Galway Cyclists Becoming an Endangered Species

The Loneliness of a Galway Cyclist
I was intrigued at an article in last week's edition of the Galway Independent where the majority of the local councillors from government parties reacted negatively to the new budgetary scheme that gives tax incentives to companies who provide bicycles to their workforce and who made clear their intention not to cycle to work in City Hall.
I too have reservations on the impact that these proposals will have in encouraging people to switch from cars to bikes and I am of the opinion that alternative initiatives could have been adopted to substantially increase cycling and reduce car dependency in order to help solve our traffic crisis and ensure that Galway lives up to its increasingly dubious international status as Ireland’s only ‘Healthy City’.
I can empathise somewhat with Councillor Michael Crowe when he says that the scheme “…is daft...and…is pie in the sky...” He is certainly spot-on when he says that Galway is not cycle friendly.
But surely this sorry state of affairs is due to the councillors’ collective failure to implement their own policies agreed after months and years of public consultation?
For according to the ‘Galway City Development Strategy’ adopted in 2002, Galway is supposed to be a ‘cycle-friendly’ city by 2012 with the development of a 'safe city-wide pedestrian-friendly, cyclist-friendly and child-friendly infrastructure’. In the ‘Galway City Development Plan 2005-2011’, the council agreed to promote cycling as a safe, sustainable and healthy means of transport; commence work immediately on an Integrated Transport Management Plan that would include a city-wide cycling network providing safe routes to places of employment, schools, city-centre and other facilities; facilitate safe and convenient cycle access via the existing road system; overcome the serious difficulties faced by cyclists at roundabouts; and provide a network of city-wide recreational walking and cycling Greenways.Bumper-to-Bumper Traffic on Car-Free Day in Galway City!

As chairperson of the two local authority and multi-sectoral committees responsible for transport infrastructure in Galway, the onus is on Councillor Crowe to ensure that these policies become realities. Sadly few if any of these objectives have been implemented making the city more anti-cycling than it was when the present council came into office in summer 2004.
Why is a Cycle Lane Not a Cycle Lane? When it is in Galway
Under the watch of this council, what passed as tarmacadam cycle lanes in many parts of the city (inadequate though they may be) arbitrarily lost their cycling identity, often being reduced in size, dug up and covered in metal fencing with no corresponding expansion of the roads to accommodate cyclists .
So rather than derisively ignore the new government scheme councillors, in the few months that they have left in office, should create the roads infrastructure necessary to make the proposals work.

An Irish Celtic Exhibition in Galway by a Slovak!

I am presently organising a Celtic-themed exhibition of the wood carvings of a Slovak friend of mine in the Galway City Museum. On Saturday November 1st, the Sacred Animals of Celtic Ireland by Radoslav Benka will be officially launched by another friend of mine, Michael D. Higgins TD-Ireland’s first Minister of Culture .
I have a strong affinity of Irish Celtic culture and have promoted it over many years both here and abroad in its many different guises- from music, drama, art, dance to story telling.

Radoslav Benka hails from picturesque Bardejov in eastern Slovakia famed for its wooden churches and traditional crafts. His love of wildlife was inspired by the diverse fauna of the vast forests and rugged mountains that cover much of his homeland. One day while he was a young child playing in the woods, he came across the skull of a deer. Intrigued, he brought it home and carved its likeness into blocks of discarded wood.

Like many of his countrymen and women, Radoslav came to Ireland a few years back to earn more money and ended up working in the kitchen of the Eglinton Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre in Galway. Whilst I was helping out there in establishing and teaching in inhouse Internet Cafe, I got into conversation with Rado.
He showed me some sculpting of animal figures that he had carved. So impressed was I by his works, I secured him some valuable commissions and convinced him to organise an exhibition based on the animals associated with the mythological tales of ancient Celtic Ireland.

