Located on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is one of the wettest cities in the world. On average, it rains 175 days of the year, which doesn't particularly entice people to cycle to work. It became clear that a government funded scheme would be needed to encourage people to change their commuting habits. The Cycle to Work Scheme is an initiative that removes the PRSI and USC taxes on bikes, helping workers obtain one by reducing their cost by up to 51%. The scheme has proven to be successful, with numerous large businesses signing up and encouraging their employees to cycle to work - and get active.
The Cycle to Work scheme is great in theory, but it has its flaws. The number of cyclists in Galway is low for several reasons, including the fact that few workplaces have shower facilities for those who cycle to work, but especially due to the lack of dedicated bike lanes and cycling facilities in the city. For example, on the two western approach roads to Galway City, Bothar na Dtreabh and The Dublin Road, there are no designated cycle lanes. To combat this problem, numerous cycling safety campaigns have been launched in the last year on social media and through television advertisements. Most of these campaigns were started by government agencies such as the Road Safety Authority (RSA). However, there are also companies and organizations in the private sector that fight for cyclists' safety. The Cycling Safety School, for example, educates children about the dangers of cycling on public roads in Ireland.
Even beyond the weather and lack of infrastructure, another problem facing cyclists is that there is a lack of respect for cyclists on the road. Nearly every week Galway sees a new video of a cyclist receiving verbal and sometimes physical abuse at the hands of motorists. This is surprising as Ireland has a rich history of cycling. During the War of Independence, the bicycle was one of the only modes of transport, and in more recent history, Stephen Roche won the Tour De France and Giro d'Italia in 1987.
Despite the obstacles it faces, Galway is working to continue this tradition, using its cycle-to-work schemes as a launching point. But the real question becomes, is Galway doing enough to ensure cyclists' safety? What initiatives has your city taken to improve cyclist safety?
Credits: Images by Alan Bannon and link to source. Data linked to sources.