Bike Week 2020

This year Bike Week looks a little different. We’ve organised online meetings, info sessions and working groups since March, and so we’re using this experience to bring you a series of webinars with guests from Ireland, Europe, and the USA.

Bike Parking and the Bottom Line

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on local businesses and retail in Galway city and county. We’re all living our lives more locally these days and government advice is to walk or cycle where possible.  International research and the experience of Dublin shows that quality and inclusive bike parking is an investment in local and loyal customers.

  • His Excellency, Adriaan Palm,  Ambassador at The Netherlands Embassy to Ireland
  • Chris Bruntlett, Dutch Cycling Embassy and co-author of Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality
  • Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin Town
  • Clodagh Colleran, Development Studies Association of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin

>Register for webinar<

Safer Roads, Safer Cities, Better Lives: The view from Europe and the UN

Decisions made by the European Commission and the UN have an impact on the road design and safety of our urban roads, residential streets, and bóithirín.

Insights into the impact of the lockdown on road safety from across Europe will be discussed as well as ideas for how we deal with a transition out of it.

Our guests from Europe will share how and why safe walking and cycling infrastructure and reducing speeds must be at the heart of our transport and mobility evolution.

  • Matthew Baldwin, the first European Coordinator for Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility
  • Ellen Townsend, Policy Director at the European Transport Safety Council
  • Rod King MBE, Founder and Campaign Director of 20’s Plenty for Us

>Register for webinar<

MOTHERLOAD, the movie

MOTHERLOAD, virtual community screening in Galway and Q&A with director Liz Canning

Date: Sunday, 27 September 2020, 7.30pm – 10pm

Our grand finale to Bike Week 2020 is hosting MOTHERLOAD as a virtual community screening and covideo party. We’re delighted that director Liz Canning will join us for a Q&A on Zoom immediately afterward for a panel discussion with urban liveability and health experts.

This 86 minute documentary from the USA captures a new mother’s quest to understand the increasing isolation and disconnection of modern life, its planetary impact, and how cargo bikes could be an antidote. It won a Sundance Special Jury Prize in 2019.

 Join the covideo party on Twitter using the hashtags #MOTHERLOAD #MOTHERLOADgalway

Post-screening Q&A with

  • Liz Canning, director of MOTHERLOAD
  • Neasa Bheilbigh, Galway Cycle Bus
  • Síle Ginnane, co-founder of Better Ennis
  • Jo Sachs-Elderidge, organiser of the Leitrim Cycling Festival and co-author of A Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland by the Rural Cycling Collective

>Register for screening and Q&A webinar<

Bike Week 2020 webinars hosted by Galway Cycling Campaign are funded through a grant awarded by Galway City Council through the Active Travel initiative by the Government of Ireland

Cycling Officers should be appointed before new city development plan begins

Cycling Officers need to be quickly appointed to Galway City and County Councils according to the Galway Cycling Campaign, who has written to both councils seeking a timeline for the hiring process. 

The Programme for Government emphasises expertise and quality in the €360 million annual cycling infrastructure spend. It promises to appoint a Cycling Officer to every local authority, a role which has yet undefined “real powers”. 

The Cycling Officer in each council executive is to ensure that each local authority “adopts a high-quality cycling policy, carries out an assessment of their roads network and develops cycle network plans.”

Cécile Robin, deputy chairperson of the Galway Cycling Campaign, says that the Cycling Officer should be appointed at a senior level with the ability to oversee budgets and have authority to ensure local authorities implement national cycling policy and design guidance to the highest standard.

“Our Roads departments are filled with talented engineers. The Cycling Officers should have a complementary skillset, such as in urban geography, sociology or psychology. The council’s ambition should be to create liveable neighbourhoods that prioritise people who walk, use wheelchairs, cycle or scoot,” said Ms Robin.

The appointment is particularly urgent because the process for the new Galway City Development Plan begins in January. 

“We need an expert in sustainable safety to be at the heart of developing our city,” said Ms Robin. “The 15-minute city is the ambition of Paris, where everything you need should be within a 15 minute walk or cycle of your front door such as local shops, cafés, schools, and even work. To paraphrase a great Irish sports commentator, neither France nor Paris are known as cycling strongholds.”

“Paris is adding another 650km of ‘corona cycleways’ to it’s 700km network to enable people to keep cycling after lockdown. Our city needs a senior decision maker within the council executive to champion active travel like walking, cycling and scooting from people’s front doors to wherever they need to go on a regular basis, like school, work, the GP, shops, and restaurants. We are already a cycling city, second only to Dublin in terms of people cycling to school and work.”

Cycling Officers are to work closely with new Regional Cycle Design Offices, as promised in the Programme for Government. 

“The 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework, introduced when Fianna Fáil and the Greens were last in government, continues to have good guidelines for people-centred planning and sustainable development. It has ambitious national guidelines to enable cycling within urban and rural areas. This needs to be embedded within the new city development plan, and a Cycling Officer should have the power to do so,” concluded Ms Robin.

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.

Galway cyclists call for lower speed limits

Galway needs to follow the example of Wales and decrease its speed limits for urban areas from 50km/h to 30km/h. All welcome to our online public meeting with Gwenda Owen of Cycling UK- Wales.

Galway city council is currently in the process of a public consultation about revising speed limit bye-laws throughout the city and Kevin Jennings, chairperson of Galway Cycling Campaign, believes that Galway should be inspired by the Welsh Government’s report that is recommending 30km/h replace 50km/h as the default speed limit on urban roads throughout the country and should embrace the benefits of slower speeds.

If the legislation is passed, Wales will become the first country in the world to reduce the default speed limit for urban areas to 20mph.

He said: “If someone is struck by a vehicle at 30km/h, their chance of survival is up to 97 per cent. This decreases with every kilometre driven faster.

There is also evidence that injuries are reduced when 30km/h limits are introduced and that 30km/h limits lead to more walking and cycling and lower noise levels. It’s more important now than ever to have safer streets and spaces for walking and cycling.

“A lower citywide speed limit would be life-changing because slower speeds will improve the places where we live, work, and go to school. We saw during lockdown that people were encouraged to walk and cycle more because they felt safer doing so.

“We look forward to working with Galway City Council to support lower speeds limits. We are happy to see public support for citywide lower speed limits from An Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley and chair of the Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Níall McNelis.”

Gwenda Owen, Cycling UK – Wales

On Friday 7 August, between 7.30pm and 9.30pm, the advocacy group will host its monthly meeting online via Zoom with Gwenda Owen of Cycling UK – Wales the special guest speaker.

Owens has played a significant role creating public support for the benefits of slower speeds in cities, towns, and villages by working closely with grassroots and community organisations and sat on the Welsh Government’s Walking and Cycling Action Plan Steering Group, which produced the Walking and Cycling Strategy for Wales in 2014.

Spokesperson for Galway Cycling Campaign Martina Callanan said; “The majority of our primary and secondary schools, primary care centres, community centres, and sports grounds are in our suburbs, outside the inner city zone, as well as Galway University Hospital, Bon Secours and Merlin Park hospital campuses, and GMIT.

“These are places that many people arrive at by foot and bike. Lower speed limits will make it safer, healthier, and much more pleasant, to choose active travel.”

Email [email protected] for the online Zoom link.

Read the story on Galway Advertiser