Smarter Travel Fund scrappage a victory for common sense say cyclists

The Galway Cycling Campaign has warmly welcomed the announcement that the Government is to scrap
the controversial “Smarter Travel Areas Fund” and the associated competition. The Cycle Campaign, who
represent transportation cyclists in Galway City and County have hailed the decision, as announced by
Derek Nolan TD (Labour) this week, as a “victory for common sense”. Since the €50 million fund had been
announced in 2009, there had been serious concern among the cycling community nationally that it was
poorly conceived and potentially a highly questionable use of public money.
The Galway Cycling Campaign had been making repeated efforts to raise their concerns with the new
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sports Mr. Leo Varadkar TD. The Cycling Campaign say that what is
needed to improve cycling conditions is an initial focus on targeted low-cost interventions designed to solve
real problems for cyclists and pedestrians. A focus on Celtic-tiger style “flagship” schemes as typified by
the Galway City and Environs bid is exactly the wrong approach. According to campaign chair Mr. Shane
Foran: “The department’s conduct of the Areas Fund Competition has highlighted systemic weaknesses
at national level. There is cause for particular concern that the “Smarter Travel Unit” does not have the
necessary understanding of the field to exercise proper oversight over the schemes and projects that it funds.
An independent review of the unit may now be necessary”
Initial concerns about the competition were confirmed when the details of the Galway bid, for a €20 million
portion of the funding, were revealed. According to the Cycling Campaign, within the their bid and the
associated draft strategy document, the council executive failed to address or tackle serious infrastructural
defects that are identified in Government policy as requiring remedial action. In the Galway bid, several
fundamental infrastructural issues were neglected to the point that it seemed that Galway City and County
Councils were actively trying to avoid national policy. Explained Campaign PRO Oisín Ó Nidh: “The original
bid included a welcome proposal for 30kph zones. It then turned out that the officials were planning to achieve
this by using road narrowings and pinch points that force cyclists into close proximity with moving cars. These
are specifically rejected by state policy as inappropriate and creating hostile conditions for cyclists. The
unacceptable side effect is to force less confident cyclists onto footpaths”
Instead the Galway bid has a focus on recreational routes following the coast and the River Corrib to the
demonstrable neglect of cycling conditions on key commuter routes into the city. Some of the proposals
such as those for the Tuam Road, Monivea Rd, the Coast road from Oranmore and the Western Distributor
Rd could in fact result in conditions for cyclists deteriorating due to the published proposals showing clearly
inappropriate road layouts.

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