— “Participants were left shaken by the experience,” says campaigners.
It was planned to be a family-friendly cycle, but without a Garda escort for the first time, the Naas Cycling Campaign said its fourth Critical Mass event included abuse and dangerous driving from motorists, and yelling from pedestrians.
In a statement released last night, Naas Cycling Campaign said: “Yesterday, the fourth Critical Mass cycle took place in Naas. The goal of our movement is to highlight what a safe, fun cycling-friendly town can and should look like and to advocate for better, safer cycling in our town. We are a group of regular cyclists: parents, children, people of all ages and skills. We live in Naas, care deeply about our town and many of us are also drivers.”
The group, which was set up in 2021, said: “During our short, family-friendly cycle, a number of cars overtook us dangerously on the Sallins Road, beeped at us, and yelled abuse at our group, more than half of whom were children, including a baby of only a few months old. We experienced repeated dangerous overtaking along solid white lines and pedestrians yelled at those of our group who chose not to wear helmets.”
“One driver drove on the wrong side of the road for a period of time to shout abuse at us, through her rolled down the window, before taking off at considerable speed,” the campaigners explained.
Naas Cycling Campaign statement quoted a 9-year-old, who said: “I didn’t like all the cars beeping, and I don’t want to do another cycle if the Garda aren’t there to stop the drivers acting like that.”
The group said that it was the fourth Critical Mass event it held and that it normally has a Garda escort. It said that this was the first weekend without an escort because the community policing unit was committed elsewhere.
The statement said: “Naas Cycling Campaign are extremely disappointed that it is necessary to have a Garda presence to prevent aggressive and dangerous driver behaviour, and in order to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for children and adults alike. It is a sad indictment of the current situation for cycling in Naas.”
The campaign said that the Sallins Road, which it said is one of the busiest roads in Naas, is “very narrow, totally inadequate and inhospitable for cycling.” It said that “The advisory cycle lanes on the Sallins Road encourage unsafe overtaking, therefore it is safer and more appropriate for cyclists to take the lane rather than cycle in the gutter.”
The road includes two primary schools, a secondary school, a GAA Club and a number of residential estates, and is the main link to Sallins/Naas train station and to the new secondary school, Naas Community College.
The campaign said: “It is entirely unacceptable that anyone, particularly children, should experience this level of abuse for cycling safely on one of the main roads in our town. Our experience highlights how inadequate cycling infrastructure in Naas is and the urgent need to support those who wish to cycle to day-to-day activities.”
If you value our journalism, please subscribe today.
One of those in the group cycle, Liz Denieffe, said: “We experienced some nasty and dangerous drivers during our cycle yesterday. Really unpleasant for the kids especially. Some drivers really don’t want to make room for anyone else on the road which is why #criticalMass is important.”
Another, Colm Byrne, said: “Yesterday, on our fourth #CriticalMass cycle in Naas, we got abused by drivers as we cycled in a group of both adults and children, including my own who are only 3 months and 2 yrs old. I’m still shaken but we won’t give up, safe cycling routes are what the town needs.”
Naas Cycling Campaign said that it encourages anyone who wishes to wear a helmet while cycling, but that helmets “do not provide protection in major collisions, the type that happen when cyclists are forced to share road space with cars, vans, HGVs and dangerous drivers in general.”
On helmets, the group added: “Kildare County Councils’ own figures are that 50 HGVs per hour go through main street Naas. A cyclist or pedestrian in a collision with an HGV will not be protected in any meaningful way by a helmet. The solution to this issue is to remove those vehicles from towns, not to force cyclists to wear a helmet. In Holland, a country renowned for safe and enjoyable cycling, 0.5% of the population wear helmets.”
Naas Cycling Campaign said that it was seeking action for the introduction of a 30km zone throughout the town, segregated cycle lanes on the main street, an immediate ban on trucks and lorries traveling through the main street, and traffic-free exclusion zones outside schools at drop off and collection times.”
It is asking residents of the town to join it for the next critical mass cycle which takes place on Saturday, June 25. It is hoped to have a Garda escort and leave Poplar Square at 2pm.
The campaign added: “If you want Naas to be safe for cycling, if you think children and families should be able to cycle safely in our town without experiencing abuse, we urge you to come out to join us. Please spread the word about our event, and please do not be deterred by those who want Naas to remain addicted to the car, and to remain dangerous for our children to cycle to and from everyday activities.”