60 year old Colum Whelan is the chairman of Bike Marshals – a voluntary organization who heroically gives up their free time as volunteer motorbike marshals to keep those participating in public sporting events safe – We Love Cycling had a chat with him to find out more about the worthy cause.
Originally from Dublin but living in Galway since 1995, Colum returned to biking seven years ago and “needed an excuse to get out an about on it and found a great reason to do just that”
Bike Marshals are volunteer motorbike marshals. The organization was formed in early 2015 to provide training and support for bikers interested in voluntary marshalling.
“When we set up Bike Marshals we also decided that Blood Bikes would be the beneficiary of any funds we generate from our activities”.
“Blood Bikers are also volunteers, in their case they provide free out of hours service to hospitals around the country. Many of our riders are also involved with some of the Blood Bike groups around the country.”
At this point, it’s probably easier to list off the events that Bike Marshals don’t have involvement with, such is the extent the organization has grown, but you could say they’ve been on hand for almost every major public sporting event.
He said: “Bike Marshals get involved in some amazing events and there is rarely a dull moment for the riders. We have marshalled, minded and escorted some very unusual events over the last number of years, from cycling, running, Ironman Challenges to Tractor Convoys, Truck Convoys and the team even escorted a number of Train Carriages through the middle of the night from Dublin Docks all the way to a Glamping Site in Sligo!”
The marshalling hasn’t stopped in Ireland either; the volunteers have also been to Scotland to assist over there in a cycling event with 10,000 participants.
Cycling in Ireland has become hugely popular of course, and with the increasing numbers of cyclists on the road, unfortunately it means more people that are vulnerable and at risk of having an accident, but what do Bike Marshals see as the things that need the biggest improvements for the safety of cyclists?
Colum said: “A big challenge for large cycling sportifs is the interaction with other road users, especially road users queued behind cyclists. Overtaking of cycling groups by traffic is a concern.
“If key national routes could be identified and then developed over time (for example, hard shoulders, properly surfaced, if not continuous at least every few kms) this would allow all road users to be able to proceed with minimal interruption,” he said.
Covering such a variety of events, it’s only natural to ask if there is a particular favourite amongst the volunteers.
Colum told We Love Cycling:
“We support Škoda Tour De Conamara and Škoda Ring of Clare, which brings us into very beautiful parts of our country. Truck runs and tractor convoys making lots of noise going through a town or village. Competitive cycle races bring high tempo and pressures, and excitement.”
“Charity cycles are very rewarding, because typically the event is providing very important local support to someone in need,” he added.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Bike Marshals, the good news is they are “always recruiting”:
“We’re looking for more riders in every part of the country building up teams to manage events at local levels. We are also looking for people to fill positions in administration. These people do not have to be Bike Riders but just interested in being involved in a very worthwhile service.
Anyone interested in getting involved in Biking and/or administration should contact us on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Group phone: +353 (0)87 443 1889.”