This was a headline that caught my eye from Page 20 of this week’s People Paper.
First of all, I’m very happy that cycling infrastructure was moved front and centre of Monday’s council meeting.
It has been the Cinderella of Wexford’s transport network for far too long.
I want to especially thank Cllrs. Leonard Kelly and Tom Forde for putting 3 motions to the council and getting all three them passed.
As chair of WexBUG, most of the new town councillors have been in touch with me and I’m heartened to see a softening of the windscreen view of traffic management that previously existed.
With that said, I want to challenge some of the views expressed in this week’s paper.
Our Director of Services, Eamonn Hore has one hell of a job to do with so many conflicting interests.
I’ve met Eamonn on quite a few occasions with my Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 hat on and recently as chair of WexBUG.
For the record, Eamonn is one of the good guys…
The topic of discussion that Mr. Hore replied to was parking on the cycle lane and he explained the conflicting needs. Absolutely they ‘do have to park somewhere’, but Mr. Hore, your council has designed a mandatory cycle lane where that somewhere is.
Would it not have been prudent to have engaged in a consultation process with the racecourse managers to see if there was some alternative?
Is there not an event management risk assessment done for these events?
I know I had to do one for the council for a cycling event that I ran some years ago and I had to estimate the number of attendees and match that with where they would park. I’m sure if I had suggested, the main carriageway, that would have been an issue.
If there was absolutely no alternative found, then is this really suitable for a mandatory cycle lane that carries a Fixed Charge Notice of €40 for parking there..more if deemed a danger.
This road had a hard shoulder there previously and that was as adequate in cyclist protection as the lines of paint that replaced them.
Remember according to the rules of the road that such hard shoulders are already spaces primarily for cyclists and roads pedestrians anyway.
The races need to happen and I’m fine with that but please don’t design conflict pitting bicycle riders against race goers.
Is it possible that a solution here lies in some type of local restriction sign.
For example would a sign saying ‘except race days’ have been appropriate here and thus lessen the chance of the lane becoming a free for all on non race days?
The equivalent of the third secret of Fatima is the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets which sets out hierarchy for road users within towns that was to give first priority to cyclists and walkers.
Is this just notional for Wexford Co Co.?
The next comment comes from Cllr John Hegarty.
I only knew John as a mighty footballer before he got re-elected.
I have met him a couple of times since then.
John’s father was a very good racing cyclist and he has a good handle on this kind of stuff.
John expressed reservations about ploughing money in to cycling infrastructure.
John is right! That might seem strange coming from the Chair of a bicycle advocacy group.
When designing cycling infrastructure, we need to think of its end users of anyone from 8-80 and the design should reflect that. Anything else and I include the aforementioned Racecourse lane will do very little.
Now as for ploughing money, well the Newtown Rd was being resurfaced anyway. The only money that was spent was on a few strips of road paint and I would argue that, that’s not cycling infrastructure.
His suggestion of a well done pilot project somewhere is a good idea.
We then get to Ger Carthy. I know Ger through work. A top guy who like his father before him, works his socks off for his community.
Ger was quoted as saying that there are more burning issues (than provision for cycling) of roads in rural areas.
Ger represents his community very well in that respect.
I do around 12,000 kms per year on my bike and I thoroughly enjoy heading down Our Lady’s Island direction; there’s great smooth roads down that direction.
In fact you could say it’s the Kilgarvan of Co. Wexford.
Ger then goes on to talk about the cycling lane near the Farmer’s kitchen, complaining that cyclists were still out on the road and don’t use it.
Ger is on record at the time these lanes were being built as being dissatisfied with them at the time.
If the area that Ger is referring to is near the Farmer’s Kitchen, well the cycle lane ends abruptly just shortly after there. I’m also a cycling instructor and for safety, it would be recommended to merge on to main carriageway before that point.
If he is referring to the lanes themselves, then Ger in his job as advanced paramedic, may have been called out to riders who have been injured using these.
The southbound one especially is a safety hazard!
This brings us to another area of road safety. Last year, Ger’s party colleague, Shane Ross signed off a bill saying that cyclists no longer have to use cycling infrastructure.
Cyclists are doing nothing wrong by not using cycle lanes
Minister Ross did this for many reasons best covered in this article.
Lastly then we go to Cllr. Willie Kavanagh. I don’t know Cllr. Kavanagh except that he had a spot on the Water and Transport SPC when I did a presentation there last year.
The aforementioned bill is very relevant to Cllr. Kavanagh too.
But here’s the thing..when something is designed and is not used, the fault usually lies with the design.
Imagine when Sony released the Betamax that they blamed the the end users for not using it.
It’s design was not to standard of VHS and so people didn’t use it.
We’ve written a blog about Oylegate’s cycle lanes from the point of view of the end user that may help provide some insight for Cllr. Kavanagh. These are the Betamax of cycle lanes and hopefully Cllr. Kavanagh got the opportunity to discuss the non existent footpath leading in and out of Oylegate while on the Transport SPC.
In closing, I wish to add that WexBUG is party political agnostic. We are more than happy to engage with councillors who share our vision for safer cycling in our county.
It’s a county where just 79 children cycle to primary school and just 34 to secondary school for the whole of the county.
This should be seen as the canary in the coal mine, highlighting Co. Wexford as a laggard in terms of cycling provision.
But it doesn’t have to be that way..