Government’s new €53 million Greenway Strategy appears to be inherently unlawful

Final_GCC_logo_7_06_2010

Background: the Greenway controversy and the new strategy

The recent conduct of various “Greenway” projects by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has been extremely controversial and has generated unneeded conflict. In Galway, the main source of the difficulty has been a switch by state actors to treating greenway provision as exclusively involving the construction of new roads, mainly through working farms. This is either new roads along disturbed ground such as the long abandoned and now privately owned Clifden railway alignments. Alternatively, in East Galway the proposed new roads are to be constructed along new alignments through open farmland. Previously there had been an acceptance that in accordance with national policy, minor country lanes could also form part of greenway networks. Predictably this “build new roads” approach has generated serious conflict and acrimony. Out of this acrimony “Galway Cycling Solutions” was formed as a coalition of cycling and landowner interests. In January 2017 a delegation from Galway Cycling Solutions and farm organisations met Minister Shane Ross and Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan to raise concerns. The delegation was informed a new process was to be developed. A consultation on a new Greenway Strategy was announced in May 2017 and received detailed submissions from interested parties around the country including the Galway Cycling Campaign. In July 2018 the Government published the resulting Greenway strategy document. In September 2018, this was followed with a €53 million funding call. If the Greenway Strategy had been circulated as a draft for discussion it would be a welcome step forward. As it stands the final document is flawed, seems to promise more conflict with landowners and the proposed strategy seems to be inherently unlawful under EU and national law.

The strategy document does make an attempt to appear reasonable and to take into account various issues that were raised during the strategy consultation.

  • There is talk of consultation with stakeholders – although there are apparent problems that are outside the scope of this article.
  • Issues for farmers are acknowledged such as avoiding severance and following boundaries instead of splitting fields, a need for accommodation works and to maintain access for motor vehicles on sections of greenway
  • The authors acknowledge the Eurovelo guidelines and the use of low traffic roads (but the discussion is misinformed)
  • The discredited NRA National Cycle Network scoping study is dropped (which is good, but what is replacing it – a greenway system of new roads – is not adequate)

 

Picture: Section of the old Clifden road near Derryneen,  In 2012 the county council accepted that this could be used as part of the western section of the Clifden Greenway. Then something seems to have changed and minor country lanes became unacceptable to the council for subsequent greenway proposals.

 

A continued focus on building new roads

A central problem remains an apparent focus on the construction of new roads. In the published strategy the authors use the words like “built” or “construct” where a credible and environmentally defensible strategy document would use words like “designate”, “adapt”, “create”, “provide” or “develop”.

Page 6: Objectives First paragraph: “The objective of this Strategy is to assist in the strategic development of nationally and regionally significant Greenways in appropriate locations constructed to an appropriate standard in …”
Page 7: What is a Greenway? third paragraph: “Greenways funded under this Strategy will be built following …”
Page 13: Public Consultation Process, third paragraph: “… the plan to construct a Greenway will intensify the use of that land and … “
Page 13: Land Access for Greenways: “… there are significant amounts of land in State ownership around the country that are suitable for the construction of Greenways or sections of Greenways …“
Page 14: Permissive Access, second paragraph: “… with the sponsoring agency or local authority that has paid for the development and construction.”
Page 14 Land purchase: “… it is anticipated that voluntary agreements would be entered into to sell the small sections of land required to construct the Greenway…”
Page 14 Accommodation Works: “It is recognised that a proposal to construct a Greenway route through or adjacent to private land …”
Page 16 Impact on Agriculture and Rural Areas; fifth paragraph: “While there are risks associated with any construction near farm-holdings, the development of a Greenway …”
Page 18 Greenways and the Environment: “Greenways must be planned and constructed in compliance with the requirements of Irish and European law including, but not limited to, EU Directive 2014/52/EU.”
Page 20 Page title “Post construction
Page 23 Other Cycling and Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure: First paragraph: “Whilst this Strategy concerns the construction of strategic Greenways there …”

