The Art of the Possible: Galwegian leads technical design of dlr’s Coastal Mobility Route

Galwegian and road engineer Conor Geraghty will be a guest speaker at a special online webinar tonight, Thursday 17 September, to discuss ‘The Art of the Possible: The Coastal Mobility Route’ with two of his colleagues from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, lead architect Bob Hannan and Robert Burns, Director of Services.

Conor Geraghty, Technical Lead for the dlr Coastal Mobility Route

The Coastal Mobility Route in dlr connects the five south Dublin villages of Blackrock, Monkstown, Dún Laoghaire, Glasthule and Dalkey and has become an inspiration for many with the quality of its design and build. 

The dlr council radically reimagined the five urban villages as havens for people walking, wheeling and cycling as they lacked space for people to queue while social distancing. 

Now with wider footpaths and more on-street tables and chairs, people are coming to these places, lingering, and spending money in local businesses, cafés and restaurants in the town centres. 

Last weekend, there was a 230% increase in people on bikes cycling along the coast at Dún Laoghaire compared to a similar weekend last year. 

The Coastal Mobility Route has witnessed an increased diversity in the type of people using the two-way mobility route including motorised wheelchairs, families with cargo bikes, and other bicycles adapted for people with disabilities. 

Conor Geraghty of Crestwood, Coolough Road, is the Technical Design Lead. A graduate of NUI Galway in mechanical engineering, he switched to civil engineering after a year in Australia. He has worked with dlr since January 2008.

Conor cycled to school everyday down the Dyke Road to St Patricks’ primary school in the city centre. As a student in the Bish, he made the journey four times daily, returning home each day for lunch.

As well as supporting business, a local primary school is also benefiting from the protected two-way mobility route. “Scoil Lorcáin is the school closest to the coastal route,” says Conor. “The school has more people cycling now than they can accommodate in their bike parking, which is a direct result of the route. Parents and grandparents collect their kids and grandchildren by bike. Lots of children aged 8, 9 and 10 years cycle independently along the route.”

Lead architect Bob Hannan will be familiar to Galway audiences as he was a special guest speaker at Architecture at the Edge in 2019, Galways’ annual  weekend celebration of exceptional architecture in the West of Ireland. 

Roscommon man Robert Burns is Director of Services in dlr. Previously, he was a senior engineer within that council, and prior to that was an engineer in Clare County Council. He is familiar with the challenges faced by urban and rural communities to provide better walking and active travel facilities.

Event organiser Síle Ginnane of Better Ennis is delighted that there’s interest from people in Galway in the event. “Everyone is welcome. Covid-19 has brought its many difficulties, yet webinars and the dlr Coastal Mobility Team show what’s possible in challenging times. We’re delighted that Conor’s fellow Tribes people are interested in attending. We hope that dlr can inspire communities along the west coast to develop attractive mobility routes and open up access to our towns and villages so they can thrive again.”

The webinar takes place at 8pm on Thursday 17 September at 8pm. This event will be of interest to people curious about healthy cities, urban design, active travel and creating liveable places. 

Free tickets are available on EventBrite for the event ‘The Art of the Possible: The Coastal Mobility Route’ which is organised by Better Ennis.

Opinion: The programme for government is like a visit from Santa for cyclists

COULD IT REALLY be that Santa has arrived six months and one week ahead of schedule? In the programme for government, we are told that €1 million euro a day, every day, will be invested in safer cycling and walking during the lifetime of the next government.

This Opinion piece first appeared in TheJournal.ie on Thursday 25 June, 2020.

Image: Sascha Kohlmann/Wikimedia

Not so long ago, buses, vans and Ford Cortinas vroomed through the towns and cities of Ireland. Just two decades later, we hope to move ever closer to safe strolling, an abundance of food offerings, street conversations, and bike bells. Investment in cycling and walking in the programme for government is a smart and progressive deal for transport, health and revitalising town centres.

Hopefully, this time next year, we will have spent €360 million on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, more than has ever been spent before. Investing almost €1 million a day, every day, for the lifetime of the programme for government means that people in Irish cities, towns, villages and suburbs will enjoy safer, more vibrant and attractive streets.

