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Galway bicycle share failings blamed on removal of key station and on-way streets

Because Galway City Council decided to omit planned docking stations and ignore recommendations on cycling on one-way streets, the Coca-Cola Zero Bikes scheme in Galway was always going to be off to a rocky start, campaigners have said.

The Galway Cycling Campaign said they welcomed the scheme but its success was “in doubt from the start” because of the failings of the council. They were responding to the news that Galway’s public bicycle system is the least-used scheme out of the four across Ireland.

Robert Mc Kenny, chairman of the Galway Cycling Campaign, said: “City Hall, in a last minute U-turn, removed one of the three largest docking stations from the scheme due to concerns over loss of 4–5 car parking spaces. The decision to completely remove a station capable of holding up to 30 bicycles, one of only three of that size, clearly showed the priorities of City Hall at the time. UHG and NUIG lost their primary docking station link to the city centre even before rollout.”

The campaign pointed out that only 13 stations out of 15 originally planned stations are operational in Galway and that the greatest distance is between stations at Fr Burke Road and City Hall, which are 1.7km apart.

The group said if city had the same number of stations as Limerick (23), or Cork (31), and if the one-way streets issue were dealt with, “then it could match those cities’ usage numbers”. As we have reported, Cork installed contra-flow on a number of its city centre streets before the Coca-Cola Zero Bikes scheme arrived in that city.

“One-way streets lead to long detours for cyclists,” campaign member Shane Foran explained. “There is a bike share station on Mainguard Street near St Nicholas Church. The distance to the next bike share station at Newtownsmith is 350m. Because of the one-way street system and a ban on cycling in the pedestrian zone, the return journey from Newtownsmith to Mainguard St. is 1.1km by the northern route and 2.1km by the southern route.”

One-way streets as a barrier to cycling in Galway has been an on-going campaigning issues which Galway City Council has not acted on. Campaigners point to the Jacobs Report, which was the initial feasibility study for the bike share scheme. It described the city as “awkward to navigate by bike” and recommended providing two-way cycling on one-way streets – a common feature in other European cities.

“Two-way cycling on one-way streets has been in the City Development Plan for a decade now, and the Jacobs Report stressed its importance in its Executive Summary,” said Campaign PRO Oisín Ó Nidh. “If Galway City Council had followed the recommendations of the Jacobs Report, then Galway would not be in last place.”

As reported before the system launched in Galway, city councillors in Galway forced the removal of one of the largest docking stations outside the National Univerity of Ireland Galway. While this was one of the only docking stations outside the city centre, councillors claimed they wanted more docking stations in suburbs.

In August, the minister for transport announced 8 new Galway bike scheme stations, but no details have been made public to date. We have this morning requested further details from the National Transport Authority about this plan.

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Cian Ginty

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