Cyclists back calls for rethink on NPF motorway proposals


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.

February 2018: Cycling Campaign Releases Briefing Note on Minimum Passing Distance Proposals

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.






July 2017: Why the 2010 NRA National Cycle Network needs to be set aside


NRA National Cycle Network needs to be set aside and the 2007 Fáilte Ireland Cycle Strategy reinstated.

One of the key recommendations in our submission on the recent Greenway Strategy Consultation was for the 2010 National Roads Authority (NRA now TII) National Cycle Network (NCN) proposals to be set aside.  (We also called for TII to be removed as a lead agency in the provision of long distance cycling routes.) This is an important topic that needs a separate article to itself.  The story of the NCN proposals shows how various interests might seek to hijack cycling policy for their own ends.  The content of the NRA/TII proposals raises questions about the attitude of those involved to civil society, suggests an active attempt to avoid and evade the policy it was supposed to be delivering, and raises questions about the authors’ understanding of the legal frameworks governing Irish roads. Predictably the NRA proposals have failed to deliver attractive routes.   Most worryingly it seems those drafting the current DTTaS Greenway Strategy proposals are using the poor performance of the NRA approach as a pretext to avoid implementing the recommendations of the 2007 Fáilte Ireland Strategy for the Development of Cycling Tourism and the 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework.


The 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF) was seen as a game changer for cycling in Ireland and as a realistic well-considered blueprint showing the way forward for cyclng policy.  The NCPF included a policy objective for the creation of a National Cycle Network.

The network identified will mainly use a mix of minor roads, and some greenways. The greenways are especially important for, typically, the first 10km along the routes emanating from busy town centres which are heavily trafficked and particularly unattractive for inexperienced or very young cyclists.

NCPF Proposals themselves were to be based on  the 2007 Fáilte Ireland Strategy for the Development of Irish Cycle Tourism.  Like NCPF the tourism strategy involved extensive consultation. The Fáilte Ireland document included the use of minor low-traffic country roads and lanes as a fundamental part of their proposed cycle network.

Much of the proposed Irish Cycle Network route will utilise the network of country lanes and roads throughout the country. These roads have been chosen where traffic levels are light and lanes have a line of green grass up the centre rather than white paint!”

In addition, the Fáilte 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”. What appears to have happened then is that the National Cycle Network aspect of the NCPF was allocated to the National Roads Authority (NRA) – now called Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).  In 2010 the NRA produced the National Cycle Network (NCN) Scoping Study.

The National Cycle Network “stakeholders”: the first warning signs

Before considering the content of the NCN document the way it was put together should have had alarm bells ringing.  The 2010 NCN document lists 15 stakeholders. It also states that there was detailed engagement with those stakeholders. But the list contains only state actors. There are no representatives of cycling interests, rural development interests, farming interests, or community structures such as community fora.   The 2010 NCN document was apparently compiled by a steering group that did not consider the community as stakeholders in an NCN project. This shows a poor attitude to civil society. It is difficult to see how a program drafted and proposed with such an attitude could hope to be successful.  This should also be contrasted with the detailed consultation that went into the National Cycle Policy Framework and the Failte Ireland Cycling Strategy. Both those documents listed cycling organisations as members of future steering groups or implementation structures.

A departure from the cited sources.

The final NRA National Cycle Network document proposed a network of approximately 2000km based on corridors linking major cities and population centres of over 10,000.  The authors state that they are not defining the final route nor indicating the final “standard” of provision. The authors define four route types or classifications.

  • Cycle lanes (on-roadway cycle tracks)
  • Two-way cycle lanes (on-roadway cycle tracks) within the same road surface
  • Roadside cycle paths (off-roadway cycle tracks)
  • Cycle trails (“Cycleways” in Irish legal terminology)

(The terms used in the NRA document were different and did not comply with the legally defined terminology in Ireland – there is a note at the end of this article explaining the problem and its implications for the understanding of the NCN authors)

The illustrations for the four route type classifications in the NRA National Cycle Network proposals.  Three of them show cyclists placed directly beside motor traffic on main roads – including an interurban dual carriageway. There is no mention of using low-traffic country lanes and boreens.

