Who are Ireland’s cycling campaigners and what motivates them? Week 10: Ciarán Ferrie
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 Ciarán Ferrie and I am a member of I BIKE Dublin, a direct-action group which is focused on improving conditions for cycling in Dublin.
What was your earliest memory of cycling?
I got a red Raleigh bike with stabilisers for Christmas when I was about six and once I graduated from the stabilisers I used it to travel around my home village of Menlo in Galway to visit friends and to explore.
After childhood, why did you start cycling yourself?
I continued to cycle through my teenage years, it was my main mode of transport for getting to school in Galway city, and there was usually a convoy of us leaving Menlo each morning. It was a very social experience and gave us a great sense of independence.
Later, when I went to college in Dublin it was a cheap and efficient way of getting around. In more recent years, my motivations for cycling include environmental concerns and the health benefits of everyday physical activity but, at the end of the day, it is still the most efficient way of getting around the city.
What motivates you as a cycling campaigner?
As a practicing architect, I became increasingly aware of how our transport choices shape our physical environment and having spent some time working overseas had seen how a shift from private car transport to cycling can transform our urban environments for the better.
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When I became a parent, my emphasis shifted to the need for safer infrastructure that would enable people of all ages and abilities to choose cycling as a mode of transport. I would like my children to have the same independence that I had growing up, but the road landscape is very different to what it was then, with a threefold increase in the number of cars on the road and an increase also in the size and power of private cars.
More recently, as the effects of climate change are becoming more evident, my focus has shifted to the impact that cycling can have in reducing transport emissions.
How did you get involved in campaigning in the first place?
I joined the Dublin Cycling Campaign initially but have to admit I wasn’t a very active member. In June 2017 things changed for me. I found myself having to explain to my two nine-year-old sons one morning over breakfast that their school principal, Mr Pádraic Carney, had been killed while cycling to school the previous day. It was a devastating time.
2017 also saw a significant increase in cycling deaths on Irish roads and there was a growing frustration among cycling campaigners that little progress was being made. A group of campaigners coalesced around a Twitter hashtag, #FreeTheCycleLanes, and formed the view that a more direct-action approach was required. I BIKE Dublin was established and made an immediate impact on the public discourse around cycling by creating a visible presence on the streets of the city to highlight the poor standard of the infrastructure.
What’s the most effective way you think that more people will hop on their bikes in Ireland?
Safe infrastructure is the key. All other perceived barriers can be overcome – distance, weather, topography, dangerous driving – if we have safe infrastructure that everyone can feel comfortable cycling on.
And if people are looking to get involved, what should their first step be?
Join your local campaign group. Make submissions on public consultations. Join a political party that supports cycling. But most especially, join I Bike Dublin and Monthly Cycles on the last Friday of every month for the IBikeBop around Dublin city. It allows us to present a positive image of cycling to the public at large but most importantly, it’s great fun!