A Touch of Green Amid the Asphalt

Last Sunday 11 April, to celebrate World Health Day 2010 and Galway City Council’s decision to close Cross St. and Middle St. to motorised traffic for the afternoon, the Galway Cycling Campaign converted a small section of the road — the size of a single car — into a miniature public park for the people of Galway. It was the second time we created this mini-park in the city.

By temporarily constructing Galway’s newest park, our aim is to creatively explore how urban public space is allocated and used. Inexpensive kerb-side parking results in more motor traffic and less space in our city centre. This in turn hinders the movement of pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles; it adds to the level of CO2 emissions; and it obstructs the creation of a healthy, vibrant human habitat for Galway. We are re-imagining the possibilities of the city landscape.

Our re-interpretation of road space demonstrates that even temporary spatial redesign can improve the character of Galway City. We were also lucky to have a beautiful sunny afternoon. Many curious passers-by stopped to chat, to sample our delicious bicycle biscuits, to sign up to our mailing lists, to read our educational signs and our new Cycling Skills leaflets, and simply to watch the world go by from an unexpected green patch on the road.

We would like to thank Galway City Council for closing Cross St. and Middle St. to traffic for the afternoon, and we’re especially grateful to everyone who stopped and said hello. We’re already looking forward to the next outing of our mini public park!

Cycling Campaign criticise Cllr Flaherty for being inconsistent

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.”