The authors do acknowledge the Eurovelo guidelines and the use of low traffic roads. However, the authors appear to frame this as something that is mainly suitable for experienced cyclists which suggests the authors have an incorrect understanding of cycling policy and cycle route provision. As our submission pointed out, there are numerous locations across Europe where low-traffic roads provide a family friendly and child friendly cycling environment serving inexperienced cyclists. Furthermore the use of low-traffic roads is a key component in Objective 3 “Provide designated rural signed cycle networks” of the 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework. The Greenway Strategy does not seem to mention the National Cycle Policy Framework at all – which many might find very curious omission. Instead the published strategy seems to frame low traffic roads only as a way of linking the new roads constructed as “greenways” to other destinations or as an alternative network for “experienced” cyclists. The discussion of low traffic roads is passive and mentions traffic calming and speed limits but not the active creation of low-traffic environments. (The traffic calming methods mentioned “road narrowing, chicanes” are often hostile to cyclists and therefore do not inspire confidence in the understanding of the strategy authors). In relation to the new roads that are to be built under the strategy, the authors acknowledge that limited access for motorised vehicles will need to be maintained for landowners and maintenance vehicles. However, this seems to be only by way of responding to farmers concerns. The opposite to this, that restricting motor vehicle access to existing roads is a standard way to create a greenway experience, is not discussed. Like the discredited National Cycle Network Scoping study the latest Greenway Strategy document reads like something that was put together by roads engineers for the purpose of justifying particular types of roads works. It seems that the main goal is to spend significant funds on building new rural roads rather than being focused on delivering our national cycling infrastructure in the fastest, most sustainable and most resource efficient manner. At the July launch of the strategy, and in a subsequent funding call the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin stated that the strategy is backed by a fund of €53m for the years 2019 to 2021

The legal situation: EU Directive 2014/52/EU

On page 18 the strategy authors specifically reference EU Directive 2014/52/EU. Directive 2014/52/EU is the latest version of directive 2011/92/EU “on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment”. The objective of the directives is not merely to ensure projects are carried out in a manner that protects the environment. But to ensure that “Effects on the environment should be taken into account at the earliest possible stage in all the technical planning and decision-making processes”. Any project may have an environmental impact purely through the manner in which it consumes resources. There is also an associated EU communication “COM(2011) 571 final Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe” which commits to the efficient use of resources and to the principles of sustainable development. (See below for relevant sections). These directives are transposed into Irish law under regulations such as the European Union (Planning and Development)(Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 296 of 2018).

As adopted into Irish practice and Irish planning law, there is a requirement for a developer to commission an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) as part of the planning process. This report must include an assessment of reasonable alternatives that achieve the goal of the project. The environmental impacts of these alternatives must be compared. The intent is that a project with the least impact and most sustainable use of resources can be found. An EIAR is a key part of the planning process for projects such as new roads. When the National Planning Board “An Bord Pleanála” holds a hearing on a project is perhaps better thought of as being a hearing into the EIAR report rather than simply the project in isolation.

Conclusion: the 2018 Greenway Strategy is contrary to EU and national law.

The published Greenway Strategy does not reflect key areas raised during the consultation process. The latest Greenway Strategy document is focused on constructing new build roads as “greenways”. It acknowledges that motor vehicle access might be permitted to these greenways but not the opposite; that restricting motor vehicle access is an effective, established, way of creating a greenway-like experience on existing local roads. For local roads the strategy merely refers to traffic calming rather than roads management or traffic restriction and diversion. The document acknowledges that low traffic local roads have a role in cycling networks but frames this merely providing links to the greenways (new rural roads) constructed under this strategy.

Therefore the apparent effect of the Greenway Strategy is to direct local authorities to propose schemes that involve building new roads through lands as a direct alternative to adapting existing features that already have an established value as cycling infrastructure. In effect this seems to be an instruction to propose projects that have higher environmental and resource impacts as an alternative to those that have lower impacts.

This suggests that the Greenway Strategy is contrary to EU law on environmental protection and for many locations planning applications framed on the basis of the Greenway Strategy will be inherently unlawful under EU directives on the environment and hence unlawful under the Irish planning regulations.