With an emphasis on quality and oversight, these efforts, if agreed and implemented, could make the places we live better for people, business, the environment and our sense of community.  

Cycling is the solution to a myriad of intimately intertwined social and economic problems of congestion, public health, and quality of life. And since cycling does not produce emissions, it reduces air pollution and carbon as well.

And as many of us rediscovered recently due to the coronavirus lockdown, cycling is social, fun, and inexpensive.

Cycling doesn’t make sense for everyone and that’s ok. But we want to get those within cycling distance to the places they need to be on a daily basis to feel cycling is a very real and very safe option. 

The bike boom of 2020

The bike boom of 2020 is a global phenomenon. Bicycles are sold as fast as they are assembled. People are waiting for bike orders to be delivered in August. Bike repair services are rammed.

With the absence of HGVs, vans, and the school commute during the lockdown, unoccupied roads turned into urban parks with families and small crews of happy teenagers strolling, cycling, and scooting.  Empty car parks became cycle training grounds for very young children. We have found that women, especially, felt a little braver when it came to cycling in this time:

“For the first time in 12 years,” said Anne Bedos of Café Rothar in Dublin’s Phibsborough, “we are selling more bikes to women than to men.”

Bikes are selling as fast as they can be assembled. Pictured: West Ireland Cycling, Galway’s Westend

More space, less speed

Everyone is a pedestrian, whether they’re standing at the bus stop or walking to their car. A safe street is where you’d let your five-year-old play with peace of mind. According to Prof. Kevin Leyden of NUI Galway, ‘‘If we want to get more people cycling, we need to make cycling feel safer. Key to that is slowing the speed of cars and providing a cycling infrastructure that reduces the probability that cyclists will be killed or injured by motorists.”  

If this programme for government goes ahead, towns with smart travel strategies will have funding and expertise to develop comprehensive networks of safe paths and attractive lanes connecting commuters to their workplaces and children and teenagers on safe routes to their schools. 

Residential areas need to be conveniently connected to retail and recreational spaces. Protected footpaths and cycle lanes need to be considered as ‘mobility lanes’ and be comfortable for people using wheelchairs, adapted bicycles and adult tricycles.

The seven new Regional Cycle Design Offices promised in the programme would expand and enhance the expertise available to support local authorities. Every local authority would be supported by a Cycling Officer. Along with the funding, this emphasis on expertise and quality infrastructure would be a game-changer.

Slow down

The commitment to reduce speed limits doesn’t grab headlines, yet slower speeds and their enforcement are a huge part of what it takes to get more people cycling and walking.

Mairéad Forsythe of Love 30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits, says, “Reducing speed limits in towns, villages and cities to 30 km/h will make our roads safer for people walking and cycling. It lowers the risk of collisions and the risk of injuries. Most important of all, slower streets make our neighbourhoods more pleasant places to live, shop, and work, and for children to play.”

Dublin City already has cross-party support for a 30 km/h speed limit almost everywhere within the M50. If our capital city can decide to do this, so can every town, village and suburb. 

We want more people cycling, and more types of people cycling. Measuring only fatalities and injuries is crude. We need ambitious targets for children cycling to primary and secondary school, in particular teenage girls. In Ireland, just 2.1% of teenagers cycle to secondary school. In The Netherlands, that figure is 75%. 

Lessons from abroad

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have clearly incorporated international evidence into the programme for government. From Seattle to Sydney, cities are being radically reshaped in favour of people walking and cycling.

The Belgian port city of Ghent implemented a light, quick and cheap traffic circulation plan in 2017 and witnessed a 60% rise in cycle use. It reached its target of 35% cycling last year, 13 years earlier than planned for. There has been a 17% increase in restaurant and bar startups.

Galway city, towns and villages will now have the funds and expertise to build connected networks of safe and separate cycle baths. Photo: Galway Tourism

Before coronavirus, the Mayor of Paris unveiled her plans to transform Paris into a ‘15-minute city’ of self-sufficient neighbourhoods with grocery shops, parks, sports facilities, and schools just a walk or bike-ride away.  

