Cycle Bus recognised as international changemakers

The Galway Cycle Bus is delighted to announce it has been invited to join the ChangeX community. The Knocknacarra-based initiative promotes active travel for school children by experienced volunteers, parents and teachers escorting children to school by bike at various ‘pick up’ points in housing estates en route from Cappagh Road to Knocknacarra NS and Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh near Millers Lane.

ChangeX provides turnkey solutions for companies investing in communities worldwide. It is a platform that gets proven ideas and funding directly to anyone ready to lead impactful projects in their communities. The Galway Cycle Bus joins Irish Men’s Sheds and Playworks Ireland in the ChangeX community. 

The Galway Cycle Bus’s step-by-step 51-page guide to creating a cycle bus has been used by families and schools across Ireland from Dublin to Leitrim and Limerick. It is now available online to an international community. 

‘We’re thrilled to have been asked to join the ChangeX platform and we hope that other communities all over Ireland and abroad will use our Cycle Bus experience and  to create similar initiatives facilitating more active travel for primary school children,” said Alan Curran, parent, teacher, and co-organiser. “We also welcome financial and in-kind support from local businesses.”

“Cycling to school with your classmates and neighbours is an ordinary thing yet absolutely fun. We start off every day brimming with joy. It’s just great,” said Neasa Bheilbigh, also a local parent, teacher, and co-organiser. “Our Galway Cycle Bus continues to grow and it’s wonderful that from now it will bring even more communities across the world together.” 

Lower citywide speed limit makes it safer for children to get to school on their own fuel

Tonight, Thursday 3 September Galway Cycling Campaign will host its regular monthly meeting online from 7.30 to 9.30pm on Zoom. Top of the agenda are discussions of safe routes to school and the Galway Cycle Bus, and the ongoing citywide review of speed limits. 

Galway Cycle Bus was established in 2018 in Knocknacarra, Galway

The group of Galway residents welcomes the proposed speed reduction to 30kmph within the inner city centre. This will make it safer for children and students to access city centre schools and colleges by foot, bike, scooter and wheelchair. 

They believe that all schools and educational institutions across the city should have the same protection from traffic. 

“Most of our children go to primary and secondary schools in the suburbs where the standard speed limit on the school road and approach roads is 50kmph. If one of my children walking or cycling to school is hit by a car moving at that speed, which doesn’t feel fast to a person driving, she’ll have a 50:50 chance of surviving. At 30kmph, her chances are 90%. It’s that simple,” says Kevin Jennings, Chairperson. 

He also points out that reducing speed limits on roads close to places of education will make it safer and more pleasant for students to walk, wheel, cycle or scoot to school, college, NUI Galway, and GMIT. Slower speeds reduce noise pollution, fuel emissions, and air pollution.

“Parents biggest – and reasonable – fear preventing them from encouraging independent travel in their children and teenagers is the behaviour of road users,” said Mr Jennings. “I understand this too. My five-year-old started school last week and I chose to drive her there. She’s well able to cycle the distance but I didn’t feel safe to cycle with her on busy roads. She was upset – she sees her bigger brother and sister cycle and wants to be like them.”

Dublin City Council is planning for a 30kmph speed limit almost everywhere within the M50 to improve road safety and reduce violent death. It received over 2,000 submissions during its public consultation. 

Dublin City Council said that an examination of international experience and the existing 30km/h limited areas in the city “recorded only positive outcomes in terms of this road safety objective”. Residents already living in a designated 30km/h area, signalled continued support for retaining the limit. 

“Dublin is showing us that with leadership from council and elected councillors, it’s possible to change our streets to create safer, healthier, and happier streets,” said Martina Callanan, deputy chairperson. 

“We expect our council and public representatives will share Dublin’s ambition to keep people of all ages and abilities safe as we walk to the local shops and cafés or cycle, scoot or wheel to work and school. If Dublin can lower speeds and build cycle paths and coastal mobility lanes, so can we,” concluded Ms Callanan. 

Also on tonight’s agenda are the Change Our Streets Campaign, the recent announcement of Active Travel grants to both City and County councils as part of the July Stimulus, Galway-Dublin Greenway, and bike parking. 

