be taken off road. Even with the changes proposed, 5.15km will still be right beside the traffic on the N59.

Campaign says rejection of controversial Kerry Cycleway proposals good news for Connemara Greenway.

The Galway Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie, Ireland’s National Cycling Lobby Group has welcomed An Bord Pleanala’s rejection of a controversial NRA Cycle path scheme for the N86 in the Dingle peninsula. The road scheme running from Camp to Dingle had attracted particular concern because the designers planned to co-locate a tourist cycling path directly beside high speed traffic for the entire length of the N86 scheme (28km). The rejection of the Kerry proposals echoes concerns raised about the proposed Connemara Greenway which is due to go before an Oral hearing next month in Clifden. The cyclists are hailing the decision as a vindication of the Failte Ireland tourism strategy and National Cycle Policy Framework which is to avoid busy roads.

The Galway Cycling Campaign has lodged an objection to the proposed Connemara Greenway on similar grounds: that the cycle paths are placed directly beside high speed traffic for considerable distances alongside the N59 despite the existence of obvious alternatives. With regard to similar cycle paths in Kerry, the Planning Appeals Board have instructed that they be dropped from the scheme. The grounds given include that the proximity to the carriageway might not offer an attractive recreational route. The Board recommends that alternatives possibly using quieter non-national roads would deliver a more desirable and successful cycleway. The Board have asked the applicants to resubmit a scaled back scheme that seeks to minimise interference with natural features such as hedgerows and tree lines. An Bord Pleanala to hold an oral hearing into the proposed Connemara Greenway on the 11th of December.

The proposal to develop a 50km section of the Connemara Greenway from Oughterard to Clifden is welcome. If sensitively carried out, the scheme could create a huge asset for the community of Connemara. They point out that the Western Greenway in Mayo has generated EU7million per year for the local community – indicating significant unmet demand for a particular cycling experience. However the cyclists say that the current scheme is incorrectly conceived, could fail to achieve its aims and could divert significant resources from more beneficial works. The planning appeals board has been asked to reject the scheme in its current format.

Over the entire 50km, long sections of the proposed scheme conform to the commonly accepted “greenway” concept (i.e. it is routed away from high-speed traffic). However, instead of being maintained as a traffic free greenway for the greatest possible distance, the route is to be incorporated into the existing N59 as a cycle path adjacent to fast moving motor traffic for between 11.7 and 14.6 kilometres or approximately 20% of its length. In the EIS carried out for the scheme, the alternatives to incorporating the cycle route into a high-speed road do not appear to have been given due consideration. Nor does any due consideration appear to have been given on the impacts of such traffic on cyclists – who will theoretically include family groups. Most regrettably, the worst affected section of the route could be considered the most scenic as it passes close to the Maamturks mountain range and the South Bens. It is imperative that an off-road solution be found here so that, rather than being 2meters from vehicles travelling up to 100km, users can fully enjoy and appreciate the spectacular scenery in piece and quiet.

The Cycling Campaign has identified various alternative options that fulfil the greenway model. These include sections where the old Galway to Clifden railway bed is still available and sections of parallel minor roads including the original Galway-Clifden road. The alternatives provide a route away from high-speed traffic where the full benefits of a world class cycling route could be provided. In addition to providing a much more attractive route the alternative proposals avoid the need to CPO lands along the N59 itself.

Cycling Campaign welcomes oral hearing into deeply flawed Clifden greenway proposals.

The Galway Cycling Campaign has welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanala to hold an oral hearing into the proposed Oughterard to Clifden Greenway – describing the current proposals as “deeply flawed”. Their concerns centre on a design that puts a recreational cycle path directly beside high-speed traffic on the N59 for at least 11km. The Cycling Campaign has identified a series of alternatives that would provide a more attractive route and avoid any need to CPO lands along the N59. They are hoping to hold a public meeting so that affected parties can share their concerns.

According to the cyclists, the proposal to develop a 50km Greenway from Oughterard to Clifden is welcome. If sensitively carried out, the scheme could create a huge asset for the community of West Connemara. They point out that the Western Greenway in Mayo has generated EU7million per year for the local community – indicating significant unmet demand for a particular cycling experience. However the cyclists say that the current scheme is incorrectly conceived, could fail to achieve its aims and could divert significant resources from more beneficial works. The planning appeals board has been asked to reject the scheme in its current format.

Over the entire 50km, long sections of the proposed scheme conform to the commonly accepted “greenway” concept (i.e. it is routed away from high-speed traffic). However, instead of being maintained as a traffic free greenway for the greatest possible distance, the route is to be incorporated into the existing N59 as a cycle path adjacent to fast moving motor traffic for between 11.7 and 14.6 kilometres or approximately 20% of its length. In the EIS carried out for the scheme, the alternatives to incorporating the cycle route into a high-speed road do not appear to have been given due consideration. Nor does any due consideration appear to have been given on the impacts of such traffic on cyclists – who will theoretically include family groups. Most regrettably, the worst affected section of the route could be considered the most scenic as it passes close to the Maamturks mountain range and the South Bens. It is imperative that an off-road solution be found here so that, rather than being distracted by traffic, users can fully enjoy and appreciate the spectacular scenery.

The Cycling Campaign has identified various alternative options that fulfil the greenway model. These include sections where the old Galway to Clifden railway bed is still available and sections of parallel minor roads including the original Galway-Clifden road. The alternatives provide a route away from high-speed traffic where the full benefits of a world class cycling route could be provided. In addition to providing a much more attractive route the alternative proposals avoid the need to CPO lands along the N59 itself.

