Venue: Galway Social Space, 24 Middle St.
Present: Shane, Tiernan, Indy, Mairéad, Catherine, Robert, Stan.
Apologies: Oisín, Simon, Kristin.
1. National Cycle Policy Framework
2. National Bike Week
Note: The prominence and proximity of National Bike Week (14–21 June 2009) means that it has been given priority over other items, which are either discussed in the context of Bike Week or not discussed at this meeting, with one exception (see (1) below).
1. The Irish government launched its National Cycle Policy Framework some weeks ago. Those at the meeting who had read it or looked through it agreed that it was an impressive and aspirational document, but that it had obvious drawbacks: it contains no figures, no dates, and no deadlines. Whether good intentions can be turned into policy and practice is a big unknown, but the document’s publication is definitely a positive step by the government towards genuine promotion of cycling. Some of the aims described in the document were mentioned and discussed.
2. Ireland’s first ever Bike Week takes place from 14 to 21 June. The Galway Cycling Campaign does not have much time or resources to prepare for it, but is nonetheless determined to do as much as possible for it. Shane and other representatives have been in contact with the City Council and other bodies, but the Volvo Ocean Race has taken centre stage for a while. A comparison with Dublin is instructive, not just in terms of organisational power: Phoenix Park is to be closed to traffic, an event management company has been hired, and a cycling officer has been preparing for Bike Week for months. Our financial and personal resources are more modest.
Tiernan of Green Schools said that the Green Flag has moved on to Travel, so there is now more of an emphasis on cycling and other alternative forms of transport. Cycle parking is to be launched in several schools, and projects such as Cycling On Wednesday (COW) and Beauty and the Bike are also being pushed. He acknowledged that the fear factor – the perception of road danger – was a considerable obstacle for some parents (more on this below). Robert asked whether any teachers were championing cycling.
Wednesday of Bike Week is “Bike to Work” day. Shane pointed out that for many people this is not something that can be decided on or prepared for on a whim, or even a few days beforehand – there needs to be an information campaign, ideally to include the local media, with a few weeks’ lead-in to give potential participants time to get their bikes checked for safety and roadworthiness. Some cyclists might not have cycled for some weeks, months or even years, and will need time to practise basic skills off- and on-road.
The Galway Cycling Map project is coming along well. Stan and Shane gave a quick summary, mentioning the online version being plotted with Google Maps but focusing on the physical maps. Galway City and several county towns have had their streets colour coded as per Warrington’s scheme. Shane and Oisín have sourced map plans and have entered and organised as much data as possible. Some town maps, e.g. Tuam, need local input. Stan has written text for the maps, some of it adapted from the Galway Cycling Campaign’s popular “Share the Road” leaflets.
Sunday 21 June concludes Bike Week, and the Galway Cycling Campaign is hoping to have a family treasure hunt that afternoon. A mostly off-road route has been planned, from Dangan through the university, down the canal, out by the Claddagh and South Park as far as Mutton Island. This event was discussed in detail by all at the meeting, since there was a lot to consider and not a lot of time to prepare. Mairéad asked if this kind of event had been done before. Shane said it hadn’t – at least not in Galway; Tiernan said that something similar had been done in Cork. Apparently Patrick St. was closed off for it.
Catherine suggested having refreshments on offer, especially for the children taking part. This was an excellent idea that hadn’t yet come up. Tiernan spoke of a cyclist with a smoothie-making bike; he also suggested balloons and face painting. All such ideas were enthusiastically received, as they would contribute to the fun and festival feel of the event. Prizes were discussed – different prizes would be needed for different ages. Children under a certain age would need to be accompanied by a parent or adult. But what age?
A code of conduct was proposed, to be signed at registration, containing instructions such as “No racing”, “Yield to pedestrians”, etc. Catherine asked if we had permission from NUIG, liability insurance, etc. Shane said that we needed feedback from NUIG about this as soon as possible, and suggested that Catherine, Mairéad and Indy form a subcommittee to tick the NUIG boxes. Indy thought of someone she could ask about some of these matters. Indy also pointed out that there were tricky parts on the route, such as a narrow pass between rocks along Dangan. Catherine asked whether there was or would be a special map for the treasure hunt.
Catherine said that we should have bikes for people who don’t have bikes, or don’t have usable bikes, or would have difficulty bringing bikes to the event. This was immediately agreed on, and provoked some discussion. Bikes to be used on the day would need to be ordered in advance if possible. Catherine also asked about funding. Shane said that there was national funding, but that locally it was unclear. Financial support from the Council was unpredictable, as last year’s Mobility Week showed.
A list of potential volunteers needs to be drawn up, and an ad hoc media blitz should be done, to include Galway Bay FM, posters, emails, local press and so on. Catherine volunteered to approach GBFM, and there was some discussion about what a daily 2-minute slot could include. A different skill subject each day, for example, or local tips and routes. Robert suggested that a willing radio employee could cycle for a week and report on air each day, hopefully with positive progress regarding his/her skill level and experience on the road. Tiernan concurred, adding that when parents began walking their children to school their first reaction was of fear or apprehension, projected from their in-car perception of traffic danger, but that they soon came to love the walking experience. Tiernan added that the Green Schools could spread the word through participating schools.
It’s obvious that we need volunteers – as many as possible – to help out on the day, as well as official support. Robert said that a competitive approach could help, especially to get businesses involved. Shane agreed but said that time and resources might preclude this. Shane said that he would set up an email list for everyone involved in Bike Week.