Councillors passed a Galway Cycling Campaign/Community Forum motion at Monday night’s Council meeting that will see the notorious pedestrian- and cyclist-unfriendly roundabouts of Galway City tackled under the latest City Development Plan.
Under the new Plan, which will be in place by January 2011, the City Executive will be committed to addressing the significant difficulties posed by roundabouts for pedestrians and cyclists. The Plan will compel the Council to explore remedial treatments, such as raised zebra crossings, in order to improve the safety of non-motorised transport users.
Roundabouts on national routes in Portlaoise and Limerick City have already been re-designed to include raised zebra crossings and zebra crossings, and hopefully Galway City will be next
said Oisin O’Nidh, PRO of the Galway Cycling Campaign.
Roundabout in Portlaoise town with two lane entries and raised zebra crossings
The new City Development Plan will also endorse the ‘Hierarchy of Solutions’ in the Government’s National Cycle Policy Framework. This document, which supports the remedial treatment of roundabouts, prioritises traffic reduction, traffic calming and road redesign over dedicated cycling facilities in order to create a pedestrian- and cycle-friendly urban environment. According to Mr O’Nidh,
The inclusion of the Hierarchy of Solutions will enable the City Council to do more to promote cycling ith less revenue. It is the perfect solution for Local Authorities in ifficult economic times.
However, according to Campaign Chair Shane Foran, Galway’s development as Ireland’s Cycling City could be undermined by the actions of Council Director of Services, Ciaran Hayes, who successfully opposed a motion that would have provided primary school children with a network of backstreet routes to school. Mr Foran said:
Cycling to primary school has been in steep decline in Ireland for the past 20 years – down 83% between 1986 and 2006. Proactive approaches such as safe routes to schools are needed to address the low levels of cycling among school children and to foster a culture of cycling for the future. By opposing such measures, the City Council Executive has missed out on a perfect opportunity to dramatically increase the number of young cyclists in Galway, and at the same time ease the chronic traffic congestion that the city currently suffers from during school term.
Groody roundabout Limerick on the N7 out of Limerick towards Dublin
The Galway Cycling Campaign wonders why Cllr Terry O Flaherty is criticising cyclists for cycling on Shop Street, when she herself has voted for schemes in the past which put cyclists up on footpaths. The Galway Cycling Campaign opposed the Doughiska Road redevelopment scheme because of this very point, i.e putting cyclists up on the footpaths and placing them in conflict with pedestrians. Anybody who has seen the mess that is the Doughiska Road can see that cyclists are in clear conflict with pedestrians on sections of this road and especially with public transport users at the bus stops. Cllr O Flaherty voted for this scheme.
Oisin Ó Nidh, Campaign PRO, says: “On the one hand, Cllr Terry O Flaherty is promoting cycling on footpaths by voting for these schemes in the city council, and then on the other hand she criticises cyclists for cycling on Shop Street. There is no consistency here. The city council and Cllr O Flaherty are sending out mixed messages to cyclists.” The Galway Cycling Campaign has consistently called for cyclists to use the roads in the past — only children should be cycling on footpaths, and if adults are cycling in areas like Shop Street they should only do so at walking speed.
The closure of Shop Street to cyclists has been controversial since it was first proposed in the 1990s. In 1997, a council-sponsored transport study showed Shop St to be a major route across the city for cyclists. The Galway Cycling Campaign brought this to the attention of the city council executive at the time, and the council was made aware of best-practice design guidance from Germany and the UK that specified that such schemes should incorporate provision for cyclists.
This was especially the case for Shop St, since it was a route for schoolchildren accessing the secondary schools concentrated in the west of the city. The city council executive ignored best practice and went ahead with a scheme that simply banned cycling across the city centre. This triggered a complaint to the EU, as EU funds had been used on the scheme. In response, the City Council Executive stated that they had identified alternative routes across the city for cyclists but neglected to indicate what those routes might be. According to the cycling campaign, the only routes are a multilane one-way system via the docks, or a long detour via the Salmon Weir bridge and Nuns Island. Leaving aside the question of cross-city traffic, for years the only cycle parking available was at Mainguard/Bridge St. This meant that cyclists coming from the east to shop in town still had to bring their bikes through the pedestrian zone to park them.
Campaign chair Shane Foran observed, “While we have no remit for inconsiderate cycling, the fact is that trying to shut down the major cross-city cycling route in a medieval university city was always likely to be unenforceable for the Gardai. Shop Street joins a litany of projects whose management by the council executive has been highly questionable.”