Our submission to the Strategy for the Future Development of Greenways

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The following is the IrishCycle.com public consultation submission to the National Strategy for the Future Development of Greenways: It is answered in Q&A format as provided by the Department of Transport:

Why invest in Greenways

Do you agree that the State should invest in greenways?

Yes, but the funding must be linked to better design. For example:

(1) Access for all types of use: For example, the surface should be suitable for and no barriers should in in any way hinder access by legitimate users (ie wheelchairs, large or double buggies, cargo bicycles etc).

2) Better quality design for safety and attractiveness: For example, if bollards are needed they should not be placed on bends, or on slopes. And crossing of national or local roads must be fully segregated or, at the very least, include significant traffic calming and single lane crossings (ie use of central mediums to allow people to cross in stages).

What do you consider to be the most important benefits that greenways can deliver in Ireland?

The most important benefits are that the greenways which can unlock the the combined benefits of increasing local population health, add to local/regional/national tourism offerings and provide safe and attractive transport options (from rural to rural, rural to town, town to town, suburbs to town, suburbs to city etc).

Are there benefits to be derived from greenways other than those set out above?

Within the transport benefits mentioned above, a strong selling point of greenways is that they can offer safe and attractive non-car based transport solutions to people in rural areas.

This is especially important in regards to giving children and teenagers mobility freedom and offering rural residents without access to a car easier and safer access to transport. Transport in this case may include walking or cycling to rural locations (a friend’s house, a school, a shop or post office) or to the nearest urban centre.

What benefits should be given primary consideration when considering investment in future greenway projects?

The most important is the combined benefits of health, tourism and transport. Although that is not to say that projects which are mainly of benefit to one of those elements is not worth funding.

Should the State invest in greenways that do not offer the full range of benefits set out in this Chapter, e.g. greenways that do not offer real potential to develop tourist/visitor interest but provide a local recreational facility?

Yes, local / regional recreational use is the core reason for building such off road cycleways / greenways in other countries (ie the Netherlands).

Common issues arising in the development of greenways

I will answer the following three questions together:

  • How should local authorities and/or other greenway project developers engage with local communities on greenway proposals?
  • What level of consultation should take place and at what stage should this be initiated?  
  • Is consultation as part of any statutory requirements sufficient?

Consultation is not a one-size-fits all glove — Greenways routed across state owned land or mostly along such should not be treated the same as a cross-country route using mainly land which will be acquired.

With slight improvement, the existing Part 8 system is sufficient for state-owned lands. Currently, many projects lack details such as access arrangements gradients etc, and a lack of detailed drawings. This must be improved by ministerial order and/or linked as a funding requirement.

With the project over lands which are currently privately owned, landowner consultation is key, however, landowner-only consultation should not be the first element of consultation. Before detailed routes are selected, there should be concept consultation with the general public covering a wide area with no defined routes.

For example, Mayo County Council has a country greenway strategy but there is little public knowledge and, thus, limited support for it. It is not good enough to get such documents approved by councillors. The public, businesses, local groups and local TDs etc should be involved in the process.

Landowner consultation needs to be sensitively communicated with but when close contact with landowners comes before wider public buy-in, there is greater potential for landowners to hold out.

The state is right to continue to maintain that it will in some cases need to use CPOs for greenways or other walking and cycling routes in the public interest. But to continue to maintain this, wider public buy-in is of key importance. For example, if a greenway or section of such is blocked by possible unfounded fears, then the local and regional community (from children to adults) suffers, the potential for business suffers, and the environment suffers.

Use of Public/State Land vs private land for development of Greenways

Should local authorities and/or other project developers seek to use State-owned lands, where possible, for the development of greenways?

Yes, but that must be balanced with the goal of maximise benefits — for example, routing via or having branches to/from attractive landscapes, urban areas, and tourist attractions, and routes which a designed for use for all ages and abilities (ie avoid harsh gradients, unwarranted detours from more direct routes etc).

Are there reasons why State-owned lands should not be used for the further development of greenways in the State?

