UN World Bicycle Day took place on 3 June 2020, exactly four weeks to the day that we sent our ‘Change Our Streets’ Open Letter to Galway City Council Executive. Cycling for a safe Covid-19 recovery and beyond is on our minds. #ChangeOurStreets has made significant progress and continues to gather momentum across the city and county, as well as towns across Ireland. Galway is on the verge of becoming an easier, safer, more pleasant place to cycle.

Neasa Bheilbigh and her son Macdara, Alan Curran with Laoise, Oisín and Eanna Curran and Martina Callanan, members of Galway Cycling Campaign celebrating World Bicycle Day. Splash photo on the front page of the Galway Advertiser, Thursday June 4 2020. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy, Galway Advertiser

Momentum for More Space and Less Speed

Cycling has rebounded faster than any other transport mode during coronavirus and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. The bike boom is seeing sales of bicycles soaring across the country.

The ‘Change Our Streets’ movement continues to gather momentum. The principes of More Space and Less Speed are gathering significant public engagement and support.

Covid-19 restrictions and the sunny weather have encourage people to rediscover the joy of cycling. Colin Barry of Brite Mobility on Eyre Street says, “”Electric bikes are a proven way for European Cities to reduce congestion and meet their climate change targets. The motor’s assistance level attracts users who would have been afraid of  the exertion of cycling before. Brite aim to bring shared ebikes to every city in Ireland in the coming months.” Photo: Martina Callanan

Political support

We are supported by all of the TDs from Galway West, TDs from Galway East, Senators, as well as enjoying cross-party support from City and County councillors who are regularly in touch with us.

Our local and national public representatives accept and support the need to develop and implement policy and see money within our national and local government budgets used for a lasting sustainable, resilient, and healthy recovery.

Sligo Cycling Campaign, Kerry Cycling Campaign, Wexford Bicycle Users Group (WEX-Bug), Dublin Cycling Campaign and Maynooth Cycling Campaign support the need for More Space and Less Speed.

Change Our Streets goes nationwide

Cycling groups across Ireland are working with local businesses and community organisations to change our streets to make safer streets. Other towns have been in contact with us and have developed their own ‘Change Our Streets’ campaigns in Ennis, Maynooth, Sligo, Tralee, and Wexford.

An extract from our Open Letter of 6 May 2020 to Galway City Council Executive asking for More Space and Less Speed so people of all ages and all abilities can enjoy safer streets during Covid-19.

Open Letter

In early May, we sent our Open Letter to the Galway City Council Executive, which was reported by RTÉ News and RTÉ Drivetime. #ChangeOurStreets has two broad principles: More Space and Less Speed to make healthier, happier and safer streets for people of all ages and all abilities. It was signed by more than 180 organisations and individuals. 

Co-signatories

Since then, the co-signatory list has grown to over 250 organisations and individuals. They include Galway Chamber, Galway City Community Network, Galway City Partnership, Galway Councils’ Older Persons’ Council, residents associations, active retirement clubs, bridge clubs, sports clubs (SKGAA, Knocknacarra FC, Water Polo, Galway Triatholon Club), and youth organisations (Scouts, Girl Guides).

Our invitation to a Public Information Meeting about #ChangeOurStreets. Over 80 people attending, including five city and county councillors from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Social Democrats and the Green Party.

Online public meeting

Within the week of sending the Open Letter to the Council Executive, we held an online public meeting. It was attended by 80 people, including city and county councillors. We invited people to submit their specific ideas on how to change Galway’s streets to make them easier, safer, and more pleasant for people of all ages and all abilities

Submission of Specific Suggestions

Over 60 specific suggestions were submitted to the new Galway City Mobility Team. They included specific streets where footpaths need to be widened, longer time at pedestrian crossings, pop-up cycle lanes and commuting corridors.

A collage of some local and national radio and print media clippings by Galway Cycling Campaign for the #ChangeOurStreets initiative.

Influencing and reflecting public conversation 

Our efforts to #ChangeOurStreets led to invitations to discuss cycling and Covid-19 on The Today Show with Sarah McInerney and Galway Talks with Keith Finnegan.

Reflecting the public mood of the desire to change and for More Space and Less Speed on our streets, The Galway Advertiser, The City Tribune, and Galway Bay FM have covered letters to the editor about speed limits, feature pieces about being ‘In The Saddle’ and ‘Celebrating the rebounding of cycling’, as well as our public meetings.

Bhímid freisin ar Raidió na Gaeltachta agus Nuacht TG4.

‘Re-opening Galway gets bike boost as businesses support campaign’ – Galway Advertiser, Thursday 14 May 2020.

Backing business

Galway Chamber and Westend Traders were two business organisations that quickly supported #ChangeOurStreets, along with Edward Holdings, Aerogen, Brite Mobility, Kearneys Cycles, Aniar, Massimos Bar and The Beauty Mint. They recognise that the bicycle is a great transport option for short distances under 6 km and that more people walking and cycling opens up our streets to community and commerce again.

We back local businesses in the post-Covid recovery. Research from London and Europe shows that customers on bikes are good for business. Local bike shops form part of the #LeanOnMeGalway campaign to kick-start the economy again.

There has been a surge in bike sales countrywide – indeed, across Europe and the world. “We are selling out as quickly as we can build them,” says John Kennedy of West Ireland Cycles in Galway’s Westend.

Cycling and commuting after lockdown

As public health movement restrictions begin to ease after lockdown, we are speaking out about cycling, commuting, and the safer infrastructure we need in The Sunday Independent and The Review – Irish Independent,.

Last weekend, along with cycling campaigns in Ireland’s four other cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, we spoke to The Times Ireland. We talked about the unintended benefits of the closure of public car parks turning into cycle parks for children learning to cycle with big new-bike smiles and our urgent cycling infrastructure needs, especially at roundabouts and hostile junctions.

Martina Callanan with her trial e-bike from Brite Mobility, Woodquay, and Neasa Bheilbigh with her son Macdara, members of Galway Cycling Campaign celebrating World Bicycle Day 2020 on 3 June. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy, Galway Advertiser

World Bicycle Day, 3 June 2020

To celebrate World Bicycle Day 2020, the Galway Cycling Campaign encouraged people to share photos using the hashtag #MeAndMyBike on social media. There were lots of big new-bike smiles on faces of all ages and stories from people who have got back on the saddle thanks to quieter roads.

No better time to bike

Now is the time to make Galway easy, safe and pleasant for people of all ages and all abilities to cycle from their front doors to local businesses and parks, pitches and beaches. Galway is already a cycling city. Let’s make it a better one.