A non-elected member of Dublin City Council’s transport committee, Gary Kearney, has said that children looking for safe cycle routes to school is an example of “ableism hiding behind other policy”.
Kearney is a disability advocate who has opposed a large number of pedestrian and cycling projects.
IrishCycle.com understands Kearney has been a key part of fueling scaremongering of cycling among disability groups. This has, at least partly, led to the groups pushing transport authorities to be relucent to or refuse to use standard cycle route designs and to plan for restrictive design measures on cycle paths for which there is no equivalent for motorists.
While Kearney talks up the dangers of cycling, he is often dismissive of the dangers caused by motorists.
When Galway TD Ciarán Cannon talked to the Journal.ie after being injured when he was knocked off his bicycle by a motorist, in the comment section of the article, Kerney wrote: “A story from a rabid cyclist who hates motor vehicles and refuses to wear the RSA approved safety gear. Hobble on.”
In their letter to politicians, Limerick School Project National School third-class children wrote: “We are writing this letter to you because it has come to our attention that there are not any cycle lanes around our school.”
“We took a survey of traffic outside our school. Only four cyclists passed our school in ten minutes. One hundred and seventy three vehicles passed in this time. Currently, only three people in our class cycle to school. Our survey indicated that eleven pupils would cycle if there were proper cycle lanes around our school. At the moment, those pupils feel unsafe because it is dangerous,” the children said.
They added: “We would like to see more cyclists travelling to our school and to other schools nearby. What will you do to help us solve this problem? We urge you to help us and other people cycle more safely and reduce carbon emissions.”
Cllr Elisa O’Donovan (independent) tweeted the letter and said: “I received this letter from the students of 3rd class in the Limerick School Project. They undertook a traffic survey where 4 cyclists and 173 vehicles passed their school in 10 mins. This letter makes me ashamed as a public rep for letting down our young people and their future.”
But Kearney, in reply, called this a “tiered of ableism hiding behind other policy”.
He said: “How about the children who cannot cycle or the parent that must use a vehicle to bring their children to school. Does the UNCRPD not count anymore or the goals in the UNSDG be totally ignored which mention disability inclusion. Tiered of ableism hiding behind other policy.”
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Kearney has also defended kissing gate barriers on cycle routes and in parks because they block bicycles, despite the barriers blocking people with disabilities, including hand cycle users, users of other adopted cycles and mobility devices.
He has claimed in the transport committee and continuously online that there are alternative barriers that work without blocking people with disabilities, but there are none that are practical for use on public cycle routes.
Kearney puts a large focus on the dangers of cyclists and scooters, while he has defended illegal parking on footpaths despite its effect on disabled people.
On parking on footpaths, he told Dublininquirer.com that enforcement of illegal parking would “causes resentment” and that “The last thing you want is the disability community resented by people on top of everything else.”
He added: “The goal is to get nobody parking on the footpath, but I don’t think that’s feasible in the foreseeable future.”
On Twitter, when he was shown a video of motorists driving on a footpath in Galway being used by school children, he said: “Potential as they are usually either stopped or moving slowly and tiny distances. Cyclists however travel longer distances and at higher speeds. Most motor vehicles will pull onto a footpath and park. Cyclists travel on the footpath instead of the road and cycle lanes at times.”