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The failure of Shane Ross to address cyclist safety

I’ll be updating this post over the next few days. I just wanted to put up copies of emails I’ve sent to the minister and my local TDs on the subject. I’ll note any responses here.

To Shane Ross:

Dear Minister,

I need to express my anger at the manner in which you have performed your role to date with respect to the safety of cyclists in Ireland. Unfortunately you’ve also made the decision to ignore all issues being raised to you on Twitter for quite sometime now (not just since the large scale expression of exacerbation with your performance in relation to the “Shell shock here in Rio” tweet). It is extremely frustrating that you believe ignoring the concerns and experiences of cyclists, as you have done, is appropriate as the minister for transport. A number of cyclists and cycling advocates have and will contact you with a number of issues and concerns. It appears many of these are beyond your competency or willingness to engage on so I’m going to raise what I believe to be the immediate priority issues:

1. Confirm you will adhere to the National Cycle Policy Framework of 2009 and implement it in full.
2. Clarify the comments from your department on the interpretation of S.I. No. 332/2012
3. Clarify the comments from your department on the proposal to legislate for a minimum passing distance of cyclists

We are now in a position where cyclist safety has regressed under your residence in office as you have made no progress on or demonstrated intent to progress the implementation of the NCPF. Further, the legislative change introduced by the S.I., which was welcomed given the dangerous implementation of a large number of cycle lanes in Ireland, has now lost the support of your department. The legal confusion introduced by department comments and your utter failure and unwillingness to clarify or remediate is dangerous for cyclists. A cyclist choosing to not use a cycle lane where its continued usage presents a danger to them may now face a member of AGS charging them with a road traffic offence. We have previously seen legal loopholes remediated with new legislation at great speed, yet from you, there is nothing. It is incomprehensible and indefensible: Inadequate and improperly constructed infrastructure results in injury and death. Yet your department sees fit to force cyclists to use cycle lanes under their interpretation of the applicable road traffic legislation. You have a responsibility to act on legislation. Finally, on these issues, your department has simply dismissed the value of legislating for safe overtaking of cyclists with wholly inadequate reasons. As ever, other countries seem to manage just fine but somehow Ireland is unique in it’s inability to do so.

Of course there remains a significant number of other issues but until your performance can be brought up to an acceptable level for a person holding office, they will have to wait. Given your comments and views expressed prior to taking office, a much higher standard of work was expected from you. I hope that your failure is temporary and you have a desire to do your job.

As someone who typically cycles 65km or so on a weekly basis, to work, to shop or to get around in general I am upset, angered and disappointed by the recent deaths of children and adults who simply chose to cycle and were killed doing so. So forgive my unwillingness to bend the knee to you or your staff and continue to beg and plead for progress on cyclist safety.

James Gallagher

To local TDs:

Dear All,

I’m a regular commuting cyclist who lives in Rathfarnham and have increasing concerns about my safety as well as anger at the abysmal performance by the minister for transport in regard to cyclist safety. This is compounded by the silence from the minister on transport issues, specifically legislation relevant to cyclist safety.

As a society we face a number of huge problems, many complex in nature and resolution; from the ongoing financial distress across our nation to repeal of the 8th amendment, from a health service unable to cope with the range of physical and mental health requirements to violent crime and so on. Cyclist safety is but one of these. However, the cost of making progress is relatively low in terms of capital expenditure and largely uncomplicated. The returns are not insignificant for productivity, tourism and physical and mental health.

Under Shane Ross we have seen a regression in cyclist safety:
– He is ignoring the National Cycling Policy Framework document of 2009 (1)
– Officials in the department of transport have made claims that the repeal of mandatory cycle lane usage by SI 332/2012 is not the actual outcome. Despite Leo Varadkar’s intent. Shane Ross has failed to address this. Legislation for many other matters has been rushed through, yet nothing from Ross on this. Inappropriately designed and constructed cycle lanes have fatal outcomes for cyclists – we’ve seen this recently.
– The meagre funding for pedestrian and cycling schemes has been cut by the NTA. Again, against a backdrop of road deaths. There is a body of research which I can refer you to that demonstrates net gains against investment in safe infrastructure.

I ask that you impress upon Shane Ross the need for him to address cyclist safety and to engage with the stakeholders identified in the NCPF. At this point he is simply blanking those of us who advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety or are simply concerned for friends, family members and colleagues.

