Planning board rejects flawed strategic housing proposal (but for reasons other than child safety)
An Bord Pleanala have rejected an application in Oranmore for a large (212 unit) housing development under the new strategic housing process. The grounds given include that it will impact on an area of land that is recorded as a wintering site for White Fronted Geese. In their refusal, the board cite impacts on the Inner Galway Bay, Creggana Marsh and Rahasane Turlough Special Protection Areas. It should be noted that the current government’s controversial “mini motorway” model for the Dublin-Galway greenway will involve building a new road near the Rahasane Turlough. However this is an aside. Why is the Galway Cycling Campaign interested this housing development? The reason is that it was viewed as an important test case for Government policy on sustainable transport. Accordingly over the summer we made a submission to An Bord Pleanala seeking changes to the design to favour active travel and child safety.
The development “Arlum Oranmore” was to consist of 212 residential units, a crèche and an external play area. However on review we found the development to be conceived and laid out in a manner that is hostile the needs of sustainable transport – particularly schoolchildren. The layout of the development did not comply with the principles of the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets. The provisions for cyclist and pedestrian access were the same as the provisions for motorised traffic. Providing for people on foot or on bicycles was essentially treated as an appendage to providing for motorised traffic. The plans also clearly intended to direct arterial interurban traffic into residential streets.
Observations on the Arlum site
The Arlum site is located on the eastern side of Oranmore near the former N18 National Route. There are four schools within 2km of the site and all the schools are located on a similar alignment to the northwest. Existing roads providing a potential route to the schools carry fast and heavy traffic and have hostile junction layouts. In particular, there is a pair wholly unsuitable junctions that involve slip roads to and from the Maree Road. The site is on a clear desire line for a safe route to school not only for its own residents but also for children from adjacent developments at Oranhill to the south and Coill Clocha to the north.
Figure: Google map extract labelled to show the site and the four schools located to the northeast.
Potential desire lines for safe school travel are shown by the green arrows.
Figure: Google satellite view extract showing hostile and unsuitable slip-road
junctions within Oranmore village and on the proposed travel line for children.
Cycling Campaign Recommendations
In order to the comply with the principles of the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets we argued that the applicants should be required to provide safe attractive pedestrian and cyclist only links to adjacent developments. If links were provided to Oranhill to the south and Coill Clocha then an additional link to Beech court would give children a route to school using mainly residential streets and roads. Beech court was constructed using an unsustainable car-dependent cul-de-sac based layout and there was now an opportunity to remedy this mistake and provide a safe link for children.
Figure: Planning file extract showing the northwest corner of the site where it backs onto Beech court.
There is scope here to provide a safe route to school by providing a link.
Our submission to the board argued that as a planning condition a gap should be constructed through to Beech court. The developer should be required to obtain and demolish existing dwellings in Beech court so as to provide a safe school route. It might be possible for the developer to simply construct equivalent dwellings for the current Beech court occupants elsewhere in the Arlum development. Section 3.3.3 of the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets refers specifically for a need to retrofit existing areas to create more sustainable neighbourhoods. The proposed link to Beech court is an example of exactly the type of works needed and could have set an important precedent for other projects under the Strategic Housing Development process.
A similar observation applied to the boundary of the Arlum development and Oranhill to the south. The Arlum development “backs on” to Oranhill instead of integrating with it. The applicant’s drawings appear to show dwellings in Oranhill backing onto their development. As with the boundary to Beech court we argued for the plans to be rearranged provide a coherent and attractive walking and cycling only link between both developments.