While state-owned lands can be an attractive option for greenways, state lands should not be always chosen because they are the easiest route to construction  when alternative routes can provide greater tourism, health and transport benefits.

Are there particular types of State-owned lands that would not be appropriate for the development of greenways?  If so, why?

Yes. Lands directly beside the carriageway of national and regional roads, especially without any green buffer space, should be avoided. However the use of roadside routing can be useful to link different sections of greenway (as per the Great WesternGreenway).

Use of greenways routes partly using arrow country local roads should also be avoided unless these are only access for a limited number of houses / farm yards and the road generally has good sight lines.

How can the synergies between ‘blueways’ and ‘greenways’ be maximised to provide most benefit to the future development of outdoor recreational infrastructure in the State?

These are effectively marketing terms aimed at different or overlapping audiences.

Land Access Arrangements

Is the permissive access model an appropriate basis for the future development of greenways in the State?

No. it makes little sense to continue the permissive access model. It results in a massive undertaking for council staff to get agreenway route agreed and to maintain in. It has serious safety implications when a landowner closes part of the route and forces locals and tourists onto busy main roads (as had happened due to unrelated disputes between landowners and a council, relating to non-greenway issues in a different part of a county).

Permissive access arrangements can avoid potentially expensive land acquisition costs in the development of greenways but are there other benefits to using this model that would render it more appropriate in certain circumstances?

Permissive access should only be used in limited cases, ie where a landowner wants to offer a branch off a greenway to an attraction. However, the model as generally outlived its usefulness. Even where it is used to make a branch off a maingreenway, the model may risk state investment and agreements may not be enough unless the state is willing to face large legal costs if the landowner pulls out against the agreement.

What type of greenway projects would permissive access be suitable for?

See above.

Are there projects that it would be unsuitable for?

See above.

Acquisition of land

Where a proposed greenway route involves access to privately owned land do you think that CPO is a valid mechanism for the acquisition of land on a route?

Yes. The benefits of greenways — especially (but not exclusively) where there is any level of combined benefits — easily means that greenways fall under the common good principle of the CPO process.

There has been a lot of misinformation about all aspects of CPO and greenways. Farming groups and others have tried to muddy the waters and deny the facts that (1) greenways easily come used the common good principle of CPOs, (2) that the CPO system is a process which involves negotiation with landowners and (3) all costs are paid to landowners, including the market rate of the land, and any costs which can be calculated including the reduced costs of any retained lands, costs of disruption, loss of profit and legal or other fees linked to the sale of the land.

If you don’t think CPO is valid, what alternatives would you suggest?

 n/a

At what level should consultation take place with landowners where CPO is being considered – at the individual landowner level or with representative bodies?

Mainly at individual landowner level. Unless landowners give a group some kind of legal powers of negotiation, it is unclear why or even how representative bodies should have any greater input that any group or individual has.

What approach should be taken to the future development of greenways – a network approach or other?

Generally a network approach is needed to link to other greenways, cycle routes and to provide access to residential areas, accommodation, attractions and transport hubs (bicycle hire, parking, train and bus stops, ports, airports etc).

Should the concept of the National Cycle Network as proposed in the 2010 NCN Scoping Study be developed or set aside?
 
The 2010 network should be developed and modified / added to where needed.

Is it appropriate for the State to invest in individual greenway projects that may never have potential to connect to othergreenways or substantially off-road cycle facilities?

Yes. Such routes could serve local areas and be served by car parking, public transport or local bicycle hire. Priority, however, should in most cases be given to routes where authorities have plans for links to longer greenways, and links into large town, cities or notable transport hubs.

Should the Greenways Strategy aim to develop a network of interconnected greenways or should alternative approaches be considered?

Generally the goal should be to have an interconnected network, although links can be made as means of (non-greenway) segregated cycle paths and footpaths along streets and roads. Routing via narrow rural roads with limited through access for motorists may also be considered but it should even small to mid-sized farms can have high movements of farm machinery and deliveries by large trucks.

