There has never been so many people cycling bicycles over the age of eighteen in Ireland as there are now. They come in all shapes and sizes. From those who wear oilskins, even in the height of summer, to cycle to work all year round, to those who having discovered the sport in the past four years now look forward to spending every Sunday and bank holiday weekend riding races or sportives in every corner of the Country. Cycling for fitness, cycling for health, both mental and physical and cycling for the sole purpose of transportation is now very much a mainstream activity. In Ireland we are lucky to have World beating heros such as Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche to look up to, but there are many other cyclists and people involved in cycling in every corner of the Country who deserve to be recognised and commended for what they do. Here are just four examples amongst many :
Every cyclist who wears lycra has had a close shave with a motorist. The standard reaction is to complain to a few friends and then forget about it. That wasn’t Phil Skeltons’ reaction. When two cyclists died on the roads of Wexford in less than twelve months in 2013 Phil decided that he had to take action and do something proactive that would make the roads safer for all cyclists. Many hours of his spare time were spent researching road safety initiatives around the World before Phil chose to focus on one in particular, the safe minimum passing distance for a motorist when overtaking a cyclist, any cyclist. Months and years of persistent hard work and determination just this week all paid off.
With the help of TD Ciaran Cannon and the government chief whip Regina Doherty a new law is being put in place to make it a legal requirement to allow a specified safe distance for overtaking cyclists. This really is a red letter day for cyclists and their safety. It received an exceptional amount of publicity and created much discussion during the week. The aggressive nature of the commentary that many motorists were compelled to post to social media was a real indication of just how important this particular law really is. The confrontational reaction motorists displayed was actually a frightening example of the type of person who cyclists have to share the roads with each and every day.
Phil Skelton is a great example of one man who by his selfless actions has made a difference that will benefit the lives of cyclists and their families for many years to come. Be sure to check out his campaign on www.safecyclingireland.com
Alice Sherratt is The Queen of Irish Cycling. If ever there was one person who embodies all that is good about the volunteer efforts put in to enable everyone who races to take part in and enjoy those races it is Alice Sherratt. Her husband Harry and son Karl both raced at a good level and Alice was always there supporting them. Nowadays there is not a stage race in the country that does not benefit from the hard work and dedication put in by Alice and her team. Without Alice there would not be a Junior Tour any longer. Personally I have great memories of staying with the Sherratts in their home before a trip away on a Junior Irish team many years ago and their love of cycling and open welcome for all cyclists is a memory that stays with me to this day.
Alice dedicates a huge amount of her time making Irish cycling races safer, more professional and ultimately more enjoyable for all involved. Many feel that we need more professional riders succeeding in big races to grow the sport but what is actually needed are more people like Alice, organising local and national races at a very high standard and encouraging all newcomers as they come along.
Most households have a bike at the back of a shed or behind a pile of other accumulated rarely used items that has either been outgrown or will never be used again. Then there are adults and children who would like to cycle but circumstances or their budget or that of their parents might not allow it. How can you bridge the gap between those with bikes, sometimes in poor condition and those who would like to have a bike. The answer is contact Paul Carroll.
Paul spends probably more time voluntarily fixing up old bikes and delivering them to new homes than most people spend in their full time job. Working shift allows him to do this but it is a massive undertaking and one which deserves huge credit. Paul set up ReBike in Waterford where he takes in old bikes in any shape or form and brings them back to life before passing them on to very grateful new homes. You can find out more about Paul and ReBike here.
He has been featured on a recent episode of Nationwide on RTE.
A pleasure to work on this story for RTE Nationwide with Paul Carroll. Rebike Ireland is a great initiative. Watch in on Friday night at 7pm to find out the full story. Meanwhile here's a taster.
Posted by Hi-Lite Television Productions on Wednesday, February 1, 2017
The man behind what is now Irelands most successful charity cycling event The Tour de Munster, Paul Sheridan leads by example. A small charity fundraiser with 20 participants back in 2001 now sees over 120 cyclists cover 600km around Munster in just 4 days each summer. Hundreds of Thousands of euro have been raised for Down Syndrome Ireland and thousands of people have benefitted.
Last weekend I saw Paul in action at the Sarah Dillon cycle in Clonmel. Like many sportives there was a relaxed friendly atmosphere before the start, but then Paul addressed the crowd and there was a palpable change in the atmosphere. Listening to him speak about a little girl who ‘has gone to dance with the angels’ and a motorbike marshal, and so much more, who has also joined her, you would have needed a heart of stone not to have felt an effect. The effect for me was life affirming and there was a purity in the air that made it feel like every person there were all part of the same family. The World felt like a slightly better place to be after listening to Paul speak and that can only be a good thing.