Routing arterial traffic through residential streets
There was reference in the planning application to a north south distributor road. It turned out that the intent was to re-purpose existing exclusively residential streets in Oranhill and Coill Clocha as some form of distributor road. Indeed the Traffic and Transportation Statement by stated that the new roads arrangements were intended “to operate as a link road to serve traffic from the N67 National Route to the Maree Road”. The new road would start an existing but incomplete roundabout on the old Limerick road south of Oranmore and use residential streets to connect through to the Maree (coast) road. In our view this was wholly unacceptable. If Galway County Council perceived a requirement for a relief road linking the N67/former N18 and the Maree road then they should set aside lands for that specific purpose. Due to car dependency imposed by poor planning practices, there is extensive peak hour traffic congestion on the outskirts of Galway. This has resulted in a problem with rat-running at various peripheral locations that offer potential alternative routes into the city. In this case creating this proposed distributor road would provide an obvious link for arterial traffic trying to use the coast road as a means of avoiding queuing at junctions on the main roads in or out of the city. This type of traffic is incompatible with the “place function” of this area as a residential amenity. In our submission we argued that the internal roads should be rearranged to prevent through traffic or that the link to the old N18 (N67) be dropped. It should be noted that the planning files contained an assessment of the impact of traffic from the housing development on the main roads but contained no assessment of the impact for local residents of routing arterial traffic through their streets.
The planning Board’s decision to refuse on environmental impact grounds was probably a correct decision based on the information available. It may also set an important precedent for other environmentally hostile developments such as the current Dublin-Galway greenway proposals. However we will have to find another place to fight the battle on safety and safe access for vulnerable roads users.
The Galway Cycling Campaign is writing to all the county councillors calling on them to support a feasibility study into the use of the disused Athenry – Tuam – Miltown railway as a Greenway. The cyclists say the Athenry to Miltown proposals are Galway’s best chance to achieve a long distance cycling and walking amenity for the county for the foreseeable future. They say that little progress can be expected on either the Connemara Greenway or the Dublin-Galway proposals following the publication of a fundamentally flawed Government Greenway Strategy last July.
According to the campaigners Athenry to Tuam is effectively “tarmac ready” with no questions about land ownership and with CIE, the single land owner, amenable to granting a licence for the use of the route. CIE have also stated that the corridor could be converted back to railway use if needed.
In contrast they raise the “Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways” published last July which they describe as fundamentally flawed and implies more conflict with private landowners who are a key stakeholder group. The overwhelming focus of the strategy document is on “constructing” greenways as new roads through lands. The focus on constructing new roads through lands assures more conflict with landowners on the Dublin-Galway route and that little progress can be expected here for the foreseeable future. The public consultation guidelines provided with the Greenway Strategy put consultation with landowners as the last step in the process. According to the cycling campaign this assures more conflict with landowners. The same issue will arise with those sections of the Connemara Greenway where there has been no agreement to date.
“Given the profoundly flawed nature of the Greenway Strategy our view is that Athenry-Tuam now represents the best chance for a long-distance Greenway in Galway.” stated Shane Foran for the campaign. “For the moment the best thing for Connemara and East Galway is a cooling off period to reduce tension” he continued “if built the Athenry Tuam Greenway will need connections to other places in the county and these will naturally grow to link towards both Dublin and Connemara.”
9km leisurely cycle for novice and curious cyclists ‘Huntsman’ to Oranmore village via suburban Renmore and rural Roshill.
11:30am Sunday 5th August
C’mon now, summer weather will return for the weekend. Ideal for a leisurely Sunday cycle to Oranmore for a light lunch, and back before the hurling replay. This 9km route for novice and curious cyclist is from ‘Huntsman’ to Oranmore village via suburban neighbourhoods of Lakeshore drive, Lisbeg, Lurgan park and using a side path to connect to the old Roshill Road route.
This safe route has been selected for no right-hand-turns from or onto any main traffic road, and the R338 Coast road to Oramnore has hard shoulders.
This easy route also has very nice views of the bay.
11:30am Assemble at Huntsman.
11:45am Depart via Lakeshore drive, Lisbeg, Lurgan park (first 4km for 25 mins at leisurely 10kph)
12:10-12:30, twenty minute tea-stop at Norio’s, a convenient half-way location with a rail outside it to lock up to.
12:30 Resume from Norio’s to Oranmore. (Another 5km of 20 mins at warmed up 15kph)
12:50-13:20 Light lunch stop in Oranmore village.
13:20 pm Depart Oranmore for return to GalwayArrive back at Huntsman approx. 14:15pm
Note that Roshill rd still has a safe path under the bridge during maintenance works, so never mind the road closed signs there.