An approach based on EuroVelo?

Do EuroVelo 1 and EuroVelo 2 offer an approach for the development of greenways and other cycle routes in Ireland?

EuroVelo 1 and EuroVelo 2 should be only seen as a section of the longer-term greenway / recreational / tourism cycle network. Just as some of our national road network are also classed as Europe routes.

A far more suitable approach for Ireland is to look at the Netherlands and their high-quality network of day trips (local/regional) and long-distance cycle route — some routes are both day trips and long-distances, but other routes will just be long-distance or day trips (some long-distance routes will also be EuroVelo routes).

Striving for the Dutch quality of recreational routes will not only attract Dutch tourist to but those from Germany who are used to the Dutch standards and many others from around the world.

Do you have experience of cycling on a Eurovelo route on continental Europe? Do you think the development of EuroVelo routes in Ireland would help to increase cycle numbers?

Yes, in the Netherlands. Even in an area away from urban areas (across large hilly sand dunes), large sections of the route had footpaths alongside a cycleway.

Should the focus of the Greenways Strategy be on greenways in the strictest sense (fully or substantially off-road) or should the use of lightly-trafficked roads like those on EuroVelo routes also be considered if a ‘network’ approach is to be taken?

The Greenways Strategy and greenways should only include very low-trafficked. Some of the roads included on the EuroVelo routes in Ireland are not lightly-trafficked and these should be removed and some sections include routing or a number of crossing of regional roads or busy cycling-unfriendly local roads.

There is a real danger that some so-called low-trafficked routes will damage the reputation of Ireland’s for cycling tourism. While the process of building a high-quality network is in its early stages, extra care needs to be take to avoid to rush to spend money on signposts without funding and accepting the need for junction improvements, traffic calming, traffic limiting, sections of segregation etc.

The department should organise a clear system of classification to avoid routes being marketed at the wrong users and damaging Ireland’s brand. In that respect greenways should be largely off-road (at least to the level of the Great WesternGreenway) and routes which are not largely off road should not be allowed to use national greenway signage.

What role, if any, should EuroVelo routes play in the Greenways Strategy?

EuroVelo should not have a major effect on the overall Strategy.

Urban Greenways

Should the Greenways Strategy address the development of urban greenways or should these continue to be pursued in the context of urban Transport Strategies as referenced above?

Yes, the Strategy should deal with urban greenways — for every large town or city connected with a greenway, most will have some section of greenway within urban areas.

Greenway users, standards and accessibility

What type of surface should be used on Greenways?

Greenways should generally used bounded surfaces (ie tarmac / asphalt) — tar and chip and lower surfaces should be avoided both of safety grounds and accessible ground. This especially applies for young and teenage children on bicycles and in trailers etc, wheelchair users and the likelihood of having people not used to cycling using conventional and electric bicycles.

Should different areas (rural/urban) have different surfaces?

Generally both should have high-quality surfaces, but urban or interurban routes should segregate walking and cycling.

Should access be controlled or open?

No barriers should in in any way hinder access by legitimate users (ie wheelchairs, large or double buggies, cargo bicycles etc). If bollards are needed they should not be placed on bends, or on slopes.

Any other comments/suggestions?

The quality of greenway route design and the connectivity right into urban areas and to transport hubs, etc needs to be improved if Ireland wants to attract locals and international potential greenway users.

4 Comments

  1. Stephen McManus July 17, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Great submission Cian. The focus on local communities as the primary users and beneficiaries makes a lot of sense. There are many points I hadn’t even thought about, so this was an educational read also.

  2. Excellent and well considered responses. Good emphasis on strategic network approach and on connections and design.

  3. Great job Cian. Really comprehensive. You’ve included a huge amount of stuff I just hadn’t thought of. Let’s hope the government (the Transport Dept and the county councils) find the money to truly develop a country full of cycle routes for all.

  4. Great submission Cian. A lot of good suggestions there to develop a more focused and effective strategy.

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