Cycling is Normal: Make it Better and Safer

More and more cyclists are on our roads, choosing a faster, cheaper and independent transport option for moving through our cities and towns. The upswing of more people cycling are reduced congestion, cleaner air, and healthier people. Over half of short journeys (less than 2km) are by car in Ireland. We want more people to feel better and safer about switching to bikes. We have 10 Asks for our general election candidates. Here’s our summary.

1 CYCLING NEEDS TO BE A NORMAL EVERYDAY ACTIVITY

Cycling is a critical part of the transport equation in combating Climate Change.  We need everyday cycling to be better and safer, more convenient, and easier. Hopping on your bike should be a more attractive option for the so-called first-mile and last-mile journeys.

No more slashing of funding or paltry rises: major investment is needed to shift people away from car dependency, especially for short journeys under 5km.  This means greater investment in cycling infrastructure and promotion. 

We need our next Government to allocate a minimum 10% of Transport Funding to cycling immediately, as promised under the National Climate Action Plan.  Currently, cycling is allocated a tiny 2% of our transport spend.

We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Bike safety is highest in countries and cities where bike use is high and people cycling have interconnected networks of segregated routes. Seville, Leeds, Manchester show it is possible to apply the lessons of the Netherlands and Denmark.

2 ELIMINATE THE NEED FOR CYCLE BUSES – BUILD SAFE  SEGREGATED NETWORKS

Manifestos that mention school cycle buses should make us weep with rage. There should be no need for parents and adults to marshal kids to school on bikes, forming human shields between small soft bodies and big, motorised, metal boxes. Cycle buses must not become the norm.

What we need are safe routes to schools and throughout populated areas: networks of segregated cycle paths along roads; safe junction design with priority signalling for people on bikes; and quiet routes through permeable neighbourhoods. This applies to county towns and villages as much as our cities.

Let’s get designing and building.

3 FIT FOR PURPOSE PLANNING, POLICY AND POLICING

The 3 Ps of Planning, Policy and Policing seem a little dry at first glance – but these are the actions that make the good things happen.

Planning  – Building safer cycling infrastructure should be guided by our National Cycle Manual. This design guidance needs urgent updating to upgrade our standards and bring us into line with best international practice.

Policy – We need joined-up thinking for everyday cycling across the myriad of Departments: Transport Tourism and Sport, Health, Environment/Housing, Education, and Justice. We need a resourced National Cycling Office, preferably within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, to coordinate policy, and ensure action.

Policing – We have road traffic legislation that considers people who cycle and walk, but enforcement needs greater priority. People who cycle are frustrated and frightened by illegal parking in cycle lanes and dangerous overtaking. The Garda need to learn from their UK counterparts.

IT’S AS EASY AS ABC

Increasing cycling numbers in Ireland will cut congestion, improve public health, and reduce pollution.

To get more people cycling, we need to make it an easier and safer choice. Let’s have real Cycle Networks, Safe School Routes, and coordinated Planning, Policy and Policing that protects us.

It’s as easy as ABC: Allocate 10% of transport funding to cycling; Build safer infrastructure, and everyone will Cycle more.

WRITER
Martina Callanan, project manager, is the representative of Galway Cycling Campaign on Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network.

ABOUT US
Galway Cycling Campaign is the voice of everyday cyclists in Galway. We want to make Galway cycling-friendly. 

Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network (ICAN) is the federation of Cycling Advocacy Groups Greenway Groups and Bike Festivals on the island of Ireland. We are the Irish member of the European Cyclists’ Federation

Our vision is that cycling will be a normal part of transport and everyday life in Ireland.  Cycling is a vital part of building  healthier and less polluted communities. Check out our 10 Election Asks.

Galway Cycling Census Map

Please allow a while for map to load…

Explanation: what’s all this?

As part of Census 2016 everyone in Ireland on Census night had where they live along with the location of their workplace, school or college recorded and processed. These data, along with people’s primary mode of transport (and other demographics) have been made publicly available on a neighbourhood-level.

Here we have mapped these data at a neighbourhood level in and around Galway City. This shows each area by the levels at which people begin their trip by bike to work or education (by origin). This can be displayed as the total number or as the percentage in a neighbourhood. We also show areas which are the destination of peoples journey to work or education by similar summaries.

Other data include the total numbers of people travelling from an area to work, school or college, or travelling to an area. The percentage of households which have access to a car/van, can also be displayed.

