Ireland’s first off-road cross-country cycle route was proposed yesterday by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Here’s what the minister and his department said:
Running from Dublin to Galway, and based on a similar design to the highly successful Great Western Greenway in Mayo, this new route would be the first cross-country off-road trail in Ireland and would be designed for cyclists, but could also be used by walkers.
Minister Varadkar has instructed the National Roads Authority to look at possible routes for an off-road cycle path from Maynooth to Galway. And within Dublin, the National Transport Authority is already funding detailed design work for sections along the Royal Canal. Dedicated funding for the overall project has not been allocated.
“A national off-road cycle trail would be a first for Ireland and would be a great tourism asset. I have instructed the National Roads Authority and the National Transport Authority to start planning for the project. Ireland doesn’t have a cross-country, off-road cycle route, and this would have significant potential to be marketed internationally and attract new tourists who may want to walk or cycle across Ireland,” Minister Varadkar said.
While no decision has been made on the final route alignment, the Royal Canal is an obvious candidate for the stretch outside Dublin from Mullingar to Maynooth. Some €451,000 has already been allocated by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport to develop a path along the Royal Canal from Boardstown towards the Meath border.
In Dublin, funding from the Department has already extended the Premium Grand Canal Cycle Scheme through the south docklands to Sherriff Street. Funding of €600,000 has also been allocated to develop the Royal Canal path from Blanchardstown to Ashtown. The NTA and local authorities are now considering how to extend this route out to Maynooth.
It’s usually a good sign that a minister is pushing a project, but the proposal is not new and the National Roads Authority has already been tasked with developing the National Cycle Network, including starting with a Dublin-Galway route.
Basing it on a similar design to the Great Western Greenway is not a great idea given that route has sharp 90 degree turns, a lack of priority at crossings of minor roads without decent crossings, narrow gates and cattle grids. Those kind of things are forgivable on a relatively rural recreational route, not so much in a national route which is planned to link two cities and should also link many towns and villages along the way — not just offering a long distance recreational use but short, mid and long cycling commuting, leisure and tourism use.
Here’s some inspiration for the sections that connect larger urban centres:
We can only dream… Here’s some recreational routes in the Netherlands, watch out for the note in the first video where the author gives out about an older, smaller path: