Three Smarter Travel area projects — Limerick city, and the towns of Westport, and Dungarvan — are now under independently evaluated and Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, has said that “this work will inform future policy on investment in Smarter Travel and what works best in an Irish context” — but should it? Are these areas good examples to start with?
Readers might know our answer as we’ve previous covered 5 reasons Westport falls short of providing for everyday cycling — one of the issues was the crazy gradient on ramps on the town’s cycle network and, in this article, we have more examples of the issues involved.
Usually “cyclist dismount” signs are overkill and not required, but around Westport you should be aware of such warnings…
We’re going to look at five ramps in a distance of around 400 metres on the south-east end of the town:
Ramp 1: Red
The location below is literary a high point of Westport’s urban greenway… it’s not a section too many tourists would use as it’s away from the main route to the main trunk of the Great Western Greenway.
Look below, and keep scrolling down as two photographs had to be stitch together to combine the view of looking straight across and looking down at the top of the hill:
Ramp 2: Yellow
But it’s not the highest point, that’s further back. Back behind an awkward railway underpass of a siding: This incline is not as cycling-friendly as it could be, but the real question is: Is the railway siding really needed this far into the greenway? And way wasn’t a link to the railway station provided?
Ramp 3: Green
Ramp 4: Purple
But this one below is the worst of the ramps and another dismount sign you should follow:
Views from the bottom also give perspective and give an idea of the space available to make the ramp’s incline more safe and easy to use if it was longer and zig-zaged or curved.
It’s easy to say the Netherlands is flat but ramps are not natural features. Where there’s space, as there in many cases in Westport, design could have been a lot better. But we don’t just blame Westport — national guidlines and funding could also have been better.
Ramp 5: Blue
Further back the path again… it’s hard to see how bad the slop is to the right of this image below:
This is the kind of gradient where steps with a rail for a bicycle wheel would have made more sense… or better still, the space on the other side of the bridge could have been used for a more cycling-friendly ramp:
A wider point not made above is that Westport is actually unusually hilly compared to other Irish towns. Making use of the former railway alignment’s pleasant gradients and better design access points would have been a far better idea to start with, but nothing changes fact that the centre of Westport is above average on the hilliness scale compared to other small to mid sized Irish towns.
There are lessons to be learnt from mistakes made, but Westport was not a great place to start with, except for the tourism drive. And, if we’re honest, that can complicate as much as benefit the goal getting more everyday cycling for its health, environmental and congestion-non-reducing benefits.