— 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.
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.”
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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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