Maynooth Cycling Campaign welcomes the launch of Cycle Right and congratulate Cycling Ireland and Celbridge’s Barbara Connolly on their leading role in its development. We now hope that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will follow up with the second essential element to achieve mass cycling to school – increased funding for the provision of high quality infrastructure. Being able to cycle is not the same as willing to cycle and unless the road environment is made safe for all ages the Minister’s hope for support from parents and for more children to choose cycling will remain that – a hope.
In his press release, the Minister also expresses a hope that the initiative will ‘show his commitment to improving road safety and reducing the number of fatalities’. Considering that the bulk of fatalities involved drivers and pedestrians, it is hard to see how cycle training will improve road safety generally. His use of ‘we’ as in …we must … remember to take particular care around vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists… reveal with which group of road users his empathies lie. While details of the rollout of Cycle Right have not been revealed, the key figure will be the outcome of cycle training – that is the increase in the number of children cycling to school. This will show the Minister’s true level of ambition and commitment to cycling.
Most countries provide cycle training to children as a means of encouraging cycling. In the Netherlands, having learnt how to cycle from their parents at a young age, children undergo a cycle test at the age of eleven so the test is in reality a confirmation of their ability rather than the acquisition of a new skill. In the UK, most parents do not cycle and it is likely that many feel that they do not have the skills to teach their children. While children there are being trained in large numbers, this does not lead to them cycling. Conditions on UK streets simply remain too unpleasant and too dangerous for more than a very small proportion of parents to allow their children to cycle. Unless additional funding for infrastructure is provided, the mistakes in the UK will be repeated in Ireland.