Dublin Cycling Campaign Marks 30 Years of Campaigning on 30 Sept 2023

Press Release – For Immediate Release

This Saturday 30th Sept 2023, Dublin Cycling Campaign celebrates its 30th Birthday and its volunteers are reflecting on three decades of activism to make Dublin a cycle friendly city for all. [1]

Historical Context

The group emerged in 1993 in response to the systematic omission from official transport thinking of cycling as an essential part of the urban transport system. Cycling, and indeed walking, had essentially been cut out of all of the ‘serious’ transport strategies and investment programmes for several decades.

More viscerally though, Dublin Cycling Campaign came into being as a reaction to the series of utterly horrific road traffic crashes, many of them on the city’s quays, in which many citizens walking and on bikes were killed and with heavy goods vehicles very much over-represented in the statistics - “axles of evil” as they were named at the time. In the years of 1996 to 1998 (inclusive) there was, on average, 3 cyclist fatalities per year and an astonishing 22 pedestrian fatalities per year in the Dublin City Council area alone [2]. For the early years of the Campaign, and with founding Chairperson Eamon Ryan at the helm, the focus of the Campaign was to generate a sense of urgency for the creation of safe conditions for everyday cycling.

We note also that the ‘Cyclists’ Action Group’ had been campaigning in the 1980s, a group led by Carmencita Hederman, and some members of that group went on to become active with Dublin Cycling Campaign. By way of international context, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) came into being in 1983, and so began a wider process of separate national cycling campaigns collaborating closely so as to present an alternative vision of everyday transport. [3]

Then later in the 1990s, Galway Cycling Campaign and Cork Cycling Campaign emerged, and they were soon joined by groups in Waterford, Limerick, Maynooth and Skerries – and these seven groups formed Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network in 2008. Cyclist.ie now has 35 groups/branches in it with a strong rural dimension, and it is this collectivisation of energies that has enabled more citizens to apply pressure for more serious investment in cycling. [4]

While more recently, cycling campaigners have formed strategic partnerships with An Taisce, and are part of broader coalitions such as Stop Climate Chaos and the Active Travel Coalition – and these coalitions are stressing the decarbonisation and public health benefits of a shift to active transport (see, for example, [5]).

Reflections from Current and Past DCC Chairpersons, and National Cycling Coordinator

Ellen Cullen is the current Chairperson - the 13th Chair of DCC [6]. She stated:

In the 20 years since my family came to live in Dublin, our daily cycling trips have gone from often daunting journeys with only paint for protection to journeys that are regularly more than 50% on quiet streets and on segregated cycle lanes. We look forward to cycling on many new sections coming online in the near future. I am proud of the part Dublin Cycling Campaign has played in helping to make this happen through both noisy, sociable campaigning and quiet, detailed, diligent submissions. Happy 30th Birthday Dublin Cycling Campaign!

Dr. Mike McKillen, DCC Chairperson from 2006 to 2009 and then the founding Chairperson of the national organisation, reflected as follows on DCC’s evolution:

Dublin Cycling Campaign has come a long way since I first joined in 1998! We were a relatively small group of activists with good ideas, but lacking the funds and personnel to make a big impact and with no social media platforms or collaborative technologies available to us. Social media availability was a game-changer, in my view, for us, along with an improved website thanks to long-time member Conor Cahill. As Chairperson, I sought to move us away from engaging in a more conflictual way with officialdom and set out to sit down formally with officials and bodies that impacted on our work. These included the Dublin Metropolitan Region Garda Traffic Officers, the Taxi Regulator, Dublin Bus trainers, the designers of the Quality Bus Corridor and Dublin town (and, of course, the Department of Transport and Dublin City Council). A lot achieved, albeit slowly, on the better design of cycling infrastructure and traffic management with the gradual arrival of new traffic engineers over the years with a less car-centric view of moving people around our city.

Dr. Paul Corcoran was at the helm of DCC from 2016-2019 and he reflected as follows:

I think the rise in the popularity of cargo bikes and electric bikes in the last few years in Dublin and beyond is a good indicator of the progress that has been made. One of the major factors that has helped in developing cycling is the current government’s increased investment in cycling infrastructure and electric bike grants.

