Westport’s hills are not average and their urban greenway’s crazy gradients could have been better

Three Smarter Travel area projects — Limerick city, and the towns of Westport, and Dungarvan — are now under independently evaluated and Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, has said that “this work will inform future policy on investment in Smarter Travel and what works best in an Irish context” — but should it? Are these areas good examples to start with?

Readers might know our answer as we’ve previous covered 5 reasons Westport falls short of providing for everyday cycling — one of the issues was the crazy gradient on ramps on the town’s cycle network and, in this article, we have more examples of the issues involved.

Usually “cyclist dismount” signs are overkill and not required, but around Westport you should be aware of such warnings…

Inclines and slops on Westport's urban greenway

We’re going to look at five ramps in a distance of around 400 metres on the south-east end of the town:

Ramp 1: Red

The location below is literary a high point of Westport’s urban greenway… it’s not a section too many tourists would use as it’s away from the main route to the main trunk of the Great Western Greenway.

Look below, and keep scrolling down as two photographs had to be stitch together to combine the view of looking straight across and looking down at the top of the hill:

Ramp 2: Yellow

But it’s not the highest point, that’s further back. Back behind an awkward railway underpass of a siding: This incline is not as cycling-friendly as it could be, but the real question is: Is the railway siding really needed this far into the greenway? And way wasn’t a link to the railway station provided?

Inclines and slops on Westport's urban greenway

Inclines and slops on Westport's urban greenway

Ramp 3: Green

Back a bit further again is another ramp to a housing estate and another ramp which is at a gradient steeper than it should be: 
Inclines and slops on Westport's urban greenway

Ramp 4: Purple

But this one below is the worst of the ramps and another dismount sign you should follow:

Inclines and slops on Westport's urban greenwayInclines and slops on Westport's urban greenway

It’s hard to get across how crazy this hill is and we’re not sure that any one image will do it:Inclines, ramps and slops on Westport's urban greenway

Views from the bottom also give perspective and give an idea of the space available to make the ramp’s incline more safe and easy to use if it was longer and zig-zaged or curved.

It’s easy to say the Netherlands is flat but ramps are not natural features. Where there’s space, as there in many cases in Westport, design could have been a lot better. But we don’t just blame Westport — national guidlines and funding could also have been better.

Inclines, ramps and slops on Westport's urban greenway

Inclines, ramps and slops on Westport's urban greenway

Ramp 5: Blue

Further back the path again… it’s hard to see how bad the slop is to the right of this image below:

Inclines and slops on Westport's urban greenway

This is the kind of gradient where steps with a rail for a bicycle wheel would have made more sense… or better still, the space on the other side of the bridge could have been used for a more cycling-friendly  ramp:

Inclines, ramps and slops on Westport's urban greenwayInclines, ramps and slops on Westport's urban greenway

A wider point not made above is that Westport is actually unusually hilly compared to other Irish towns. Making use of the former railway alignment’s pleasant gradients and better design access points would have been a far better idea to start with, but nothing changes fact that the centre of Westport is above average on the hilliness scale compared to other small to mid sized Irish towns.

There are lessons to be learnt from mistakes made, but Westport was not a great place to start with, except for the tourism drive. And, if we’re honest, that can complicate as much as benefit the goal getting more everyday cycling for its health, environmental and congestion-non-reducing benefits.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Cian,

    I concur about the gradients in Westport (having attempted some of them with a trailer + 2 children they are impossibly steep and quite unsafe).

    As regards …”The three projects are now being independently evaluated and this work will inform future policy on investment in Smarter Travel and what works best in an Irish context”,… the DTTAS has completed and published a comprehensive “Interim Evaluation” report. From his comments, the Minister is either unaware of it or working on a further evaluation (which would be surprising given no actions have yet been taken on foot of the interim evaluation). It is located at http://www.dttas.ie/all-publications and it makes for salient if depressing reading.

    A key takeaway of the interim study is that the scheme has produced negligible results in all three towns when benchmarked against national averages. However all three implementation teams admitted the money was substantively spent in the wrong way. It was immediately diverted towards infrastructure and away from core smarter travel activity, including, for example: behaviour change initiatives, marketing & promotion and community-led activities. Furthermore, all three teams admitted a lack of expertise in behaviour-side planning and recommended increased emphasis on this in future. The report also paints a picture of near total auto-dependency and car-based culture, which the scheme has largely failed to address.

    Best regards,

    David

  2. @David — well-designed and placed infrastructure for cycling for all ages sutable for everyday cycling is also key — see Aldred Rachel’s work and the separate population-level studies on why people don’t cycle.

  3. I love the greenway and got to travel its entire length last year. I hope to cycle it again with my too young girls in a few weeks time. However I plan to start from Newport, the next town along, as it is too difficult to get out of Westport. The town itself has some good infrastructure but the inclines make very unpleasant to navigate. The signage to get onto and off the greenway needs some review too. Top marks for effort but some lessons to be learnt.

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