By Seoirse Mulgrew
Galway Cycling Campaign are on a mission to get more people cycling. They have campaigned for safer cycling conditions and encouraged people online to share their stories of making the switch from driving to cycling.
Dan Clabby, a member of Galway Cycling Campaign, got his first bike when he was 16 years old.
“Back then getting your first bike meant you had a level of freedom and independence. I would grab my fishing rod, my map, and my bike and head off for the day,” he said.
Dan cycled everywhere until he got his first car at age 25.
“It became an addiction, driving the car. Then one day about 12 years ago I had an epiphany. I was serving the car, not the other way around.”
“Getting back into cycling was a gradual process but now I can go two or three weeks without driving at all,” he said.
“It’s all about reading the traffic and I didn’t want to be part of the problem.”
The safe cycling campaign will be aided by the announcement of €11.8 million in funding for sustainable transport projects across the city.
The allocation is part of a total of €240 million announced by The National Transport Authority for 468 similar projects across the country.
This funding is dedicated to improving road conditions for cyclists in Galway. Protected cycle lanes are vital in order to make their journeys safer.
Sideswipe is a serious concern for cyclists. A side collision between a vehicle and cyclist can cause serious injury even at low speeds.
Eoghan Ua Laoghaire Mac Giolla Phádraig, a student from NUI Galway, described himself as a “disgruntled car owner”.
“I don’t want to own one but I had no viable alternative as the bus wasn’t reliable enough.”
Eoghan is a strong advocate for sustainable transport and continues to advocate for it in the hopes that he will no longer need a car in the future.
“I am passionate about what bikes can do for a city as a silver bullet to some of our most pressing problems.”
“When I first went looking for accommodation in Galway, I realised that most places I could afford would be at least 40 minutes walking from NUIG. I figured that having a bike in Galway made great sense,” he said.
Eoghan soon became aware of just how vulnerable cyclists can be on unsafe roads with fast paced traffic
Many cycle lanes across the city disappear at busy roundabouts. Slip roads can be a hazard for cyclists to cross in heavy traffic. Safe cycling infrastructure is essential to make cycling a viable alternative to driving in order to minimise congestion.
Safe cycling routes need to be replicated across the city on all networks, like the cycle lane on Parkmore Rd R339 adjacent to Western Motors.
Eoghan described what he views as an “ongoing parking crisis” currently at University Hospital Galway (UHG).
“If even just 10 per cent of those parking in UHG could cycle safely instead, or could rely on the bus to get them there in time, it would take hundreds of cars off the road at peak times, improving traffic for everyone,” he said.
Cycling has increased in popularity during the pandemic. Many people now use it as their way to get out of the house and exercise within their 5km limits.
Caroline Rowan, Galway Cycling Campaign member from Oranmore, says,
“I switched to cycling during lockdown to get fresh air and exercise. Then I realised it was handier to bike to shops in the village than take the car. Now I have my pannier baskets, I can do a weekly shop without difficulty. What’s needed now is more bike parking.”
Kevin Jennings, chairperson of Galway Cycling Campaign, hopes the funding will make roads more child friendly.
“While I’ve always enjoyed getting around by bike it was only during lockdown that I started doing the weekly shopping by bike. Just as a way to get out of the house but then I realised it was quite a practical thing. Most of my trips by car are bringing the kids to school or sport activities. We can cycle to these too but it isn’t the same fun when I am constantly worried about the about the consequences of them making a mistake near heavy vehicles – I’d rather just worry about them not having a fall!”
Cécile Robin, Deputy chairperson of The Galway Cycling Campaign, outlines the important role of the Council.
“This increase in funding will go a long way to make cycling more attractive to those who want to cycle but may be hesitant to do so. The fact that 22 new jobs for an active travel team are available to the Council means that the Council will not be able to say that they are lacking staff, and hopefully they will understand the importance of consultation before and after any changes to make sure they make the appropriate plans for people’s safety.”
For more updates go to Galway Cycling Campaign.