31/10/09 A Touch of Green amid the Galway Asphalt

Parking Day Justyna and Catherine

Parking Day Justyna and Catherine

On Saturday the 31st of October, a city centre car parking space was temporarily reclaimed for the people of Galway. What used to be a car parking space was transformed into a mini public park to celebrate Galway’s first ever Park(ing) Day.

The aim of Park(ing) Day is to convert a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of Galway City that is underserved by public open space. The objective is to creatively explore how our urban public space is allocated and used. Inexpensive kerb-side parking results in increased traffic & less space in the city centre. This hinders the movement of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles, adds to the level of CO2 emissions and prevents the creation of a healthy, vibrant urban human habitat. Park(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the metropolitan landscape.

Galway’s newest green space was offered (and used) as a space to sit down to have a chat with friends, read the newspaper or simply to watch the world go by. The Galway Cycling Campaign also provided muffins and Justyna’s famous “bicycle shaped” cookies!

Bicycle cookies

Bicycle cookies

The parking meter was always running and contributions were taken from passers by to feed the meter and make sure the new “Park” was paying its way!

Meeting minutes 11 May 2009

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.

Meeting ends.

Meeting minutes 09 February 2009

Venue: Galway Social Space, 24 Middle St.

Present: Shane, Indy, Eoin, Stan

Apologies: Oisín, Simon, Kristin, Urs.

1. Meeting on Seamus Quirke Road and Moneenageisha junctions
2. HSE travel survey
3. National issues (report): National Sustainable Travel Strategy; NRA meeting
4. Cycle training
5. Critical Mass
6. Swiss cycling policy (report)
7. Map project
8. Volvo Race / City Centre Action Plan
9. AOB

Shane read the minutes from the January meeting. Stan proposed them, Shane seconded them (since no-one else was at both the last meeting and the present one), and they were duly adopted.

1. Oisín and Simon had a meeting on 5 February with the City Council Transportation Unit and Tobin Engineers regarding the Seamus Quirke/Bishop O’Donnell Road redevelopment. Tobin Engineers were represented by Tom Cannon and Eddie McGuire, while the Transportation Unit was represented by Martin McElligot (Senior Engineer), Lisa Kealy, and Brian Burke (formerly of Tobin Engineers). Via email Oisín reported that the meeting went well, that he and Simon outlined their concerns and received some clarifications arising from their detailed analysis of the scheme. Their suggestions were listened to, and solutions or compromises were sought where possible, though some problems remain.

There was a detailed discussion of the proposed redevelopment schemes using large printouts that Shane had brought. Indy and Eoin analysed the Moneenageisha plans in some detail, since they both use the junction on a regular basis.

2. A HSE staff travel survey reports that 34% live within 5km of work. The breakdown of travel mode is as follows: 3% cycle to work, 8% walk, 3% take a bus, 6% drive with others, and 80% drive on their own. Shane phoned Laura McHugh and Jacky Jones of the HSE to explain his concerns about the survey type, its results and their implications. Stan said he had started work on a cycling survey for Galway, to be disseminated widely upon completion and used as an ongoing source of data and insight.

3. National issues. The Government’s recent Smarter Travel document was discussed. It aims to prioritise cycling and walking, but there’s a big difference between aspirational talk and progressive action. Galway has been mentioned as a possible site for pilot schemes. Discussion followed about whether and how the Galway Cycling Campaign should respond. Stan said he would compose a ‘cautiously optimistic’ press release.

Shane is to give a presentation to the NRA next Thursday, 12 February. A meeting with the NRA will then follow, in which Shane and other Cyclist.ie representatives will discuss staff training, infrastructure design, village gateway schemes, hard shoulders, speed limits, and so on.

Eoin showed the group his brother’s M.A. thesis, an economic evaluation of cycling policy. It looked very interesting but there was no time to study it in any detail.

4. Shane met representatives of the Green Schools initiative; they discussed insurance, training, etc. In a related matter, the West Coast Wheelers contacted Shane to enquire about training skills.

5. Shane and Oisín joined in the last Critical Mass cycle, and Shane gave a brief report. The weather was awful, but about 18 attended anyway. The group cycled around the town centre and avoided dual carriageways. There was some deliberate car-blocking, a tactic many cyclists consider counterproductive.

