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.