Venue: Galway Social Space, 24 Middle St.
Time and date: 7.00–9.00 p.m., 8 September 2008
Present: Shane, Martin, James, Simon, Eoin, Stan
Apologies: Stéphane, Oisín, Indiana, Kristin, Cormac, Bart…
Shane handed out minutes from last year’s AGM and read them to the group. Stan proposed them, Simon seconded them and they were duly adopted. Shane then passed around a list of activities undertaken by the group since last year’s AGM. These were discussed more-or-less sequentially.
Seamus Quirke Road redevelopment saga: after a contentious public hearing, An Bord Pleanála forced a redesign of the Seamus Quirke Road, which was also cyclist- and pedestrian-hostile and full of traffic management problems. Shane lodged a formal complaint (in a personal capacity) with the Association of Consulting Engineers, but they perfunctorily rejected it.
On the other side of town, the Galway Cycling Campaign revealed the Doughiska Road redevelopment to be overtly cyclist-hostile, not least in its use of substandard cycle lanes. Simon told the group how over sixty ‘problem points’ were identified and how cyclists using the road would have to yield right of way every few yards. After lots of lobbying the project stalled, but despite – or because of – a dubious and unsatisfactory road safety audit, the controversial plans were adopted by the Council.
The Peter Bradley Foundation campaigned for the use of cycling helmets, using arguments based on dubious claims about their safety benefits. The Galway Cycling Campaign ran a counter campaign, using up-to-date international research to expose the weaknesses of the pro-helmet case, and to show how futile and counter-productive it would be to enforce helmet use for anyone except children. Martin said that Dr Ian Walker’s study made sense; James had also read it and found it interesting. Stan described the group’s stance unofficially as ‘pro-choice’. If someone wants to wear a helmet, no problem, but they should be aware of the implications for their safety and for changes in motorist behaviour. Cycling communities around the world tend to agree that making helmets mandatory is out of the question. A quick show of hands revealed that no AGM attendees were regular helmet wearers. The initial pro-helmet story did not gather much momentum but is likely to arise again. Recent articles in the Irish Times were so level-headed and reasonable as to suggest that good sense is breaking out in spite of the extensive misinformation, confusion and paranoia surrounding helmets and cyclist safety.
In December a Christmas newsletter was produced and distributed. Simon collected and edited a variety of interesting material, and Stan wrote a short piece on the joys and less-publicized benefits of cycling.
Bus lanes on the outbound Dublin Road is a complex issue that depends on several variables, some of them interrelated, including lane width, driver behaviour (and occasional intimidation), lane use by taxis with our without fares, road gradient and overall road width. Given the available space, compromise is inevitable, but careful attention to the facts and to best practice can help create a road that works reasonably well for everyone, without endangering vulnerable road users. ‘Level 1’ cyclists need to be accommodated insofar as possible – Shane said that the last time he cycled in Dublin, he was hit by a taxi in the bus lane. Eoin added that in his experience of cycling in Dublin, he had more problems with taxi drivers than bus drivers. The GCC made a submission on the Dublin Road design and were gratified to see that the redesign seemed to take our concerns into account.
Also in January (2008) was a planning meeting, which was generally considered a useful exercise that helped us to arrive at a mission statement of sorts, and to pick our fights more judiciously, among other things.
The following month saw our successful bike lights initiative with the Garda Síochána. Although the traffic corps were originally to be our partners in the scheme, this was changed to the community guards, who accompanied us by bike on three teams to advise cyclists on being visible at night. The guards stopped people cycling without lights or reflective gear, and informed them of the law, while we handed out reflective vests, reflective straps and safety leaflets. The initiative didn’t get much exposure in the media, but James said he first heard about the group through this event. Simon said he hopes to repeat it.
The Small Crane redevelopment, which was proposed as a “child-friendly” scheme, would have extended a one-way system making it illegal for children to cycle a short distance to school, or up and down outside their homes on quiet residential streets. (They could cycle legally to school only by taking a long detour on busy roads.) One-way systems are inherently cycling-hostile, since they restrict access and encourage high traffic speeds and flow. The Galway Cycling Campaign discussed these issues with Small Crane community members, then both groups lodged objections and lobbied councillors. The proposals were subsequently scrapped (but for how long?).
Two members of the Galway Cycling Campaign were guests at the Belfast AGM of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, a huge organisation of cyclists who focus on recreational cycling but who have also campaigned. Shane was made the Republic of Ireland representative, and had good discussions and made good contacts on the night. Shane also met the author of the Warrington Cycle Campaign’s Crap Cycle Lanes book, and was contacted by the Galway Educate Together National School, who wanted advice on bicycle parking. Kristin helped the school with this venture.
Shane summarised the national cycling group situation. Politically there needs to be a national consensus on policy, so the GCC joined forces with cycling advocacy groups in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Skerries and Waterford to write a consensus policy document. This was written and reworked over about six months, then submitted to transport minister Noel Dempsey in May 2008. It is considered to be a live document, subject to periodic revision. Cycling community feedback will be sought before the next published revision. In June there was an informal meeting with representatives of the national group – attending were Adam D’Arcy (Cork), James Nix (Limerick), Robert Fitzsimons (Dublin), Stan Carey, Oisin O’Nidh and Shane Foran (Galway). It was a relaxed and productive introduction and brainstorm. The attendees came out strongly in support of “Cyclist.ie” as the working name for the group. (See holding page.)