The pictures illustrating the road-side treatments show that people on bicycles would put right beside motor traffic on R or N type roads including an interurban dual-carriageway.  This is against the general vision of the Fáilte Ireland strategy recommendations: “National or N-roads are not, generally, recommended as forming part of a National Cycling Network. As with the R-roads, traffic levels are higher with many carrying significant volumes of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV’s) and tour coaches.”  There is no mention anywhere in the NRA document of using minor low-traffic rural lanes and tracks as a component in the proposed network. Although the NCN references the Failte Ireland Strategy and the NCPF its recommendations seem directly opposed to the vision of both documents.  The authors refer to the Fáilte Ireland Strategy as being “primarily an on-road” network but make no reference to the types of roads that were being considered by the Strategy or by the NCPF. Rather than being a way forward, the proposals in the 2010 NRA document invite speculation that they were intended to avoid and undermine the guiding policy documents and to avoid best practice in the provision of rural cycling routes. Overall the 2010 NCN document appears to have been drafted by a group of regional roads engineers for the purpose of justifying engineering works involving R and N roads. Arguably, this was exactly what the NCPF and the Fáilte Ireland Cycling Strategy were trying to avoid.

What effect have the NRA National Cycle Network proposals had?

The 2017 Greenway Strategy Consultation discusses the schemes that were funded under the NRA NCN proposals. The consultation document states that “The [NCN] Study was, however, referenced in the funding calls launched by the Department in 2012 and 2014. However, the on-road projects awarded funded under these funding calls have not proven to be as successful as those that were off-road or predominantly off-road, i.e. greenways.”  The greenway consultation paper provides a list of schemes approved for funding under the National Cycle Network heading and sections of it make for depressing reading.  In 2012, five of the schemes appear to have involved marking cycle lanes or “cycle tracks” within the hard shoulders of existing roads. Even worse it appears the obvious flaws with the NRA NCN approach are being used as a pretext to turn away from the approach in the Fáilte Ireland Strategy and the National Cycle Policy Framework.

Hard shoulders – already a type of (limited) cycle facility

Before examining the effect of the NRA’s NCN vision a quick note is needed on hard shoulders and cycling. Hard shoulders are already acknowledged as a type of cycling facility in Ireland and elsewhere.  The arterial nature of the traffic and traffic speeds on most Irish roads with hard shoulders generally makes them unsuitable locations for child cyclists or less confident adults.  However, they have an established value for more confident adult cyclists.  Hard shoulders attract occasional use as a slow lane by motorised traffic.  Some cyclists are uncomfortable with this; however it has the side-effect of sweeping any debris to the side of the road.  Hard shoulders stay “usable” as a cycle facility because they are naturally “swept” from time to time. Hard shoulders also tend to be wider.

Hard shoulder on N59 at Bushy park Galway Cycle lane at Parkmore Galway

In Ireland and elsewhere hard shoulders are already considered a type of cycle facility – in the absence of maintenance – they are less likely to accumulate debris and more likely to stay usable than cycle lanes.

Hard shoulders on Irish national routes have provided a huge rural cycling infrastructure. A 1975 An Foras Forbartha report on cycling included this finding “Hard shoulders on national primary routes reduce cyclist accident rates by as much as 50%”. Hard shoulders are a practical rather than ideal solution – even so the extra space improves safety and comfort, and roads with hard shoulder are often arguably safer, more comfortable and more attractive cycling environments than the main roads in the urban centres they connect.

An example of one of the NCN schemes – the R420 (N80) in Offaly

One of the schemes funded under the NCN budgets involved the former N80 (R420) in County Offaly running north from Tullamore towards Clara and Moate.  The road already had hard shoulders for much of its length.  The scheme was budgeted to cost €400,000 with approximately 14km of the route “on road” and approximately 3km north of the village of Tober to be “off-road”.

Illustration from the Offaly County Council 2012 NCN Funding application showing what the road already looked like.

Photos of the scheme from Tullamore to Tober:  New lines painted in existing hard shoulders, inexplicable yield markings, new upright cycling route signs, speed limits unchanged from 100km/h, a cyclist hostile pinch point at Tober left in place unchanged.

Looking at the section from Tullamore to Tober it is difficult to see any real net benefit for cycling.  Marking cycle lanes in hard shoulders does nothing to address the nature of the traffic using the roads.  It does nothing to increase the overall length of cycle network of that character.  Worse it may create a false expectation of safety and attract novice cyclists to a route that is fundamentally unsuitable to their needs.  It may also have the side effect of reducing the cleaning effect that was keeping them usable for cyclists.  All these issues were established prior to 2012 when cycling interests had already raised serious reservations about marking cycle lanes in hard shoulders.  Cycling hostile features such as the pinch point at Tober remain in place.  This undermines claims that the intent of these works was to benefit cycling.

