Every Irish political party should be ‘on their bikes’

Comment & Analysis: A claimed political bias of IrishCycle.com is an issue I’ve wanted to address for a while — I’ve had a few complaints or seen a few passing comments made directly or indirectly by more than one politician or supporters of parties. This is something I’m addressing now separate from any one complaint or comment.

I should say that I’ve tried to take these issues seriously and address them when they have come up. But I want to also outline the situation to readers, campaigners and any politician who thinks the same way as those who have complained but don’t want to complain or comment for whatever reason.

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It is true to say that IrishCycle.com quotes elected Green Party representatives more than councillors or TDs from other parties. I could hardly claim otherwise, but there’s good reason for that given party’s focus on cycling and a few other factors.

IMAGE: Screenshot from CyclingForAll.ie, which asks politicians to sign up to support funding for cycling and higher quality design to allow for Cycling for All.

Other factors which have amplified their pro-cycling stances include that they had a strong return in the last local and national elections, and, are not only in Government, but made the issue of nearly €1 million per day to be spent on walking and cycling a demand at Programme for Government negotiations.

Their representation at local and national levels also seem to be younger on average than at least most other parties meaning their use of social media is higher and so what they say is more accessible.

While some other parties have written policies which are supportive of cycling, their elected members and voters might be a bit more mixed on their support. As a party, the Greens are also happy to lean into their images as the cycling party.

We need every party to want to feel this way — we need all parties to be “on their bikes”, as well as them supporting walking and public transport. Walking and cycling are good for people, health, the economy and the environment. Voters also want change, the RedC poll which showed 66% of voters support “fewer car lanes and increased pedestrianisation” is just one of many things which confirm this. But there is still a disconnect between this and support for cycling which is still lukewarm rather than full-on.

At the moment there is also a Green Party Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, and this website is logically going to be covering whoever is in that position more than any other politician. Independent TD Shane Ross was covered like this when he was in the same position, although he wasn’t as keen on cycling.

I also regularly quote or reference politicians from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, Social Democrats, independents and others, including independents when they focus on cycling.

It might be worth saying here that I often hear people saying one party or another is always voting against cycling — I don’t think that’s reflected in what happens. The level of support for cycling can probably be split between the smaller parties, who have stronger overall support for cycling, and the larger parties with naturally wider viewpoints being much the same as each other.

The level of support from the Aontú is a bit more complicated given different factors including the small size of the former and the complexity of the latter.

All of the large parties have some strong supporters and some detractors, but most politicians in those parties are in the middle, on the fence. Some, especially in Dublin are seeing the way the wind is blowing, but others want to pivot towards the loud minority of objectors.

I might put extra focus on Labour and Social Democrats politicians when they do something that is not that positive towards cycling, walking or public transport. That’s because it’s more newsworthy than some other parties doing the same thing because Labour and Social Democrats have policies which are supposed to strongly endorse sustainable transport measures. When parties or politicians declare their support for cycling, it’s part of my job to highlight where they are failing on that.

Some observers have said it implied that this website never does the same for the Greens. When that happens, I have a list of articles showing how IrishCycle.com has covered the shortcomings of the Greens and cycling.

This website has covered in detail how things are still far from going well for cycling in Ireland — the funding is there but many of the projects planned are still of too low quality for various reasons. There are more people now saying things ‘like the funding was the easy part’. At least some of the responsibility to fix this is in the hands of Minister Ryan and the political parties who should be aiming to hold him to account.

What about “the cause”?

Some readers even question the whole concept of covering these shortcomings ‘friendly’ politicians — regardless of the party — and ask if is this damaging to “the cause”.

IrishCycle.com can be described as campaigning journalism, which is defined by Oxford Reference as “Reporting with a bee in its bonnet about a particular issue, when news organizations or even individual journalists repeatedly report on wrongs that, they argue, must be righted.”

There’s a history of such journalism in Ireland in some local areas, but there are probably more examples in the UK where newspapers both local and national have had ongoing issues they have covered. Some of the most relevant and well know of these are The Times’ ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign and ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign by The Guardian.

Indeed, IrishCycle.com has had its own sub-campaigns including encouraging readers to seek more segregation and higher quality on the Clontarf to City Centre project and to ask their politicians to sign up to CyclingForAll.ie which calls for a jump in the quality of cycling provision.

But while IrishCycle.com might not be seen by some as “pure” journalism (as if such a thing really exists), it is journalism ahead of campaigning. That means not just trying to hold authority and people in power to account but mainly to inform the public to allow them to make up their own minds.

In the context of journalism, the website will certainly continue to cover different types of parliamentary questions on the Dail record. This includes apparently supportive politicians asking what are questions from a negative stance. Yes, politicians should serve their constituents, but the old “just asking questions” does not wash that well when the politician is or should be smarter than that.

I’m not mentioning parties here in that much detail, so, I’ll leave more detail on the gap between what parties say and the knowledge of their members to another article. But I will say if you support something that support must sometimes include saying that to constituents.

Get in contact

Politicians or their supporters can always get in contact with me pointing me to different stories or just saying they are open to be quoted on issues when they arise. IrishCycle.com also welcomes guest comment articles, including from politicians.

You can get me at cian.ginty@gmail.com. Just to note: Like any news outlet, not everything is newsworthy and sometimes potential stories one week might not make it another due to other news cropping up. Some stories are suitable to be covered at a later date and others are not.

PS: For clarity: I’m not a member of any party and do not intend to join any.

CORRECTION: This article originally included the line “but the numbers of Solidarity-PBP sign-ups to CyclingForAll.ie is notably low” — this is incorrect and so has been removed. The counter had not been updated by a count of one and another sign-up was just down as PBP. The formating of the name has also been changed to People Before Profit–Solidarity rather than Solidarity-PBP. The image with the figures is also updated above. I am sorry for this error.

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    • Also regarding “While investment in cycle lanes is certainly needed , public transport is a bigger priority” — there’s no basis in evidence-based policy for this kind of statement.

      Walking, cycling and public transport should, can and need to be interlinked to get the best result from promoting and enabling sustainable transport overall.

      I think you’re underestimating the scale of what’s needed in transport if you think you can separate them out and have public transport as the “bigger priority”.

      As well as climate, it’s also underestimating or dismissive of the need to build in activity into daily life, the health benefits of both walking and cycling are right behind their environmental benefits.

  1. Yes public transport is a priority but it’s a longer term project, you need buses and drivers and to plan routes which even in a small area takes organising and planning and in the case of the various bus connects projects is a huge undertaking. Bus Connects and Connecting Ireland are happening but take time. Enabling cycling on the other hand can be done more quickly and cheaply. And because of the co-benefits for health, independence for children, quieter neighbourhoods, ensuring physical activity isn’t an add-on to be fitted in whenever, quicker and cheaper short trips, it’s a no brainer.

    • I don’t think it’s either/or. We need both. Bus Connects very bad in our area (South end of Inchicore/Bluebell), people will end up having less public transport connectivity than before. PBP TD Joan Collins has started a campaign with local residents to improve this – Connecting Communities. As for Cycling – it is okay in some places (canal) but grim in others (Tyrconnell Road, Emmet Road).


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