Venue: Room AC201, Concourse, NUI, Galway.
Present: Shane, Sarah, Alan, Bart, Stan.
Minutes of the previous meeting were not lodged; they were uploaded to the website on October 1st.
The meeting began with a chat about cycling in Connacht (Sarah was planning a cycle from Sligo to Galway) and in continental Europe (Bart returned in one piece). Following this there was a discussion about a new Dept. of Transport position to draw up a national cycling policy. The consensus was that Shane should apply.
On the subject of bike parking, Joe Tansey is reported to have said that the city council has purchased parking and that officials would be amenable to talking with someone about this.
A Healthy Cities conference took place in the Clybaun Hotel last week, but no representative from the cycling campaign was in attendance.
Some members were involuntarily bumped off the mailing list. Alan will sort it out.
Car Free Day 2007 didn’t happen for the Galway Cycling Campaign, as Shane was the only one to show up. To his credit he didn’t grumble about this, and spent the day posting letters on the Doughiska Road development.
Oisín is looking for news items for the website. Alan described “information architecture” and hopes to revamp the website through this process. Stan and Sarah praised the site and listed some of its good points; making it easier to attract new recruits was cited as a need. Alan and Stéphane are both busy but will keep working on it.
The group’s structure and roles were briefly discussed.
It has emerged that Buck Properties are to work on the junction on the Seamus Quirke Road. Cormac saw the planning application and couldn’t find this element – it may have been withdrawn or it could be an administrative hitch. Shane sent copies of the complaint to the NRA and to Galway County Council, and confirmed that the group has called on Noel Dempsey TD to block the development. Seeking an amendment to the City Development Plan may be the best strategy – to ensure that the SQ Road will have on-carriageway provision for cyclists. Towards this end the group needs new recruits.
Declan McDonnell’s retort in the newspaper was discussed and considered a good sign. In other media news, there was (reportedly) a short feature on Galway Bay FM and a piece in Galway First. The erstwhile Irish Cycling Campaign was mentioned – a national group would be better for targeting national media and raising issue profile. Though a national lobbying body would entail problems of its own, at this stage it seems to be a necessary step – this was generally agreed upon. Despite potential differences, there should be enough common ground to kickstart it again. So we’re back to funding and resources.
Shane reported on the City Council meeting that gave the go-ahead to the Doughiska Road development by 8 votes to 6. Questions were asked, pressure was applied, and it ran very, very close, but the plan was eventually crowbarred in. Since then there has been a media campaign. Alan pointed out that safety standards and so on simply don’t matter to engineers and politicians, for the most part. He didn’t want to see intense discouragement result from all the energy being put into what may be a futile cause, and that the big picture should always be borne in mind.
Positive lessons should be drawn so far as possible. The notorious safety audit was not produced for two weeks, and when it finally appeared it was full of holes and tellingly chock-full of cycling references. Some city officials are finally sitting up and taking notice, and the tactics employed against the cycling group’s arguments revealed the weakness of the corporate position. Shane stressed his belief that there are still things to be gained from this particular battle. On that point, Oisín and Bart are soon to meet local TDs during clinic opening hours.
Alan put forward the idea of policy documents. They would condense information and be prominent on the website, ready to refer to, e.g. in pre-meeting discussions. There could be long, detailed, dynamic pieces on relevant issues for cyclists and new members; and short, liberally illustrated pieces for time-pressured politicians.
A long discussion ensued on whether sitting down and talking to councillors was “the only game in town”, or whether other jobs and projects were at all worthwhile. Bart made the point that people need to be groomed, that our activism involves a learning curve necessary before someone could talk to a politician with any authority and confidence.
Shane presented a printout of the UK Dept. for Transport’s draft Cycling Infrastructure Design report (http://preview.tinyurl.com/yvy736 .pdf, 3Mb). There were audible gasps at this point – the paper was considered light years ahead of anything seen in local documentation.
Bart described good practice he encountered in European countries recently visited, and the meeting gradually drew to a close.