All members and guests are welcome to attend. Email [email protected] to receive the Zoom meeting link. 

Active Travel funds welcome

Galway Cycling Campaign welcomes stimulus funding for mobility measures

We welcome this funding which will stimulate employment and lead to some public realm improvements.

We particularly welcome the plans to carry out preliminary design works on a new cycling bridge across the River Corrib along the old rail abutments. This route would be much used and much loved and would inspire active communities on both sides of the river, linking people, places and nature. This should allow the Council be ready to apply for funding in the future to carry out this wonderful and useful project.

We do have some safety concerns about a hard shoulder along the N6 between Ballybane and Briarhill becoming a cycleway but will comment on this if and when we see detailed plans from the Council.

We are happy that the road and cycle lane resurfacing works will make it easier to push buggies, wheel, walk and drive about our city.

The introduction of lighting along the fragmented coastal cycle paths are to be praised and will make these routes more attractive and useful during the dark evenings.

We do think an opportunity was missed to remove the ‘kissing gates’ at Mutton Island – swing gates which are intended to prevent horses and scramblers from accessing facilities but whose effect is to make access difficult for double buggies, certain wheelchairs and non standard bicycles. These are being systematically removed in other areas of the country.

It is to the credit of the National Transport Authority (NTA) that they are stimulating the economy while carrying out works which will benefit businesses and provide safer mobility in our towns and cities.

School Park and Stride graded D for effort

The Park and Stride initiative by Galway City Council in partnership with An Taisce-Green Schools is welcomed by the Galway Cycling Campaign and Galway Cycle Bus, yet they warn that this is only a baby step in creating safe routes to school for thousands of children across the city. 

A School Street was launched in Malahide in the autumn of 2019. Photo:- Fingal County Council

More radical measures are needed to ease front of school congestion and create space for social distancing, including vehicle-free entrance for children walking and cycling, discouraging or preventing illegal parking, widening footpaths, and providing new pedestrian crossings and cycleways. 

All of these travel measures are in the An Taisce-Green Schools ‘Safe to School: An Ideas Document for Safe Access to Schools’, which presents ideas for responding to school gate congestion and social distancing requirements since the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Responding to School Gate Congestion: eight measures to tacking front of school congestion’ in Safe to School (July 2020) by An Taisce-Green Schools

The government’s July Stimulus provides funding from the National Transport Authority (NTA) to Local Authorities to widen footpaths, provide pedestrian crossings and cycleways, and other Covid-19 related works.

In addition to enabling active travel, such road works would boost business for local construction companies and contractors.

Park and Stride

Though Park and Stride is one suggested measure, it has a number of downsides, including creating extra administration for schools, not enabling a switch to active travel from children’s front doors, and lacking objective measures of success. It is widely accepted that Park and Stride to school schemes are better suited to rural or semi-rural areas, rather than our city centres and suburbs.

School Streets

The Galway Cycle Bus has long advocated for School Streets. “A School Street is a road outside a school with a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times,” explains Neasa Bheilbigh, a primary school teacher and co-organiser of the Galway School Cycle Bus.

“Local authorities have powers to use traffic management orders to turn a street into a pedestrian and cycle zone, or School Street, for specific times during the school drop and collection. A trial in Malahide last autumn was a terrific success and championed by then Mayor of Fingal, Cllr. Eoghan O’Brien of Fianna Fáil. It made the school run safer – and that was before coronavirus.”

Park and Stride to school schemes do not tackle illegal parking on footpaths or create vehicle-free entrances to schools. Photo:- Cosáin, March 2016, outside the Jes primary school on Raleigh Row, Galway

Ms Bheilbigh voices concerns with the new initiative.

“Park and Stride only encourages people driving cars to park elsewhere within a 10 minute walk of the school. People driving cars can still park up at the school door. It does not compel a behaviour change like School Streets, which restricts vehicle access to schools. Schools have no jurisdiction outside their school gates and so have no power to enforce Park and Stride, or illegal parking on footpaths and double yellow lines.” 

