Newry.ie

Restrictions as part of the current Covid-19 pandemic together with the current long dry spell has led to an unprecedented resurgence in the popularity of cycling in Newry and surrounds. Many more families are cycling together, especially on the Newry Canal towpath and the Carlingford Lough Greenway making use of the fresh air to clear their heads and relax.

Newry.ie has spoken to two different bicycle stores in the city, Bridge End Bikes and Cycle Recycle. The resurgence has brought many benefits to both but it has produced challenges relating to the availability of bikes. Cycle Recycle have seen a marked decrease in people donating bikes in part due to people wanting to use them themselves! Bridge End Bikes like all cycling stores is finding it difficult to source new bicycles, especially for adults, with many factories closed.

Gillian and Brendan O'Hare in their Bridge End Bikes store. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Gillian and Brendan O'Hare in their Bridge End Bikes store. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Bridge End Bikes

Gillian and Brendan O'Hare run the Kilmorey Street bicycle shop Bridge End Bikes established by Brendan's father Eugene, back in 1972. The store was originally on William Street but when that road was widened it was moved to Bridge Street and now they are back to near where it all began on their premises at 13 Kilmorey Street.

Gillian explains that biking has taken a hike in popularity "It's got very busy. Families are out cycling where before the father would have went out, but now the whole family are out."

It is hard to keep up with present demand with new bikes virtually sold out. Gillian says. "The manufacturers had stopped whenever coronavirus started. They stopped making them so there is a big backlog there. We are being told at the moment that there will be nothing more in until August"

Repairs are coming in hard and heavy with a week and a half wait for repairs, something experienced industry wide. "Getting parts in is a problem as well, because the factories have closed down and they are now on skeleton staff"

Hilary Halliday enjoying her cycle around Newry city. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Hilary Halliday enjoying her cycle around Newry city. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"It's completely different from last year. Everything has changed. Cycling has taken off - It had been taking off anyway outside of coronavirus but now it seems to be everybody's form of exercise. Walk and cycle, that's about it because they can't swim, they can't go to gym's." Explains Gillian.

It seems that people who would never have thought of going out to get a bike are now taking an interest in cycling. "We do have a lot of bicycles that were pulled our of garages that haven't seen the light for five or six years and we do our very best with them. If it can be fixed at all we fix them" says Gillian.

NHS Workers

The shop has stayed open with cycling shops being branded an essential service. As an added bonus NHS workers will get their repairs done free. They are also prioritised, so if an NHS worker comes in they go to the front of the queue.

Gillian feels that Newry isn't cycle friendly at present and suggests more cycle lanes and improved facilities for cyclists on the Warrenpoint Road, a very busy road for cyclists.

"It's not cycle friendly at the moment. There really is nowhere safe for children to cycle round Newry. If they had cycle lanes and become more cycle friendly. Cycling has taken off. Things like the Cycle to Work scheme has got a lot of people out onto bikes and in this climate at the moment with children, it's either computer in the house or out on your bike.

"Newry could do more for the children that are cycling."

Bridge End Bikes is open from 9.30am - 5.30pm Monday to Saturday. Telephone 028 3026 4126

Cycle Recycle

Gerard Hughes from social enterprise Cycle Recycle aim to recycle peoples old/unused bicycles back into the local community but are struggling at present with bike donations.

Gerard  points out that compared to last year they have seen a massive increase in people, especially adults looking bikes, which they can't get because no-one is leaving them in, and other bike shops don't have them either with everybody taking up cycling.

Gerard Hughes, Cycle Recycle, Newry with some of his collection of children's bicycles in their WIN Business Park premises. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Gerard Hughes, Cycle Recycle, Newry with some of his collection of children's bicycles in their WIN Business Park premises. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

While business has been steady Gerard explains "We have seen a dramatic decrease in bike donations from the public and also from the council amenity sites. I know that the council amenity sites have opened up again but they are not accepting bulkier waste, ie bicycles."

This has led to very few donations which Hughes puts down to people probably not realising they can donate them directly to Cycle Recycle themselves or else they are holding on their bicycle themselves to take up cycling again during this pandemic" Cycle Recycle can also collect donated cycles. 

Gerard has seen a massive increase in people taking up cycling since the pandemic started in March. "which is good, good for peoples physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing and emotional wellbeing. I've also seen a big increase in people getting their old bikes serviced to get back out on to the roads again with their children or on their own."

Sales at present are mostly with children's bikes. Gerard adds "We have quite a few of them and are still happy to accept them as donations as well"

Speaking about cycling in Newry Gerard  says we have some good cycling routes around Newry at the moment, especially with the towpath and greenway.

Talking about a potential link route through the city from the towpath to the greenway proposed last week by Newry.ie Gerard commented "I think you made a valid point. A safe route we need and the route that you pointed out is quite a safe route"

"I cycled that particular route yesterday, bar the part by the side of the city hall, but the rest through the bus centre, through the basin car park and on to the greenway and I went as far as Carlingford"

Asked whether he thinks the increase in popularity of biking is a blip Gerard says "I think it will continue. People have realised now that they can get out making exercise and everybody is quite enjoying it. The only thing that will stop them doing it will be the change of weather coming into the autumn and winter though hopefully it won't"

Cycle Recycle at present is open at Unit J1, WIN Business Park, (at entrance to Newry Canal towpath) from 9.30am - 12.30pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays. They would greatly welcome donations of any unwanted adult bicycles at present. You can email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 07759 723623.

Suggested link from Carlingford Lough Greenway to Newry Canal Towpath SUGGESTED-ROUTE

 

 

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