I’ve also written to the minister and will update responses from him and yourselves on http://jamesgallagher.ie/the-failure-of-shane-ross-to-address-cyclist-safety/


(1) http://www.smartertravel.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/0902%2002%20EnglishNS1274%20Dept.%20of%20Transport_National_Cycle_Policy_v4%5B1%5D.pdf



Some additional notes on “A Lust For Life” piece “Trust Your Gut For Better Brain Health”

I started following the conversation around this tweet:

when I saw

The rest of the conversation from Sinéad (@phrenohead) and Chris (@stunt_penguin) is very interesting and I just wanted to add some background on two points:

  1. The article content sourcing
  2. Dr. Isaac Eliaz

Article content sourcing

The article is at http://www.alustforlife.com/mental-health/mental-nutrition/trust-your-gut-for-better-brain-health (Google Cache) and I’ve taken a screenshot of the portions I want to talk about:



  1. This is a copy and paste of text for which the original source appears to be http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/03/probiotics-impact-brain-performance.aspx (Google Cache – unfortunately the site’s popover throws a 404, but you read the paragraph around the Google pop-up). This piece of copy is used quite a bit and can be found with a Google search  . Mercola is a quack site: http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.htmlCopy of Interesting quote from mercola.com
  2. This time it’s not a direct lift from the mercola.com site mentioned in the last point but changes the specific foodstuffs mentioned. Copy of fermented foods quote from mercola.com
  3. Finally the last two paragraphs are a copy and paste from the Udo’s Choice product page (Google CacheCopy of Udo's choice Super 8 microbiotic primary copyCopy of Udo's choice Super 8 microbiotic description top copy

Dr. Isaac Eliaz

One of the pieces of supporting “evidence” that the “A Lust for Life” twitter account posted was:

This is an interesting choice as a reference for the claims in their post. You see, Dr. Isaac Eliaz makes a lot of claims including:

  1. Use of Modified Citrus Pectin in treating cancers (prostate, ovarian and breast cancer are mentioned). Most of the clinical studies on pectin are in-vitro and yet products based on it are being actively marketed for prevention and cure. You can read what information Cancer Research UK have here and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre here. Some potential benefits of pectin are mentioned by both but those benefits are a long, long way off what’s being touted.
  2. MCP for treating autism based on heavy metal detoxification
  3. Homeopathy for the treatment of cancer

In conclusion, there are a lot of people out there who are happy to make claims about various treatments. A lot of these fail to have any benefit in large scale, properly designed human trials.If “A Lust for Life” are to be a credible contributor to the mental health discussion then they need to stay clear of the unproven treatments and the outright bullshit treatments.



Number of jobs versus employment rate

Because I’m a cranky git who is largely distrustful of economists, I couldn’t let go of a sense of distrust of what was being presented in this graph:


Dan O’Brien on Twitter

The Irish economy has increased employment more in the past four years than in the 70 years from 1926 to 1996.pic.twitter.com/Ps6JFnduH6

I’m suspicious that this is simply “bigging up” Fine Gael and being misleading in doing so.

For me, the number at work on its own doesn’t give a complete picture; particularly over a 90 year period. Ireland’s population has changed significantly over that period of time and can’t be omitted when considering economic performance (I reckon, anyway). On that basis I argue that employment rate is the appropriate indicator of labour market performance for a national economy.

So I’ve taken the various data with which to present the employment rate over the period 1926 to 2016:

Population 15 years and Over (Number) by Sex, Industrial Group,
Employment Status and Year
1926 1936 1946 1951 1961 1966 1971 1981 1986 1991 1996
All Persons All Industries Total at Work 1223014 1235424 1227745 1219722 1052539 1065987 1054839 1137827 1091155 1149080 1307236
  • I’ve then used the population data from CNA15: Population by Age Group, Sex, Year and Statistic to get the population for 15-64 year olds over the same time range and selecting the same years (so that means not selecting 1979, 2002, 2006 or 2011 as the latter three are in the QNHS dataset)
Population (Number) by Sex, Age Group and Year
1926 1936 1946 1951 1961 1966 1971 1981 1986 1991 1996
Both sexes 15 – 19 years 286187 268326 251487 241182 233832 259356 267727 326429 331100 335026 339536
20 – 24 years 240231 254513 231290 202172 158007 185289 215251 276127 286424 266572 293354
25 – 29 years 215401 216785 208188 198421 145377 149317 172993 246053 258439 246321 259045
30 – 34 years 183300 183284 204696 191566 152787 146625 151351 231958 242689 249071 260929
35 – 39 years 175759 192420 191882 200916 166793 154272 149107 193829 229740 237889 255676
40 – 44 years 169085 162905 165597 180326 170293 163362 152729 165924 191751 225683 240441
45 – 49 years 168893 156583 173062 160915 174625 166517 160124 151850 161740 187762 225400
50 – 54 years 162718 152707 137492 162986 157122 164957 159082 149680 147511 156806 186647
55 – 59 years 125713 143441 134859 128848 136123 147064 154847 149606 142215 142549 153807
60 – 64 years 105146 130378 119225 122060 131060 123840 134066 139266 139978 134566 137946
  • Combining the CNKL1 and CNA15 data I get
1926 1936 1946 1951 1961 1966 1971 1981 1986 1991 1996
Number at work 1223014 1235424 1227745 1219722 1052539 1065987 1054839 1137827 1091155 1149080 1307236
Total 15-64 1,832,433 1,861,342 1,817,778 1,789,392 1,626,019 1,660,599 1,717,277 2,030,722 2,131,587 2,182,245 2,352,781
Employment rate 66.7% 66.4% 67.5% 68.2% 64.7% 64.2% 61.4% 56.0% 51.2% 52.7% 55.6%
  • QNHS Table8a-EmploymentRates shows data by quarter so I took a simple average for the year and get
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
60.6 63.6 65.3 65.9 65.3 65.4 66.3 67.8 68.6 69.2 67.4 61.9 59.7 58.9 58.9 60.5 61.7 63.3 63.6