Galway Cycling Campaign (GCC) are calling on all cyclists to join them in their mission to get Galway cycling, and are launching a fresh membership drive from April 3rd to April 6th 2018.
The GCC are calling on cyclists and everyone who wants Galway as a place where people can travel easily, safely and enjoyably by bicycle to sign up.
The GCC is an independent, membership-driven organisation made up of dedicated volunteers who advocate for all road users, including pedestrians, families, people with disabilities and public transport users.
Acting chairperson Mairéad Ní Chaoimh said, “Cyclists are woefully underserved in Galway, and we are fighting hard to get our voice heard, to get better facilities and infrastructure for cyclists. I am calling on anyone out there who wants a more cycling friendly Galway to join us today.”
GCC, the voice of cycling in Galway since 1998, have just launched an online membership facility to make it easy for people to join.
It costs just €10 for waged annual membership and €5 for unwaged annual membership. People can sign up either as active members or as supporters.
“We are very keen to sign people up as supporters. They may not have time to volunteer, but by becoming a supporter they help us give cyclists a louder voice, and add weight to our campaigns. They cheer us on from the wings, giving us a mandate. Of course we want active members too,” added Mairéad.
Newly signed up members and those interested in joining are especially welcome to attend our social which is taking place in a city centre pub on Friday April 6th at 7pm. To book your place please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Reasons to join Galway Cycling Campaign
·Be socially part of your local cycling community
·Add your voice to much needed campaigns to improve Galway’s cycling infrastructure
·Use your skills for a good cause
·Get up to speed on current cycling issues
·Do your bit for climate change
Anyone interested can join by following this link:
Country must stop building the wrong roads in the wrong places
The Galway Cycling Campaign is supporting concerns expressed this week that motorway proposals associated with the National Planning Framework will damage regional development and hurt regional communities. Several news outlets reported this week that Professor of Economics at DCU, Dr Edgar Morgenroth, is advising that proposals for a €850 million Limerick – Cork motorway would undermine the proper growth of “second tier” cities in Ireland. In Galway, there is a view on the ground that the recently opened Gort to Tuam motorway has actually made traffic congestion worse.
Over the summer the Galway Cycling Campaign expressed concern about the impact of motorway projects in a submission to the Citizens Assembly consultation on Climate Change. Referring to “the great Irish motorway mistake” the Campaign submission pointed out how the Netherlands, Denmark or Germany had “unravelled” roads so arterial through-traffic is separated from local traffic. This is how these countries got the space for cycle facilities and improved walking and cycling conditions. Roads are not just treated as systems for catering for cars. Instead they have a range of potential functions and are managed accordingly. Most important is to keep HGVs away from roads used by cyclists and walkers, particularly children. For towns and villages on through-routes there is a need for complete town bypasses or ring roads. This is combined with systems to keep out motor traffic having no business in the area.
At one time this was national policy. The 1998 Irish Roads Needs Study recommended a concentration on town bypasses, upgrading existing links, and classifying roads according to function. If Ireland had followed this policy we would have had a good basis on which to promote walking, cycling and public transport in our towns. Instead what happened was a motorway programme was adopted against best advice both then and now. Scarce resources have been diverted into new motorways at the expense of quality of life for local communities. This has been an enormous mistake.
It is a travesty that over half a billion euro has been spent on the M17/M18 motorway in Galway while places like Claregalway, Clarinbridge/Kilcolgan and Moycullen are left without bypasses and are still poisoned by traffic that has no business being there. For a fraction of the money spent on an M17/M18 motorway, it would have been far more effective if bypasses for Claregalway, Clarinbridge and Kilcolgan were built instead of the M17/M18.
The proposed M20 will lead to a failure of the National Planning Framework’s efforts to grow the cities of Cork and Limerick as distributed sprawl will be encouraged. Among towns along the route, such as Mallow and Charleville, ring roads will still be needed for sustainable development. Building the bypasses now would fix many of the problems that the M20 is supposed to fix. The Galway Cycling Campaign believe that the opening of the M17/M18 has already hampered the growth prospects of Galway city under the NPF and has not removed the through-traffic in villages like Claregalway and Clarinbridge.
