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Cycling Advocacy

02/11/2016

Ireland has seen a lot of changes in recent years with regard to the number of people cycling on the roads. We all know that this is good news for everyone – cycling is good for your health, it’s good for the environment, it’s easy on the pocket if you are commuting, it’s easy on the head when you’re not stuck in traffic, and most of all it’s a fun way to spend your time. Like any change, it has not come without resistance, with a backlash being generated in the guise of a “Bike Vs Car” War.




Every so often a journalist, a politician, a high profile person gets their name in lights when they raise the topic again, and the nation starts debating over who deserves the road more, cyclists or motorists. We are not interested in trying to establish who deserves the road more, because we recognise the need for everyone to share the road, but we would like to outline a couple of points:





TAX

One of the most loved arguments as to why motorists are more entitled to the road is that motorists pay road tax. Is this a valid argument? We don’t believe so. Did you know that road tax is a tax that is covered in general tax provision, and is mistakenly referred to instead of motor tax. Motor tax is a tax placed on cars based on the carbon dioxide emissions of the car while in operation, according to MOTORTAX.IE. As cyclists don't contribute to the emission of carbon dioxide, they are exempt from this tax, as are pedestrians. Cian Ginty has an interesting ARTICLE HERE in Irish Cycle about how the Irish transport sector has seen a 14% increase in emissions in the last three years. 



CYCLISTS ARE DRIVERS TOO

Many debates assume that cyclists are separate people to motorists. In fact this is not the case usually. Cycling Ireland recently polled cyclists on twitter to find out how many cyclists are also drivers. Out of 568 responses, 90% of cyclists also drive. For one thing this means they pay motor tax, but it also means that they do also drive a car, so can see both sides of the story. With the number of people cycling constantly rising, we are fairly confident that if we poll drivers on whether they cycle, an increasing number of them will say they do.



FEWER CHILDREN CYCLE TO SCHOOL THAN BEFORE

 

The 2016 census findings haven’t yet been released, but in 2011 we found that the number of children/young people aged 13-18 travelling to school by bike had dropped from 50000 in 1986 to 6500 in 2011. For primary schools it dropped from 22400 in 1991 to 6200 in 2011 according to the census.

Do we really want to live in a world where children are not cycling anymore?

If you ask parents why they don’t allow children to cycle to school anymore, what do you think their answer will be? Will it be because cyclists break the rules of the road? Or because they find that roads are too dangerous?



BENEFIT OF ALLOCATING FUNDING TO CYCLING

 


We recently promoted the Cyclist.ie Cycling Protest, demanding an increased investment in cycling in the budget – currently less than 1% of the budget is allocated to cycling. If more money is put into proper cycling infrastructure it would mean the roads would be less congested, there would be less of a struggle for space on the narrow Irish roads, there would be a reduced number of accidents, and there would be more people cycling. An investment in cycling is an investment for everyone, even non-cyclists.

 



NO TRAINING FOR CYCLISTS


Have you heard anyone argue that there is no training for cyclists? This isn’t entirely true – there are plenty of opportunities out there for training. Cycling Ireland has many cycling courses like Bike for Life, Gearing Up and Sprocket Rocket. We also have a large network of clubs and coaches who teach the best practise day in and out.



More significantly Cycling Ireland, in conjunction with the Department of Transport and the RSA, along with other stakeholders, has developed the National Standard in Cycling, which is delivered in the form of Cycle Right, a safe cycling course. This is due to roll out in 2017. An increase in funding for cycling will ensure a greater delivery of this course, and a greater awareness for people of the training opportunities available to them.




MANDATORY USE OF CYCLE LANES AND CYCLISTS


In case you have missed the recent controversy regarding cyclists and the use of cycle lanes, there has been uproar in the cycling community in recent months, with the Government backpedalling on a law that was lifted by Leo Varadkar in relation to the use of cycle lanes. In 2012 Minister Varadkar revoked the general law of mandatory use of cycle lanes. The Department of Transport now claims that this never happened, and that it was a misinterpretation of an explanatory note. This is an ongoing concern for cyclists, as many cycle lanes are not fit for purpose. Cycling Ireland represents cyclists in the belief that until the cycle lanes are suitable, it should not be mandatory to use them. Catch up on the controversy HERE




CYCLING FINES AND RULES OF THE ROAD



Cycling Ireland members should always obey the rules of the road, failure to do so can lead to fines from the Garda Síochana. We believe that all road users should obey the rules of the road, and incur penalties if they do not do so. We may not agree with these rules, and the infrastructure may not always make it possible for us to do so, these issues need to be challenged. Causing irritation to other road users and cycling in an irresponsible manner does not help the cycling community.



Rules of the Road:
There are some really good tips from the Dublin Cycling Campaign here




CYCLING IRELAND STANCE ON A FEW KEY ISSUES:


· Helmets: We believe helmets certainly reduce injuries, and they are compulsory in Cycling Ireland events. We do not believe that helmet wearing should be a legal requirement as it would reduce the accessibility to the sport.

· High Visibility Clothing: We believe that high visibility clothing certainly makes cyclists more visible. We do not believe that the wearing of such clothing should be compulsory, as we want to normalise cycling, cycling should fit into your everyday activity. We also don’t believe that the onus of safety should solely lie with the cyclist.

· Bicycle Light: It is a legal requirement for bicycle lights to be used.

· Cycling on Footpaths: We believe that competent cyclists should not cycle on footpaths. It is against the law to do so, and can carry a fine. There are challenges with this law that we would like to see addressed, the main one being with regard to children. If the roads are dangerous and narrow, we would prefer to see children cycling on footpaths than not cycling at all.

· Contra-Flow: We believe that it makes sense to provide a space for cyclists to cycle contra-flow, as is the case in many countries. If the infrastructure and system was set up to support this it would lead to less congested streets.

· Head Phones: We believe that wearing head phones can have a negative impact on riders. Due consideration should be given to their use.

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