The 3km section north of Tober shows more of an attempt at what might be considered a recreational route for tourists or family groups.  An attempt has been made in places to build a cycle path well to the side of the main road.  However some sections are still right beside the road and with flexible red wands along the boundary.  In terms of protection from motor vehicles moving at 100km/h they might be little better than a line of paint.

Google streetview screen grab of Tobar to M6 section of the NCN Google streetview screen grab of Tobar to M6 section of the NCN Google streetview screen grab of Tobar to M6 section of the NCN Google streetview screen grab of Tobar to M6 section of the NCN
Google street-view screen-grabs showing the NCN section north of Tober

However the elephant in the room is how would these tourists or family groups get to this section of the R420? The route from the south involves the road we have already described. The route from the North involves coming through the roundabouts at Junction 6 of the M6 motorway. Because this is where this section of the NCN would begin.  The presence of these roundabouts makes this a wholly unsuitable location for recreational cyclists.  As a result, the presence of an unchanged Junction 6 destroys the credibility of this scheme as being a component in a National Cycling Network.  (See note on Roundabouts at the end of this document)

Google maps screen grab of junction 6 - this is the start of this section of the NRA National Cycle Network

Junction 6 on the M6 motorway: the northern starting point for this section of the NCN


To sum up for informed bicycle users looking at the situation, a general practice of marking cycle lanes in hard shoulders is at best a profoundly misguided and at worst a straightforwardly cynical use of public money.   Discontinuous sections of off-road cycle path on arterial national routes attract the same criticism. These NCN schemes have the unfortunate appearance of projects created by roads authority engineers for the purpose of consuming state cycling budgets for no net benefit. If these schemes then failed to provide a more generally suitable cycling environment this is not an argument for of focusing cycling budgets exclusively on greenways, it is an argument for improved governance over the manner in which the DTTaS spends tax payer’s money.    Most disturbing, it seems that the poor performance of these NRA NCN schemes is being used as a pretext to dismiss other types of on-road solutions and by extension to dismiss the 2007 Fáilte Ireland Cycling Tourism Strategy and the National Cycle Policy Framework.

A final note on terminology

In the 2010 NCN document the authors make confusing use of terminology. In Ireland, the terms “cycleway” and “road” are very clearly stated and defined under the Roads Act. The full definitions are provided below.  To put it simply in Irish law a “cycleway” is a stand-alone road dedicated to cyclists or cyclists and walkers and from which other traffic is excluded. The Galway Cycling Campaign also possesses a legal opinion to this effect. The Irish Traffic Regulations define cycle facilities within other roads as “cycle tracks”.  Cycle tracks can be on-road* (cycle lanes) or off-road* (road-side cycle paths).  In the 2010 NCN document, the term “cycleway” is used interchangeably to describe cycle facilities within other main roads and placing cyclists in close physical proximity to high speed traffic. The study authors then use the term “cycle trail“ to indicate what are termed cycleways in Irish law. It appears that at best the authors (from the National Roads Authority) did not understand the legal frameworks governing Irish roads. Whatever the reason, the NRA document uses terminology in a manner that might tend to confuse readers about what was being proposed.

* A better way to express this is “on-roadway” or “off-roadway” as in traffic law the roadway is the part of the road normally reserved for vehicles.  The footway is what is generally called the “footpath”.  Both the roadway and the footway are part of the road.

Appendix Legal Definitions

ROADS ACT, 1993 Section 68: Cycleways

68.—(1) In this section “cycleway” means a public road or proposed public road reserved for the exclusive use of pedal cyclists or pedal cyclists and pedestrians.

( 2 ) ( a ) A road authority may construct (or otherwise provide) and maintain a cycleway.

( b ) Where a road authority constructs or otherwise provides a cycleway it shall by order declare either—
(i) that the cycleway is for the exclusive use of pedal cyclists, or
(ii) that the cycleway is for the exclusive use of pedal cyclists and pedestrians.
( c ) Any person who uses a cycleway in contravention of an order under paragraph (b) shall be guilty of an offence.

