Transport minister Shane Ross has said that there will be difficult decisions ahead as his department has received 22 applications for a fund of just €53 million over three years.
The funding call came at the publication of the Government’s Greenway Strategy. It defines national greenways as off-road routes which are at least 100 kilometres long and a regional greenway is “at least 20 kilometres in length, but preferably closer to 40 kilometres long, or which can be extended to connect to a longer strategic route”.
Minister Shane Ross said: “There will be difficult decisions ahead given the high quality of the applications and the number of projects seeking funding but I look forward to being in a position to announce the successful projects next year.”
“It’s heartening to see so many applications received today and the national interest in Greenways. I’d like thank the local authorities and state agencies for the hard work that has gone into preparing them. It is wonderful that people all over the country appreciate the enormous benefits that Greenways give to local communities through better health, sustainable transport, recreation and tourism.”
He added: “This is an opportunity to build on the success of the Waterford, Great Western and Old Rail Trail Greenways in the years ahead. By following the steps outlined in the Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways we can look forward to new Greenways all around the country.”
Routes are supposed to follow agreed standards and aim to form part of an strategic greenway network. The national funding is usually complemented by ‘match’ funding of some level by the councils involved.
Government’s Greenway Strategy criticised
The Galway Cycling Campaign has criticised the Government’s Greenway Strategy as “treating greenway provision as exclusively involving the construction of new roads”. Claiming it is “inherently unlawful” because it does not have a focus on designing “reasonable alternatives” to building new paths, such as “low traffic roads”.
On its website, the Galway Cycling Campaign said: “A central problem remains an apparent focus on the construction of new roads. In the published strategy the authors use the words like ‘built’ or ‘construct’ where a credible and environmentally defensible strategy document would use words like ‘designate’, ‘adapt’, ‘create’, ‘provide’ or ‘develop’.”
“The authors do acknowledge the Eurovelo guidelines and the use of low traffic roads. However, the authors appear to frame this as something that is mainly suitable for experienced cyclists which suggests the authors have an incorrect understanding of cycling policy and cycle route provision.”
They added: “It acknowledges that motor vehicle access might be permitted to these greenways but not the opposite; that restricting motor vehicle access is an effective, established, way of creating a greenway-like experience on existing local roads. For local roads the strategy merely refers to traffic calming rather than roads management or traffic restriction and diversion. The document acknowledges that low traffic local roads have a role in cycling networks but frames this merely providing links to the greenways (new rural roads) constructed under this strategy.”
The Department of Transport did not reply to requests for comment on the Galway Cycling Campaign position.
Under the header of “Lower-Trafficked roads” the Greenway Strategy states: “We have an abundance of lightly trafficked roads in Ireland. Some of these may prove suitable to provide links from Greenways to places of interest, viewing points and towns and villages. However, traffic counts and speed surveys will have to be carried out if they are to be used to direct potentially inexperienced cyclists from a segregated Greenway to a regional or local road. Traffic calming measures including road narrowing, chicanes and lower speed limits may be required to make such roads suitable for family cycling.”
It continues: “In that regard, many local authorities have already created cycling routes around their county. We have one of the most extensive road networks in Europe per head of population and many of these roads are very lightly trafficked. As part of the funding call following the publication of this Greenways Strategy local authorities seeking funding will be required to provide routes within their county of lower-trafficked roads that can provide access to places of interest and links to their proposed Greenway route, thereby placing the proposed Greenway within a broader infrastructural context.”
“In this way we will be in a position to map out a more extensive network of routes around the country. Such routes should follow the criteria laid out in Eurovelo, that they have fewer than 2,000 vehicle movements per day and preferably 500 per day. Traffic calming measures and speed limit reductions may be required and applicants should set out how they would develop such routes and the wider cycling and walking infrastructure.”