Dublin to Galway Greenway in Co Kildare will be “mediocre”

— Planned use of “more expensive dust surface” is criticised
— Waterways Ireland “only develops environmental concerns” with cycling 

Plans for the Royal Canal Greenway between Maynooth and Dublin are “a lost opportunity of providing a good quality greenway as opposed to a mediocre one”, the Maynooth Cycling Campaign has said.

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The Royal Canal Greenway is part of the wider planned Dublin to Galway route and that in-turn is part of the EuroVelo 2 route, stretching from Galway to Moscow, via London, Rotherdam, Berlin, Warsaw, and Minsk.

As IrishCycle.com has previously reported, the 8.4km section of the route links Maynooth, the Intel Ireland campus, Leixlip and the Co Dublin border — so, it has strong commuting cycling potential both locally and to/from parts of Co Dublin.

“This was a lost opportunity of providing a good quality greenway as opposed to a mediocre one – one which will compares unfavourably with the Waterford Greenway now under construction,” said Maynooth Cycling Campaign in a statement. “The area engineer reportedly gave an undertaking to councillors that he would fully address the concerns of Maynooth Cycling Campaign. He hasn’t.”

The campaign has asked why a width of only 3 metres or 2.5 metres in small sections is maintained even where there’s space for a wider path, and it asked who will pay for the significance additional maintenance cost of using an unbounded surface for sections of the route.

In a planning report, Kildare Council Council said: “It is felt that the introduction of an asphalt material throughout the scheme could have a negative impact on the rural setting of the route and Waterways Ireland who operates the canal outlined their preference for a grit surface. The grit dust surface will not have such a strong visual impact and will sit more naturally into the environment.”

But a consultant’s report on the surface quality of the Dublin to Galway Greenway contradicts the council. The report on surface quality said: “It is recommended to provide a bituminous surface on the full length of the Galway to Dublin Greenway for reasons of quality, comfort, safety, reduced maintenance and better whole life costs.”

Referring to the visual impacts of bounded vs unbounded surfaces, the report stated that a preference for unbounded surfaces “reflects subjective perceptions and is not supported by scientific evidence to demonstrate what is meant by ‘a sense of the environment’ and why one type of material is considered to be more natural than another.”

The unbounded are also said to have greater environment impacts as the dust or grit is pushed into the canal by surface water. But the council said a 1 metre grass buffer between the greenway path and the canal would stop this from happening.

The consultant’s report also said  that unbounded surfaces, such as quarry dust or grit had initial low installation cost and simple construction, but had many negatives. The negatives listed included: High maintenance costs; skidding in wet conditions; fall and trip hazards; dirt or grit getting into chain drive of bicycles; that the dust surface is a nuisance for wheelchairs and buggies, particularly in wet conditions; and vegetation encroachment.

The report added that unbounded surfaces are “not liked by some cyclists, especially heavily
laden touring cyclists”, so, such surfaces do “not deliver on the objective of attracting international tourists” and it is has a poor aesthetic quality because it is “perceived as cheap and rudimentary.”

Maynooth Cycling Campaign said: “Waterways Ireland claims to require a dust surface in rural areas for environmental and ecological reasons. However Waterways Ireland is happy to provide a bituminous surface for motorised traffic on some rural parts of the canal – it only develops environmental and ecological concerns where cyclists are involved.”

The campaign said that the reasons for rejecting widening the path — including obtaining private land where needed — are “equally disingenuous”.

“Maynooth Cycling Campaign accepts that it is not feasible to widen the greenway everywhere but it does not accept the starting point of Kildare County Council which is that it cannot be widened anywhere. Kildare County Council proposes a greenway 2.5m wide in parts – one to be shared with pedestrians. Conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians are common on such towpaths across the UK,” the campaign said on its website.

It called on the council to, in so far as is feasible, follow what it says is international best practice from Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark “where inter urban routes for cyclists are 4m wide.”

The campaign said that Kildare County Council has “promoted” cycling for nearly twenty years, but that the level of cycling has mostly declined in that time and low quality routes will not help reverse the trend.

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  1. As someone who very regularly uses part of the route under discussion for commuting, and is very frustrated by the lack of progress to date, I would largely agree with the arguments that a bitumen surface and greater width would be desirable in order that the path achieve it’s potential as a transport resource.

    However, it is also a wonderful environmental resource, and having ridden the Grand Canal cycleway, I would have serious misgivings about turning sections of the Royal canal into a similarly ugly concrete pathway (at least from Lucan to the Long Mile road) with no room at all for nature. I am far from an expert in urban design, but surely there is a balance that could be struck that would keep all parties reasonably satisfied?

  2. I fully agree with Barry’s comment. We need to be careful with cycle routes along scenic and biodiversity-rich water courses like the Dodder and the Dublin canals. A too-wide and over engineered cycleway will take (literally) from the views we want to enjoy on our cycle. This has happened with the Grand canal from the 3rd. to 12th. lock.

  3. The biggest problem with the route from adamstown to inchicore is that it is inaccessable to tandems and cargo bikes and trailers.As a route through an urban area it is a bit industrial but not many could have travelled on the surface which was replaced. It has not been a rural idyll for many years. A better comparison might be the grand canal near hazelhatch where grit has been used, the effort needed to cycle is far greater than on the Mullingar/Athlone and it looks like it will need a lot of maintenance to prevent it reverting to a rutted track.