References and background reading

Strategy Launch 20 July 2018 Ministers Launch the Strategy for the future development of National and Regional Greenways

Ross and Griffin issue call for €53 million funding for Nationwide Greenways

S.I. No. 296 of 2018 – European Union (Planning and Development)(Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2018

The 2018 Guidelines for Planning Authorities and An Bord Pleanála on carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment state as follows:

Reasonable Alternatives: 4.12. The Directive requires that information provided by the developer in an EIAR shall include a description of the reasonable alternatives studied by the developer. These are reasonable alternatives which are relevant to the project and its specific characteristics. The developer must also indicate the main reasons for the option chosen taking into account the effects of the project on the environment.

Directive 2014/52/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 16 April 2014

(7) Over the last decade, environmental issues, such as resource efficiency and sustainability, biodiversity protection, climate change, and risks of accidents and disasters, have become more important in policy making. They should therefore also constitute important elements in assessment and decision-making processes.

(8) In its Communication of 20 September 2011 entitled ‘Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe’, the Commission committed itself to including broader resource efficiency and sustainability considerations in the context of the revision of Directive 2011/92/EU.

COM(2011) 571 final Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe

3.1. Sustainable consumption and production 3.1.1. Improving products and changing consumption patterns Changing the consumption patterns of private and public purchasers will help drive resource efficiency and can also frequently generate direct net cost savings. In turn it can help increase demand for more resource efficient services and products. Accurate information, based on the life-cycle impacts and costs of resource use, is needed to help guide consumption decisions.

5.3. Ensuring efficient mobility A modern, resource efficient mobility system, serving both passengers and freight can contribute significantly to competitiveness and sustainability. The Transport White Paper24 puts forward a wide range of options for pursing the required holistic transport policy.

Milestone: By 2020 overall efficiency in the transport sector will deliver greater value with optimal use of resources like raw materials, energy, and land, and reduced impacts on climate change, air pollution, noise, health, accidents, biodiversity and ecosystem degradation.

July 2017: Greenway Strategy consultation is misconceived and should be set aside.

Final_GCC_logo_7_06_2010

Conduct of latest DTTaS consultation raises concerns for future of rural cycling policy and for cycling tourism in Ireland.

After the recent controversies in Galway about the behaviour of the DTTaS, TII (Formerly the NRA) and the two local councils in relation to cycling policy.  A new consulation process was announced by Ministers Shane Ross TD and Patrick O’Donovan TD at a meeting with Galway Cycling Solutions in Dublin in January 2017.  The consultation on the “Strategy for the Future Development of Greenways” emerged from the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport (DTTaS) in late May.  Unfortunately it was found to be flawed and the content reinforces serious concerns regarding the treatment of cycling and cycling tourism within the DTTaS. The structure of the document suggests that the department is still seeking to avoid or evade a model of cycling provision that is well-established and highly successful across Europe; using minor roads and tracks limited to local motor traffic. Galway is the premier model for this form of cycling provision in Ireland and this form of cycling tourism has been a central part of the tourism offering in Galway for decades. The use of minor roads is also a key component of Objective 3 on rural cycling in the National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF). The greenway strategy asks if the use of low-traffic roads is something that should “also” be considered but does not mention this aspect of the NCPF.  This strengthens concerns that under the current Government there is an active effort to set aside the NCPF.  The Galway Cycling Campaign submission argues for a return to the well understood principles of the NCPF.

Read Campaign submission

Main points

  • The Greenway Strategy consultation misses the point about cycling and rural cycling provision
  • Implied assumption of the consultation is that cycling is an activity that is accessed by car

Cycling Campaign’s recommendations

  • Greenway consultation should be set aside
  • NRA “National Cycle Network” proposals (based on cycle facilties within main roads) should be set aside
  • New strategy is needed to deliver rural cycling based on the recommendations of the National Cycle Policy Framework and the  2007 Fáilte Ireland Strategy for the Development of Irish Cycle Tourism

 