It is important to note that Galway City is not a candidate for a bypass since Galway clearly does not have a problem with through traffic. Galway is overloaded by car-traffic arriving at Galway City and by internal car traffic created by a poorly managed road system that is hostile to walking, cycling and public transport.
Bikeweek 2009: One of the Cycling Campaign passing distance signs
The Galway Cycling Campaign is circulating a Briefing Note on Minimum Passing Distance Proposals. Minimum Passing Distance Laws (MPDL) are well established in other countries. They are important component of the more cycling-friendly experience people have when visiting places like France or Germany. Since 2008 it has been Galway Cycling Campaign policy to seek minimum passing legislation similar to that found in various other countries. The Oireachtas Committee on Transport Tourism and Sport is due to consider the issue on Wednesday February 7th
Video from France (Grenoble) on how to pass Cyclists
German Driving school video on how to overtake cyclists =
the instructor can be heard telling the student she must lift her foot off the accelerator and must leave a metre and a half
Video of overtaking behaviour in Berlin
There are two MPDL proposals relating to cycling before the Oireachtas at the moment. The bills follow a template established in other countries that specifies 1m as a minimum passing distance where the speed limit is 50km/h or lower and a passing distance of 1.5m where higher speed limits apply.
Road Traffic (Minimum Passing Distance of Cyclists) Bill 2017: A private members bill proposed by government ministers Ciarán Cannon, FG Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development and Regina Doherty, FG Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This bill received all-party approval at its First Stage reading in the Dáil.
The Road Traffic (Amendment Bill) 2017 A government bill to increase the penalties for drivers with alcohol levels of between 50mg and 80mg per 100ml of blood. An amendment to this bill by Fianna Fáil also provides for a Minimum Passing Distance of cyclists by drivers of motor vehicles.
Unfortunately, the proposals have been met with much ill-informed speculation. Spurious concerns have been raised with regards to difficulties with enforcement. One answer to this is that traffic laws do not have to be “enforceable” to have an important effect. We discuss the general obligation regarding speed (Article 7) which stipulates that drivers should not drive faster than their ablity to stop within the visible space in front of them. Some contributors have tried to frame the discussion in terms of special clothing such as polystyrene foam cycling helmets and high-visibility clothing. This is seen as an attempt to dilute the obligation regarding speed and as an attempt to excuse dangerous driving. The other issue with enforcement is that it is entirely possible and police forces around the world are doing it. Questions have also arisen with regards to how this law might work with regard to existing traffic legislation and particular Irish road features. We explore the position of stakeholders such as the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport by examining the recent controversy over slow zone signage. In other countries people who walk are also protected by minimum passing distance laws. We explore this and also the failure of the Irish state to provide formal duties of care towards vulnerable road users by drivers. We compare and contrast the treatment of child safety by Irish state actors with the treatment of the issue elsewhere. In Ireland state actors seem focused on making small children responsible for risks created by adults. Elsewhere adults are expected to modify their behaviour in the presence of children. The difficulties thrown up by the intervention of Robert Troy TD are explored. It is hard to square Mr. Troy’s intervention with some of his previous statements that are hostile to cycling. In particular Mr. Troy has called for normal cycling in ordinary clothes to be criminalised. Finally we deal with the issue of Australia. Some contributors have tried to cite Australia as an example to follow. This is clearly not acceptable in the light of cycling-hostile policies found in Australia – particularly their cycle-helmet laws. Australia’s cycle helmet laws are viewed as a public health disaster and, based on Australia’s experience, helmet laws are strenuously opposed by cyclists in Europe and elsewhere.
Overall the MPDL proposals are welcome. However, there is real cause for concern that there might be an attempt to attach the MPDL proposals to a push to criminalise normal walking and cycling by requiring unusual items of clothing such as polystyrene foam cycling helmets or so-called high-visibility clothing. If any attempt like this is made then it should be resisted forcefully.