Back in September 2017, we were delighted to be contacted – completely out of the blue – by Toño Peña, the Vice-President of Biciclistas de Corella, a Spanish organisation promoting the bicycle as a means of transport. He was inquiring to see if Cyclist.ie would like to be a partner in an Erasmus+ project funding application he was leading on. The project was to be all about social inclusion, youth empowerment and sustainable transport. The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’!
Roll on March 2019, and after many months of SKYPE calls, emails, Garda vetting of volunteers and navigating labyrinthine forms for EU projects, we were part of an exciting partnership and on our way to the lovely town of Corella in the the region of Navarra. In the intervening period, Cyclist.ie had teamed up with Green Schools Ireland, and the other project partners were Frie Fugle and Cycling Without Age from Denmark, a youth association (LAG Suduva) from Lithuania, and the Alhama High School and Biciclistas de Corella in Spain. Crucially, on board with the adults from the cycling and environmental organisations above were school children from all four participating countries – around half a dozen from each. The pupils from Ireland came from St. Tiernan’s Community School in Dundrum. The adults comprised Dr. Damien Ó Tuama from Cyclist.ie, Jane Hackett from Green Schools, Martina O’Shea linked to the school, and Allison Roberts from Clonakilty Bicycle Festival(who was joined by her partner Justin and three year old Ari, all of whom were on bigger bicycling and camper-van adventures in Spain and Portugal at the time!).
All 40+ participants who travelled to Corella were treated to a wonderfully diverse and amazingly action-packed week of activities. We have to say that the crew from Biciclistas de Corella were the best hosts ever! Each day was jam-packed with formal and informal, indoor and outdoor, day-time and night-time activities of every type imaginable. Some of the highlights included a tree planting workshop, a lovely 40km cycle through a farming region to Fitero, a trip to the Bardenas Desert with a picnic and barbeque afterwards, a dancing workshop, a pottery-making session, singing jotas with the residents of the nursing home and then heading out with them on a Cycling Without Age trishaw, evening time dinners with home-made food provided by locals, visits to wineries, a trip to Pamplona and visiting the palace of Navarra, tortilla-making workshops, meeting the Mayor of Corella, visits to cathedrals….. and lots of presentations on cycling and cycle tourism. It is exhausting listing even some of our activities! Most importantly, we got a lovely warm welcome from the hosts and from everyone we met in the school and on our trips.
The first project meeting definitely succeeded in getting cycling campaigners and school pupils from four quite different countries swapping ideas with each other over the course of the week. It was educational, sociable and a breathe of fresh air for us all. Take a bow Toño, Cristina, Quique, Chivvy and team!
The next ‘mobility’ or trip for the project participants will be to Dublin in June and – as per the funding application submitted over a year ago – the plan is for the group to be here during the same week as the Velo-city Cycling Planning Conference at the end of June. As far as is possible, we will aim to knit into some of the Velo-city events such as the Cycle Parade and other side events, and Toño Peña himself will be presenting at the conference. Further trips will be to Copenhagen in October and Lithuania in mid 2020 – and then there will be a additional trip back to Ireland in 2021 and we are exploring the idea of heading to Clonakilty for the bicycle festival!