Galway cycling group opposes greenway across farmland model used by NRA on first national route

Cycling campaigners in Galway have welcomed the suspension of the western section of the Galway to Dublin Greenway stating that other options should have been looked at, such as the use of quite rural roads.

The Galway Cycling Campaign claimed that the Transport Infrastructure Ireland (formally the NRA) and county council roads departments “ignored successful models for cycling tourism that were already working in County Galway”, however, the campaign did say how such bodies could ignore their brief, which was to deliver an off-road, family-friendly greenway.

The westren section of the route, between Athlone and Galway, was officially suspended because of landowner objections and a lack of local political support for the route. Farmers’ opposition to the route was kickstarted by groups such as the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) talking up the possable issues on the route, claiming it would destroy farms and livelihoods. Regional IFA officials were also involved in stoking fears at the public consultation phase of recent greenway developments in Mayo.

Complaints from farmers include fears of distription to farm work; anti-social behavior; security issues, including criminals using greenways for scouting targets; and the question of liability if people stray off greenways.

The greenway model is widely seen as  the most successful in attracting a wide-range of people cycling, from families cycling to touring cyclists. However, the Galway Cycling Campaign claims that following the greenway model gave the impression that there was “an intention to maximise the cost to the taxpayer and maximise disruption to local communities for no useful purpose”.

The Galway Cycling Campaign has previously objected to cycle paths at the side of rural national roads. The group’s relationship with the the NRA is strained.

“Cycling is central to the tourism product on the Aran Islands. On Inis Mór, cycling is a popular way for tourists to explore the island. Visitors hire bikes near the quay when they get off the ferry and use minor country roads shared with local motor traffic,” said Oisín Ó Nidh campaign PRO. He added: “The key point is that these roads are used by low volumes of motor vehicles on local journeys.”

The group also questioned the overall route chosen to link Dublin and Galway.  Shane Foran, a former campaign chair said: “We have been discussing and thinking about the Dublin-Galway route for nearly two decades. The Royal Canal never suggested itself as an obvious choice. The obvious choice was always to follow the Grand Canal to Shannon Harbour and tie in with Clonmacnoise and the Beara Breifne Cycle route which starts in West Cork and ends in Fermanagh.”

The campaign added that the Royal Canal to Mullingar suggests itself as a route for getting to Mayo rather than Galway.

22 Comments

  1. Thats a very large straw man for a headline

  2. Maybe I’ve read it all wrong but the press release seems to be firmly against the greenway model on this route. It did not outline other ways a greenway could have been built etc but only gave quite rural roads as an alternative.

    The release seems to skirt around spelling it out clearly, but it is fairly strong on the idea that the model chosen (ie a greenway via private lands) was the wrong one.

    What exactly am I getting wrong?

  3. Is there an anti cycling campaign group in Galway, and how does it policy differ from those of the pro cycling campaign?

  4. You seem to have attempted to spin a position acknowledging greenways as part of a portfolio of measures as somehow representing “opposition” to a “greenway model”. The press release makes it clear that that the Grand Canal towpath was seen as part of the natural route for Galway-Dublin. How does this translate as “opposition” to the “greenway model”? There are other ways to provide a greenway-like cycling experience than purpose built infrastructure. You seem to be trying to spin a position of pointing out an apparent failure to explore all options as being equal to “opposition” to the “greenway model”. The chosen method of approaching the project was clearly the wrong one as it has now had to be abandoned in its current form. Again it is a pretty large stretch to try and spin concerns about how the project was conducted by the agencies involved as being as “opposition” to a “greenway model”.

  5. I think it is also relevant that you left out the bit that there was already a successful model in place developing rural walking routes in co-operation with local communities.

  6. Your readers can access the whole statement here:

    http://www.galwaycycling.org/cycling-campaign-welcomes-decision-to-suspend-funding-on-athlone-galway-cycle-route/

    @Kevin Sweeney have a read of this. The Galway Cycling Campaign has an established history of fighting to create high-quality rural cycling routes.

    http://www.galwaycycling.org/cycling-campaign-welcomes-changes-to-clifden-greenway-proposals-at-oral-hearing/

  7. @Shane: I’ve changed the headline from: “Galway cycling group opposes greenway model for first national route” to: “Galway cycling group opposes greenway across farmland on first national route”.

    I hope that more accurately reflects the campaign’s position. It was only ever intended to focus on the opposition to the greenway model across farmland in this case, not generally. This should have been clearer in the headline and I will put this headline correction out on Facebook and Twitter too later.

    I think I would still call a route a greenway when there’s quite on-road bits accounting for a small part of an overall mostly off-road greenway route (as is the case in and around Westport). But it would be hard to say the same for a route mainly on-road between Athlone and Galway. I agree with you on a mix of design types across routes.

