Cycling campaigners differ widely on South Kerry Greenway

— Kerry Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie welcomes project, wants design changes.
— Galway Cycling Campaign wants rejection of planning application.

Cycling campaigners have taken widely different views on the South Kerry Greenway — from two groups overall supporting it with a ask to fix details, to a third group calling for an outright rejection of the planning application for the walking and cycling route in its current form.

The 32km greenway is planned to go broadly parallel to the Ring of Kerry N70 route (pictured above) between Glenbeigh and Reenard via Cahersiveen in County Kerry. If approved by An Bord Pleanála, it will mostly — although not totally — run along the abandon alignment of part of the Farranfore to Valencia Harbour Railway.

The Kerry Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie — an umbrella body of a number of national cycling campaigns — welcome the project but want key design changes. Meanwhile, the Galway Cycling Campaign wants the rejection of planning application and for the council to resubmit a new planning application for the route.

Keith Phelan of the Kerry Cycling Campaign wrote in the group’s submission that: “We wish to indicate our full support to the proposed South Kerry Greenway which has the potential to revitalise the South Kerry area by opening up the region to increased tourism levels and to encourage greater levels of walking and cycling locally.”

However, the Kerry Cycling Campaign said that the chicanes designs which require cyclists to dismount at crossings of roads is contrary to the TII Rural Cycleway Design guidance. The group quotes the guidance which states: “Chicanes on approach should be provided to slow cyclists on the approach crossings. This is for speed control rather than access control measure and should not force users to dismount”

The Kerry group also noted that “The proposal provides for a 3m wide greenway along the route. We suggest that this 3 metres be a minimum standard width for a low volume route as defined in Table 4.1 of TII’s ‘Rural Cycleway Design’ guidelines. If this route is to Town it would be expected to have a high volume of users, and thus the width should be increased where possible.”
“So-called South Kerry Greenway”

The Galway Cycling Campaign called the greenway route the “so-called South Kerry Greenway”.

On its website, it said: “The misguided and unhelpful conduct of some recent ‘greenway’ projects by local authorities has been hugely damaging to the brand of cycling and created needless acrimony between farming and cycling interests. The South Kerry scheme could set a positive or negative national precedent.  If conducted incorrectly, it could set the national farming community in opposition to greenway projects for a generation. The Galway Cycling Campaign wishes to avoid this outcome and has made a submission to An Bord Pleanála.”

The group said that the council has failed to comply with EU directives on environmental impact assessment in not looking at all options for the route.

The Galway Cycling Campaign said that while the council looked at four options — on the main road, along the abandoned railway route, a new greenfield route, or do nothing — but that the council did not adequately look at using minor roads.

They said: “Consultants make no apparent mention of using minor country lanes or boreens. This option if available could involve little engineering and would be less environmentally damaging than any of the proposed works in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR)… We find no discussion of this option – even to dismiss it – in the EIAR.”

“We have discussed the Eurovelo guidelines previously in relation to the problematic Dublin Galway Greenway proposals. Tourist cycling routes should be kept well away from heavy traffic but they do not need to be completely traffic-free. Across Europe cycling tourists and family groups make extensive use of low-traffic roads as part of local and national cycle networks,” said the Galway Cycling Campaign.

The group said that it is not just a matter of “passively finding roads that match the criteria” but that “Local authorities will actively manage minor rural roads to reduce and divert inappropriate motor traffic and provide for walking and cycling.”

The Galway Cycling Campaign said: “The ordnance survey map shows a range of minor roads on the Iveragh Peninsula that might form part of the proposed route.  Possible options can also be found using Google Streetview.”

The group wants the rejection of the current application and require that any new EIAR “reflects the relevant EU and state policies”.

Broadly welcomes, disappointed with design elements

Colm Ryder, chairperson of Cyclist.ie, said: “Cyclist.ie broadly welcomes this greenway proposal, which will improve local opportunities for active mobility, as well as attract increased visitors to the region and help to grow business and employment.  However we are disappointed with a number of the design elements, that leave cyclists at a disadvantage and reduce their safety levels. These elements need to be rectified in any final design.”

He said there should be better links to and in villages and schools.

Cyclist.ie noted their “dismay the adherence to 3 metre wide route throughout the design” when guidence calls for wider on busier routes. Ryder said: “There is no doubt that the likely usage/demand on this route will be very high, and bike hire businesses will be set up to cater for expected business… This route should have a minimum desired width standard of at least 4 metres, and only be reduced to 3 metres in areas of constraint.”

“The detailed design of private road crossings, at entrances/exits to and from private property should clearly give preference to the Greenway users.  In essence these crossings have been designed as crossings of public roads as outlined in TII guidelines, rather than recognising the limited use of these exits/entrances.  It is imperative that the safety of route users is protected, and their use of the route given priority across these private roads. Vehicles entering and exiting at these crossing  points should give way to Greenway users.”