The 'Drill Baby Drill' Lady

In many ways it is great to see a young(ish) feisty female running for one of the top jobs in the world, namely the office of the President of the United States of America.
And about time too!
For I recognise women as the great unsung heroes of human history. Whilst 'Man the Hunter' killed the occasional animal, it was his female companion that did the hard work of transforming the carcass into a range of clothes, medicines, shelter and food whilst continuing her daily routine of cleaning, nursing, child-minding, man-minding, fire-minding, food collection and preparation from dawn 'til dusk.
Yet it is only in the last fifty years that women have became leaders of society based on their own merits rather than due to their fact that they were husbands or daughters of powerful men.
So I would normally welcome a woman becoming a leader of political, business or community establishments.

But Sarah Palin is different.
Behind the facade of beauty and femininity, she is an extremely right wing gun-toting Christian fundamentalist conservative who has helped turn Alaska into a glorified oil company where dividends are paid to its small-time shareholders (citizens) as profits are made at the expense of the environment.

Her attitude is that 'what is good for the oil companies is good for the USA and is good for the rest of the world'. The opinions of the latter matter not one iota.

Alaska is one of the last great wildernesses left in the world. But man-made global warming is melting the ice at an alarming rate and rapidly destroying the habitats of some of the planet's most precious creatures. The solitary Polar Bear is one of the great symbol's of global environmentalists. As Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin disagrees with the concept of human-influenced climate change and has led the opposition to the US Interior Department decision to declare polar bears threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The same is true of the Beluga Whales of Alaska's Cook Inlet. Sarah did not want them protected contradicting the scientific evidence that they are declining dramatically. In 1995, they were 653. in 2008, they are only 375 belugas left.

She is proud of portraying herself as gun-loving hunter, preferring to kill God's creatures rather than protect them.
As a Christian evangelical creationist, Sarah anyway gives little credence to Science or scientific evidence.
Thankfully, she has recently lost both battles against the US government in relation to the protection of polar bears and belugas habitats who can breath a sigh of relief tonight.

But let us not forget that Sarah's political drive is primarily fueled by the demands and greed of the oil companies who want to increase offshore oil drilling in the state's waters as well as in the protected Alaska National Park. "Drill Baby Drill!" has become the catchphrase of the crowds that attend her election rallies.

On an international front, her views are those of Bush- 'gung-ho' unilateralist, pro-Israeli and anti-environment.
Like the Islamist fundamentalists, the American Christian right and their Zionist allies believe that a vengeful God is on their side, that the 'ends justifies the means' as they use whatever force is necessary to defeat those whom they consider evil. Which is basically everyone that is not of them.

Introduce Park Wardens & A Refundable Drinks Cans Levy to Clean Up Our Forests & Green Spaces

On a miserable rainswept windy Monday night, around fifty ‘Friends of the Forest’ supporters joined our protest outside a meeting of Galway City Council to highlight the need for increased protection of local parks and natural heritage areas.
As no vote has yet been taken on the proposed road through the Terryland Forest Park, we adopted a 'softly softly' approach towards the city councillors, most of whom came out to meet and discuss the issues with us in a friendly and courteous manner.
We asked them to lobby the government to introduce a refundable levy on all drink cans and bottles purchased at off-licences and other retails outlets. Discarded drink cans and bottles are probably the number one cause of litter in Ireland. Hence a refundable levy on drink cans and bottles would have an enormous positive impact on our environment by providing an economic incentive for people to keep our Irish parks, roads, waterways and public spaces clean.
Such a monetary pay-back scheme existed in Ireland until a few decades ago and is very successful today in other parts of the globe.
Considerable savings in litter management would be immediately made by the state that could then be used to reduce anti-social behaviour by encouraging greater public use of wonderful green spaces such as Terryland Forest Park by funding the provision new departments of park wardens, regular outdoor family activities and park facilities such as picnic areas, community gardens and eco-learning centres.
In the interim, there is no reason why the council could not now implement a year-long public events programmes for our parks and woodlands or encourage the setting up of a unit of voluntary community park support wardens.