What Ireland needs is a strategy for recreational cycling and cycling tourism in rural areas. What the DTTaS consultation announced was a “Strategy for the Future Development of Greenways”. Without further reading this title alone suggests that the DTTaS has again missed the point about cycling policy. Greenways or roads dedicated to cycling and walking (termed cycleways in Irish legislation) are an important component of a cycling strategy. However just as you cannot have a functioning roads network that consists only of motorways. Likewise you cannot have a functioning cycle network that consists only of greenways. The implication, and underlying assumption, of the proposed Greenway Development Strategy is that for many cycling will remain an activity that is accessed by car. Greenways or “Cycleways” cannot deliver full benefits for Ireland unless they are used as one component in a comprehensive network of routes linking destinations. Greenways are only one form of cycling provision. Other components in a cycling network will include roads shared with motor traffic, roads with some form of segregation such as roadside cycle tracks, minor country lanes and so on. In our submission we argue that the concept of a Greenway Development Strategy is fundamentally flawed and misconceived and so should be set aside. What is needed is a national strategy and program for the delivery of Objective 3 of the National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF).

Policy context

For rural recreational cycling and cycling tourism the underlying policy context is Objective 3 of the National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF): Signed rural cycle networks for tourism and recreation. This section of the NCPF was aligned with the previous 2007 Fáilte Ireland Strategy for the Development of Irish Cycle Tourism. The vision of both documents was for a National Cycle Network based mainly around low traffic rural roads and some greenways. Greenways were to obtained using obvious features such as canal towpaths, disused railways and so on. Segregated roadside cycle facilities would also be needed close to towns to keep cyclists away from heavy traffic that could not be avoided on busy corridors. However away from towns these corridors would be avoided. Failte Ireland document states explicitly that busy R and N roads are to be avoided “Generally due to high traffic levels and high speeds we wish to avoid cycling on N or R-roads”. This is a model that has worked successfully for decades in Galway and elsewhere.

Galway is Ireland’s best example of a highly succesful cycling tourism experience based on unsegregated cycling on minor rural roads. Every year thousands of visitors come to Galway, hire bikes, and use them to explore a local area. Some of the visitors are clearly people who may not have cycled since childhood. Even so they manage to hire bikes and cycle on local roads shared with local motorists and farm traffic. It is a model that has run successfully for decades and many of our happy visitors put up videos on you tube.

 

This all happens on the Aran islands. Physically, there is nothing special about these roads compared with many other country lanes in Galway. What makes this cycling possible on the Aran Islands, is that the motor traffic is only local residents and farmers. The only thing stopping a similar experience elsewhere in Galway is a refusal by state actors to accept that it is possible to manage local roads for the benefit of the local community. Instead there is a destructive attitude that “all roads are there for any driver who wants to use them”. In Germany, the Netherlands and other places there is a different attitude. Local authorities will identify local routes that are not suitable for through-traffic and exclude it. For motor vehicles these roads are then made “local access only“, “residents only” or “agricultural traffic only”. Lower speed limits are also applied. These routes then provide an “Aran islands” like resource for cycling and walking and such routes are the backbone of recreational cycling in many areas.

This youtube shows a speeded up view of a section of the Fulda cycle route in Germany.

There are a range of route types involved in this video but many of what look like “traffic-free” sections running through fields are actually still open to motor vehicles accessing local properties. These can be seen from time to time parked at the roadside.

In Germany this sign creates roads open only to local farmers, local residents (anlieger) people on bikes and people on foot.  The result is a large network of low-traffic walking and cycling routes and improved quality of life for local residents.

The current Minister already has powers to deliver similar measures for Irish tourism and local Irish communities. Under the roads acts the Minister already has the power to designate particular roads for particular purposes. Alternatively under the same acts the Minister has the power to declare particular roads to be protected and hence restricted to specified classes of vehicle. Finally under the Road Traffic Acts the Minister has the power to close certain roads to certain types of vehicle or to make regulations “(d) prohibiting or restricting traffic or specified traffic from using a specified road or specified parts of the road (including footways or parts of the road reserved for pedal cycles);”

Read our submission

Extracts from Irish Legislation

Road Traffic Act 1994 

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1994/act/7/enacted/en/print#sec35

PART VI

Regulation of Traffic

Regulations for general control of traffic and pedestrians.