Open Street map extract showing problematic section an alternatives
Photo of section of old Clifden Galway road that will not be used in
the Greenway

Don’t cycle on the footpath: Obvious, right?

Adults cycling on footpaths is an issue that annoys, threatens, intimidates and upsets a lot of pedestrians. While some cycle in a restrained manner, others cycle on footpaths in wholly obnoxious and selfish manner that destroys public sympathy for cycling and cycling promotion. In the Galway Cycling Campaign we’re fully aware of this and we hold the firm position that the footway is no place for an adult cyclist (we don’t hold a hard view on children cycling on footpaths).

As it happens our national body, Cyclist.ie, favours the consideration of German type traffic laws that allow for children cycling on footpaths.  With adults, much footpath cycling is percieved to be a reaction to hostile road conditions rather than simply wilful lawbreaking. The solution for adults is to acknowledge the problems footpath cycling can create and work to ensure that cyclists have access to a roads network that recognises their needs as roads users.

We’re happy to see the law on footpath cycling enforced by An Garda Síochána as part of a range of enforcement measures needed to create a more people-friendly city.

We advocate our position to fellow cyclists and we raise the issue when talking to engineers and designers of infrastructure. One of our concerns on the Seamus Quirke Road fiasco is that the design of the off-road cycleways puts cyclists into conflict with pedestrians. It is an approach that the city council want to continue in future schemes. We believe that the law informs our position. Here’s the legislative background to this.
1. A bicycle is a vehicle under Irish Road Traffic legislation.

ROAD TRAFFIC ACT, 1961.

Refer to Section 3, Interpretation:
(I’ve re-ordered the definitions from alphabetical)
pedal bicycle” means a bicycle which is intended or adapted for propulsion solely by the physical exertions of a person or persons seated thereon;
pedal cycle” means a vehicle which is a pedal bicycle or pedal tricycle;
driving” includes managing and controlling and, in relation to a bicycle or tricycle, riding, and “driver” and other cognate words shall be construed accordingly;
footway” means that portion of any road which is provided primarily for the use of pedestrians;

These are important definitions, the first three relate to the cyclist and their bicycle and how they are viewed as a driver and a vehicle respectively i.e. the law applies to them in a similar manner to those applying to a motor driver and a motor vehicle except where stated otherwise. The last relates to what we typically refer to as a footpath; a footway.

2. The next important piece of legislation handles driving on a footway

S.I. No. 182/1997 — Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997

Refer to Section 13, Driving on Footway:
13. (1) Subject to sub-articles (2) and (3), a vehicle shall not be driven along or across a footway.
(2) Sub-article (1) does not apply to a vehicle being driven for the purpose of access to or egress from a place adjacent to the footway.
(3) A reference in sub-article (1) to driving along or across a footway, includes s reference to driving wholly or partly along or across a footway.

(N.B. The interpretation section of this S.I. references the 1961 Act)

 

You would think that this position wouldn’t be questioned by anyone other than those adult cyclists who insist on cycling on footways. Unfortunately you’d be wrong: Galway City Council’s officials oppose our position. They hold a stated and repeated position that it’s not accurate to say it’s illegal to cycle on the footpath. Incredible, isn’t it. Bear in mind that this is also the council who brought you the infamous Doughiska Road cycle lane abomination.

This is now a particularly important issue because of the Walking and Cycling Strategy for Galway City and Environs which is under review by Galway City Council officials and elected councillors. To avoid inappropriate cycling infrastructure being designed we want a clear an unequivocal recognition in the strategy document that cycling on the footpath is illegal:

Under Irish law a bicycle is a vehicle, a cyclist is a driver and cyclists are considered to be traffic. Recognising this, the strategy affirms that the default assumption will be to provide for cyclists on the same carriageway surface as other vehicles.  The council will work to ensure that cyclists have on-road solutions on all roads in the city. Equally the legal status of cycles means that it is illegal to cycle on footways.

Galway City Council’s officials don’t want this. They can defend their own position on this but they argue accepting this point may prevent future infrastructure schemes like the Dangan Greenway that are shared use for pedestrians and cyclists. It doesn’t, other local authorities have shown themselves capable of dealing with this issue and creating facilities like the proposed greenways. What it does stop is poorly conceived off-road cycle facilities that put cyclists and pedestrians in conflict and cyclists at risk. At a meeting with city council officials and the transport sub-commitee (which has Galway Cycling Campaign representation) the illegality of cycling on the footpath became a sticking point and a decision was made that councillors would vote on the issue. The vote was in favour of the position that cycling on the footpath is illegal. The strategy is up for review again by councillors and when sending it to them for review, Galway City Council officials included the following in the covering letter: Ciaran Hayes letter to councillors 20120704

This letter uses a bullying tactic which is now favoured by Galway City Council officals when dealing with stubborn councillors; if you don’t vote for this we’ll lose the funding. This tactic has been used frequently to push through poorly conceived infrastructure schemes. It’s an affront to the democractic structures of local government and is an obscene use of our taxes. Schemes which are a waste of money and serve no road user (motorist, cyclist or pedestrian) get built simply to serve the egoes and CV building exercises of city council officials.

The Road Traffic Acts are clear; it’s illegal to cycle on the footpath. We want that recognised by councillors in the face of bullying by city officials.