The people of Galway have clearly said, ‘We want a safe cycle lane on the Prom for our families during Covid-19.’ We are disappointed that our Councillors have not asked the Chief Executive to apply for special Covid-19 funds through the National Transport Authority (NTA), which would fund the proposed pop-up cycle lane along the Prom, plus more pedestrian crossings and extensive bike parking. Given that future permanent cycle facilities are now tied to the development of flood defences, nothing will happen in Salthill for years and years. The status quo remains: families will continue to share the road with buses, cars, and vans.
“The people of Galway have clearly said, ‘We want a safe cycle lane on the Prom for our families during Covid-19.’ Over 200 of the 1400 public submissions for covid mobility measures received by the Council were for a Salthill cycle lane.
Yesterday, our flashmob gathering on the Prom vibrantly showed that people of all ages and abilities want safe cycling and mobility infrastructure during coronavirus.
“We are disappointed that our Councillors have not asked the Chief Executive to apply for special Covid-19 funds through the National Transport Authority (NTA), which would fund the proposed pop-up cycle lane along the Prom, plus more pedestrian crossings and extensive bike parking.
“Given that future permanent cycle facilities are now tied to the development of flood defences, nothing will happen in Salthill for years and years. The status quo remains: families will continue to share the road with buses, cars, and vans.
“Now, we must turn our energies towards creating safe routes to schools when they reopen at the end of August. Social distancing will be with us for as long as this killer virus is present.
“We need to enable children and teenagers to walk and cycle safely to school, especially as bus capacity has shrunk and parents may have concerns about car-pooling between different families.”
COULD IT REALLY be that Santa has arrived six months and one week ahead of schedule? In the programme for government, we are told that €1 million euro a day, every day, will be invested in safer cycling and walking during the lifetime of the next government.
This Opinion piece first appeared in TheJournal.ie on Thursday 25 June, 2020.
Not so long ago, buses, vans and Ford Cortinas vroomed through the towns and cities of Ireland. Just two decades later, we hope to move ever closer to safe strolling, an abundance of food offerings, street conversations, and bike bells. Investment in cycling and walking in the programme for government is a smart and progressive deal for transport, health and revitalising town centres.
Hopefully, this time next year, we will have spent €360 million on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, more than has ever been spent before. Investing almost €1 million a day, every day, for the lifetime of the programme for government means that people in Irish cities, towns, villages and suburbs will enjoy safer, more vibrant and attractive streets.
With an emphasis on quality and oversight, these efforts, if agreed and implemented, could make the places we live better for people, business, the environment and our sense of community.
Cycling is the solution to a myriad of intimately intertwined social and economic problems of congestion, public health, and quality of life. And since cycling does not produce emissions, it reduces air pollution and carbon as well.
And as many of us rediscovered recently due to the coronavirus lockdown, cycling is social, fun, and inexpensive.
Cycling doesn’t make sense for everyone and that’s ok. But we want to get those within cycling distance to the places they need to be on a daily basis to feel cycling is a very real and very safe option.
The bike boom of 2020
The bike boom of 2020 is a global phenomenon. Bicycles are sold as fast as they are assembled. People are waiting for bike orders to be delivered in August. Bike repair services are rammed.
With the absence of HGVs, vans, and the school commute during the lockdown, unoccupied roads turned into urban parks with families and small crews of happy teenagers strolling, cycling, and scooting. Empty car parks became cycle training grounds for very young children. We have found that women, especially, felt a little braver when it came to cycling in this time:
“For the first time in 12 years,” said Anne Bedos of Café Rothar in Dublin’s Phibsborough, “we are selling more bikes to women than to men.”
More space, less speed
Everyone is a pedestrian, whether they’re standing at the bus stop or walking to their car. A safe street is where you’d let your five-year-old play with peace of mind. According to Prof. Kevin Leyden of NUI Galway, ‘‘If we want to get more people cycling, we need to make cycling feel safer. Key to that is slowing the speed of cars and providing a cycling infrastructure that reduces the probability that cyclists will be killed or injured by motorists.”
If this programme for government goes ahead, towns with smart travel strategies will have funding and expertise to develop comprehensive networks of safe paths and attractive lanes connecting commuters to their workplaces and children and teenagers on safe routes to their schools.
Residential areas need to be conveniently connected to retail and recreational spaces. Protected footpaths and cycle lanes need to be considered as ‘mobility lanes’ and be comfortable for people using wheelchairs, adapted bicycles and adult tricycles.
The seven new Regional Cycle Design Offices promised in the programme would expand and enhance the expertise available to support local authorities. Every local authority would be supported by a Cycling Officer. Along with the funding, this emphasis on expertise and quality infrastructure would be a game-changer.
The commitment to reduce speed limits doesn’t grab headlines, yet slower speeds and their enforcement are a huge part of what it takes to get more people cycling and walking.
Mairéad Forsythe of Love 30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits, says, “Reducing speed limits in towns, villages and cities to 30 km/h will make our roads safer for people walking and cycling. It lowers the risk of collisions and the risk of injuries. Most important of all, slower streets make our neighbourhoods more pleasant places to live, shop, and work, and for children to play.”
We want more people cycling, and more types of people cycling. Measuring only fatalities and injuries is crude. We need ambitious targets for children cycling to primary and secondary school, in particular teenage girls. In Ireland, just 2.1% of teenagers cycle to secondary school. In The Netherlands, that figure is 75%.
Lessons from abroad
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have clearly incorporated international evidence into the programme for government. From Seattle to Sydney, cities are being radically reshaped in favour of people walking and cycling.
The Belgian port city of Ghent implemented a light, quick and cheap traffic circulation plan in 2017 and witnessed a 60% rise in cycle use. It reached its target of 35% cycling last year, 13 years earlier than planned for. There has been a 17% increase in restaurant and bar startups.
