EVERY year, more and more people in Cork are discovering the joys of cycling. Not just as a holiday pastime or as a form of exercise, but also as a practical way of getting around.
That could mean riding a bicycle to school, work, sports club or the shops, or when visiting friends. In other words, cycling is just a perfectly normal way of getting around. As we mark Bike Week, let’s consider why people would want to cycle in the first place.
Many people love the fun and exhilaration of cycling — the joy of being in the open air and in touch with those around them. Others appreciate the financial savings of using the bicycle instead of driving or taking the bus.
For some, the environmental benefits of cycling are important. Cycling does not pollute the air with toxic gases and particles or with climate warming emissions. For people considering how to reduce their own contributions to climate change, research shows that a car-free lifestyle (which likely means a fair bit of cycling) is the single most effective daily action that they can take to reduce their contribution to climate change.
If those aren’t enough good reasons, the full health benefits of cycling are now becoming apparent. Large population studies have shown that cycling to work has incredible health benefits. In particular, commuting cyclists have much lower chances of getting or dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease. In other words, how you decide to travel to work — whether by an active mode like walking or cycling, or an inactive one — can have a big impact on how long you will live and your quality of life. The health benefits of cycling far outweigh any risks.
Perhaps you too should consider leaving the car at home sometime and try cycling to work? Cycling employees are much more positive than other commuters about their commute. And it’s no wonder: cyclists arrive at work energised and have no hassles with parking and traffic congestion. Even if that’s not possible, why not try cycling to friends, the shops, church, or the sports club?
But what’s it like to cycle in Cork? There have many been positive developments for cycling in Cork over the last few years.
Newer segregated cycle paths like on Popes Quay or Western Road are a big improvement on earlier cycle provision. Such segregated paths are a big encouragement to novice cyclists and those cycling with children.
The Coke Bike scheme has been a huge success in Cork and should be expanded. Dockless bike sharing, which greatly extends the range of accessible bicycles, should also be introduced across Cork as is now happening in Dublin.
More local investment in cycling is needed, however. Cork’s cycle lanes appear and disappear without warning, there are too few bike stands, and essential crossings are missing. In fact, Cork city does not have a single high-quality cycle path extending for any great distance. This is a great shame, because increased rates of cycling would do wonders towards making Cork an even more liveable and attractive city, as well as reducing traffic congestion. Greater rates of cycling would make it easier and pleasanter for everyone — cyclists, motorists, pedestrians — to get around.
Effective measures need not be expensive. Bike stands take up a small fraction of valuable public space, cost little, and help bring customers right into the heart of the city. Enforcement — especially keeping cars and vans out of cycle lanes — is really important for safety and functionality of the cycle network but costs nothing. And completing a few strategic missing links in the cycle network, such as providing toucan crossings at Wellington Bridge or across the Curraheen greenway at Model Farm Road, would benefit walkers, runners, and cyclists alike. These sorts of on-the-ground changes would make a big difference for everyone.
In this context, the Cork Cycling Campaign recently proposed a Lee-to-Sea Greenway, uniting and extending the disparate paths along the river and harbour, and creating the first continuous, high-quality cycle route through the city centre. That would serve multiple users — walkers and runners, leisure and commuting cyclists, and tourists.
This Bike Week we’ll be celebrating all that this super efficient, super fun machine has to offer. There’ll be family cycles, heritage and history cycle tours, cycling films, and long distance rides. If you live in Ballincollig, look out for the chance to try commuting in a bike train with a group of experienced cyclists. And if you think Cork’s hills are too tough to consider cycling, then just watch out! Electric bikes have transformed the effort of cycling - and we’ll be showing this with a cycle, led by the Lord Mayor, up St Patrick’s Hill... yes, the same hill that defeated Lance Armstrong and other pro cyclists.
Cork is not yet a cycling paradise. But it certainly is good enough for adults to try cycling, and (with guidance) children too. Give it a go – you’ll be glad you did!
Full details of Bike Week events in County Cork are available at www.corkbikeweek.ie. See www.corkcyclingcampaign.com for more on cycling in Cork and the Cork Cycling Campaign.