Rural communities should be cycle-friendly for all ages and abilities, says Rural Cycling Collective

Tuesday saw the formal launch of the Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland by Cyclist.ie’s Rural Cycling Collective, an array of groups and individuals under the umbrella of the wider national Cyclist.ie advocacy network. The Collective seeks to make rural communities (towns, villages, and rural roads) cycle-friendly for all ages and abilities. It aims to re-balance the debate on active travel so that everyday journeys by bike across rural Ireland are enabled and supported.
Rural communities should be cycle-friendly for all ages and abilities, says Rural Cycling Collective

The launch took place over Zoom, and included an array of speakers as follows:

  • Junior Minister Malcolm Noonan TD to launch
  • Jo Sachs-Eldridge (Transport Planner/Leitrim Cycling Festival) to give 5 min presentation on the document
  • Anluan Dunne (Kerry Cycling Campaign) to speak on recent Government Active Travel Stimulus Package – see Cyclist.ie article here
  • Catríona Corr (Kilkenny Active Travel)

Launching the vision document, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama for Cyclist.ie said:

“Today, we launch our vision document which aims to promote and celebrate everyday cycling in towns, villages and their surrounding areas. Cycling is not just for Dublin and other cities. Our vision highlights the needs of areas outside of the major cities and the opportunity now presents itself to transform peoples’ experience of active travel.

Allison Roberts from the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, a member group of Cyclist.ie, stressed that “we want a fair distribution of transport funding to regional parts of the country to make cycling for all ages and abilities a reality. But to ensure the funding is spent in the right way on the right kind of infrastructure, Cyclist.ie needs to be viewed as a core stakeholder and actively encouraged to participate more fully in local authority infrastructure and design planning.”

As Jo Sachs-Eldridge of Leitrim Cycling Festival, who led the creation of the vision, explains:

“What we want is to see changes in the way things are being done in our local authorities, we need to move from a reactive, ad hoc approach to one that is much more strategic and proactive. And we need to change the environment on our roads – both the physical and the social environment – so that they are safer for everyone.

“The 8 key recommendations in the vision document (see page 6 of the document here  – and listed below) could transform the countryside into places where cyclists are “expected and respected”, by designing useful, connected cycle routes throughout Local Authority areas”, Sachs-Eldridge continued. “As a priority, safe cycle routes to schools and car-free zones should be introduced at school gates in all towns and villages, along with lower speed limits to make our roads and streets safer and more accessible for everyone, and to reduce casualties”.

Sachs-Eldridge added that “we are delighted to finally see a funding commitment for cycling in the Programme for Government. But it must be accompanied by an improvement in design standards, and improved project management capacity at all levels of local and national government.”

Allison Roberts of the Clonakilty Bike Fest also stressed the importance of community and stakeholder engagement:

“Local authorities should see us as partners and allies as they start to draw up plans for cycle routes. Our expertise and hands-on experience of cycling in rural communities could be invaluable in designing safe routes for cyclists of all ages and abilities. We want to see the best use made of this funding opportunity. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

AIMS

The Rural Cycling Collective plans to foster collaboration amongst cycling groups across Ireland and to jointly lobby local authorities and public representatives for the changes which will entice more people to choose the bicycle for everyday activities. It will also work towards a cycle-friendly Ireland by collaborating with all stakeholders, organising regular events, fun-cycles and campaign actions.

MORE INFO

Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network is the umbrella body of cycle campaigning and advocacy groups in Ireland – https://cyclist.ie/. It is the member for Ireland of the European Cyclists’ Federation – https://ecf.com/.

Further information on Cyclist.ie’s Rural Cycling Collective is available here: https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/

Summary of 8 major points in the Vision – Cyclist.ie calls our local and national government to:

  1. Create an environment in our cities, towns, villages and rural roads where CYCLISTS ARE EXPECTED AND RESPECTED
  2. Implement BEST PRACTICE DESIGN to ensure routes are safe and comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities
  3. Prioritise SAFE CYCLE ROUTES TO SCHOOLS and car free zones at school gates
  4. LOWER SPEED LIMITS to make our roads and streets safer and more accessible for everyone, and to reduce casualties
  5. Ensure clear and timely ACCESS TO FUNDING, by improving capacity at all levels of local and national government
  6. COLLABORATE WITH ALL STAKEHOLDERS – including cycling and community groups – at all stages of planning and design
  7. Provide CYCLE TRAINING for all ages, especially children

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