    “The chosen method of approaching the project was clearly the wrong one as it has now had to be abandoned in its current form”… I’m unsure what that means… Is that a reference to us of farmland, keeping CPOs on the table or what? From what I can find out the opposition was developed from an IFA campaign which had already started in Co Mayo and possibly elsewhere, before CPO was mentioned in Galway.

    @Kevin: Cycling campaigners can still be pro-cycling while disagreeing with one or more types of infrastructure.

  8. Hi Cian. For the record we haven’t objected to the idea of putting greenways through farmland. We are concerned about the manner in which a gun was put to people’s heads with little apparent attempt to avoid conflict. It is possible to be entirely pro-greenway and still recognise that realities on the ground make it unwise and unproductive to pursue a particular approach – especially when there might be other options. There are some farmers who were happy with having the structure on their lands, is it being suggested that we “opposed” these people?
    Regarding this “The chosen method of approaching the project was clearly the wrong one as it has now had to be abandoned in its current form” it means exactly what it says. Providing cycle routes is not rocket science but it is still a skill. This project blew up is it because it was incompetently conceived and incompetently conducted in its totality. There are examples of other schemes that have succeeded because they were approached in a fundamentally different manner. The Westport Achill Route being an example. A competent project manager conducts “stakeholder analysis” on all stakeholders when designing a project. “Negative stakeholders” can represent a risk to the project and must be accounted for. Fail to do that and the project fails. In my view it is a mistake to portray this as a “greenway” project. This is better seen as a brand new road that was being pushed through East Galway on the pretext of being a greenway when it was finished. The comments of some project team members that I met at consultation events gave little indication of any real engagement with what it was supposed to achieve. The conduct of the project was little different to other Irish roads schemes I have had to engage with in my time.

  9. So Cian, in case you have missed the point, your new headline is still a gross misrepresentation of our position and is not derived from any position taken by us.

  10. The official name of the project seems to include “Cycleway”. “Cycleway” is a specific legal term. Cycleway is defined in Section 68 of the Roads Act, 1993 as a public road reserved for the exclusive use of pedal cyclists or pedal cyclists and pedestrians: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1993/act/14/section/68/enacted/en/html A cycleway can’t be on an existing road (unless you close it to traffic).

    Who told them build a cycleway and why wasn’t someone bright enough to spot that what was proposed wasn’t what was needed or wanted?

    It reminds me of this: http://projectcartoon.com/cartoon/2648

    ——————————————-

    @Shane do you have a suggestion as to what the headline should be?

  11. I think the headline should say what we said. That we welcome the project being suspended. Anyone who follows Irish cycling activism knows that the Galway Cycling Campaign are prominent supporters of converting the abandoned Galway-Clifden railway as a cycle route. It follows that have no problem, in principle, with routes through private farms. Attempts to portray us as having opposing positions are in my view unsupportable.

  12. However the text continues to contain an obvious misrepresentation so it might be best for all to simply take the story down and be done with it.

  13. To be clear: The headline which was still used as of ~6pm today stated: “Galway cycling group opposes greenway across farmland on first national route” — that was not referring to principles or generalities of greenways across farmland but the use of greenways across farmland in this case only.

    From the statement Galway Cycling Campaign issued: “The cyclists have previously pointed out that the county councils and NRA had ignored standard methods for providing such routes without splitting farms. The impression has been created of an intention to maximise the cost to the taxpayer and maximise disruption to local communities for no useful purpose. The conduct of the agencies involved has raised the spectre of the worst days of the Celtic Tiger.”

    That’s not just clear but striking opposition to greenway across farmland model as was planned on the Dublin to Galway Greenway. It’s so striking that a cycling campaign group would oppose a greenway because so-far unidentified quiet roads were not looked at from the start. And while some cycling campaigners think quite roads are greenway-like, no alternative like that has been confirmed. That’s why ‘opposition’ is key in the headline.

    But to further clarify the position of the campaign, I’ve changed the headline again. It now reads: “Galway cycling group opposes greenway across farmland model used by NRA on first national route”.

    I honestly hope that satisfactorily resolves the issue for all.

  14. Cian, with regret, I must put it to you that the word “model” in your reporting is clearly intended to create a false impression that concerns raised represent opposition based on “principle”. Your article also continues to contain this sentence “The Galway Cycling Campaign has previously objected to cycle paths at the side of rural national roads.” I must put it to you that you chose this wording with the intention of creating the wholly false impression among your readers that we have opposed such things on “principle”. In fact what actually happened was that we rejected the idea that a cycle path routed entirely beside a high-speed rural road is equivalent to a greenway or provides what is needed for credible cycling tourism infrastructure. That is fundamentally different thing.

  15. The statement said “The Cycling Campaign have previously pointed out that the county councils and NRA had ignored standard methods for providing such routes without splitting farms. From the outside the impression was of a project intended to maximise the cost to the taxpayer and thereby maximise any disruption to local communities and for little useful purpose.The conduct of the agencies involved has raised the spectre of the worst days of the Celtic Tiger. The project was handled like some kind of “mini-motorway” scheme. Coloured lines were drawn on maps and compulsory purchase orders proposed for lands along these designated corridors. A completely new road was to be pushed through the countryside of East Galway with little or no attempt to make use of existing infrastructure already in public ownership.”