35.—(1) The Minister may make regulations for the general regulation and control of traffic (including the parking of vehicles) and pedestrians in public places.

(2) Regulations under this section may, in particular and without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), provide for all or any of the following matters:

(d) prohibiting or restricting traffic or specified traffic from using a specified road or specified parts of the road (including footways or parts of the road reserved for pedal cycles);

 

 Roads Act 1993 

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1993/act/14/enacted/en/print.html

Classification of national, regional and local roads.

Part II Classification of Roads and Assignment of Functions

  10.—

(1) (a) The Minister may by order classify any existing public road or any proposed public road as a national road.

(b) The Minister may by order classify any existing public road or any proposed public road as a regional road.

(c) A public road, other than a national road or a regional road, shall be a local road.

(3) (a) The Minister (in the case of national roads and regional roads) and a road authority (in the case of local roads) may by order—

(i) designate particular roads for particular purposes,

(ii) divide a particular class of roads into subclasses.

 

Protected Roads

45.—(1) A protected road means a public road or proposed public road specified to be a protected road in a protected road scheme approved by the Minister under section 49 .

(2) A protected road scheme approved by the Minister may provide for the prohibition, closure, stopping up, removal, alteration, diversion or restriction of any specified or all means of direct access to the protected road from specified land or from specified land used for a specified purpose or to such land from the protected road.

(3) (a) A protected road scheme approved by the Minister may prohibit or restrict the use of the protected road or a particular part thereof by—

  (i) specified types of traffic,

(ii) specified classes of vehicles,

     but shall not prohibit or restrict such use—

  (I) by ambulances or fire brigade vehicles,

(II) by vehicles used by members of the Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces in the performance of their duties as such members,

(III) for the purpose of maintaining such protected road.

(b) A person who contravenes a prohibition or restriction under paragraph (a) shall be guilty of an offence.

 

Consolidated Road Traffic Act 1961 to 2013 

http://www.lawreform.ie/_fileupload/Restatement/First%20Programme%20of%20Restatement/EN_ACT_1961_0024.PDF

Closing of particular roads to vehicles.

94.—(1) The Minister may, after holding a public inquiry, by order prohibit, subject  to such exceptions or conditions as may be specified in the order, the driving of  vehicles or any class of vehicles on any specified public road in respect of which it  appears to him, in consequence of the inquiry, to be proved that the driving of vehicles  or the class of vehicles on the road would endanger the traffic thereon or that the road is for any other reason unsuitable for use by vehicles or such class of vehicles.

 (2) Where an order is made under subsection (1) of this section—

(a) it shall be the duty of the road authority charged with the maintenance of the road to which the order relates to erect and maintain, at such places as are specified in the order, notices in a form approved of by the Minister stating the effect of the order, and

(b) it shall be lawful for such road authority, with the consent of the Commissioner, and shall be their duty if required by the Commissioner, to erect and maintain a sign, either in advance of or at the road, to give indication to traffic of the prohibition provided for by the order, being a sign conforming with the prescribed provisions as to size, shape, colour and character.

 

 

 