We can then plot this combined data: Primary y-axis show employment rate (a percentage) and the secondary y-axis shows number of jobs and population (all ages) in millions.

(click to enlarge)
Employment Rate and Population 1926 to 2016
The points to note here are:

  • The employment rate and the “numbers at work” chart show somewhat similar trends over the last 20 years but the interpretation should be markedly different.
  • The increase in population which show that comparisons with the early and mid parts of the 20th century shouldn’t ignore the impact of population change i.e. absolute job numbers don’t have context.
  • The employment rate today is back at end of the century levels; we’re barely midway to recovering to peak levels. Since the 2012 minima, the employment rate is only up ~8% over the period to now. That recovery is obviously good news but it’s not earth shattering.
  • That increase in employment rate needs to be viewed against the overall state of the economy as it affects the nation; the health service is teetering towards collapse and we have a homelessness emergency. Vanity metrics fed to the people in this manner are misleading at best, in reality insulting to people who know the recovery is fragile and not omnipresent.

Cube Travel SL Review

I originally put up a quick video review on the day I brought the bike home from the bike shop and it follows. However, now that I’ve put up some mileage (~750km) I thought it was time to get into a bit more detail. The bike comes in at ~€1,379; additional cost due to my customisations are shown below.

If you watched the video you’ll see that I was quite excited by the bike. Since then, nothing’s changed: I love this bike and it’s perfect for me right now.

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I posted this on Twitter but I also wanted to add it here because it’s important and there seem to be an awful lot of product people who don’t understand the concept of MVP:

10 Ways To Test If Your MVP Is Actually Viable – ReadWrite

Throwing together a minimum viable product, or MVP, is a great way to test your concept and find out what customers really want before you sink more money into the game. However, there’s a fine line between tossing something together and a MVP that’s too buggy to launch.


EPG and recording time trouble in TVHeadend

I’ve moved from having a full XBMC Kodi install on my Raspberry Pi to just Raspbian with tvheadend as all I want is to capture content for consumption elsewhere e.g. RTÉ Pulse shows.

Recently, I had the bright idea of moving to Jessie and in the process discovered that all no longer played well and I wasn’t recording the actual shows I wanted. Two things were happening: the EPG which is pulled from EIT OTA was +1 hour out – most discussions on this issue being observed on TVH centre around there being an issue with the provider. So I went down the rabbit hole of trying to get DVB scanner tools to work to inspect the Saorview EIT data – a successful endeavour. It was then by chance that I saw TVH when debug mode was enabled was logging events with a -1 hour difference.

This is where how time is handled on Linux gets confusing. I looked at the timezone per user (so setting via .profile) and at system level which I naively assumed was /etc/timezone. I wasted lots of times between these two until I discovered /etc/localtime and then this information: https://wiki.debian.org/TimeZoneChanges. dpkg-reconfigure tzdata is your friend.


Custom Gitlab to Slack notifications with Zapier

We’re back to using Slack for product development communication again, so I’ve been keen to tie in the documentation updates I do via Dexy & Asciidoctor to Slack. What I wanted was to notify the channels setup per product of a new version of the specification along with the URL to the documentation site.

Gitlab has Slack integration ‘out of the box’ as described here. Here’s what that looks like:

GitLab [10:30 PM]
James Gallagher pushed to branch master of etckeeper/gitlab (Compare changes)
629601425: saving uncommitted changes in /etc prior to apt run – James Gallagher
ea40dff39: committing changes in /etc after apt run

Package changes:
-adduser 3.113ubuntu2 Show more…

This works great where the audience for the notification is interested in code/configuration changes but doesn’t fit with the use case I described above. So that meant looking instead at a specific Gitlab use case: Web Hooks for tag push events. As I mentioned in the Dexy & Asciidoctor post I tag new versions of specifications – hence tying the notification to ‘tag push events’.

The rest of this post describes the high level approach I took and the [awful] code I used.
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