Each location is clickable with more information, including the proportions of “Active transport” (walking and cycling) and “Private transport” (driving or being driven in a car/van/other private vehicle).

Example of how to read the map

In this example we choose checkbox

  1. ‘Cycling to destination (%),
  2. In the resulting map can see that area marked 2 is the darkest shade.
  3. This means that Salthill Village has the highest percentage of all trips to Salthill by Bike in Galway City.
  4. This does not mean that Salthill has greater numbers cycling to it as a destination compared with Galway City Centre, it just means as a percentage of all trips it has a greater proportion relative to other modes.
  5. The elipse shape(marked in light yellow) shows Galway Golf Club Course. So pretty obvious no Galway Golf Club Golfers take the Cargo Bike to the Golf Club :¬)

Your journey, your story?

What about where you live or where you work or go to school? Are they cycling hot-spots or cycling deserts? Let us know what it is like to cycle your daily journey in the comments, or get in touch via email (info@galwaycycling.org) and maybe we could profile your neighbourhood? Could the cycling infrastructure be improved (yes, of course it’s Galway!) and if so how?

Cycling in Galway

This article was written by Stan Carey for the Galway Cycling Campaign. A version of it was published by the Galway Independent for its ‘Inside Out’ column on 4 June 2014.

* * *

People sometimes ask why I cycle around Galway when I have a car, and I’m surprised the answer isn’t obvious. Then I remember there are lots of answers. Cyclists are commonly stereotyped – as lycra-wearing fanatics, cardboard-eating eco-warriors, etc. – but we’re as diverse as any random group of people, and we have countless reasons for cycling and styles of doing so.

One thing that puts people off is the perceived danger, but cycling is a lot safer than it’s made out to be if you have the right skills. And it becomes safer with numbers. All road users need to share the roads respectfully, and above all be patient. Overtaking a cyclist dangerously just to save a few seconds is a nasty thing to do, illegal too, yet it happens all the time. I don’t care how much of a rush you’re in, your time isn’t worth putting someone’s life and well-being at risk.

Not that cyclists are immune from bad behaviour. I see examples every day – like footpath cycling, which I don’t mind when it’s a child or learner taking their time, but when it’s an able-bodied young male zipping by makes me want to lecture and fine them on the spot. Still, it’s nothing to the danger posed by driving at speed, which is rife and inadequately enforced and has helped decimate the number of children and families cycling on city and rural roads in Ireland.

Galway’s size and layout are well-suited to getting around by bike or foot. The city has a proud tradition of cycling, and it wouldn’t take much to make bikes a strong part of its culture again – a bit of promotion, know-how, and political will. The upcoming Greenways and Coke Zero bike rental scheme should help normalise and boost cycling again, following the great successes in Mayo and Dublin.

Like learning to drive, it’s hardest when you’re starting. How can beginners and nervous cyclists develop the confidence and skills to manoeuvre roads that seem so hostile? Know your bike and your capabilities, for starters. Watch and learn from experienced cyclists. Get a copy of the Galway Cycling Campaign’s “Cycling Skills” leaflets, or read John Franklin’s book Cyclecraft in the city library. And practise. It takes time to learn how to read the roads, to anticipate threats, to know when it’s safer to use the centre of a lane and when to keep in. Just give those car doors a wide berth.

Galway’s infrastructure isn’t very cycling-friendly, with its roundabouts, slip roads, poor surfaces, one-way systems, meagre parking, inept cycle lanes, and aggressive emphasis on traffic “flow” rather than safe, accessible, permeable streets. But the benefits more than compensate. JFK was right: Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. It’s great for mental and physical health. The financial savings are amazing. Parking is easy, even if it often requires lampposts and railings. Traffic jams are irrelevant. (I can’t be the only one bemused by all the empty roads in cars ads.)

Less obviously, cycling brings a real physical quality to a journey. Instead of being cut off from the world around you, you’re immersed in it. You can enjoy its sights and sounds and take in the scenery Galway is blessed with. Feel the sun on your face (if there is any), the wind in your hair (if you have any), the joy of freewheeling downhill. You can stop on a whim to look at something or chat to someone you know. And when you get home you have the satisfaction of having exercised and gotten a good dose of fresh air. Even the weather’s not as bad as you’d think.