Also in May 2008, Simon gave a presentation at the Galway Chamber of Commerce’s first Traffic & Transportation forum, a meeting of interested stakeholders to examine the traffic situation in Galway. Chris Coughlan of the Galway Chamber has been helpful and accommodating, interested particularly in “quick wins” – changes that can be realised in the short-term. These matters were again discussed in a meeting with Mr Coughlan in June 2008.
Renmore Park was redeveloped with a new one-way system, to prevent ‘rat running’ by cars avoiding traffic jams on the main road. As with the Small Crane proposals, the new system makes it illegal for some schoolchildren to cycle short distances outside their homes. Oisín rang the roads department several times and visited the office in person, but received no response.
A series of letters was published in the local newspapers on the subject of promenade/pavement cycling.
Contact was made with the Parks Department, who are amenable to meeting for general discussion. They have no responsibility for road design but they could help with between-roads design – i.e. with permeability. They have a general principle of considering cyclists in their plans, e.g. by leaving gaps for shortcuts between and within housing estates. The usefulness of such provisions shouldn’t be underestimated, e.g. for school routes that avoid main roads. Some alleys harbour anti-social elements and behaviour but this is not an argument for their being closed off; in fact, cyclists can provide a kind of passive security in these areas.
More meetings: Shane and Oisín met Frank Fahey TD where they found out that the QBN (Quality Bus Network) Office are to advise Galway City Council on its bus plans. The QBN designs in Dublin are demonstrably hostile to cyclists. The minister (who chairs the Joint Committee on Transport) is considering a series of seminars, one of which could focus on cycling. A delegation from the Galway Cycling Campaign met with Harcourt Developments to discuss the Headford Road framework plan. The plans need work, but this was a very positive meeting. Cormac also met with Tobin engineers to discuss the plans.
A letter was published in the local newspapers on the proposed Galway City outer bypass. Martin spoke with Professor Lewis Lesley, an international expert on transport, who said that such a road should be of an ordinary type, rather than the planned motorway or dual carriageway. There followed a short discussion about the bypass, about whom it would benefit and whether such benefit would make up for the environmental damage. It was generally agreed that a bypass would encourage more driving – not least of private cars – at a time when alternative modes should be encouraged.
Treasurer’s report: the treasurer was out of the country but there was little to report anyway – no financial activity except web hosting, and Alan was also absent and so unable to report on that. The coffers have about €3,500 total, which is earmarked as a grant from the HSE for the signs project. The County Council recently approved this project and will put up the signs once we’ve delivered them along with a list of locations. Shane said that he got a quote for production of the signs, and passed around copies of their design.
Resignation of officers: Cormac (in absentia) resigned as treasurer, Oisín (in absentia) resigned as secretary, Shane resigned as chairperson, and Simon resigned as PRO. Election of new committee: Shane nominated Simon for PRO, Stan seconded this, there were no dissenters, and Simon was duly re-elected PRO. Simon nominated Stan for treasurer, James seconded, Stan was elected treasurer. Stan nominated Simon for secretary, Shane seconded, Simon was elected secretary. Simon nominated Oisín (in absentia) as membership secretary, Shane seconded, Oisín was elected membership secretary. Stan nominated Shane as chairperson, Martin seconded, Shane was re-elected chairperson.
Lots of events, many of them with a focus on cycling, are planned for European Mobility Week. These have been organized by the Galway Cycling Campaign, the City and County Councils, and various other parties. There are presentations, workshops, meetings, a book launch and much more. The book launch is John Franklin’s acclaimed Cyclecraft (second edition), 20 copies of which are to be made available in local libraries. Shane is to give talks on cycling skills, safety and promotion, at NUI, Galway and at the City Museum. It promises to be a busy and fruitful week.
There was a short discussion about the Doughiska Road redevelopment. Shane gave an overview for those unfamiliar with it, and there followed a debate over whether it was worth the group’s ongoing involvement. Shane is to meet with a barrister later in the month, since the redevelopment design contravenes the City Development Plan. There is already a lot of public frustration over the project’s delay, but since it is demonstrably unsafe there are arguments both for and against its obstruction. A meeting has been planned for October 6 with Minister Éamon Ó Cuív and Ciaran Hayes.
Other matters, in brief: an article in the City Tribune detailed proposals for opening up railway lines to cyclists. There has also been a proposal to develop the Clifden Road as a cycling route into the west. It was agreed to write a press release or a letter to the parties involved to express our general interest in and agreement with the proposals. The Galway Cycling Campaign applied via LA21 to fund cycling maps for Galway, based on the Cheltenham map design. Iarnród Éireann pulled the plug on bike carriage in new trains and, unlike modern rail companies around the world, seem determined to avoid any integration with cycling.