6. In Urs’ absence his report on cycling policy in Switzerland was postponed.

7. Shane described the prospective Galway cycling map, including its colour code and other salient features, which are to be based on Cheltenham’s cycling map. Partial funding has been confirmed, which Simon can report on at a later date. Stan reported on a meeting he and Shane held with Dr Valerie Ledwith and Dr Frances Fahy in the Geography department, NUI, Galway. It was a very helpful and constructive meeting, and gave us considerable insight into various aspects of the project by comparing it with the successful Galway Green Map. A meeting is planned with relevant members of the City Council.

8. The Volvo Race is looming, and is being pushed heavily by the local media, but from our point of view resources are limited and we might not be able to capitalise on the event.

9. Eoin attended a talk by Green Party TD John Gormley. He said that the apparent futility of public consultation was a big issue among the attendees. Stan passed round a copy of the Galway Advertiser with a GCC press release and photo of the canal path resurfacing – a positive piece for all concerned.

Meeting ends.

Meeting minutes 9 January 2009

Venue: Galway Social Space, 24 Middle St.

Present: Shane, Oisín, Conor, Urs, Stan.

Apologies: Simon, Indy, Kristin, James, Eoin, Martin, Alan.

1. Doughiska Road update
2. Volvo Race / City centre action plan
3. National issues (report), national cycling strategy, safety audits
4. Cycle training (report)
5. Chamber of Commerce transport initiative
6. Canal works
7. Dublin road
8. Website
9. Map project
10. AOB

Minutes were read from the GCC meetings in October and November 2008. Matters arising: Shane called the RSA re HGV stickers handed this task over to Adam in Cork. The minutes were proposed, seconded and adopted.

Brief introductions were made, there was some informal chat, then Shane asked the first-time attendees what they would like to see out of the GCC. Both Conor and Urs cited practical measures – something hands-on and effective to improve conditions for cyclists in Galway.

1. Oisín met Martin McElligot from the Transportation Unit, who offered to meet every few months. Shane mentioned the current work on the Ballybrit roundabout, where a hole in a wall by the bus stop would greatly convenience pedestrians and anyone getting off the bus at that stop – this would be a low-hassle, easy-win measure.

Urs asked about planning in Galway. Stan mentioned the City Development Plan, that its modest demands are there in writing more than in reality. Oisín and Shane elaborated on this and on the transportation studies. There seems to be little or no real enthusiasm in city management for public transport, still less for walking and cycling. Oisín referred to the bus lane earmarked for the Seamus Quirke Road since 2003. The plan is apparently being sat on.

2. There followed a discussion about the Volvo Race, the cycling map project and local politics. One idea that arose for discussion was the possible conversion of selected one-way streets to two-way for cyclists. Shane proposed to make a list and pick the one-way streets that could be converted with minimal cost and engineering requirements, and maximal benefits to cyclists. Conor suggested that this could be integrated with the map project. The suggestion was well received, though it was acknowledged that much would depend on resources, timing, circumstances and other unknown variables.

Urs asked about lobbying tactics, and how changes are best effected. Oisín explained how the Renmore Road redevelopment signalled a better process of communication between the GCC and the consulting engineers. The engineers approached the GCC and took its ideas on board before finishing the design plan, resulting in a creditable final design.

3. Shane gave a brief report on Cyclist.ie, the new national cycling lobby group. Urs compared Ireland’s cycling situation with that of his native Switzerland. After years of active lobbying there are now five cycling routes across the country, as well as training in schools. Registration and insurance were set through the Ministry of Transport. There followed some discussion about attitudes to cycling and cyclists, the importance of visibility and lights (and Ireland’s legal shortcomings in this matter) and the problem of planning.

The national cycling strategy is set for publication, and what its final version will contain and propose is anyone’s guess. We may need to prepare a comment for a national press release, outlining what we expect to see in the publication to best promote cycling in Ireland. Cyclist.ie should also seek another meeting with Ministers Noel Dempsey and John Gormley, to call for enforcement of speed limits, and (on-road?) cycle training for all schoolchildren.

4. Oisín and Shane received cycle instructor training in Manchester and London, respectively, which qualifies them to train cyclists to the UK national standard. There is to be a follow-up over the coming months, to complete the qualification. Getting insurance may be a sticking point and therefore needs to be assessed. It’s £60 a year in the UK. Their training standard depends heavily on safe mechanics – checking everything on the bike before entering traffic. Oisín said he was eager to start training: it would involve more cycling and positive activity – not the usual relentless politics and bureaucracy.

