Cork Cycling Campaign caters for the booming two-wheel scene on Leeside

The group offer a voice to the cycling community in Cork
Cork Cycling Campaign caters for the booming two-wheel scene on Leeside

Conn Donovan, chairman of the Cork Cycling Campaign. Picture: Denis Minihane.

THE Cork Cycling Campaign has been in existence for over 20 years. 

It is made up of 500 members, with 45 of those being active volunteers. Essentially, it is a voice for everyday cyclists in Cork and it wants to make cycling here better.

More and more people took up or returned to cycling this year, as a result of the lockdown. Their chosen mode of transport holds any number of benefits. Cycling is good for the environment and to society as a whole. 

It is sustainable, relatively cheap, eases traffic congestion and reduces the level of harmful emissions released on our roads. 

Plus, cycling is also the ideal form of exercise and it holds massive social appeal.

Working with the local councils and other organisations, Cork Cycling Campaign aims to improve cycling infrastructure, encourage more people to pedal and further enhance the experience of everyday cycling in and around Cork city. Its vision is for Cork to become a great cycling city, and one where more and more people will choose cycling as a mode of transport. 

The group also supports the development of greenways in the county.

Speaking about the work of the Cork Cycling Campaign, chairperson Conn Donovan explained, "We are helping with projects, campaigns, events and so forth. 

"We speak as a voice for everyday cyclists in Cork – cycling as a form of transport, cycling to school or work and exercise. The work is varied. We do a lot of submissions, whether it is planning permission or policy submissions or consultations. 

"We survey people who cycle in Cork. We progress change and flag issues on cycling lanes. And for people who are cycling, we make sure that they do so as safe as possible. 

"The big drive for the next twelve months is to have proper cycle lanes put in on key bus routes.’’ 

Bike sales have been on the up this year. So much so that it is proving very difficult for many people to actually purchase one. 

Cycling continues to grow here in Cork. Conn and his peers took it upon themselves to assess just how much the two-wheel mode of transport has increased during the current pandemic.

"There has been a growth in cycling in Cork over the last nine months. By and large, cycling in Cork doubled during the summer. 

"There were small increases in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. It was pretty much double what we had on other years this year. That was the impact of Covid-19. People were probably cycling a bit more in lockdown. 

"But also people were looking at their transport options. Strava (the web service for tracking human exercise which incorporates social network features) gave us access to their tool called Strava Metro. 

"It doesn’t capture everyone who cycles – it’s for people who have smartphones and who track their fitness levels."

It is a particularly optimistic time for cycling enthusiasts in Cork. 

Cork City Council has made several recent improvements for cyclists (such as the introduction of bollards at cycling lanes on Washington street, a new bike lane on Horgan’s Quay and other works on Southern Road), while there are a number of greenway projects either underway or in the pipeline, such as the one from Youghal to Midleton.

If you are new to cycling in Cork, Conn has this advice;

‘‘Talk to someone who cycles the route. So, if you want to go from Douglas to the city centre, find somebody who does that route. 

"Ask them how they experience it, what are the challenges, where do you need to be aware of issues. 

"If you don’t feel safe doing a route; don’t do it. You don’t want to feel stressed and maybe you could look at doing a slightly longer route. 

"The greenway is much safer, for instance. Have a think about your route. Build up your confidence and experience. 

"Don’t feel that you have to keep cycling every day."

You can find out more about Cork Cycling Campaign via their Twitter or Facebook pages or on corkcyclingcampaign.com Sam Bennett’s Tour de France heroics this year could also prove massive in getting even more people cycling in Ireland, either as a form of exercise, transport or indeed, competition. 

"That he won the green jersey and two stages, including the iconic final stage on the Champs-Elysees, can’t have done cycling’s growth in Ireland any harm." 

That there is a strong Cork link to Bennett’s TDF heroics only made his victory all the sweeter in this part of the world.

Sam Bennett (centre), after winning the 2019 Men's Elite Road Race National title, in Derry, with Kanturk CC members past and present, Joan Curtin, Tom Moriarty, Darragh O'Mahony, Eddie Dunbar and Dan Curtin. Picture: Maura Moriarty.
Sam Bennett (centre), after winning the 2019 Men's Elite Road Race National title, in Derry, with Kanturk CC members past and present, Joan Curtin, Tom Moriarty, Darragh O'Mahony, Eddie Dunbar and Dan Curtin. Picture: Maura Moriarty.

The Carrick-on-Suir native developed his skills under the tutelage of Cork’s Danny Curtin while racing for the established O’Leary Stone Kanturk CC. 

Bennett raced in the green and blue of Kanturk CC, for four seasons, at underage level.

Speaking in these pages recently, Dan said, "We have had some great moments down in Kanturk. We have been very lucky. 

"This is one of the greatest years. He started in Kanturk, where green is in our colours. It was lovely to see him getting green in the Tour de France! It’s brilliant for cycling in Ireland. 

"It’s up to Cycling Ireland now to capitalise on it and to progress the thing on."

Racing in the colours of Deceuninck Quick-Step, Bennett became the first Irish rider, since his fellow Carrick-on-Suir native, Sean Kelly, in 1989, to win green at Le Tour.

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