Cyclist.ie also said there were sections of the route which are “unnecessarily circuitous route through a series of uncomfortable and unacceptable angular turns, which could be easily avoided.”

EDITED FOR CLARITY:An edit was made to the opening paragraph– it originally said “…to a third group calling for an outright rejection of the walking and cycling route in its current form” and this was changed to: “…to a third group calling for an outright rejection of the planning application for the walking and cycling route in its current form.” This clarity was already in the standfirst, so, the first paragraph should have been read in this context, but was added to the first paragraph to add clarity.

EDIT #2: The following paragraph was also added for clarity:The group wants the rejection of the current application and require that any new EIAR “reflects the relevant EU and state policies”. | Please note: It was the original intent of this article to include that the Galway Cycling Campaign wanted the application to be re-submitted.

EDIT #3: The line “…resubmit a new planning application for the route,” originally said resubmit a new plan for the route.” These two should be viewed as saying the same thing, but the wording was changed for clarity.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

17 Comments

  1. Minor roads have their place in Greenway design but EV routes abroad are not comparable to Irl. I don’t have access to Google maps right now but our proliferation of one-off rural housing means that minor roads often have commuters, delivery vehicles incl oil trucks, airbnb users etc on them. I have to say I’d only take my 8 yr old grandchild on a segregated route in Irl whereas she cycles on genuinely minor roads at home in Germany. Imo KCC don’t seem to be repeating the mistakes of Athlone/Gway as they have spent yrs engaging w land-owners.

  2. Hi Cian your article is incorrect. The Galway Cycling Campaign have called for a report exploring all the options which means we have called for a rejection of the current Environmental Impact report. This is not an outright rejection of the current route. Elements of the current route might be the only option. As an observation the current proposals will require construction traffic consisting of 22000 HGV movements and 58000 light goods vehicle movements. That by itself is an environmental impact. Our submission to An Bord Pleanala also raised the junction treatments.

  3. I note that we have called for the project to be resubmitted with additional information this is hardly an “outright” rejection.

  4. Also we have not called for a “new plan” as you put it. We have asked for a report discussing all the options.

  5. Hi Cian with regard to your comment that the terms [plan] and [planning application] “These two should be viewed as saying the same thing,” This is not correct I am afraid. They are very different things. There is a legally defined planning process derived from EU law. If a developer fails to follow that process in making their application and the application is rejected. This not a rejection of the plan. Think of it this way, if you apply for a passport and fail to sign the photographs a rejection does not mean you are not entitled to a passport it just means you need to follow the correct process if you want a passport.

  6. With regard to the headline I suspect that there is little practical difference in the positions of the various campaign groups. I would be shocked if they are not all looking for the implementation of the National Cycle Network contained in Objective 3 of the National Cycle Policy Framework. This “provides for a national cycle network that may include greenways and disused railway corridors but also makes extensive use of minor roads”. The latter is a straight quote from our submission to An Bord Pleanala

  7. The headline is backed up in the article based on the submissions (regardless of agreement or non agreement with positions, just on the submissions made) — based on the submissions, two groups want details fixed and the approval of the current application, and one group wants the current application rejected — the fills the bar of differs widely for me.

    Regarding wording — news articles are written in casual enough language. An example in cycling terms is that I’ll often refer to cycle lanes when legally speaking cycle lanes are called “cycle tracks”.

    I’ve tried to be fair and reasonable with some edits for clarity.

  8. @Shane
    Where do you stand on the point that Joan makes? I can’t speak for Kerry or indeed Galway, but Wexford and Kildare have such huge numbers of one-off houses on every minor lane that traffic levels are much higher than similar roads on the continent.
    People I know that live in rural areas are generally afraid to cycle on local roads for this reason as well as the fact that drivers frequently drive down these lanes at high speed taking no account of the poor visibility caused by bends and absolutely not expecting to meet cyclists.
    There is a minor lane greenway in place in south Wexford which may be quiet enough to make it work (though it is due to be replaced by a former rail line greenway), but outside of a few very sparsely populated areas like this and maybe parts of Leitrim the only way for it to work would be to restrict car speeds using chicanes, install a lot of clear warning signs and ideally introduce no-through way zones as has been done in Glasnevin in an urban context. I suspect that would enrage the farming fraternity even more than having to sell back their small tracts of former state land for the common good.

