— Documentary premiere to be hosted at launch of Waterford Cycling Campaign.
— Waterford Greenway has “changed people’s attitudes to cycling in the county”.
Waterford residents who want to see more cycling in the county are to be treated to new developments next month — the Irish premiere of Why We Cycle documentary on Dutch cycling combined with the launch of new advocacy group, likely to be called the Waterford Cycling Campaign.
The event is to take place on Thursday February 8 at Greyfriars Municipal Art Gallery in Waterford City — we’ll have more details closer to the date.
“It is not a film about policy and strategy. Instead, it is more of a manifesto, showing people why they should want to aspire a cycling society,” said Marco te Brömmelstroet (aka Cycling Professor), a producer of the documentary, when interviewed by Carlton Reid of bikebiz.com.
Brömmelstroet said the film should help advocates to “know what to ask from your politicians and why you should start fighting for such a future.”
There are Dublin and other possable screenings in Ireland planned, but no details confirmed yet.
The main person behind the launch of the Waterford Cycling Campaign is Marc O Cathasaigh — speaking to IrishCycle.com this weekend he said the main things which have pushed him to start the campaign are the success of the Waterford Greenway; the need to safe space for cycling, especially for children; and a visit to the Dutch city of Utrecht.
O Cathasaigh is involved in the Green Party, but he stresses that the new campaign will not be party-political.
In Dublin, the promotion of cycling used to be seen as the reserve of the Greens and, then also, the Labour Party, but some of the strongest political advocates for cycling in the city now include councillors ranging from Fine Gael, socialists, to independent. O Cathasaigh also points to Fine Gael minister for state Ciarán Cannon, who is a strong supporter of cycling.
O Cathasaigh said that children changed his view on cycling and the opening of the Waterford Greenway has pushed him to set up the new group and the documentary was a perfect fit to launch the campaign.
“So for me, it started with a bike trailer,” said O Cathasaigh. “I’d been a cyclist all my life, and biking on busy roads had never really bothered me. But once I had boys in the bike trailer behind me, suddenly I was thinking: ‘This is my whole family here. This isn’t safe enough’.”
O Cathasaigh, who is a school teacher, said: “At the same time, in 2011, a colleague in school and I started working with a local cycle tour operator, a guy called Dermot Blount, to put together a cycling programme for PE in our school. Once you begin to ask kids to bring their bikes to school, you begin to worry about how safe it is for them to get there.”
After this, he was one of the organisers of an event with 350 school children from three school in Tramore who cycled on the town’s ring road to demonstrate the need for safe cycling infrastructure.
“At this stage, I’m considering myself a cycling campaigner, which leads me off to Utrecht,” O Cathasaigh said of a Dutch cycling study tour which took place last year. “It’s the trip to Utrecht that really lights the fuse for me. To see what’s possible and its benefits, and to meet up with all you guys, enthused me to the point that I thought I might as well go for it.”
He said Waterford needs cycling as a solution against traffic gridlock: “In terms of the need in Waterford, we’re seeing a big growth in projected population and car traffic is reaching the point of grinding to a halt on some of the heaviest routes. Changes in traffic management planned by the Council are really bringing these issues into focus as well.”
“But of course, the main impetus [to set up the campaign] has to be the Greenway. 250,000 visitors in its first 9 months has really changed people’s attitudes to cycling in the county. it’s a good news story that Waterford really needed in a place that’s so often in the ‘nearly man’ category,” said O Cathasaigh.
He added: “There’s increased interest in the bike, with staff I’ve worked with for years suddenly asking me about the bike to work scheme. it feels like there’s a groundswell of support, and I think it’s the right time to launch something to surf that swell. Once the film popped into view, it felt like the perfect opportunity.”