Who are Ireland’s cycling campaigners and what motivates them? Week 6: Mairéad Forsythe
We often hear people talk about cycling campaigners abstractly, despite all of them being volunteers, they are regularly called “cycling lobbyists”. But who are these people and what motivates them? In a new series, each week a cycling campaigner from somewhere around Ireland tells us a bit about themselves and why they campaign for safer and more attractive streets and roads.
Who are you and what group are you involved with?
My name is Mairéad Forsythe. I live in the suburb of Templeogue, 7 km from Dublin City Centre. I’m in the South Dublin Subgroup of the Dublin Cycling Campaign. I’m one of the co-founders of the Love 30 Campaign for Lower Speed Limits and I’m the chair of the Board of the Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) for Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie.
What was your earliest memory of cycling?
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When I was 5 we were visiting the home of a wealthier relative and the cousin had a 2-wheeler. It was a bit banjaxed; I think the handlebars were back to front and the saddle was missing. I took off on my own while the adults were busy and the older kids were ignoring me. Several skinned knuckles later I could ride a 2-wheeler.
After childhood, why did you start cycling yourself?
During a petrol crisis, when I was in my late 20s, I bought a bike. I started cycling to work and bringing it away at weekends and never looked back. I still drive a car but use the bike as much as possible for local journeys and sometimes go further afield.
What motivates you as a cycling campaigner?
I want everybody to have as much fun and freedom as I do. Also, I believe that we must reduce our travel emissions as we are in a climate crisis. Not to mention reducing congestion and using a healthier and more sociable way of getting from A to B.
How did you get involved in campaigning in the first place?
Dublin Cycling Campaign was looking for volunteers for a new sub-group in the South Dublin County Local Authority area. I ignored the invite as I live near the Dublin City boundary but a few days later got very irate about the attitude towards cyclists at a meeting of local residents. I came home and volunteered for the group and the rest is history.
What’s the most effective way you think that more people will hop on their bikes in Ireland?
I wish I could answer that question! I think we need to make cycling safer, and seem safer. Women in particular tell me that they are afraid to cycle in traffic but would cycle on segregated routes and we all want to protect our children — and our grandchildren.
So, I’m campaigning for better cycling infrastructure where people can feel safe and have a more pleasant experience. As well as an obesity crisis we have an inactivity crisis so we should encourage people to see active travel as a way of achieving the recommended amounts of physical activity. Also, we need to make cycling cool for all age groups and persuade schools, employers, and society in general to relax their uniform and dress codes so that people can travel actively, in comfort.
And if people are looking to get involved, what should their first step be?
Contact your local campaign group – see map and list on Cyclist.ie website cyclistie.vool.ie/map.
If there’s no local group in your area think about starting one. Contact Cyclist.ie cyclist.ie/contact-us, or contact a group in a place near you for advice.