Before coronavirus, the Mayor of Paris unveiled her plans to transform Paris into a ‘15-minute city’ of self-sufficient neighbourhoods with grocery shops, parks, sports facilities, and schools just a walk or bike-ride away.
Since then, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has urged ‘those who can’ to cycle plus announced a €300 million investment to install up to 650 km of new temporary and permanent bicycle lanes. This is about three times the length of the total Paris Métro network.
Return on investment
European research last year showed that every 1-kilometre drive costs the public purse €0.11 in terms of congestion, pollution, and time. Every 1-kilometre cycle brings a benefit of €0.18. Walking is even better. Each 1-kilometre walk adds €0.37 to economy and society in terms of improved public health, tourism, and quality of life.
More than 23,000 people live within a 10 minutes cycle of Carlow Post Office, for instance. Over half of all journeys by adults in Ireland are 6 km or less, according to the Central Statistics Office. This is a comfortable distance on a bike for most people – providing you have a bike and a safe route to go where you want to go.
Get bikes, get cycling
We need to help people purchase bikes and get cycling. The Cycle to Work Scheme is a good start. The same wide access for e-car grants must be made possible for bike grants. New help to buy e-bikes and cargo bikes is particularly welcome. Bike share schemes should be expanded and include e-bikes and e-scooters.
“Sharing schemes are low cost and e-bikes help cities reduce congestion and meet climate change targets,” says Colin Barry, founder of Brite Mobility, Galway. “The motor’s assistance level attracts users who would have been afraid of the exertion of cycling before.”
So, what happens now?
Immediately, each local authority will be mandated to assess where road space can be re-allocated for walking and cycling. We want plans to be audited for quality and involve input from local communities.
Already, we have heard government radio ads asking us to cycle and walk where possible. Children need to be able to park their bikes at sports grounds.
Like wildflowers, we expect to see bike parking sprouting up everywhere – outside local shops, cafés, retail parks, parks, and beaches. Wherever bikes are tied to poles, there should be bike parking.
Bikes are good for business
Local businesses can request installation of quality bicycle stands from their local authorities. Customers by bike are local and loyal. Cycle parking delivers five times the retail spend per square metre than the same area of car parking, according to Transport for London research.
Safe cycling for all
By this time next year, I hope we will have experienced a major cultural shift in transport policy, in moving people safely and sustainably around our towns, villages and cities. Cycling will be seen as the solution to congestion, a key contributor to better public health, and a powerful tool in developing a better quality of life for all of our people.
Cycling has arrived and there’s no going back. Let’s pedal onwards to our new normal.
Martina Callanan is the spokesperson for Galway Cycling Campaign and a member of the Executive Council of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, helps organise CycleCoffeeCake for women and novices on bikes, works in strategic communications, and tweets at @MartinaCallanan and @GalwayCycling.
Galway Cycling Campaign warmly welcomes the report in the Irish Times that the deal for the Programme for Government will include €360m for cycling and walking. This will be allocated each year before the proposed future investment split of 2:1 in favour of public transport over roads. This is a smart deal for transport, public health, and supporting the local economy.
The volunteer group for everyday cycling has campaigned for years for 10% of the land transport budget to be allocated to cycling.
Chairperson of Galway Cycling Campaign Kevin Jennings emphasised the significance of the increase of funding from 2% to 10% for cycling.
A commitment of 10% for cycling in the land transport budget could help change transport in Ireland. The new government radio ads asking us to cycle and walk where possible are a first that I can recall. My kids are asked to cycle to camógaí training.
Investment in cycling is investment in public health. Better infrastructure will encourage more people to cycle during coronavirus, and enable the years of social distancing we must do until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.
The chairperson also added that cycling is good for local business.
Cycling is good for business. Customers by bike are local and loyal. Research in London and Europe shows that bike parking outside your business brings five times the retail spend as the same space allocated to a car.
The first CycleCoffeeCake event organised by Galway Cycling Campaign ended at Ground & Co in Salthill. The local business was delighted to sponsor this event to support new people cycling as they’ve seen a massive jump in customers arriving by bike.
Martina Callanan, spokesperson for the Galway Cycling Campaign, pointed out that EU research clearly shows that the economic and social benefits of cycling and walking.
According to EU research, each 1 km drive costs the public purse €0.11 in terms of travel time, collisions, and pollution, while at the same time each 1 km cycle or walk brings health, environmental and quality of life benefits of €0.18 & €0.37 / km respectively.
She added that the the group are keen to confirm the annual percentage budget for cycling and walking.
It looks like the Programme for Government will commit 20% of the land transport budget to cycling and walking, as 20% of 2020 land transport budget is €360m.
We expect 10% to be clearly allocated to cycling as this 10% allocation is endorsed by the UN, Citizens’ Assembly, the Dáil, Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action and the government’s Climate Plan.
Kevin Jennings added that the expectation is that cycling funding will be spent on quality infrastructure for all ages and abilities in Galway city and county so that we can grow cycling to levels common in places like Ghent, Seville and Leeds.
We also need to support more women to cycle. The boom in bike sales is due to more women buying bicycles. Before coronavirus, only 27% of cycling commuters are female, according to 2016 Census data.
Women typically have complex cycle routes involving trips to school, childcare, GP, local shops, public services like libraries, as well as to work. Safe and segregated cycle paths in networks that start from your residential area are necessary to support more women – and families – on bikes.”
Galway Cycling Campaign looks forward to examining the full published Programme for Government. More detailed comments will follow.
Who we are
Galway Cycling Campaign is a voluntary group which represents cyclists in Galway. We promote cycling as a common and accessible form of transport with the goal of creating a more liveable Galway for everyone.