  4. “Waterways Ireland claims to require a dust surface in rural areas for environmental and ecological reasons”
    Why? Or what does that mean?
    Surely if your going to build it. Build it properly with a product that will last.

    Does any body know the cost per km of building one surface over the other? I would guess the sums are small either way.

    Having Cycled on both around Mullingar it’s a pain when you hit the loose stuff and we are on Folding bikes.

    As for the Grand Canal. I use it frequently from Blackhorse to Clondakin. Yes it’s brutal and has too many gates. But it’s quick, safe, away from cars (the whole point, no?) and packed with bikes at rush hour. So lay off the Grand Canal Cycle way.

  5. Love to know what you all think of the so called kissing-gates, this ruins the cycle for me. I feel like I’m constantly getting on and off the bike, must be a better solution to stopping the antisocial element.

  6. Kissing gates are a reasonable solution where a route is low usage and you are a normal bike they will stop cattle but this can also be done with cattle grids. They don’t stop the real hardcore antisocial element.I have seen ponies being led through the kissing gates and their trotting sulkies being lifted over to race on the towpath. There is not much that can clear a cycleway as quick as a trotting pony at speed.
    My problem with kissing gates is they exclude several of my favourite bikes like my boxbike’tandem and recumbent.
    I think if we proposed gates on the road to stop boy racers we would be told it is a daft idea so why do we have to put up with them on a busy commuter route.

  7. Points taken on the Adamstown to Inchicore stretch of the Grand Canal having been grim for years before the cycle track. I was not having a go at it, just making the point that the Royal Canal is still a great resource for nature at least from Blanchardstown outwards, and that should be preserved as much as possible. That said, I do want to see a hard surface, as while an ash track may be more visually appealing to some, it is actually more damaging to the environment and harder to maintain. The ash track from Louisa Bridge to Confey in Leixlip is in an awful state as no maintenance work has been done on it to my knowledge since it was put in place 5 or 6 years ago if I recall correctly. This is exactly what will happen to this stretch if this surface is used.

  8. The Royal and Grand Canal are man made structures. I can’t see why making another man-made road beside it to walk and cycle on should be made substandard because people want pristine nature.
    There’s any amount of river banks to walk alongside, although I’m surprised BT&Mannix (there’s a combination no one ever expected) didn’t use the nature argument againsty the Liffey cycle route.
    Even Nial Ring hasn’t objected to the nature destruction of the Clontarf cycle route.

    An argument could be made for a lower quality surface on the section in the wilder bit from Enfield to Mullingar, where’ll the there’ll be lower daily traffic, but not on a commuter route.
    I don’t think that that should be done, it should be a high quality surface all the way. If it’s done right once, it’ll never need doing again.

    • Yes. There should be no compromise on a tarmac surface even in rural areas.
      To look at the promotional pictures for Green and Cycle ways around the country it’s happy families with children under ten.
      (Our family) that the county councils want to attract. Well they won’t if they make it for mountain bikes.
      Also they must ask themselves “what would the Dutch do”?

  9. I cycle the Leixlip to Porterstown stretch a few times a week. It’s not pristine (where is these days) but it’s a pretty nice stretch; the usual herons, swans and rabbits, but I’ve also seen Kingfishers and even an otter in the Deep Sinking. I would just prefer not to see that lost if at all possible. I agree that the surface should be high quality, and not loose grit, but I believe that 3 meters is wide enough for the rural sections.

  10. Since a large part of the impetus of building the green ways is to attract tourism maybe the question should be what would the Dutch want us to do? We aim for a premium product in all our other tourism offerings so why do it on the cheap when it comes to cycling. The modern cyclist has proved willing to spend on their hobby so let’s give them (and us) a premium product.

  11. used the cycle track from Mullingar to Athlone which is brilliant, and then the Greenway from Westport to Achill which I was very disappointed with. Useless for a heavily laden tourist with very steep hills and poorly made gravel tracks, a touring bike needs a tarmac surface. Gravel is bad for the tyres and dangerous if you should fall.
    thanks, Aidan

  12. Aidan back again. Cycled from Dun Laoghaire to Mullingar and back on a folding bicycle, using the Royal Canal as much as possible. First part out from Dublin was very good, but the gates would soon end fun for a tourist. I saw swans and herons at less than one metre away.
    Walked through the cutting for two ? miles..The next sections has grass surfaces which tired me. so I went back to the roads until the Hill of Down. From there to Mullingar was .mostly loose sharp gravel. Not a great surface for any bicycle because you lose traction, the bike is less stable and I wouldn’t like to fall off onto it with bare arms and legs. I also wondered how soon my tyres would last. Get a puncture on that gravel and it gets inside your tyre.
    The Dublin side of Hill of Down was sharp stones so I used the roads instead.
    Mullingar has the longest cycle paths in the country between canal towpaths and the old rail trail to Athlone.
    Tried to use the Barrow Way to Waterford but I did not really exist for cyclists. There were even barriers under the bridges which prevented me taking the bike through, and gates for anorexic walkers which did the same thing.
    Waterford to Dungarvan greenway very good. Westport to Achill a big disappointment. at least with a heavily laden bicycle.


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