Open letter to Editor of City Tribune, Galway

17th June 2015
Dear Editor,
We are writing to respond to opinions recently expressed by City Tribune journalist Declan Tierney. On May 22 (page 2) he suggested that cycling campaigners should hold a “seminar” to inform the general public “as to how they should behave when on their bikes.”
On June 5 (page 2) he wrote: “We are encouraging the Galway Cycling Campaign to embark on something of a tutorial. It would be great if they would encourage the cycling public in general to stop behaving like idiots when they are on their bicycles.” He also declared, “Some cyclists have absolutely no respect for the pedestrianised areas of Galway.”
We are writing to echo the views of Simon Comer from Cosáin whose excellent letter was published on this page last week. He made the point that cycling campaign groups have been tirelessly lobbying for many years for safer conditions for cyclists.
Galway Cycling Campaign, a group made up entirely of volunteers, is one of these groups and has been lobbying on behalf of cyclists for 17 years. We have also contributed hugely over the years to educating Galway’s cyclists.
Our ‘Share the Road’ and ‘Cycling Skills’ leaflets have proved continuously popular and have been adopted for use in other cities. Some of our members are accredited cycle instructors, and deliver training sessions to adults.
We have also produced a series of road signs with messages such as ‘Always use lights at night and ‘Please respect pedestrian crossings.’
We do not have a statutory role in enforcing traffic laws or in implementing government cycling policy. We are all too aware, especially this week – National Bike Week – that cyclists are vulnerable road users, and will come out the worst in collisions with vehicles.
Mr Tierney declares that the GCC should “embark on a learning curve.” We however believe that it is Mr Tierney himself who is in need of the learning curve. He is quick to condemn cyclists, and fails to understand why cyclists are using pedestrianised streets at all.
Cycling is now enshrined in national government policy, as outlined in Smarter Travel and the National Cycle Policy Framework. Galway City Council has a role in promoting cycling and providing adequate facilities.
Cycling infrastructure in the city is simply not good enough. The existence of a one-way system in the city centre results in cyclists being forced into pedestrian areas. Allowing cyclists to move both ways on a one-way street is a simple solution to this problem. Our educational materials advise cyclists to dismount in pedestrian areas.
Mr Tierney, the next time you see a cyclist on a pedestrian street, ask yourself why they are there at all. And then, instead of suggesting that a resource-poor voluntary organisation provide seminars for the public, think carefully about what specific local and national bodies have statutory obligations to educate the cycling public.
Yours,
Mairéad Ní Chaoimh,
Galway Cycling Campaign

Bicycle Film Night Call for Submission 2015

CFE bike week 2015 banner

Galway Cycling Campaign is calling on all established or budding film directors to submit a short film for its upcoming Bicycle Film Night.

The Bicycle Film Night is a much loved and well established Bike Week event and for the first time ever it is making a call for submissions.

The submission should be a short film (we are looking for films under 20 minutes but we might consider a longer one if we really like it!), and for obvious reasons should include some kind of reference to the wonderful world of bicycles.

If selected, the films will be screened during the Galway Bike Festival 2015 (13th-21st June) and will be submitted to an audience vote.

The deadline is 5 June 2015 so don’t hang around, get filming!

Is your film ready to rock?

Submit your film in two steps:
1. Fill in the submission form:

2. Submit your film via FilmFreeway =>

For more information, contact Charlotte (melle.haffner@gmail.com) or Robert (rob@galwaycycling.org)

Cycling Campaign welcomes changes to Connemara greenway proposals at oral hearing.

The Galway Cycling Campaign has welcomed changes proposed by Galway County Council to the Oughterard to Clifden Greenway at the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing held in Clifden last week. The cyclists had serious concerns about an initial design that would put a recreational cycle-path directly beside high-speed traffic on the N59 for over 11km. At the hearing, held over two days in the Station House Hotel Clifden, the County Council offered an amended design. The new design would use sections of the old railway line and the old Clifden road to provide an additional 6.35Km away from the N59.

Some of the alternatives brought to the Oral Hearing by Galway Cycling Campaign that where adopted. Routes No 1 and No 4 shown below
OpneStreetMapExtract_with_alternatives

The hearing heard some opposition from local landowners, particularly from the Bunscanniff and Glengowla townlands. Keith Geoghegan of Glengowla mines expressed serious concerns about possible ill effects on his business but offered an alternative route through his property away from the old railway track. Some observers expressed the view that visiting tourists should be charged a fee to cross individual land holdings. Mr. Liam Gavin, Senior County Engineer, expressed a preference for following the old Clifden-Galway Railway embankment to the greatest practical extent. Local hoteliers and business owners spoke in favour of the scheme. Mr. Paul Dunne, a Lecturer in Tourism at GMIT spoke in favour of placing the route away from the N59 and cited research on feedback from users of the Great Western Greenway in Mayo. Some contributors took an opposing position arguing for the incorporation of the route into the N59 or of dropping the scheme altogether in favour of investing in local roads.