“Furthermore, we do not have plans from the council to provide protection from traffic, or more space for social distancing, outside school grounds,” she continues. “This is vital for families who have multiple start times due to staggering of school hours.”

A School Street outside St Oliver Plunkett primary school in Malahide, Co Dublin, temporarily restricts vehicle access to the school gate during drop off and pick up hours. Photo:- Fingal County Council

Secondary schools

“Child-centred schools begin on the school drop,” says Alan Curran of Galway School Cycle Bus, who is also a teacher at Coláiste Éinde on Threadneedle Road, Salthill. “Walking and cycling has to be a convenient and safe option.”

Bike parking at schools

He continues, “My concern as a second level teacher is the mixed messages about cycling and the impact on bike parking. While all the Covid-19 guidance is about encouraging children to walk or cycle where possible, schools cannot allow students to gather in groups.”

“Up to 80 teenagers cycle per day here at St Enda’s secondary school. We need guidance and funds to make safe and socially-distant bike parking. Some schools have re-allocated bike sheds to create additional classrooms, and so need a completely new provision of bike stands.”

Cycle lanes on school routes

Covered bike stands at Coláiste Éinde are full every day. Schools are seeking guidance to maximise the provision of bike parking while also discouraging students to gather in groups. Photo: Galway Cycle Bus

“Temporary pop up cycle lanes on the access roads to schools should have been a priority for the city council prior to schools reopening from next Thursday,” says Kevin Jennings, chairperson of Galway Cycling Campaign and lecturer at NUI Galway.

“To facilitate safe cycling routes to schools, Dublin City Council is installing a 3.5km segregated cycle lane along Griffith Avenue. This will act as a ‘spine’ to local schools and DCU.

A similar 3.5km school route in Galway would stretch from Coláiste Éinde and Salerno in Salthill to city centre schools like The Bish, Our Lady’s College, and St Patrick’s, Mercy, and St Nicholas’ primary schools via a plethora of schools such as Scoil Éinde, Scoil Róis, Dominican College, Scoil Fhursa, St Mary’s College, and the Jes primary and secondary schools.

“There’s still time to create temporary cycle lanes en route to NUI Galway and GMIT,” he says. “Higher education institutions are busy planning some form of on-campus learning experience, which will be vital for incoming first year students. We need to protect their mental health, provide quality education, and create a community for them. Cycling is fun, sociable while appropriately distant, healthy, and smart in a university city.”

A 3.7km cycle route from Threadneedle Road to Woodquay could act as a ‘spine’ for school children to access seven secondary schools and nine primary schools.

“Tweaks to pre-covid public realm and transport plans are not fit for purpose for our needs this autumn-winter,” concluded Mr Jennings. “One third of this city’s population goes to school at all levels as students or workers. We need better and safer routes to school.”

Bi-cycle with Pride

‘Bi-cycle with Pride’ was a special edition of CycleCoffeeCake and the penultimate event of the Galway Pride Festival 2020.

Bi-cycle with Pride, co-hosted by Galway Cycling Campaign and Galway Community Pride for Galway Pride 2020 – Photo: Paula Healy

‘Bi-cycle with Pride’ was the penultimate event of the Galway Pride Festival 2020 last weekend. Co-hosted by Galway Cycling Campaign and Galway Community Pride, the social cycle took a gentle route through Galway’s Westend and the Claddagh, by the markets and up to Eyre Square before returning along the Canal Road to end at Gourmet Tart on Raven Terrace. 

This was a special edition of the popular CycleCoffeeCake events for adults who are new, or nearly new, to cycling.

Many women aged 35 to 55 years hopped back on the saddle during lockdown and feel determined to keep pedalling. These weekend morning events at weekends help boost confidence to cycle on city roads and so make cycling a real option for everyday urban transport.

Nearly 70% of the participants use their bikes for everyday transport to local shops, visit friends, or travel to work. 

The bike boom of 2020 is due to women buying bikes, with the comfortable stepthrough frames of hybrid bikes being the most popular bicycle sold.

The organisers wish to thank Cllr Owen Hanley, Galway City East, and Cllr Níall McNelis, Galway City West, for their support, as well as An Garda and Galway City Council.