“Why do children cycling to school generate headlines in this country?”

IMAGE: Children and marshals on the Galway Cycle Bus.

— Cycle Bus offers school children “mobile segregated bike lane”.

Ireland doesn’t need another generation of children to be chauffeured to school regardless of whether its in diesel, electric or self driving cars, and the founder of one solution — the Cycle Bus — wants it to be obsolete in six years.

Alan Curran, founder of the Galway Cycle Bus, made his remarks speaking at the international Velo-City conference, which was held in Dublin at the end of June.

“For those who have never heard of it, the cycle bus is made of volunteers, parents and teachers mainly, and we essentially act as a mobile segregated bike lane, enabling children to cycle safely to school along a set route and timetable everyday during school term — hale, rain or shine,” said Curran.

Curran said that the project begin as a community project supported by teachers and parents, as well as the Galway Cycling Campaign and the Green Schools programme.

“These volunteers all of whom are experienced city cyclists — four at minimum, generally six — marshal the students along the road. We cover all of the challenging road conditions, in particular roundabout, junctions and pinch points along the road. All of the areas we experience the biggest safety concerns,” he said.

“The children join the cycle bus at designated stops at a particular time and they tag along until the end — we cycle two to three kilometres to the two primary schools which are adjacent to each other.”

In the 2018/2019 school year the group had 2,700 student trips to school. There was a medium of about 16 students joining the Cycle Bus daily — with a minimum of one child and a max of 60 children.

He said only 12% of trips included rain which “busts the myth Galway is too wet to cycle”.

Curran said: “This really came from a question I had for myself of how I cycle my child to school safely — there were no segregated cycle lanes and I had huge reservations about cycling on the road sharing with heavy traffic and fast moving cars. Cycling on a footpath, which a lot of kids are forced to do, is something I didn’t want to do either.”

He continued: “Then I came across this concept when I was Googling, the cycle bus in the Netherlands. I never heard of it before, but the more I read of it The more I asked myself a simple question: ‘could this work here?’.”

He said that around schools can be a hostile and dangerous environment, in an area where children should feel safe.

Curran said: “The problem we have here is that it’s not safe to cycle children in my city, Galway. What counts for cycling infrastructure in this country is red paint on the road, it doesn’t keep our children safe. Speed limits around schools are not appropriate and not enforced.”

He said that the 2016 Cencus showed that fewer than 150 primary school pupils cycled to school in Galway, or 2%.

“It’s a public health concern as much as a transport problem. Galway is a city addicted to cars and it really doesn’t have to be like that,” said Curran.

“Children want to cycle to school — they crave the freedom and independence that having a bike gives. And parents want children to be healthy and active but they don’t want to take unnecessary risks,” he said.

Referring to slides he was showing to delegates, Curran said: “The absolutely children love it. Our youngest child says all the time ‘I love cycling to school with my dad’. This little girl, Jessie, says it makes her fit and fast. Eoin says it wakes him up in the morning and he doesn’t need any coffee. And Lauran was on RTE News and she said ‘cycling makes me happy’ — and I think that kind of summarises everything.”

He said that teachers — most of whom help out as marshals — find that it helps keep students more alert and engaged in their school work. One teacher said it helps to build relationships with her students. Another teacher had never cycled before but is now with the Cycle Bus nearly daily.

But Curran wants the Cycle Bus to only be a short-term solution. He said: “Our six year plan is blank. Our focus is that we don’t want to be here. We want not to exist in six years time — we know what needs to be done. We don’t want another generation of children to be chauffeured to school whether its diesel or electric or self driving.”

He said that the publicity has been overwhelming but asked conference delegates: “Why is this news? Why do children cycling to school generate headlines in this country? Cycling should be a normal part of childhood, it should not be unique or novel.”

The groups hopes to grow the number of routes and gain more volunteers. But he joked that they only hoped to be going strong for the next “five years or so.”

Here’s a video made by the Galway Cycle Bus:

Cycle buses have now started or are about to start in other cities such as Limerick:

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

4 Comments

  1. What a beautiful initiative. Soon everywhere I hope.

  2. Does anyone know whether the council is responding by building a cycle lane along the route?

  3. The Council are trying to build a motorway instead, Emmet.

  4. In fact not only do the council propose to build a motorway but they propose to use some of the roads these children use as feeder routes to the motorway – without any modification. This includes the roads these schools are located on.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: