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.” 

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.”

July Stimulus can change Galway cityscape: bike racks will be like wildflowers – popping up everywhere

Our chairperson Kevin Jennings outlines what the ‘big pot of July Stimulus mobility funding’ can do to create jobs and #ChangeOurStreets

Bike parking and flowers from West Midlands Big Summer of Cycling and Walking campaign, funded by Transport for West Midlands in order to keep the region moving during the COVID-19 recovery phases and beyond.

The government’s July Stimulus programme has created opportunities to quickly change our streets by creating more facilities for people who walk, wheel and cycle, according to the Galway Cycling Campaign. With funding available from the National Transport Authority, local contractors can be hired to implement shovel-ready projects, and so immediately boost employment while making  safer streets. 

“We understand that the big pot of July Stimulus mobility funding will fully cover the provision of new cycle tracks, bike parking, reducing road widths at crossing points and raised zebra crossings,” says chairperson Kevin Jennings.

“The public engagement process during the first City Mobility Team’s tenure showed overwhelming support for the need for more public space to walk to the local shops, cycle to GAA training, and go about  daily business throughout the city.”

“We hope to see bike parking racks pop up everywhere, like wildflowers. Anywhere there is a bike tied to a pole, that shows the need for secure and shelter bicycle parking. We encourage local shops, supermarkets, cafés and restaurants to ask the Council to install bike racks at their businesses. Bicycles should never obstruct footpaths.”

Relevant legislation gives Council Executives power to be quick and nimble in reallocating road and street space. Ne

#iBikeSalthill

“Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s vision and ambition to reallocate public space in order to support residents and local businesses is inspiring,” says Mr Jennings. 

“We understand from our councillors that the Salthill Cycleway is still a possibility within reach. We have written to the Council to suggest that they make contact with DLRCC and arrange a tour for some Council and business representatives to examine the two-way cycleway from Blackrock to Sandycove via Dublin’s Salthill to see first-hand what is possible. DLRCC and local businesses have worked closely together and residents and visitors are reaping the benefits.”

Neasa Bheilbigh and her son MacDara. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Neasa Bheilbigh of the Galway School Cycle Bus says,” With the imminent reopening of schools and public health advice continuing to recommend walking and cycling where possible, many parents will want an alternative to families cocooning in their cars at school gates.”

She continues, “July Stimulus funds specifically provide money for reducing road widths at crossing points and raised zebra crossings, which will help children cross roads more safely on their school routes in the city centre and suburbs.” 

“We suggest that schools and parents contact their local councillors to make requests to the Council for safer routes to school.”

Read the story in the Galway Advertiser, 13 August 2020

Galway Cycle Bus announces summer Family Cycles

Save some August dates in your diaries for Family Cycles in Oranmore, Renmore and Knocknacarra.

The Galway CycleBus is delighted to announce that they will organise three Family Cycles in August in Oranmore, Renmore and Knocknacarra.

Communities all over the city and county want to establish cycle buses in the absence of safe and protected cycle ways to schools. These family cycles will hopefully make connections between parents and encourage them to establish cycle buses in their own areas. 

In Oranmore on Saturday 22 August, the family cycle will tour the village and take the Maree Road out to Renville Park for a picnic and games. 

In Renmore on Saturday 5 September, a family quiz will be followed by a spin around the residential and amenity areas, and will conclude with a trip to the beach in Ballyloughane for fun and games. 

In Knocknacarra (date TBC), a family cycle around the neighbourhood will finish with a treasure hunt in Barna Woods. 

Parents, schools and local businesses are invited to get involved and contact the Galway CycleBus at [email protected] or on social media. 

These events coincide with the Cycling Rural Collective’s campaign to ‘Get to School on Your Own Fuel’.