'A lot of people don’t cycle because it is too dangerous'; new Cork Cycling Campaign chair seeks change

'A lot of people don’t cycle because it is too dangerous'; new Cork Cycling Campaign chair seeks change
Conn Donovan, chair, Cork Cycling Campaign.Picture Denis Minihane.

THE Cork Cycling Campaign was started in 1999 to make Cork City and county more cycle-friendly and 21 years on the campaign is more buoyant than ever.

New chairman Conn Donovan is preparing to take the bull by the horns during his year at the helm.

“I plan on staying for one year, I want new voices to be coming through the whole time.

“We get a lot of people coming to our meetings who are looking to improve the facilities in their local areas, maybe bike racks in Douglas or maintenance issues in Ballincollig.

Conn Donovan, chair, Cork Cycling Campaign.Picture Denis Minihane.
Conn Donovan, chair, Cork Cycling Campaign.Picture Denis Minihane.

“The organisation is growing at such a rate that we can’t tell everyone what to do and we don’t want to tell everyone what to do.

“We want to enable people so they can make decisions for themselves and represent the organisation in their area by acting on those decisions.”

The Cork Cycling Campaign is inclusive and they hold meetings on the first of every month in The Gables on Douglas Street which all are welcome to attend.

Mr Donovan identified things he would be putting his energy and focus into.

“I want to get segregated cycle lanes and a maintenance schedule, markings for busy lanes, as well as increase the number of bike racks and parking for bikes in the city.”

Mr Donovan described the relationship between City Hall and the Cycling Campaign as “extremely poor”.

“We held a rally in February 2019 to give Cork City Council a mandate to install protective measures for cycle lanes in the city centre that are dogged by illegal parking,” he said.

“The Campaign was delighted to see over 150 people attend the event but the effect on changing mindsets in City Hall was minimal.

“The Campaign were criticised by City Hall with one senior manager labelling the event as a foray into ‘street politics’.

“Street politics or office politics makes no difference to us, we just want to see cycle lanes used for the purposes they were designed for; helping people to cycle safety in the city.”

The rally was held to give City Hall a mandate for change, but he says the campaign is being ignored.

“They seem to have a different perception. When cycling infrastructure was installed five years ago, we saw it as a start, they saw it as completed. Why do more?”

Mr Donovan also said that City Hall seems to think that the committee of the organisation are ‘radical cyclists’ that do not represent broad views.

“We represent everyone,” he said.

“We got over 800 responses to our cycling survey last year, City Hall got 500 to their corporate plan.”

Mr Donovan said working together would achieve the greatest results.

While there is only between 5-10% of people that actually cycle, Mr Donovan said there is up to 40% interested in cycling if the roads were safer.

Conn Donovan, chair, Cork Cycling Campaign.Picture Denis Minihane.
Conn Donovan, chair, Cork Cycling Campaign.Picture Denis Minihane.

“The data shows 40% are interested but concerned. The infrastructure was built to appeal to 5%.

“There are other people, a huge amount that never cycle, but a massive amount that would cycle if the infrastructure was better.

“A lot of people don’t cycle because it is too dangerous and the roads are not suitable.”

While Cork Cycling Campaign works with national bodies such as the National Transport Authority, (NTA) Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána as well as Cyclist.ie, which is a national advocacy network for cycling, there are quick easy wins that can be implemented by the council.

“If we could get Tramore Valley Park opened from Half Moon Lane it would be great for cyclists.

“It is more dangerous to cycle there from Douglas Road and it could be used as a commuter route if it was opened.”

Other things that could be tackled locally are illegally parking in cycle lanes and maintaining busy cycle lanes while working on bringing more cycle lanes to parts of the city that need them.

While the Cork Cycling Campaign is growing by the day, Mr Donovan said that there is still an attitude problem at times between motorists and cyclists.

“There seems to be a disconnect. Everyone seems to realise that traffic is a growing problem as is pollution and climate change.

“We know they are happening and part of the solution is cycling but people are not joining the dots.”

Mr Donovan said that when it comes down to a question of space on roads cycling seems to be losing the battle.

“If you have a two-way street, a footpath and parking and then you need a cycle lane, its a question of space.”

Despite this, Mr Donovan said that the membership is growing all the time.

“The growth is phenomenal. More and more people are getting involved and our social media reach is getting larger and larger.”

Mr Donovan thinks cycling is not being promoted enough.

“In Dublin, they have a cycle maintenance schedule, on-street parking converted to bike parking, the list goes on.

“Here in Cork, there is no proactive approach, we are not lobbying for the Coke Bike Scheme to be extended, but leaves are swept into piles and left in cycle lanes, an accident waiting to happen.

“It’s a pity, it’s a missed opportunity. We have a compact city, it is quieter to cycle and it is an attractive, liveable city to cycle.”

Mr Donovan said companies look at the transport system when establishing a base.

“Companies look to the transport system. Can they travel publically/sustainably? Will they have to use their car?

“We are not looking to get rid of the car, but we just want the choice, for taking kids to school and going to the shop, it’s important to be able to mix the modes.”

Mr Donovan said in terms of what the campaign is striving to achieve, a lot of what they are asking for is easily achieved, very practical and with benefits for all.

“I would like to finish the year with more protected cycle lanes and a commitment from the council to maintain the cycle lanes, to grit and clean them.”

He said he would like to see abandoned bikes removed. “They are not good for business or tourism and they take up a bike rack from someone who might want to use it.”

In a recent open letter to the Chief Executive Ann Doherty, Mr O’Donovan, along with 168 people are calling on the CE to be the city’s leading safety representative.

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