Shane explained that some non-national roads require a safety audit from the points of view of various road user types, but that assessors are generally ignorant of a cyclist’s perspective. Maybe we could call for engineers to receive cycle training.

5. Oisín will contact Chris Coughlan and Simon to follow up on the Chamber of Commerce transport initiative.

6. The canal path from Dominick Street to University Road has been resurfaced where necessary and looks very well. The new surface is smooth and light-coloured, which increases safety and visibility. Stan has taken photos and is preparing a press release to thank those concerned.

7. At Oisín’s meeting with Martin McElligot of the Transportation Unit, Mr McElligot said that the Moneenageisha roundabout on the Dublin Road was to be removed as part of the Volvo Race city centre action plan.

8. Alan told Shane that the website needed to change hosts, and that the email archive was liable to disappear. Since several of us archive these emails personally, this was considered acceptable.

9. See also 2., above. Simon received €500 from Galway County Council towards the map project. Licensing and copyright issues need to be investigated. We also need to examine our graphic design resources – can we do it ourselves, do we know someone who can help us, or will we need to budget for design?

10. Urs described the cycle training he carries out with children in Ballybane. He is insured by Foróige and has good relations with the local community guard. In Switzerland there are “traffic parks” where school children are trained to cycle. Oisín said there was one in Dublin. It was agreed that they should be fairly straightforward to assemble – a bit of paint and a few props – once the logistics and location were satisfactorily established. Urs offered to assemble relevant information on the Swiss training and legal environments.

Meeting ends.

Meeting minutes 8 December 2008

Venue: Galway Social Space, 24 Middle St.
Present: Marty, Simon, Stan
1. Volvo Race
2. Media
3. National group
4. Greens 30kph presentation
5. Meetings
6. AOB

Minutes of the previous meeting are to be read at the next meeting. Due to the absence of almost everyone, much of this meeting was comprised of informal discussion.

1. Cycling promotion measures for the Volvo Race can be divided into marketing/PR and infrastructural/traffic-management. Guides, maps and routes for cyclists fall under the former, with the maps idea particularly attractive. The latter includes such measures as access to and from the docks by bicycle, conversion of one-way streets to two-way for cyclists. Promote exploration of the city by bike: by removing obstacles, increasing bicycle parking facilities, and increasing safety and convenience of cycling by the usual means.

2. Two print publications were discussed and analysed: the press release in The Sentinel about Cyclist.ie, and John Cunningham’s opinion piece in the City Tribune. The Sentinel gave generous space to a very good and positive piece, while Mr Cunningham’s article was more of a mixed bag, with some fair points but also some mistaken assumptions and misleading conclusions. Simon said he would write a reply, time allowing.

3. Maynooth Cycling Campaign joined the collective. The most recent subject under discussion by Cyclist.ie was ‘operation freeflow’ in Dublin.

4. A representative of the local Green Party asked Simon if he would be interested in giving a presentation to the Party on 12 January on the subject of 30kph zones. There is widespread resistance to 30kph zones in urban areas. Very few drivers obey the 50kph zones in Galway city, for example, and would likely baulk at the idea of further restrictions on their speed. Nonetheless, 30kph restrictions have been successfully implemented in various towns in the UK. Simon reminded Niall O’Brolchain TD of the Green Party’s policy on 30kph zones. From the Galway Cycling Campaign’s point of view, association with any political party is to be handled with caution. Marty wondered if it would be possible to give such a presentation to all the political parties, and Simon added the possibility of giving the presentation to the City Council.

5. Oisín and Bart met Ministers Eamon O’Cuiv and Frank Fahey to discuss the parking levy; the meeting was more of a general discussion about cycling promotion and traffic conditions.

6. Simon contacted a local sergeant to enquire about repeating the bike lights initiative. There was no response. We received 100 armbands from the County Council. The Road Safety Authority, Anchor Safety (Ballybrit) and Super Valu shared a high-visibility vest promotion. Simon contacted Anchor Safety, who said they would be amenable to a joint project with the Galway Cycling Campaign.

Meeting ends.

Cycling tips

Here’s a good list of cycling tips from Cycle Training UK. Learning how to cycle safely and skillfully in traffic will give you confidence to be more assertive on the roads, which in turn will keep you safer.