By Martina Callanan and Kevin Jennings
It is beautiful to witness whole-hearted support for a city network of greenways and cycle routes. These will result in an inevitable boost to tourism, and increase quality of life for residents.The Salthill Cycleway will be the blue jewel in the Galway’s greenways crown. No other part of the network will go through a vibrant village like Salthill. Salthill deserves a temporary cycleway to make sure that the city delivers a proper permanent greenway.
In 2011, Anne Graham of the National Transport Authority, and now its CEO, presented a report of four priority cycle routes to the city council, identifying the Bearna to Oranmore Route, as well as others originating from Moycullen, Menlo, and Ardaun. Councillors should urgently press the Council to act on these, with the 22 new active and sustainable travel staff allocated by the NTA last February.
In the interim, the 3km seafront two-way segregated cycleway will benefit local residents, children pedaling to sports at weekends, teenagers and families going to the beach, and students and swimmers heading for Blackrock. There will be minimal disruption to people driving from Conamara. It is expected, like elsewhere in Ireland and overseas, that a new quality cycleway will result in many short car trips being replaced by cycle trips.
An interim cycleway can be built now, within existing powers. It is well within the competencies of the current council Executive, and within the available road space. It has the full backing of the Department of Transport.The Minister for Transport declared that full funding is immediately available from the department, if councillors vote yes on Monday. The Minister also announced that new legislation will make it easier for local authorities to create cycle lanes and enable trials. This is welcome; cycle routes are in successive city development plans for over 20 years. Progress is glacial.
Students comprise about 25% of our population; 20% of households do not have access to a car; Galway already is a cycling city. Salthill can rightly be proud that it has among the highest levels of cycling participation in the entire country at 9%, followed closely by Taylor’s Hill and the Claddagh.
We estimate 458 car spaces between the three free council car parks at Seapoint, Claude Toft, and Leisureland, and about the same again on-street, all within about 300m of Salthill village.Reallocating some of the road space to allow safe cycle lanes could lead to a reduction, or an increase, in the total number of car parking spaces, depending on how the remaining road space is allocated.There are five disabled parking spaces along the Prom. We have asked the council to allocate the entire front row of 40+ car parking spaces at Seapoint to blue badge holders and Age Friendly spaces.
We have also asked for more pedestrian crossings between Grattan Road and Blackrock.Walking the Prom will become a more pleasant experience, as the Salthill cycleway will act as a buffer between people and traffic. People in cars and cafés will have a better view of the bay and limestone hills, as the view will no longer be blocked by stationary cars.We have seen such a surge in people cycling since the pandemic.
Imagine what it would be like if people of all ages and abilities could do it safely? Irish and international research has shown that once active travel is safe, car use and parking requirements go down. If Salthill bucks this trend, that can be explored and addressed. We should try something new to get Galway moving. The beauty of this temporary Salthill Cycleway is that nothing is absolute. This is a unique chance to see what works. We should seize the opportunity with grateful hands.