I was thrilled to hear about the forthcoming Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, even though I unfortunately will be unable to go myself – I may in solidarity cycle across Luxembourg on the Saturday. Luxembourg is an equally beautiful spot for cycling, but that – and its excellent infrastructure – is for another blog.
I have mentioned in previous posts that I feel that the commitment of government and indeed opposition parties to cycling tourism has to date produced more speeches and reports than it has practical benefits such as cycles lanes or green routes, and initiatives such as this are welcome in that not only will they be great fun – you can bet there’ll be plenty of good music and some fierce craíc in the evenings – but they also help bring home to people the enjoyment of the bike: the right pace to see plenty while not missing any of it, finding a quiet field to eat your sandwiches (you can tell I am getting old when I go into a quiet field for sandwiches …) and the joys of reaching the top of a long, steep, hill – and be warned, those rolling hills of West Cork are quite deceptive – and speeding down the other side, only to have to start all over again. Next year, I’ll be there!
If West Cork is such a fantastic place for cycling, why don’t we see more people doing it, particularly locals in the town cycling to work or out for the day? Of course, there are many different factors that discourage it, and at Sustainable Clonakilty’s Energy Festival in 2010, where we had a bike ride on the Sunday out to Inchydoney, we issued a short questionnaire to a few of the riders to see what they felt about cycling in the area and especially what might prevent them from doing more.
The cyclists on their way back from Inchydoney – note the 60 km/h speed limit on a narrow, winding road!
The results, while they only provide a very limited view, were nevertheless interesting and revealed some important concerns of people who, while they clearly enjoy cycling, on the whole don’t – or didn’t at the time – use their bikes that much.
The survey was broken into four parts: a bit of general information, various questions on why and in what way people cycle (or could be persuaded to), bike usage and safety, along with some general comments at the end. I have prepared an online survey to repeat this exercise and would really appreciate it if anyone involved in the festival could take five minutes to fill it out (if you are not going to the festival or even have nothing to do with the town do think about filling it out anyway, it will give help give a picture of the situation elsewhere). When the results are in I will put the results up along with a brief analysis.
Summary of results:
A. About you
10 people responded – the first ten to arrive in the car park, so not really a random sample, and that was the number of printed forms available. There were 6 male and 4 female respondees, of whom altogether 4 were under 18, 1 between 18 and 30, 3 between 31 and 45 and 2 between 46 and 65. 6 live in Clonakilty town, the remaining 4 in the rural area about 10 km from town. Asked to rate their cycling skill level between 1 (novice) and 5 (expert) four chose a level of 2 and three each levels of 3 and 4.
B. Opinions on cycling.
This section consisted of three questions asking participants to rank certain qualities, but unfortunately I think that it wasn’t entirely clear that 1 was the most important and 7 the least, so some care is needed in interpretation.
On reasons for cycling, 6 ranked keeping fit as most important and three had it ranked at 2, while the remaining one ranked it at 6 (since this respondent ranked nothing higher than 6 I think my wording may have confused them). Fun and recreation was a close runner up (3 ones and 4 twos), followed by reducing emissions then saving money and finally more convenient. No-one entered an “other” option.
How people choose their cycling route was varied, but “least traffic” was the clear front-runner. Quickest and feels safest were followed by “best road conditions” with shortest distance, maybe surprisingly, coming in last.
Finally for this section we asked “what cycling infrastructure would benefit you the most?”, on-road bike lanes and off-road bike paths proving equally popular while secure locking facilities and a locker room at work were not considered particularly important.
C. Using bikes.
Three out of the 10 respondents cycle for commuting at least weekly, 2 at least once a month and 5 never. Two use their bikes functionally (that is for shopping, business, going out, etc) at least weekly, 3 at least once a month and again 5 never. Since it was a cycle for fun it was no surprise that no-one ticked never by how often do you cycle for fun?, with 7 doing so at least once a week and three at least once a month.
Asked what discourages them from cycling, too many cars and poor roads were seen as the most important, with a subgroup mentioning safety of the neighbourhood with other concerns a long way behind – absolutely no-one supported the idea that the area wasn’t scenic enough (a trick question, I admit). All ten said they would cycle more if there were better cycling infrastructure in place.
Encouragingly, eight of the ten respondents always wear helmets, with the remaining two coming in at seldom and about half the time. (I can’t overstate how important it is to wear the helmet, and teach your kids to wear it all the time, however quiet the road and even on cycle paths: the concrete on a cycle path is still just as hard as the road). The story with high visibility jackets is less good, with only 4 always wearing them and two never.
The biggest external hazards were seen as not being seen by cars at night, and cars passing too close, but other activities by the occupants of cars – such as opening doors or turning in front of the cyclist as well as weather and poor road conditions also got high scores. One person wrote in “dogs”, and this has been mentioned to me many times by many cyclists around the country: if you are a dog owner please remember, your dog might not hurt a flea intentionally but if they run out barking at cyclists or walkers they scare them, and they may end up scaring them into a collision with a car one day.
E. Open comments.
Since we were asking people to fill this out in the car park it wasn’t surprising that there were few additional comments, a heartfelt plea “please please please get cycle paths in town” is worth mentioning, and two respondents requested more organised cycles: hopefully the Festival will be useful and fun for them, and they could also check out the Clonakilty Cycling Group’s Facebook page. While we are on the subject, you could also “like” the Bike Fest’s own Facebook page.