PERSISTENCE, resilience and perception are the top three traits needed to thrive and survive in volunteer advocacy, according to the head of the Cork Cycling Campaign Conn Donovan.
Ballincollig primary school teacher Conn has dedicated his spare time over the past three years to improving cycling infrastructure in Cork City.
Conn, aged 35, said he never thought he would end up the chairperson of the Cork Cycling Campaign when he joined the organisation in 2018, but now in his second year at the helm, he has no regrets.
“I joined the Cork Cycling Campaign when I started working in the city centre and I started cycling to work. I was disappointed that in the 10 years that had passed since I first cycled the same route when I went to UCC that little change had happened and it was as challenging as ever to cycle this route.”
Conn who previously spent time in Germany and London said he wanted to bring some of the cycling attributes that were a successful part of these European cities and counties.
“Cycling in Germany is much safer and more sociable than in Ireland, it is not necessary to have a car living in a city in Germany. Then when I lived in London I relied on my feet, my bike and public transport. When I moved home, I tried to cycle as much as possible.”
When Conn first moved back to Cork he found that the cycle lanes had mounds of debris and there was a lot of illegal parking in cycle lanes.
Last year there were some positive developments for cyclists with bollards installed along cycling lanes to prevent illegal parking and to make the lanes safer. As well as this there was some cycle lane resurfacing.
Mr Donovan said while these improvements were welcome, there was a lot more to be done and this year the organisation is preparing a five-year plan outlining its aims for the coming years.
“Much of what has been done will encourage people already cycling to cycle with reduced risk of injury, what we need now is to do things that attract people to cycling.”
The Cork Cycling Campaign chair said that while volunteering within the cycling advocacy organisation can be frustrating and challenging, it is also deeply rewarding and satisfying.
“The best part of volunteering with the Cork Cycling Campaign is meeting people who care about Cork and are motivated to give up their time and energy to make it a better place to move around by bike. I think if you are passionate about something and you find a group of people who share your ideas then volunteering is a great way to spend some of your free time.
“I think a lot of people in the Cork Cycling Campaign are experienced and skilled at cycling but they would love to make it easier for friends and family who are less experienced at cycling to enjoy some of the benefits of cycling.”
It can be challenging dealing with different groups or organisations, such as the National Transport Authority or the Cork City Council where you are offering criticism or alternative viewpoints.
“It is important to check how things are being received and it’s vital to remember we are being critical to make things safer.”
Conn said one of the things volunteering has taught him about life is that people aren’t just motivated by financial rewards.
“It’s great to see people take pride in a change that came about due to advocating for change and speaking up about something.”
Mr Donovan said that Cork is a beautiful city that is very enjoyable to walk and cycle around and the more people that realised and enjoyed those attributes the better.
“You notice more by walking and cycling, you can take in the sights and smells, taking the views and have chats. You are able to savour the city.”
Conn said Covid has brought negatives and positives in terms of getting work done.
“Zoom is not as sociable but people who have kids can still make meetings, because they are quicker and easier to attend.
“While we miss face to face events, we are hoping to run Bike Week this year, fingers crossed and we are looking at running a webinars.”
Mr Donovan said the Cork Cycling Campaign is always open to new members.
“We’re always open to new members and if you are interested in helping make Cork a safer, greener, and healthier city, please visit our website to find out more about the work we do.
“We’re very grateful to the people who donate to us also. Our costs aren’t high but it’s hugely beneficial to have some money in the bank to support projects and events.”
To find out more about the Cork Cycling Campaign or to donate, log onto www.corkcyclingcampaign.com.