    Now that I’m re-reading that and the full statement again, a very important question comes to mind: Why is greenway not mentioned once in the statement? Was this intentional for some reason? If so, why?

    When the statement talks about a project intended to maximise the cost to the taxpayer and thereby maximise any disruption to local communities and for little useful purpose — that’s referring to a greenway. How is that not opposition to the greenway model?

    When the statement refers to “A completely new road was to be pushed through the countryside of East Galway with little or no attempt to make use of existing infrastructure already in public ownership” — that’s again referring clearly to a greenway. How is that not opposition to the greenway model?

    Maybe the issue is your idea of what the greenway model is? Some people view it as via canal banks and intact disused railways, but from the projects to date in Ireland a large part of it is via lands that were being used as farmland before the greenway came along — that includes the original Great Western Greenway, where most people get their idea of what a greenway is. There is a mix of things on that route but I really can’t see how quiet/narrow Irish country roads could make up a large section of a route and it still be called a greenway, greenway-like is even stretching it.

  16. Cian, the basic fact is that because of the activities of those pushing an exclusive idealised, “greenway model” concept as you put it, we have now ended up with nothing. If you think that people who get upset by that are in some way “opponents” of greenways then that says more about you than about the people working on the ground to promote cycling.

  17. Can you please answer this: Why was the word greenway not mentioned once in the article?

    As I’ve said to Kevin above: Cycling campaigners can still be pro-cycling while disagreeing with one or more types of infrastructure. To add to that: A group can oppose an “idealised” (or not) greenway model while not being opponents of all greenways. Opposing the greenway across farmland model used by one group of state agencies clearly does not mean full and total opposition to all greenways.

  18. Because Cian the route is clearly not workable as an exclusive greenway for its entire length or at least not under the project management style used by the NRA. The key deliverable here was not a “greenway”, it was the Western section of Eurovelo 2, the capitals route from Galway to Moscow. This is something that has existed as a line on a map since the late 1990s. This did not have to be approached as an exclusive new-build road for the entire Galway section. However, if the NRA had managed to come up with a formula that allowed them to build their new road are you trying to suggest we would be out objecting based on some kind of principle? The point is that the NRA never had such a formula and did not attempt to amend their formula to improve their chances of delivering something. So now they have delivered nothing and left bad blood and resentment in their wake.

  19. And when I say “formula that allowed them to build their new road” it means doing that without also making enemies of key interests in the communities the route passes through.

  20. The NRA have clearly been insensitive in their dealings with farmers, and the project should perhaps be given to some other grouping. Maybe we need a dedicated Cycle Authority for work like this.

    On the other hand, the IFA have hardly been conciliatory. Talk of destroying farms with a 3 metre wide cycle way carrying a relatively small number of well-to-do Germans through their fields is a gross exaggeration. This is a greenway, not a motorway.

    What we should strive to avoid but will probably end up with is a piecemeal solution like some of our walking routes where farmers can and do block access on a whim or because they have some unrelated disagreement with the local council.

    The fact is the countryside belongs to us all, not just those whose ancestors were fortunate enough to stake a claim when the English left. Landowners have been blocking access to the countryside of the rest of the citizenry for too long. Go to any other European country and there are extensive cycling, walking and hiking trails through public and private land. This seems to work well, with rarely to be any conflict. Why is it that we cannot do this in Ireland?

  21. As already stated the Athlone-Galway cycle route is supposed to be part of Eurovelo 2 linking Galway with Moscow.

    This is a web page for the Dutch section of the route.

    http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos/eurovelo-2/countries/netherlands

    It shows a picture of a cyclist on a road stretching into the distance. The road has shoulder like markings sometimes termed “auxiliary lanes” in the Dutch literature. They are not cycle lanes as such since they can be used by cars making passing manouevres. The design indicates that this is a rural access road with a speed limit of 60 kmh. It is open to (low level) motor traffic.

    http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos/eurovelo-2/countries/netherlands/image1

    This is a web page for a German section of the route. In Germany, the EV2 uses the Europaradweg R1 also called the D-Netz 3.

    http://www.anhalt-dessau-wittenberg.de/themen/radtourismus/europaradweg-r1/index.html

    Again we have a road with a similar design – there are cycle lane like markings indicating that this is a road that is also used by some level of motor traffic.

    http://www.anhalt-dessau-wittenberg.de/cache/9de7a01180be9557f68920f7f6e3998b.jpg

    So we have an international cycle-route that shares sections with low levels of motor traffic where it passes through the Netherlands and Germany. But when it gets to Athlone it has to stop because of some undefined “Greenway model” that means those involved had to pick a fight with local farmers.

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