— Misleading report published at sensitive time for project which faces stiff opposition.
— Government-funded info on walkability was mixed with fearmongering against cycling.
A local newspaper in Cork published an article full of quotes misattributed to an expert from the Canadian Urban Institute.
The quotes provided to the newspaper by an unidentified ‘source’ were text about walkability taken from Irish Government-funded websites, with some quotes wrapped in anti-cycling rhetoric, apparently added by the unnamed source.
The project in question is a 600-metre walking and cycle scheme planned for Tory Top Road in Cork City. The project includes a cycle path, but central to it are walkability and road safety improvements including raised pedestrian crossings and junction treatments aimed to make the street safer for all road users.
Pitting walkability for less mobile people against cycling is a common tactic for people against cycling projects, but the plans for the project show it is as much about walkability, if not more so, than it is about cycling.
The article, titled “Proposed cycle lane in residential Cork city neighbourhood not ‘age friendly’, was published in the print edition of the Echo newspaper this week and online at EchoLive.ie, before it was taken offline yesterday.
Local cycling campaigners fear that despite the retraction of the article it might help push some councillors to vote against the scheme. The project plans have been already modified to reduce footpath the width of a footpath and green areas, not for cycling, but for extra parking at the request of some businesses and residents.
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Quotes in the article were attributed to “Glenn Miller” as “an expert for” what was reported as “A local group called the Tory Top Road Residents and Businesses”, which the paper said “lobbying against a cycle lane proposed for the area”. The paper called Miller “a planner with the Canadian Urban Institute.”
A spokesperson for the Echo newspaper this afternoon confirmed to IrishCycle.com that the quotes were wrongly attributed to Miller.
The spokesperson said: “An article published in The Echo and on Echolive.ie attributed a number of comments on the issue of a cycle lane design for the Tory Top Road to a Canadian planner named Glenn Miller. These comments were wrongly attributed to Mr Miller, who has not commented on the issue. The Echo is happy to correct the record and has removed the article from Echolive.ie.’
On Tuesday, the Canadian Urban Institute distanced itself from the comments and yesterday it outlined that it seemed there was some kind of issue with mistaken identity.
When tagged on Twitter in response to the Echo article, the Canadian Urban Institute, on Tuesday, said: “Hi folks! Thanks for bringing this article to our attention. There appears to be some confusion. Glenn Miller has retired from CUI, so his comments do not represent the views or perspective of the organization.”
Yesterday, the Canadian Urban Institute said: “Update: this appears to be a case of mistaken identity. Retired CUI director Glenn Miller did not provide a comment for this article. And he’s never had the pleasure of visiting Ireland in his life.”
IrishCycle.com could not identify another Glenn Miller who is a planner and is linked to the Canadian Urban Institute.
After IrishCycle.com asked the journalist who wrote the article, Eoin Kelleher, how his article came about, and where and who he obtained the quotes for it from, on Twitter yesterday, he replied: “I have just been on the phone to my contact, and he apologises for cutting and pasting a bit of his own statement with Mr Miller’s giving the impression that Mr Miller said it all. We have clarified that Mr Miller is a *former* planner in the article.”
The comment from a spokesperson for the newspaper, as above, outlined that the quotes were misattributed to Miller. Kelleher did not respond directly to the issue of who he obtained the quotes for it from. After requests for comment from him, he only outlined yesterday evening that he intents to write a further article on the subject today.
Before the article was taken offline, yesterday, Conn Donovan, the chairperson for the Cork Cycling Campaign, said: “Mr Millar’s former employer has confirmed that he did not provide a comment for the article. The title of the piece yet reads: ‘Proposed cycle lane in residential Cork city neighbourhood not ‘age friendly’, claims urban planning expert’. Take it down and issue an apology.”
Kelleher, also yesterday, replied: “Hi there, I have been in contact with my source and he will be issuing a clarification on this in the coming days.”
Quotes attributed to Miller
Of the quotes attributed to Miller, the first is a word-for-word copy of a page on walkability on agefriendlyhomes.ie. It said: “It is important to be aware of the specific spatial needs of older people from the outset of planning in order to create more walkable communities and age friendly spaces.”
According to the about page on that website: “Age Friendly Homes website was created and is jointly funded and managed by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, the Department of Health, Age Friendly Ireland and The Housing Agency.”
Another quote attributed to him is a word-for-word copy of a page from the National Transport Authority’s website on walking in Cork: “The Walking Strategy proposed the development of a walking network that connects neighbourhoods, origins and destinations, increases the permeability of the built environment, and creates an attractive, safe environment that prompts more people choosing to walk, resulting in a healthier population, a more liveable and sustainable city, and stronger communities.”
Another of the quotes attributed to Miller is also from the Government-funded agefriendlyhomes.ie website, but is more edited and added to. This quote starts of “According to Age Friendly Ireland” and, followed by this, is a near word-for-word copy of walkability page on the Government’s website. IrishCycle.com has listed the differences in bold:
The Government-funded website said:
“Walkability in the context of Age Friendly design refers to the ease at which older people can move around an area, building or space. Regardless of age, the walkability of an area affects all persons, however older people tend to be more aware of and may be challenged by the barriers to walkability.”
The quote in the article said:
“…walkability in the context of Age Friendly design refers to the ease at which older people can move around an area, building or space. Regardless of age, the walkability of an area affects everybody. However, older people tend to be more aware of and may be challenged by the barriers to walkability. “
The quote in the article also includes the line: “The fear of being run over by a random cyclist will deter older people from using the area.” This is an add-on and not included in the Government-funded website.
Another paragraph in the article which is not a quote or clear paraphrasing is also a near-direct copy of the text in an Age Friendly Ireland PDF. There is only one word in the difference.
The PDF said:
“Recent studies conducted by Age Friendly Ireland highlighted a number of common issues that reduce the walkability of an area and have a negative impact on the lives of older people. The studies highlighted the subtle differences between an ‘accessible’ area and a ‘walkable’ area for older people.”
The article said:
“Recent studies conducted by Age Friendly Ireland have highlighted a number of issues that reduce the walkability of an area and have a negative impact on the lives of older people. The studies highlighted the subtle differences between an ‘accessible’ area and a ‘walkable’ area for older people.”(For clarity: The quotation marks were added by IrishCycle. The artcile did not have them. This style is usually reserved for paraphrasing, but this is not paraphrasing.)
The final quote in the article is attributed as “concluded Mr Miller” but the quote — “Thoughtful forward planning and careful consideration in relation to spatial location can greatly enhance the walkability of an area and small changes can mean big differences to older people” — is a direct word-for-word copy of a paragraph on the Government-funded website and PDF.