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”.
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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.