  9. Hi Cian I am glad that you feel you can justify your headline based on the now amended content. I need to note that the groups you have mentioned are united in a desire to create a dense and extensive network of family-friendly and child-friendly routes around the country. To my knowledge they all share a goal to deliver Objective 3 of the National Cycle Policy Framework. I am not aware of any dispute within the cycling campaigning community on the legal meanings and import of the EU directives on Environmental Impact or resource efficiency and sustainable development. Cyclist.ie retweeted the Galway Cycling Campaign observations on the conduct of the planning process in Kerry. Nevertheless someone looking at your article might construe it as intended to convey the existence of some fundamental dispute on the matter. As you are aware the South Kerry Greenway proposal is almost certain to be a matter of an oral hearing that is likely to be adversarial with cross examinations conducted by legal counsel. There is a good chance of the matter coming before the High Court. In that case the format will be even more adversarial with every nuance of every statement picked over. With respect Cian I think you need to ask yourself if the manner of your reporting is likely to help or to hinder correct and accurate discussions in such circumstances? I think you need to ask yourself if your writings are likely to be used to help the efforts of those trying to grow cycling or whether they provide ammunition to those trying to undermine the delivery of the National Cycle Policy Framework?

  10. @Aka why don’t you read the write up on the Galway Cycling Campaign website? There are links there to Google streetview. Our position is that if local roads are not a reasonable alternative then the developer (Kerry County Council) needs to do a report showing why this is the case. The examination of such reasonable alternatives is also a legal requirement of the planning process. If you feel able to look into your heart and see what the farmers of Ireland do or don’t want then fair play to you. Down here in Galway the papers regularly feature complaints about rat running through local roads and seeking action. In order to deliver this project Kerry County Council propose to generate 22000 HGV movements and 58000 light goods vehicle movements. To manage this they propose to change the traffic arrangements on local roads either side of the N70 included putting in one-way arrangements. It is reasonable to ask if Kerry County Council can reconfigure local country lanes to keep HGVs flowing then why can they not also do the same thing to provide a family-friendly cycling environment?

  11. Shane Foran is taking a very balanced view and clearly understands that land owners and rural communities must be listened to at every stage of the process to deliver cycling infrastructure in this country. Landowners around the country are closely watching the events in Kerry. If the CPO process is used to acquire working farmland in Kerry, other projects to deliver cycling infrastructure will run in to a brick wall. Following the TII/NRA fiasco in east Galway in 2015 the Galway Cycling Campaign is correct to suggest that the ” South Kerry scheme could set a positive or negative national precedent. If conducted incorrectly, it could set the national farming community in opposition to greenway projects for a generation”. I believe that this project in Kerry is a watershed moment for cycling in Ireland. It is imperative that Kerry County Council and the Dept. of Transport, even at this late stage, see the bigger picture and sit down with the communities involved to identify an acceptable route rather than using CPO. This has not happened to date despite what KCC are claiming.
    Colm Ryder’s suggestion that “It is imperative that the safety of route users is protected, and their use of the route given priority across these private roads. Vehicles entering and exiting at these crossing points should give way to Greenway users” highlights Mr. Ryder’s complete disregard for rural inhabitants.

  12. @Diff Daff
    The inescapable fact remains that a greenway that follows the (formerly state-owned) railway line through open countryside remains vastly preferable as an amenity and as a tourist attraction that will genuinely benefit the area and it’s wider inhabitants and not just the landowners as opposed to any possible alternatives such as quiet lanes (which are few and far between in rural Ireland) or cycleways alongside busy roads which have no appeal for tourists.

  13. @Diff Daff — how exactly is a public greenway path having priority over a private road amounting to disregard to rural dwellers?

  14. Could someone explain why our motorway and gas-pipeline networks were developed by recourse to CPO process, when necessary, and why national cycling infrastructure is different?
    CPO is not a land-grab. It is fair compensation for proven loss.

  15. The only land grab was where people,mainly farmers around the country took ownership of parts of the closed railways by adverse possession or squatters rights or as many see it by theft. The management in CIE were glad to see it go so they would not be called upon to reopen lines. They should have prosecuted for squandering state owned resources.

  16. the reference to the “so called South Kerry Greenway” because its really mid Kerry and there may be a more southerly greenway at some point. Heres the missing link to the GCC website http://www.galwaycycling.org/south-kerry-greenway-council-planning-application-to-an-bord-pleanala-does-not-comply-with-eu-environmental-impact-directives/

  17. The 2009 National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF) “The network identified will mainly use a mix of minor roads, and some greenways.” http://www.smartertravel.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/2013_01_03_0902%2002%20EnglishNS1274%20Dept.%20of%20Transport_National_Cycle_Policy_v4%5B1%5D%5B1%5D.pdf Maybe Im being a bit literal but that sentence suggest it doesn’t consider the minor roads to be part of greenways, because otherwise it wouldn’t say “minor roads, and some greenways”. Even Failte Ireland the seems to follow that logic http://www.failteireland.ie/FailteIreland/media/WebsiteStructure/Documents/3_Research_Insights/1_Sectoral_SurveysReports/CyclingStrategy2007.pdf?ext=.pdf at 4.2.3 pg 29 is referring to the overall network rather then a greenway which is what this plan is for.

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