A new bicycle commuting service comes to Galway

A new bicycle commuting service is coming to Galway during National Bike Week. For two days of National Bike Week, Monday 16 June and Wednesday 18 June (National Cycle to Work Day) the BikeBus will provide adult cyclists in Galway with the opportunity to commute to work with other cyclists.

A BikeBus is a collective form of bicycle commuting where a group of cyclists follow a set route and timetable, “picking up” and “dropping off” “passengers” along the way. A BikeBus provides those new to bicycle commuting with a perfect opportunity to commute to work alongside experienced cyclists. The BikeBus also welcomes experienced cycling commuters who may fancy a more convivial ride for the week that is in it. The BikeBus is a fun, healthy and sociable way to get to and from work. We’ve put together a set of FAQs for BikeBus.

The Galway BikeBus will travel from the Knocknacarra Community Centre to the Parkmore Business Park in the morning and return in the evening. The BikeBus will pass by major employers and industrial hubs such as Galway University Hospital, NUIG, Liosban Industrial Estate, Mervue Business Park, Ballybrit Business Park, Briarhill Business Park and Parkmore Business Park. See the maps for the routes at: Galway BikeBus Morning Route (Cappagh Road to Parkmore) and Galway BikeBus Evening Route (Parkmore to Cappagh Road). You can also download the timetable as a PDF (5 Mb)

Make sure you check the route map and timetable below to “catch” the BikeBus. Email info@galwaycycling.org to let us know if you want to “get on board”.

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.

Bike week: GTU continues to generate controversy and bad publicity

The view from the Salmon Weir end

The view from the Salmon Weir end

The Galway Cycling Campaign wishes to disassociate itself from the Galway Transportation Unit’s controversial Newtownsmyth one-way street experiment and is questioning claims that it was intended to benefit cyclists. At the start of Bike Week 2010, the City Council announced a “contraflow” cycle lane in Newtownsmyth, a street that already has two-way traffic and where there was therefore no logical requirement or demand for contraflow cycling.

The Council did not consult the Cycling Campaign on this scheme. The Campaign is unlikely to have endorsed a scheme that had no formal benefit to cyclists and that did nothing to solve existing problem locations. In addition, we would never have supported a scheme whose execution demonstrably flew in the face of established best practice. The provision of two-way cycling on suitable one-way streets is a long-established and widely endorsed method for improving cyclist access and safety — one that was actually suggested for Galway in a report compiled in 1979.
Newtownsmyth entrance to contraflow cycle track;

Newtownsmyth entrance to contraflow cycle track


Local businesses were left feeling like the street was a building site

Local businesses were left feeling like the street was a building site

German cities like Bremen began providing two-way cycling on one-way streets in the early 1980s. In central Brussels, 60% of one-way streets are two-way for cyclists; in Liege, 70%. Belgian research indicates that the accident rate for cyclists is lower on these streets. In Ireland, as in Belgium, it is often possible to provide two-way cycling simply by putting up a sign at the entrance to the road. Irish traffic law was amended in 1998 so that in its simplest form, councils could provide two-way cycling by just adding an exemption plate ‘Except Cyclists — Ach Amháin Rothaithe’ to existing No Entry signs. The provision of two-way cycling on one-way streets was adopted as a stated objective of the Galway City Development Plan 2005–2011, but there has been no sign of any attempt by the city council executive to meet this requirement.
Dublin street sign showing exemption for cyclists entering one-way street

Dublin street sign showing exemption for cyclists entering one-way street

There are various one-way streets in Galway where this could have been piloted with minimal changes to road layout. Instead, the street at Newtownsmyth was made one-way for a week and a “cycle track” was implemented by bolting an unsightly row of traffic cones into the street surface. The result was disruption to local businesses and users of the street, and the attendant criticism that was widely reported in the media. The 2007 bus study included a proposal to ban right turns from Newtownsmyth toward the courthouse. This suggests that the Newtownsmyth experiment was a test run for a long-planned extension of the city’s one-way street system, under the guise of a cycling scheme.
Dublin: Gateway treatment at entrance to one-way street

Gateway treatment at entrance to one-way street. This is only necessary if there are formal no-entry markings. If there are just signs then an exemption plate is all that is needed.

Business fury over ‘barmy’ cycle lane Galway City Tribune June 18 http://www.galwaynews.ie./13461-business-fury-over-%E2%80%98barmy%E2%80%99-cycle-lane Get on your bike for National Bike Week Galway Advertiser, June 10, 2010. http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/27214 (Includes announcement of contra flow scheme)