Change Our Streets: Have your say!

As part of the Change Our Streets initiative, we are hoping to gather as many suggestions as possible from people looking to make changes to Galway City to make 2m social distancing easier, safer and nicer in Residential, Recreational, and Retail areas.

Please fill out the following form if you would like to see some specific changes…

Change Our Streets: an Open Letter to Galway City Council

Cycling advocates have written an Open Letter to Galway City Council offering ideas to begin a creative conversation to ‘Change Our Streets’ to quickly and cheaply make public spaces safer for all ages and abilities for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Download the ‘Change Our Streets’ Open Letter to Galway City Council here (PDF).

Nearly 200 organisations and individuals have co-signed the Open Letter, including Galway Chamber, Westend Traders, hospital consultants, Engineers Ireland west region, Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland west region, and residents associations.  All five Galway West TDs have co-signed the Open Letter, as well as councillors and Senators.

This broad city-wide alliance, led by Galway Cycling Campaign, suggests many ways Galway City can be inspired by Milan’s Open Street scheme, where 35 km of road space will be reallocated to people walking and cycling. In addition, the city at the heart of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak will cut the speed limit to 30 km/h to reduce risk of road traffic collisions and make public spaces more pleasant for people walking. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant public health threat many of us will experience. The advocates for cycling point out that many local authorities have already taken action, such as the installation of a new contra-flow cycling lane in Dublin’s Nassau Street, car-free zones by Fingal County Council, and the pedestrianisation of Cork’s Marina. 

Kevin Jennings, chairperson of Galway Cycling Campaign outlined, 

In the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19, city life will only begin to thrive again if people feel safe to keep social distance. This is important for cocooners going for a stroll, parents with buggies, walking to the pharmacy, and anyone queuing for a coffee or outside a local shop. There is a narrow window of opportunity to ‘Change Our Streets’ while motorised traffic is at a lifetime low. We have high hopes for the ambition and action of Galway City.

Molly Byrne, Professor of Psychology at NUI Galway, and member of the COVID-19 National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET)  Behavioural Change Subgroup said,

People’s environments need to enable them to change their behaviours to adhere to social distancing in the months ahead. Urban design is critical to this. Choices that the City Council makes can encourage these new behaviours we need to adapt in order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Reallocating road space to people walking and cycling and reducing speed limits during the coronavirus pandemic are quick and cheap ways that Galway city can help keep people in good physical and mental health.”

Martina Callanan, spokesperson for Galway Cycling Campaign added,

We have a unique opportunity to pilot new street arrangements, widen footpaths, and install temporary cycle lanes. These can be quick and cheap to do by using cones and planters. About 5,000 people use public transport in Galway. With the capacity less than 25% due to social distancing requirements, nearly 4,000 people will need an alternative way to move about the city. With almost 600,000 people on COVID-19 unemployment benefit, the humble bicycle offers an affordable transport option to many who may never have considered it since childhood. Together, we can trial low-cost car-free ideas that have worked elsewhere and ‘Change Our Streets’ in the city centre and residential areas for the duration of the pandemic.”

Galway’s streets and roads are witnessing more small children learning to cycle and families cycling together for exercise and fun. Looking to the future and returning to school in September, Eric Heneghan, age 7, a pupil of St Patrick’s Primary School, said, “I’d like to have a safe cycle path from the Coolough Road, Menlo, so my sisters and I can cycle to school in the city.”

Commenting on reduced road congestion, Dr Brian McNicholl, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Galway University Hospital (GUH), said,

We have seen a significant drop in car crash attendances at the Emergency Department at GUH as there are less cars on the road. Cycling reduces the risk of interpersonal transmission of COVID-19  in cars and public transport. In the long term it reduces risk of heart attack, cancer and stroke.”

Racing cyclist Paralympian, World Champion medallist, and civil engineer Eoghan Clifford added that ‘Change Our Streets’ will have significant benefits for people with disabilities, mobility issues, and older people.

Poor transport and urban planning limits people with disabilities significantly. While still fit and able to walk with aids, I make decisions on moving around the city based on trying to avoid poor or narrow footpaths which can cause – have caused – me to fall or lose balance. I know of someone who needs to use an electric wheelchair and is frequently pushed onto the roads by cars parked on footpaths”.

Restaurants, cafés, and bars have already called for more car-free areas. Jp Mcmahon of ANIAR Restaurant and Tartare Café and Wine Bar, said,

Restaurants, cafés and bars need more street space so people can ‘eat-on-the street’ and enjoy outdoor dining this summer while social distancing. Making more space to help restaurants and cafes to survive is paramount if we are to get through this pandemic together.

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 ([email protected]) 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 [email protected] to let us know if you want to “get on board”.