Evidence was presented at the hearing pointing out that the incorporation of recreational cycle-routes into roads with high-speed traffic is directly contrary to both the 2007 Failte Ireland Tourism Strategy and guidance from the National Trails Office.

According to the cyclists, the overall proposal to develop a 50km Greenway from Oughterard to Clifden, and costed at EU7million, is welcome. If sensitively carried out, the scheme could create a huge asset for the community of West Connemara. They point out that the Western Greenway in Mayo has generated EU7million per year for the local community – indicating significant unmet demand for a particular cycling experience.

An Bord Pleanala recently rejected a Kerry County Council application to put a tourist cycle route directly beside the N86 on the Dingle Peninsula. The Cycle Campaign is hopeful that the eventual Board decision on the Galway greenway may identify further sections of the route that can be taken off road. Even with the changes proposed, 5.15km will still be right beside the traffic on the N59.

Campaign says rejection of controversial Kerry Cycleway proposals good news for Connemara Greenway.

The Galway Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie, Ireland’s National Cycling Lobby Group has welcomed An Bord Pleanala’s rejection of a controversial NRA Cycle path scheme for the N86 in the Dingle peninsula. The road scheme running from Camp to Dingle had attracted particular concern because the designers planned to co-locate a tourist cycling path directly beside high speed traffic for the entire length of the N86 scheme (28km). The rejection of the Kerry proposals echoes concerns raised about the proposed Connemara Greenway which is due to go before an Oral hearing next month in Clifden. The cyclists are hailing the decision as a vindication of the Failte Ireland tourism strategy and National Cycle Policy Framework which is to avoid busy roads.

The Galway Cycling Campaign has lodged an objection to the proposed Connemara Greenway on similar grounds: that the cycle paths are placed directly beside high speed traffic for considerable distances alongside the N59 despite the existence of obvious alternatives. With regard to similar cycle paths in Kerry, the Planning Appeals Board have instructed that they be dropped from the scheme. The grounds given include that the proximity to the carriageway might not offer an attractive recreational route. The Board recommends that alternatives possibly using quieter non-national roads would deliver a more desirable and successful cycleway. The Board have asked the applicants to resubmit a scaled back scheme that seeks to minimise interference with natural features such as hedgerows and tree lines. An Bord Pleanala to hold an oral hearing into the proposed Connemara Greenway on the 11th of December.

The proposal to develop a 50km section of the Connemara Greenway from Oughterard to Clifden is welcome. If sensitively carried out, the scheme could create a huge asset for the community of Connemara. They point out that the Western Greenway in Mayo has generated EU7million per year for the local community – indicating significant unmet demand for a particular cycling experience. However the cyclists say that the current scheme is incorrectly conceived, could fail to achieve its aims and could divert significant resources from more beneficial works. The planning appeals board has been asked to reject the scheme in its current format.

Over the entire 50km, long sections of the proposed scheme conform to the commonly accepted “greenway” concept (i.e. it is routed away from high-speed traffic). However, instead of being maintained as a traffic free greenway for the greatest possible distance, the route is to be incorporated into the existing N59 as a cycle path adjacent to fast moving motor traffic for between 11.7 and 14.6 kilometres or approximately 20% of its length. In the EIS carried out for the scheme, the alternatives to incorporating the cycle route into a high-speed road do not appear to have been given due consideration. Nor does any due consideration appear to have been given on the impacts of such traffic on cyclists – who will theoretically include family groups. Most regrettably, the worst affected section of the route could be considered the most scenic as it passes close to the Maamturks mountain range and the South Bens. It is imperative that an off-road solution be found here so that, rather than being 2meters from vehicles travelling up to 100km, users can fully enjoy and appreciate the spectacular scenery in piece and quiet.

The Cycling Campaign has identified various alternative options that fulfil the greenway model. These include sections where the old Galway to Clifden railway bed is still available and sections of parallel minor roads including the original Galway-Clifden road. The alternatives provide a route away from high-speed traffic where the full benefits of a world class cycling route could be provided. In addition to providing a much more attractive route the alternative proposals avoid the need to CPO lands along the N59 itself.