Bicycle safety training scheme for Ireland delayed

— Programme “widely piloted and very well received” says Cycling Ireland
— 40,000 primary schools pupils expected to be trained annually

Ireland’s forthcoming cycling safety training standard, Cycle Right, will not be launched this month as previously expected, the Minister for Transport Shane Ross has said.

The voluntary national standard is expected to be somewhat similar to UK’s national cycling training standard, which is underpinned by the Bikeability programme. Under the UK standard, private trainers teach both school children and adults. Some UK councils also offer free training to residents.

The UK standard was heavily influenced by Cyclecraft, a book which is often cited as recommended reading in Irish cycling circles. For some, Cyclecraft is seen as a bible, while others only view it as a survival guide while waiting for cycling-friendly roads and streets. The Netherlands and Denmark also have cycling training, mainly aimed at children and immigrants.

On May 2016, a written parliamentary reply in the transport minister’s name, said that “Cycle Right will roll out nationally in primary schools from September 2016”. But on September 16, a second ministerial reply, available at kildarestreet.com, said: “I expect that Cycle Right will roll out nationally from January 2017. ”

Explaining the situation with Cycle Right in May, minister Ross said: “My Department is funding the development and roll-out of Cycle Right the new national cycling training standard, developed by Cycling Ireland with the involvement of stakeholders including the RSA, An Garda Síochána, An Taisce (who operate the Green Schools Scheme), Coaching Ireland and local authorities.”

He added: “Cycle Right training aims to give trainees the confidence, skill and road safety knowledge to use their bike to get places safely. Over a series of stages, cyclists will increase their proficiency and safe journeying on the road network. A key element to this training will be the rules of the road.”

Cycling Ireland said that the programme had been “widely piloted and very well received”, but that there was a delay around financial and other support systems which are needed to “firmly establish Cycle Right from the outset”.

“Cycling Ireland, as the body tasked with the development of Cycle Right, the national standard, by the Department of Transport, has been advised that the target launch date is January 2017. This deferral from the original date is to allow the Department of Transport to put in place the necessary financial and other support systems needed to firmly establish Cycle Right from the outset,” said Barbara Connolly, cycling standard development officer at Cycling Ireland.

Connolly said: “The trainer resources required to deliver the new programme, as well as course and training materials, are completed and on standby awaiting the launch date. The programme has also been widely piloted and very well received.

“It will be marvellous to have Cycle Right out in schools and communities early next year training participants to cycle safely, and hopefully using the training they receive to move towards more active, healthy lifestyles. It is anticipated that Stage One of Cycle Right will be accessible to primary schools across the country which could lead to an eventual uptake of over 40,000 pupils annually,” she added.

4 Comments

  1. I would describe Bikeability as influenced by Cyclecraft rather than the other way around – Cyclecraft was surely there first?

    I never had Bikeability training, but I did benefit enormously from reading Cyclecraft back in the day (first the leaflet from Galway Cycling Campaign based on it, and later the book) and it irks me enormously (now that I live in Bavaria) to see how much poorer the standard of the training offered by the police here is in comparison. So yes, I’m probably in the camp that sees Bikeability as a GOOD THING, although it’s a crying shame the book is not much more inclusive – there are a few very unfortunate sentences on how anybody can learn to keep up with traffic (or at least there were in the edition I read, hopefully they are gone now) that are not very helpful to those who cannot or simply have no ambition to “keep up with traffic”. In urban areas, it’s good to see that many planners are now leaning more towards slowing down traffic (or kicking it out altogether) than towards expecting cyclists to keep up.

    My subjective impression (admittedly not based on personal experiences or an awful lot of research) is that the UK has quality cycling training which has done little or nothing to boost cycling there because the environment is too hostile: if most trips require solid Level 3 bikeability skills somewhere along the route (at a multi-lane roundabout, for example), having completed Levels 1 and 2 doesn’t make cycling accessible to people. Any scheme rolled out in Ireland will face exactly the same issues: most normal people just won’t feel like going out to hone their roadcraft on fast multi-lane roundabouts, so the environment will have to be adapted.

    Over here, where the environment is already far less hostile (albeit imperfect enough to give cycle campaigners severe headaches), Bikeability could be quite useful. Even on completely separate infra, cyclists have to safely negotiate encounters with masses and masses of other cyclists, all travelling at different speeds, and a basic grasp of traffic regulations comes in handy.

    So I don’t think it’s really about training OR infra, more training AND infra. And – the third pillar – training FOR DRIVERS to explain the cyclist training to them. The biggest mistake made in the UK was that cyclists were told to do certain things (like taking the lane to deter dangerous overtakes, avoid opening car doors, or stay away from debris and potholes at the side of the road) without drivers being taught WHY they do those things. This has started to change quite recently, but won’t yet have had much effect, if any. So I hope the materials we are assured are already in place include information geared to explaining Cycle Right to motorists. Ideally Cycle Right training would be required to gain a driving license, but even if that was enacted tomorrow, it would take years for the effects to work themselves through the system, so taking short-cuts seems like a good idea.

  2. @Sarah — thanks, that’s corrected now.

  3. I recommend adding “by” to clarify the corrected sentence:
    The UK standard was heavily influenced BY the Cyclecraft book.

    My son’s school does cycle training in 4th class. As he’s been cycling the 3.5km to school since Senior Infants (mix of on road and on path) it will be interesting to see if the training clashes with what I have taught him.

  4. Whilst I can see some good to teaching people to be safe on our roads, I don’t think it’s going to do anything to increase the modal share of cycling. As Sarah says above, on many of our roads you effectively have to be extremely experienced to survive on a bike. If your route to wherever crosses an extremely hostile road that only the most experienced and fittest will attempt, then MOST people won’t attempt it. And thus if only the most experienced and fittest will attempt many roads, and everyone else is dissuaded, then modal share won’t increase.

    And also as Sarah has said, without also training drivers on what it’s like to cycle on busy roads, and why cyclists do certain things, then the status quo will remain. As research has shown, the vast majority of collisions between bikes and vehicles is due to the drivers not paying attention. Not due to the cyclists doing something wrong. Training cyclists will do little to affect this statistic.

    As a personal anecdote – I was run down a couple of years ago. I’m as experienced as you get on a bike – I’ve raced, toured, and commuted A LOT. I’ve lived in many countries and cycled in all. And yet I was still taken out by an idiot in a car that behaved in an unpredictable way.

    This is the route of the problem we face here. I’ve spoken to many people who say that they’d like to cycle, but they’re afraid to do so. Giving them cycle training will only go so far as to allay those fears. Most don’t even want the training, because they rightly understand that the problem is due to the danger of vehicles.

    To really get a major increase in the number of people cycling we need safe cycle infrastructure; and that doesn’t just mean a few cycle tracks dotted here and there. We need a comprehensive review of how we get around. We need to slow vehicles down. We need to educate drivers on how to share roads. We need to educate drivers that vehicles are lethal machines. We need to ban adverts that fetishize owning vehicles. We need to stop victim blaming. We need to reclaim our streets and living spaces for all (not just cyclists). We need to promote the societal benefits of cycling (and by ‘we’ and mean government agencies with ongoing paid-for adverts). We need to highlight the harm from vehicles (pollution deaths, impact deaths, pollution morbidity, impact morbidity, loss of spaces to car-parking, loss of streets as communal areas, environmental costs, health costs, obesity, diabetes, mental health, congestion causing negative economic impacts etc etc etc etc).

    We (society as a whole) need to do all of these things. We can start by giving more money to sustainable transport. I’ll be at the protest tomorrow Monday.

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