ROADS ACT, 1993 Interpretation

“road” includes—

(a) any street, lane, footpath, square, court, alley or passage,

(b) any bridge, viaduct, underpass, subway, tunnel, overpass, overbridge, flyover, carriageway (whether single or multiple), pavement or footway,

(c) any weighbridge or other facility for the weighing or inspection of vehicles, toll plaza or other facility for the collection of tolls, service area, emergency telephone, first aid post, culvert, arch, gulley, railing, fence, wall, barrier, guardrail, margin, kerb, lay-by, hard shoulder, island, pedestrian refuge, median, central reserve, channelliser, roundabout, gantry, pole, ramp, bollard, pipe, wire, cable, sign, signal or lighting forming part of the road, and

(d) any other structure or thing forming part of the road and—

(i) necessary for the safety, convenience or amenity of road users or for the construction, maintenance, operation or management of the road or for the protection of the environment, or

(ii) prescribed by the Minister;


Source: R.286 Design and Use of Roundabouts in Ireland, An Foras Forbatha, 1987.

In R286 the most relevant study is one that takes an in depth look at traffic accidents on the roundabouts on the Swords bypass in Dublin.  A particular finding was that the accident rate for the two-wheelers was five (x5) times higher than they were expecting.

Section 4 General Observations on Specific By-Pass Accident Groupings

Page 95:

” (d) One of the worrying features of the safety performance of the Swords By-pass is the high incidence of two-wheelers in personal injury accidents (over 50% of all injury accidents as shown in Table 5).  Significantly this trend reflects that of the T.R.R.L. report where accident involvement rates […] of two-wheeler riders were about 10-15 times those of car occupants.  Comparative Irish figures of fatal and injury accidents for pedal cycles and motorcycles outside build up areas are 4.6% and 6.8% respectfully.  Thus the combined rate is approximately 20% of that for the By-pass accidents”

Section 5 Conclusions

Page 101

“4) The high incidence of two wheeler accidents on the Swords bypass allied with similar findings in the major accident study carried out by the TRRL on roundabouts shows that roundabouts on high speed roads do not provide a safe environment for two wheelers and consequently give serious reservation as to their use where high numbers of this road user class is expected”.

Source: National Cycle Policy Framework 2009

Page 20 Section 2.6 Remedial Measures

We will carry out remedial measures on existing cyclist-unfriendly urban roads with a special focus on roundabouts, multi-lane oneway streets and road narrowing schemes. Without addressing the difficulties posed by high capacity, high speed roundabouts in urban locations – and particularly those between residential areas and schools – it will be very difficult to encourage more of the public to cycle.


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


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


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

Classification of national, regional and local roads.

Part II Classification of Roads and Assignment of Functions


(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

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.




Galway Cyclists welcome Waterford as a model to progress Athenry to Tuam Greenway


Athenry to Tuam is shovel ready and should progress without further delay.

The Galway Cycling Campaign is welcoming the news that a delegation from Waterford is to meet Galway County Council to get the benefit of their experience with the recently opened “Deise Greenway” in Waterford. The Waterford greenway opened in March, is 45km long, and has been hailed as Ireland’s new “premier” greenway. The Waterford greenway was created by the conversion of a section of the now closed Dungarvan to Waterford Railway. Like the now closed railway line between Athenry, Tuam, Claremorris and Sligo the Dongarvan Railway remained in public ownership. Over recent years Waterford Council spent a mere €15m to upgrade it to serve as a walking and cycling route – a fraction of the cost of creating such a feature from scratch. A similar scheme following the disused railway between Mullingar and Athlone was also extended recently and one section is reported to have had 1,500 users in one day.

Galway County Council’s attempts to impose greenways on private landowners along the Clifden-Galway-Dublin corridor have been a disaster for the brand of cycling and cycling tourism in Galway. Unlike Waterford or Athenry-Tuam there is no longer any equivalent disused railway available in Connemara or East Galway. When the old Connemara railway line closed in 1935 the line was either sold to landowners or incorporated into what is now the N59. It no longer exists as a coherent corridor. It will take some time to resolve the issues created by the flawed conduct of the Clfden-Galway-Athlone project. Minister Shane Ross recently promised a review of the processes used in that project.

In contrast the Athenry to Tuam line remains in public ownership and there is strong community support in Tuam for the conversion of the line to a Greenway. In effect the Athenry-Tuam project is “shovel ready” and would allow Galway to get on board with creating a long distance cycling product. With this greenway extended to Sligo via Swinford it would be possible to create a branch linking with Knock airport. While a branch to the west could eventually link up with the Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill.

Further reading

Greenway experts to outline benefits of proposed Galway greenway

Westmeath Independent
Over 1,500 used Athlone greenway extension on one day
Thursday, 13th April, 2017 2:01pm
Story by Adrian Cusack

Green Light: Ireland’s longest greenway opens in Waterford
March 25 2017 12:00 AM