Message from the Chairperson
What an exciting time to be involved in active travel advocacy and to launch the Sligo Cycling Campaigns website! We’re still a long way from where we need to be, but we have a sense at last that the pedals are turning.
In 2020 Covid 19 brought life as we knew it to a standstill. #StayAtHome became the new mantra. We became familiar with exercise #2kmfromhome and 5kmfrom home. Amidst all the loss of life, jobs, income, visits with family and friends, some unexpected positive outcomes emerged.
As the volume of traffic fell, suddenly it was safe again to move about on foot or by bike. Bicycle shops sold out of stock, adults and children rediscovered the joys of two and three wheels. In July, Sligo Cycling Campaign held a family fun cycle to demonstrate that people wanted this new-found freedom to continue. One parent wrote It was such bliss during the lockdown to be able to cycle everywhere with fewer cars on the road and it would be fabulous to have safe cycle paths to build on the enthusiasm and momentum for cycling that developed in my family during that time.
So, what has happened since? Some city councils, notably Dublin City Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown began to roll out trial segregated cycleways, quiet-ways and school zones.
At the end of June 2020, a new coalition government was formed. The Programme for Government included €360M or 20% of the land transport budget for active travel. This was a major victory for walking and cycling advocates.
In July 2020 the new Ministers were announced. Sligo Leitrim South Donegal and North Roscommon TD, Frank Feighan FG is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Health w responsibility for Public Health Wellbeing and National Drugs Strategy.
In August 2020 Sligo County Council received just over €1M in active travel stimulus funding. Most of this was allocated to walking infrastructure but €40,000 was allocated for each of 3 cycling schemes.
Refurbishment of Sligo to Rosses Point cycle lanes.
Refurbishment of Sligo to Strandhill Cycle lanes
Replacement of deteriorated markings on town cycle routes
In September 2020 Cyclist.ie, the national advocacy body of which Sligo Cycling is a member launched its Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland. You can read about the eight key demands on the Vision here (link)
Also, in September 2020 Strandhill Cycle Bus started operations and is going from strength to strength. Sligo Cycling Campaign held a celebration for the Cycle Bus at Strandhill People’s Market during Bike Week. With support from Sligo County Council, we arranged bike checks for the children and purchased branded high-vis backpacks and vests.
In October 2020, the Transport share of Budget 2021 included an allocation of €360M for active travel. Minister Eamon Ryan called on local authorities to “come at them with schemes as she wants to see them advancing ambitious projects”. Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton announced that she would be introducing a Safe Routes to School initiative.
In December 2020 applications opened for a €50M active travel fund for towns and villages.
In January 2021, the Minister for Transport announced that 248 new jobs to deliver and promote active travel would be created in local authorities and in TII Regional Road Offices.
In March 2021, the successful Rural Active Travel projects from December were announced, with an increase from €50 M to €72M in the sum available. Sligo has been allocated €2.5M for walking and cycling projects including €275,000 for Transport Studies/Urban Mobility Plans/Active Travel Network Plans for the Sligo Metropolitan area.
In March 2021 also, the funding for the Safe Routes to School programme was announced. €15M is available in the first year of the programme. Applications closed on 16th April. Sligo Cycling Campaign wrote to over 40 schools in Sligo town and county encouraging them to apply for this scheme.
So, where now for active travel in Sligo?
At the start of summer 2021 we have an expressed desire for change in how we move about and the funding and resources to start providing for active mobility. It won’t be simple or quick and there are issues re standards that need to be sorted. But it is a baseline from which to begin to provide a network of safe connected cycling infrastructure in Sligo.
Sligo Cycling Campaign intends to play our part in ensuring that available funds are spent to maximum effect and we would love your support! We are pleased that many members of Sligo County Council have recently shown support for measures to improve the cycling experience. Councillors from different parties and none have called for Sligo to become a cycle-friendly town, for 30 km/h speed limits in built-up areas, and for maintenance of cycle lanes.
Are we finally on the first steps of the ladder to #CyclingforAll? Let’s hope so!