Dr. Kirsten Doherty led the Campaign from 2005 and 2006:

The biggest difference I see now from my early days in the Dublin Cycling Campaign is the number of women and children cycling. It’s wonderful to see and at least partly reflects the improvement in cycling infrastructure in many parts of Dublin.

Muireann O’Dea was DCC Chairperson from 2012 - 2014:

When I joined the Cycling Campaign almost 20 years ago, people on bikes were a tiny minority in the city. There have been great improvements in cycling facilities, especially in recent years and the numbers cycling reflect this. There is still a big role for the Cycling Campaign as the voice for cyclists and would-be-cyclists to ensure Dublin becomes a city where people of all ages feel safe cycling.

Neasa Bheilbigh, the current Chair of Cyclist.ie, the national advocacy organisation, stated the following:

I cycled everywhere in Dublin when I lived there seven years ago and changes in the city are now really starting to open up - it is much more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and, more importantly people, with young families. We went on holiday to Dublin to try the Coastal Mobility Route recently and it is fabulously impressive.

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie, the national advocacy organisation, reflected as follows:

Dublin Cycling Campaign’s work over 30 years has helped to bring everyday cycling in from the margins of transport thinking and towards the centre. Back in the 1990s, there was simply very little official acknowledgement of the multiple benefits that having a strong cycling culture brings to the economy, society and the environment; the near exclusive focus of road traffic engineers back then was on reducing queues for motor vehicles at junctions, with minimal attention given to prioritising people on foot, on bikes or on public transport. Equally there were very few transport academics thinking seriously about active travel. Whereas now, there is a much wider understanding of the public health benefits of moving about by bike, and at the recent “Cycling and Society Conference” held in Trinity College Dublin, we saw a wealth of high quality research presented in this domain (see [7]).

A message from Henk Swarttouw, President, European Cyclists’ Federation

ECF sends its congratulations to Dublin Cycling Campaign on its 30th Birthday. To achieve more and better cycling for all in Ireland and in Europe, it is important that citizens make themselves heard at local, national and international level. Dublin Cycling Campaign, working through its national body Cyclist.ie - the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, has been an engaged and active member of the European Cyclists’ Federation for many years. Crucially, Dublin Cycling Campaign have been effective advocates on the Irish scene and have made a significant contribution in reshaping the transport discourse and investment programmes, also beyond the borders of the Republic. I wish them the very best on this big occasion and look forward to seeing them at our next ECF events including our 2024 AGM and the Velo-city conference in Ghent in June 2024.

References / More Information

[1] https://www.dublincycling.com/events/30th-birthday-party-30th-september
[2] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1A_dPmgveBMjOEf_8ysW_LFR5XQ92eqjm/view - Road traffic fatalities statistics - nationally, 1997 to 2015, and in Dublin City Council area, 1996 to 2015
[3] https://ecf.com/
[4] https://cyclist.ie/
[5] https://cyclist.ie/2023/08/health-groups-call-for-political-leadership-o…
[6] https://www.dublincycling.com/cycling/chairpersons-dublin-cycling-campai…
[7] https://cyclist.ie/2023/09/2023-cycling-society-conference-cyclist-ie-re…

For Interviews / Further Quotes, please contact:

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama
National Cycling Coordinator, Cyclist.ie http://cyclist.ie/ and An Taisce https://www.antaisce.org/
Vice-President, European Cyclists’ Federation (2016 - 2021) https://ecf.com/
The Tailors’ Hall
Back Lane
Dublin D08 X2A3
E: Damien.otuama@antaisce.org
M: +353-87-2840799

Ellen Cullen
Chairperson, Dublin Cycling Campaign
Note: Ellen is only available for interviews outside of the hours of 9am and 5pm.

Note that Cyclist’s network of groups are meeting in Dublin this Saturday (30th daytime), and it will be possible to speak with further spokespersons from the cycle campaigning community on that day - if/as needed.

Press release

Thursday, 28 September 2023 - 8:45pm

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