Since then, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has urged ‘those who can’ to cycle plus announced a €300 million investment to install up to 650 km of new temporary and permanent bicycle lanes. This is about three times the length of the total Paris Métro network.

Return on investment

European research last year showed that every 1-kilometre drive costs the public purse €0.11 in terms of congestion, pollution, and time. Every 1-kilometre cycle brings a benefit of €0.18. Walking is even better. Each 1-kilometre walk adds €0.37 to economy and society in terms of improved public health, tourism, and quality of life.

Journey times

More than 23,000 people live within a 10 minutes cycle of Carlow Post Office, for instance. Over half of all journeys by adults in Ireland are 6 km or less, according to the Central Statistics Office. This is a comfortable distance on a bike for most people – providing you have a bike and a safe route to go where you want to go.

Over 76,000 people in Galway City live within a 30 min gentle cycle of Eyre Square. E-bikes will make commuting easier from Oranmore, Bearna and beyond.

Get bikes, get cycling

We need to help people purchase bikes and get cycling. The Cycle to Work Scheme is a good start. The same wide access for e-car grants must be made possible for bike grants. New help to buy e-bikes and cargo bikes is particularly welcome. Bike share schemes should be expanded and include e-bikes and e-scooters. 

“Sharing schemes are low cost and e-bikes help cities reduce congestion and meet climate change targets,” says Colin Barry, founder of Brite Mobility, Galway. “The motor’s assistance level attracts users who would have been afraid of the exertion of cycling before.”

So, what happens now?

Immediately, each local authority will be mandated to assess where road space can be re-allocated for walking and cycling. We want plans to be audited for quality and involve input from local communities.

Bike parking

Already, we have heard government radio ads asking us to cycle and walk where possible. Children need to be able to park their bikes at sports grounds.

Like wildflowers, we expect to see bike parking sprouting up everywhere – outside local shops, cafés, retail parks, parks, and beaches. Wherever bikes are tied to poles, there should be bike parking.

Bikes are good for business

Local businesses can request installation of quality bicycle stands from their local authorities. Customers by bike are local and loyal. Cycle parking delivers five times the retail spend per square metre than the same area of car parking, according to Transport for London research

Safe cycling for all

By this time next year, I hope we will have experienced a major cultural shift in transport policy, in moving people safely and sustainably around our towns, villages and cities. Cycling will be seen as the solution to congestion, a key contributor to better public health, and a powerful tool in developing a better quality of life for all of our people. 

Cycling has arrived and there’s no going back. Let’s pedal onwards to our new normal.

Martina Callanan is the spokesperson for Galway Cycling Campaign and a member of the Executive Council of Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, helps organise CycleCoffeeCake for women and novices on bikes, works in strategic communications, and tweets at @MartinaCallanan and @GalwayCycling.

A Touch of Green Amid the Asphalt

Last Sunday 11 April, to celebrate World Health Day 2010 and Galway City Council’s decision to close Cross St. and Middle St. to motorised traffic for the afternoon, the Galway Cycling Campaign converted a small section of the road — the size of a single car — into a miniature public park for the people of Galway. It was the second time we created this mini-park in the city.

By temporarily constructing Galway’s newest park, our aim is to creatively explore how urban public space is allocated and used. Inexpensive kerb-side parking results in more motor traffic and less space in our city centre. This in turn hinders the movement of pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles; it adds to the level of CO2 emissions; and it obstructs the creation of a healthy, vibrant human habitat for Galway. We are re-imagining the possibilities of the city landscape.

Our re-interpretation of road space demonstrates that even temporary spatial redesign can improve the character of Galway City. We were also lucky to have a beautiful sunny afternoon. Many curious passers-by stopped to chat, to sample our delicious bicycle biscuits, to sign up to our mailing lists, to read our educational signs and our new Cycling Skills leaflets, and simply to watch the world go by from an unexpected green patch on the road.

We would like to thank Galway City Council for closing Cross St. and Middle St. to traffic for the afternoon, and we’re especially grateful to everyone who stopped and said hello. We’re already looking forward to the next outing of our mini public park!