The fourth annual Clonakilty Bicycle Festival kicked off on June 11 with the official opening of a new bike hire scheme at O’Donovan’s Hotel. A brainchild of hotelier Tom O’Donovan and sponsored by Clóna, Clonakilty Community Cycle Scheme is similar to those operating in Barcelona, Dublin and Cork, but is the first in a rural town. It is seen as an ideal fit for Clonakilty, known for its huge number of accessible beaches and laid back lifestyle. Sheila Mullins reports from the launch of another first for this forward thinking town.
The Clonakilty Community Cycle Scheme operates between 10 local hotels, from Rosscarbery, around Clonakilty and down to Courtmacsherry; with another docking station at the West Cork Model Railway Village. Initially some 60 bicycles are in service, but depending on demand, the number can be increased.
At the launch in Recorder’s Alley, committee member Michael O’Neill of Fernhill House Hotel welcomed an ebullient crowd, many with their own bikes in tow. Michael’s reiteration that this was “a first for a rural area” received loud applause, as did his thanks to everybody who had participated in and supported the establishment of the scheme including Tony O’Driscoll, Managing Director at the main sponsor Clóna Dairies; the Irish Hotel Federation and all the local hotels; the West Cork Model Railway Village; Cork County Council and Sustainable Clonakilty, who were invaluable in helping the committee to access grants.
Michael thanked David Sheehy from Kilty Cycles who sourced the bicycles (and stayed up until 3am in the morning building them) and also Mathew Harte, who designed the software that is the engine behind the scheme.
However, the loudest applause was for Tom O’Donovan, who in Michael’s words “is last on my list to thank, but not least. Tom had the vision and through huge effort and numerous man-hours has seen his idea to fruition. This is something that will help to attract inward investment to the town by showing us to be forward thinking and proactive. I encourage everyone to buy membership to support the scheme and help it to grow.”
Rev Fr. Galvin performed a blessing of the bikes, praying for the safety and happiness of all users before new Mayor Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin, master of ceremonies, stepped up to cut the ribbon. “This is an historic evening that yet again shows Clonakilty to be a leader, and not a follower,” he said. “We were the first Fairtrade Town, the first to directly elect a mayor and now this is another first. We don’t wait for others to come in to develop our town but we do it for ourselves. This scheme shows that just two or three people working together can change the world. Tom has been ‘peddling’ this idea for a while; he saw the potential and now he has succeeded.”
To kick off the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, Tom and Cionnaith than led — wobbling slightly under the pressure — a parade of bicycles around the town before arriving back for a party in O’Donovan’s Hotel.
Membership of the bike scheme is available to locals for just €20 a year whilst visitors can purchase a guest membership for approximately €10, depending on the length of their holiday. The first hour of use is free with subsequent hours charged at €1, up to a maximum of €10 per day. With safety in mind, users receive a special high-visibility jacket, helmet and information booklet detailing cycle routes in the locality. Membership can be purchased at any drop and collect hotel.