By Martina Callanan And Kevin Jennings
On Monday, Galway City Councillors once again have the opportunity to be world leaders in Active Travel and Climate Action by supporting a much longed for temporary Salthill Cycleway, as permanent plans for an urban greenway for Galway and flood defences are progressed.
Top of the agenda of the Galway City Council Meeting is a vote for a temporary two-way segregated cycleway along the coastal side of the Prom from Knocknacarra Cross to the junction of the R336 with Grattan Road.
The motion is a clear statement from our elected representatives that this cycleway is a priority, and that a temporary Salthill Cycleway will be urgently made while permanent plans are developed. Galway Cycling Campaign invites all councillors, city residents, Salthill locals, and businesses to make their support public.
From our engagement with councillors, we are pleased that our tally shows that the motion for a temporary Salthill Cycleway will be passed on Monday; however, we would like unanimous support for this project to get Galway moving. Safer cycling routes benefit everyone: residents, visitors, school and sport communities, and businesses.
At just over 3km in length, this interim project would connect Knocknacarra, the most densely populated area of the city, to Salthill and the city centre and beyond. It would be a ‘spine’ to connect people going to work, restaurants and cafés, beaches, and shops, as well as providing a safe route for children going to school in the city centre, Salthill, and Knocknacarra. It will take about 10 minutes to cycle this route at a gentle pace.
Last year, a council Covid mobility survey revealed that a safe cycle route along the Prom was the most popular concern of Galway residents. In spring, Principals for Change, a group of 28 principals of primary and secondary schools in the city, pleaded with councillors for better bike infrastructure in an open letter. One commented, “What would really help our school for both teachers and students would be a proper cycle lane on the Prom – that comes up all the time.”
The government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party have provided a €1.8 billion budget for active and sustainable travel. The National Transport Authority allocated 22 new staff in February to Galway City Council for active and sustainable travel projects. The Minister for Transport has confirmed that funding will be immediately available for a temporary Salthill Cycleway, if councillors vote yes.
Every temporary cycleway and every greenway in Ireland has resulted in increased footfall in surrounding areas, and a local boom for businesses.
In one year from 1 September 2020 to 1 September 2021, there were almost two million walking and cycling trips on the interim Coastal Mobility Route in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. There has been a 4x increase of people cycling from 5,000 people per week to 20,000 people per week. The quieter and more attractive public realm has enticed more people into the urban villages, and new independent retailers and cafés have opened.
Studies from TU Dublin and overseas show that traders can overestimate spending by customers who arrive by car rather than other transport modes. Business owners should be relieved, and excited, to learn that multiple studies have shown that people who shop by foot or bike tend to spend more money with more frequent visits. Cycle parking delivers five times the retail spend per square metre than the same area of car parking.
BEDEVILLED BY FEAR
Sustainable transport initiatives in Ireland are often bedevilled by a familiar pattern of fear of change, predictions of chaos, and selective analysis of technical merits. Dublin’s DART and LUAS roll out followed a similar pattern, and, far from chaos, they now carry almost 70 million passengers each year.
Does anyone remember our Shop Street before it was pedestrianised in 1998? The narrow footpaths, heavy traffic, bus whistling by, the death-grips as you held your childrens’ hands? Does anyone miss it?
Businesses benefited, due to hugely increased footfall in this vibrant retail and hospitality area that stretches from Eyre Square down the now self-styled Latin Quarter and Spanish Arch, perpetually abuzz. Once a trial project is perceived as being successful, there is very little risk in accepting, or, indeed, embracing it.
Our streets are subject to continual, and largely successful, process of renewal. And these streets have changed radically as Galway has developed into a vibrant city. This was no accident. It was the result of our choices.
Children should not need to be brave to cycle to school, or the beach, or the shops or playground. Courage should be found in our councillors as they face Monday’s vote.
It is not safe to cycle along the Prom to Knocknacarra or towards town: there is no protection for people on bikes, there are high volumes of traffic, the carriageways are very wide with hatching which leads to increased speeding, there is a high risk of being ‘doored’ by people in cars parked along the road. This is unacceptable, and we should fix this.
This is not hard engineering, if you have courage.
Sometimes the best way to remove barriers to active travel is to add one. A safe and separate temporary two-way cycleway is technically feasible; the progressive council engineers are the most appropriate professionals to design this.
Last week, the Minister for Transport promised new legislation to make it easier for local authorities to create cycle lanes, bus lanes, and enable trials. This is warmly welcomed; cycle networks and greenway plans are in successive city development plans for over 20 years. Progress has been glacial.
Given the wide carriageways, there is the possibility of moving car parking to the northern side of the Prom road. There is also green space available either side of the Seapoint car-park to create a cycleway away from the road, and so avoid the entrances to the car-park and the roundabout at Salthill Village.
To facilitate people with mobility impairments, Galway Cycling Campaign has requested that the full seaside row of 40+ spaces in the Seapoint car-park should be Blue Badge and Age Friendly spaces only.
There are appropriate infill sites that could be converted into Blue Badge and Age Friendly Spaces for older people who want to look at the sea, and for short-term car-parking for Blackrock swimmers.
We have also asked for more pedestrian crossings to be added.
PARIS – THE CITY OF BIKES
Reallocating road space to protected cycling space is something cities are doing the world over, and reaping the benefits of better road safety and ringing tills. By creating a high quality space, retail and hospitality spending increased by over 400% in Auckland. People, not cars, are the economic power of cities.
Over the last seven years, Paris has slashed vehicle traffic, promoted cycling, and built up the city’s defenses against climate impacts. The results transformed the streets of the capital: car ownership in Paris is down 20% from 1999, and bike usage has risen 54% between 2018 and 2019 alone. With the onset of the pandemic, the city created 50 km more of pop-up bike lanes called “coronapistes,” including along the Rue de Rivoli. The city of lights is now the city of bikes.
Remember, every single time you hear someone say “We’re not Amsterdam,” that the safe cycling haven of the Netherlands began only in the late 1970’s, thanks to the persistence of mothers and local groups.
COMMUNITY CYCLE THIS SUNDAY
The mums and dads of Galway Urban Greenway Alliance (GUGA ) are hosting a special community cycle this Sunday, 26 September. This family fun cycle is an invitation to the people of Galway to show support for the temporary Salthill Cycleway. The meeting point is the Claddagh Hall at 11am.
Communities in the east and west of the city will join in too. The East of the Corrib cycle-bus will depart from the Maldron Hotel, Sandy Road, at 10.15am, and the Galway Cycle-Bus and Knocknacarra Community Group will pedal from McGrath’s Field.
Please register for the “Galway Urban Greenway Community Cycle” on EventBrite.com
Status quo says, “There’s only a few people cycling; we can’t invest more.” Leaders say, “There’s only a few people cycling; we must invest more.”
Sometimes, it only takes one word to be a leader. We don’t have another 20 years to wait.