Blurring the official lines between cycling as sport and a mode of transport, the Department of Transport, Sport and Tourism has defended appointing Ireland’s cycling sporting body to set up and administer a safety standard for all cycling.
It is understood that the standard being developed is similar to but not directly based on the UK’s Bikeability programme for schools and adults, mainly on cost grounds. The Irish standard is instead to be built on the Dublin City Council Bike Start Programme which was launched in 2009.
The standard will give a Government-level backing to school and adult cycling training, which campaigners and official bodies want to see expanded.
Cycling Ireland, an Irish sporting body, has been appointed by the department to draw up National Cycle Safety Standard for Ireland and administer a register of cycling trainers.
Asked why a sporting body was put in charge of an issue which will mainly effect commuting cycling, Monica Quinn, a spokeswoman for the department, said: “The establishment of this new standard represents an endeavour to promote safer cycling in Ireland in general, not just in relation to commuter cycling.”
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The department did not seem to respond directly when it was asked if the move would be like getting a motor sports body to take over general driver training.
Instead, the department explained the current position. It said it has established a board to review and develop a cycling standard and has appointed Cycling Ireland and its newly appointed cycling standard project development officer to oversee and administer the project.
According to our sources this board, or its predecessor, is long established and had become dormant at some point at or before the time of the sitting of the last Government. It seems it was revived after the decision was made to give a sporting body control of the standard.
“Currently, there is no national standard for cycle training in Ireland, nor is there a register of approved cycle instructors. The need for a recognised qualification for cycle instructors was set out in the National Cycling [Policy] Framework, and in accordance with this, the Department of Transport is setting up a national accreditation scheme,” said Quinn.
She added: “The adoption of a national standard for cycle training will ensure that schools, employers and others who use cycle instructors can be assured that the training being provided is of a high quality and reflects Irish laws on cycling and Road Safety Authorities’ recommendations for safe cycling.”
While these are a large number of trainers already active in Ireland, it’s expected these will have to re-train to meet the Irish standard. The department said: “Cycling training courses will be provided for cycle instructors to enable them to qualify to provide training to the Irish standard. The qualified cycle instructors will then be eligible for inclusion on the national register of cycle instructors.”
For its part, Cycling Ireland said recent that it was “delighted to announce the appointment of Barbara Connolly to the position of cycling standard project development officer, with a responsibility over the design, development and rollout of a new National Cycle Safety Standard.”
Rachel Ormrod, coach education and development manager with Cycling Ireland, said in a statement recently: “This is a very exciting departure for Cycling Ireland, which will see us broaden our remit as an NGB [National Governing Bodies of Sport] by entering into the cycle safety and proficiency space for the first time. Barbara brings a wealth of experience to the role; we are looking forward to bringing this project to fruition, as it will transform cycling in Ireland.”
In the same statement, Connolly said: “I am delighted to be coming on board with Cycling Ireland working on the programme in cycle proficiency. It is an area I have been involved with for many years and I am very excited to have the opportunity to work on the development of a national standard, which will ensure a delivery of quality safety and skills training going forward and will introduce growing number of children – and adults – to the marvellous health pursuit that is cycling.”
Cycling Ireland added that it was confident that the appointment is a positive step forward in the widely enjoyed and growing activity of cycling.
The sporting body said: “Working with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, along with RSA, Dublin City Council, An Taisce, the Garda Síochana, Coaching Ireland, local authorities and the Department of Education, this is an historic and welcome departure for Cycling Ireland, in a move that will transform the standard and delivery of cycling in Ireland.”
COMMENT: As we reported in the last week, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has re-appointed Barbara Connolly and her company Cycle Safety and Skills School — Connolly looks to be well qualified and experienced National Cycle Safety Standard. It’s our view that neither Connolly or Cycling Ireland have questions to answer. The main issue which this story covers is the Department of Transport, Sport and Tourism going too far in mixing sport and transport. Anybody running or jogging on Irish roads are effectively taking part in a non-transport activity. Yet, for walking and running on roads, the department would never give a safety function to a sporting body for running. Why is cycling any different?