Bridging the cycling divide.
Thanks to the pull of social media, curiosity got the better of me and I duly attended the advertised cycling meeting in Tralee on Saturday. Basically it was showcasing the fact that blogger/journalist Cian Ginty, had taken a delegation of people over to the Netherlands. They experienced first hand, the joys of cycling in and around the Utrecht area. Taking in the many different forms of cycle paths and roads in the area. We also saw their attempts at cycle storage, engineering and the various forms of cycling accessories used in the Netherlands. From my own point of view I was quite interested as I used to live there from 1991-95.
My conclusion from the presentation was:
- Why has this sort of mission taken so long do? It’s not like the Netherlands is on the other side of the World and any person with an ounce of common sense knows they are one of the World leaders when it comes to cycling, planning and ideas.
- From the presentation side of things. It was well put together, but little seems to have changed in that Country over the last 20 years. I put that down to them finding a winning formula many years ago and needing to do very little to improve on the excellent structure already in place.
The meeting was a coming together of Cyclist.ie members. They were holding one of their nationwide meetings in Kerry. They are a nationwide group that has cycle safety at heart. The sad aspect was that, despite Kerry being fairly fanatical when it does come to cycling, I was the only person that showed for the presentation, other than the dozen or so members that had been there for 4 hours discussing various other cycling topics.
The conclusion I came to was that without realising it previously, there is a divide when it comes to cycling, be it here in Kerry, the UK and even the Netherlands. I’d divide the cyclists into 2 groups:
- The club cyclist. Something that has taken off big time in the last 10 years. The type of person that dresses like a race cyclist for the occasion, has in mind a spin from anywhere between 50 km to 200 km with a coffee stop taken somewhere in the middle. In some cases they can be obsessed with speed and personal best times.
- The casual cyclist. Probably the type of cyclist that has been around since the penny farthing. They are the people who see cycling as a mode of transport as oppose to a way to burn calories. Their idea of a leisure spin might be 20 km to the beach on a fine day with a pub lunch thrown in for the return journey?
Sadly I detect an uneasy truce between the 2 sides.
The fact of the matter is! When you have 2 sides with a common interest, but in any way divided, then it’s game set and match to authorities. They are dealing with 2 small groups, that has the potential to be one strong group with some clout. As a consequence, they can decide what they will and won’t do regarding cycling infrastructure in the knowledge that they haven’t got a powerful group snapping at their backsides come the next election!
I really feel that the cyclist.ie aims would be of huge benefit for everyone connected with cycling. The introduction to better cycling lanes in towns and cities in Ireland would be of great value to both locals and tourists alike. Throw into the mix the planned greenways and it has potential to be huge. The general well-being to the population and a good boost to economy are just 2 of the pluses given a strong cycling infrastructure.
From a local perspective, certainly in Tralee and Killarney there is something to build on. We do have various types of cycling lanes. The feeling I get though, is that the authorities are trying to be seen to be doing the right thing. ie build a new road and put a cycle/walking lane next to it, but in the same way as say… supplying a disabled person with a house and leaving them to run it lock stock and barrel. Unfortunately that doesn’t work. They need help in running and maintaining the home in the same way as cycle lanes need maintaining and looking after. Sadly many of the cycle lanes around Kerry are shabby, dirty, badly sign posted, unkept and attract parked cars like a bee to honey (despite penalty points and a €60 fine).
Certainly here in Ireland we are not the same Country as Netherlands and it’s unreasonable to expect the same standards. I feel though with better house keeping , a better structure for cycling in various areas, better signage and implementation of existing laws. Maybe just maybe we might see more club cyclist making the short cycle to work, more mothers cycling with the kids to school and the family spending Sundays exploring Ireland beautiful villages and countryside.
A little coming together under the one banner, just might tip the balance in our favour?