— Primary school children verbally assaulted, beeped at, close passed at speed, filmed by drivers, left hooked, and aggressively overtaken on a regular basis, say Cycle Bus founders.
— Letter to councillors begs them to be brave in enacting change.
— Galway City Council officials refuse to meet with Cycle Bus group.
Galway Cycle Bus was set up to help children safely cycle to school but its founders have written an open letter to councillors at their dismay at the councillor’s and officials’ inaction to make Galway’s streets and roads safer quickly.
This has left parents to “continue to act as human shields between hard, heavy and fast vehicles and the tender, small and soft bodies of children aged five to twelve years old”.
Alan Curran and Neasa Bheilbigh, co-founders of Galway Cycle-Bus who describe themselves as “two frustrated, sad, and angry parents” wrote an open letter to Galway City councillors.
The two said: “The Galway Cycle-Bus in Knocknacarra has just wrapped up our fourth year of voluntary service enabling children in our community to cycle safely to school. ‘Happy birthday!’, you might wish us. But this is not a matter of celebration. We exist because safe streets to school do not.”
The co-founders of the Cycle Bus said that outside of the Cycle-Bus that they have pulled young students out from underneath left turning taxis, and they have treated children hit by wing mirrors.
They have witnessed motorists driving past traffic wardens as children across the road, drivers accelerating through red lights outside schools as dozens of children waited to cross, parents drive on footpaths outside school gates, parents parking on zebra crossings, and motorists travelling in excess of 80 km/h speed limits outside schools.
They said that they have been called fanatics, idealists, and dismissed as part of the “big cycling lobby” but that the Cycle Bus was “never about the bike” but rather “about making our communities safer, healthier and more sustainable for all its residents, young and old. It’s about quality of life.”
They thought that the group would be obsolete within a few years of starting with a possible mix of temporary cycleways, and shortcuts like laneways opened up to cycling making it safer to cycle.
“We thought that if we showed the demand for safe cycling, our councillors would work with dogged determination to ensure that the council prioritises safer streets for all ages and abilities. The gap between our hope and reality is devastating.”
“Since we’ve begun, more children have been killed on Irish roads, and more have been seriously injured. We don’t know how many, because the Road Safety Authority have not answered our questions as to the exact number of families grieving the violent deaths of their children on our roads when simply walking, cycling, or playing,” said Curran and Bheilbigh
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They said: “We’ve been in tears explaining to motorists that they nearly killed our own children. They are all apologies, they promise to take more care, but there’s someone else the next day treating children cycling to school as an obstacle that they must pass out in their rush to get to the next red light and traffic jam.”
But besides penalty points and fines issued to motorists and a few bollards installed on the access road to one school, they said little has changed, they said.
“Not one metre of new, safe, separate and protected cycleway has been built in our community — in our city — in donkey’s years. We are proud that our community Cycle-Bus has lit the flame of over 25 cycle-bus across Ireland, showing how many parents want the same thing that we do: for our children to safely cycle, walk or scoot to school,” they wrote.
They said: “Over a dozen local authorities have invited us to speak with them to their roads teams to better understand the needs of children, and their parents. Galway City Council have never agreed to meet with us. We’ve asked, repeatedly.”
The Cycle Bus welcomed the commitment to spend €1m on active travel every day for the life of the Government, but the founders said that the “council has spent vast amounts of Active Travel funding spent on resurfacing roads, on redesigning junctions, and a few pennies spent on circular dots outside of primary schools, and our elective representatives have not shouted, ‘Stop!’”
The co-founders of the group said that they have “felt frustrated” when looking at drawings of published plans that have the “stated aim of better safer for walking and cycling, yet we can tell that these plans have been designed to fail, through either intent or ignorance, because blindingly obvious concerns are not addressed.”
Councillors and TDs are “happy to smile for photos when we win awards and join us on an odd cycle, particularly around election time” and “They take notes, nod enthusiastically, make promises” but “Still, nothing happens.”
When a child is killed, they said, there is an outpour of grief and condolences, but — despite our road being designed in a deadly way — “No one will take the responsibility. The news cycle will move on. And the family will mourn for the rest of their lives.”
Curran and Bheilbigh signed off pleading with councillors to act: “Please, councillors and our new Mayor, we beg you to be brave. Do the right thing. Implement government and local policy with gusto. Make the decisions that you know have to be made for safer streets and healthier children. Be the leaders we need you to be.”
They added: “You, councillors, should be brave enough to voice your opinions, make your vote, know right from wrong. Don’t keep asking our children to be brave to ride a bike a mile to school.”
The full letter can be read at advertiser.ie